Resolve to Read 2018: Read A Book That Will Teach Me A New Skill

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Scholastic 2018 Reading Challenges
Category: Read A Book That Will Teach Me A New Skill 

Oh my goodness, if you are in the mood to learn something new, there is literally no better place to get started than at the Library.  That is quite seriously part of our reason for being in communities is to help people find things they are interested in and to learn more about those things!

The first step, of course, is thinking about what kind of skill it is you’d like to learn.  Have you always wanted to learn how to grow your own fruits or vegetables?  Or to knit?  Perhaps you were thinking about making children’s toy as gifts or for profit?  Or maybe learning a new language?  We can help you out with all those goals–and many more, besides.  If you’re having trouble coming up with an idea you like best, or if your wrestling with a number of different competing ideas, come by and talk to a member of our staff.  We’re here to help!

Here are just a few books that are waiting on our shelves for you, eager to help you acquire new knowledge, to flex your muscles and your memory, and to create things that can bring beauty to your life and the lives of others.  And please know this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg!

Simple Knitting : a complete how-to-knit workshop with 20 projects: There are lots and lots of books in the Library on how to knit, but, for my money, there aren’t many better than Erika Knight.  Her attention to detail and her easy-to-follow instructions make the daunting prospect of learning how to knit into something that is both accessible and rewarding (and take it from a left-handed knitter, here, if she can teach me, she can teach almost anyone).  This book also comes with a number of projects to make with your growing knitterly skills–projects that are both easy to make and easy to wear.  These are the kind of gifts that make a whole holiday season worthwhile.  And now is a perfect time to start working on those gifts!

And for the experienced knitter looking to take on a new challenge, why not give brioche a try?  There isn’t a better teacher out there than Nancy Marchant, and her book Knitting fresh brioche : creating two-color twists & turns offers a terrific tutorial (that the right- and left-handed amongst us can follow) as well as some fun projects to work on at the same time.  There are directions in this book for basic brioche, as well as multi-colored and motif knitting, so you are sure to emerge from this book with oodles of new skills and projects!

Natural Wooden Toys : 75 easy-to-make and kid-safe designs to inspire imaginations & creative play: Erin Freutchel-Dearing is a stay-at-home mom who taught herself how to make toys without any prior woodworking experience.  In this book, she shows you how to acquire the same skills, with step-by-step instructions that lead to  cute and creative wooden toys for children.  There are no complicated tools needed for these projects: just a scroll saw, a palm sander, and a drill.  Not only do these projects result in pitch-perfect gifts, but studies have shown that working with your hands reduces stress, focuses concentration, and leads to even greater leaps of creativity.  Just think what you can achieve after mastering wooden toys!

Apartment Gardening : plants, projects, and recipes for growing food in your urban home: Hey, we’d all like to live in a world where we can wander among the lush fields and have lots and lots of space to grow the food we need.  But that’s not the case for many (most) of us.  But Amy Pennington’s book offers a number of creative solutions for those looking to grow more of their own food, even if space is at a premium.  Whether you’re a veteran gardener or a novice getting your hands dirty for the first time, this book provides hands-on advice to start using urban space in a sustainable, efficient, and inexpensive manner.  From the right containers to use to choosing your soil, this book guides you through the growing process, and even offers advice for how to prepare your newly-grown goodness.  In fact, the recipes and illustrations in this book are inspiration enough to want to give Apartment Gardening a try!

On Writing : A Memoir of the Craft : Part memoir and part guide to good writing, Stephen King’s incredible book discusses all the things that make an author’s work compelling and emotional and evocative.  It is also a stunning book for reminding us why reading is such a fulfilling, meaningful, and deeply human practice. Those who love King’s fiction will savor this peek behind the curtain into his process, and may very well gain some tips in their own work.  But this is a book that even those who aren’t King’s fans have loved, because it is such a clear and frank look at writing.  For those looking to write or read more in the coming year, this is a reminder of why those things are so critical to us all.  It’s also one of those books that feels like a long chat with an old friend, and for that reason alone, this is a book worth savoring.


What skills are you eager to learn in 2018?  Come into the Library, and let us help you find the right tools to get you started!

April Events At The Library

March may have come in like a proverbial lion, beloved patrons, but it seems to be preparing to go out like a lamb.  The added sunshine to the day is making everything a little brighter, and we know many of you have begun to look forward to real, honest, Spring.  So, in the spirit of looking ahead, we wanted to highlight a few of the programs taking place at the Main Library and Branches in April to help you plan and prepare.   You can register for these events at our website, or by calling the hosting library directly.  And check out our full calendar to see all the great programs we have in store in the coming months!

And don’t forget–if there are any events, programs, or classes you would like to see at the Library, please let us know!  We always aim to bring you the best programming we can, and your feedback is critical to that goal.  And now, without further ado, here are some of the great events we have planned for April!

At the Main Library: 

Sean Gaskell: West African Kora Performance
Wednesday, April 4: 7:00 – 8:00pm

Sean Gaskell will give a performance and educational demonstration on the kora, an ancient 21-stringed harp from West Africa.  He will feature traditional songs that are the heart and soul of the kora’s musical repertoire in addition to some of his own personal compositions.  The Kora is native to the Mande peoples who live within the countries of Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and Guinea Bissau. The music is traditionally played by oral and musical historians known as Griots (Gree-ohs). The Kora is a melodic and seemingly peaceful instrument, which is somewhat contrary to its musical repertoire. Many songs tell ancient stories of war and hardship, while others praise people of high political status and those who helped expand the Mande Empire. While the Kora is only 300 years old, some commonly played songs can be traced back 800 years to the Mande empires’ founding. Gaskell has been featured at numerous festivals in the US, Gambia, and Senegal.

 This program is generously funded by the Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries

At the Main Library: 

Raining Poetry Painting Day
Monday, April 9: 3:30 – 5:30pm

Cloudy with a chance of poetry? Yes! This spring it will be ‘Raining Poetry’ in Peabody! The Peabody Institute Library is pleased to invite people to participate in the creation of a temporary art installation called ‘Raining Poetry.” Participants will meet in the courtyard of the Main Library.  Using stencils created with the library’s laser cutter, participants will transfer poems to Peabody sidewalks. We’ll treat the stencils with a solution, so that poems appear up and down Main Street when it rains. The spray used to write the poems is invisible; when the surrounding pavement is darkened by rain, the dry words emerge and treat pedestrians to the secret poems that quietly wait to be read.

Launched in honor of National Poetry Month, ‘Raining Poetry’ was begun by Seattle resident Peregrine Church and this particular art-instillation is brought to you by Mass Poetry, the Peabody Cultural Council, Peabody Institute Library, the Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries, and a mother-daughter team of locals: Jennifer and Chloe Jean.

This event is generously sponsored by the Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries

At the West Branch

Basic Gardening with Dan Tremblay
Saturday, April 14: 10:00 – 11:00am

Dan, who is also the filmmaker from Heritage Films, who many of you may remember, is bringing an informational gardening program to the West Branch! Dan will cover soil prep, planting, maintenance, fertilizing, and harvest. This session and the one in April will cover the same topics.
Note: This is the same presentation that is being offered in March.

At the Creativity Lab

Coding for the Web
Tuesday, April 10: 6:30 – 8:30pm

Eight Part Class

If you want to build your own website or web app, this course is the place to start. This eight-session course will teach attendees how to use the essential coding languages of the Web, from laying out web pages using HTML and CSS to programming your site’s behavior with JavaScript.  For ages 13+. Space is limited; sign up is required. Signing up for the first class session automatically registers you for the full eight-session class.


Happy Spring, dear readers!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free For All Birthday to  Czech poet, author, and painter Josef Čapek!


Čapek was born on this day in Hronov, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1887.  We was originally trained as a painter,  and his works were representative of the Cubist school, with lots of geometric shapes and lack of depth perception (you can see an example of his work below this paragraph).  He also wrote plays and essays, especially on the subject of art, and the worth of art produced by those who were considered “unartistic,” especially children and natives in imperial countries (whose work was considered “primitive”).  In addition, he collaborated with his brother Karel on a number of plays and short stories.  One of those plays, which we’ll discuss in just a moment, brought the word “robot” into modern parlance.  Because of Čapek criticism of national socialism and Hitler specifically, he was arrested following the German invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939 and was sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.  He wrote He wrote Poems from a Concentration Camp there before his death, which was assumed to be in 1945.  Though his wife and friends searched after the war, his remains were never recovered.

Piják by Josef Čapek, (1913)

It was the Čapek brothers’ 1920 play R.U.R. which popularized the international word “robot”.  For years, it was assumed that Karel Čapek had developed the word, he wrote a short letter in reference to an article in the Oxford English Dictionary etymology in which he named Josef as the word’s actual inventor.  In a a later article published in 1933, Karel also explained that his idea was to call the creatures laboři (after the Latin word for labor). It was Josef, he said, who suggested roboti (robots in English), from the Czech word robota, which means, literally, “serf labor”, or “hard work”.

So today, let’s celebrate the courage, convictions, and creativity of Josef Čapek–and what better way that enjoying the remarkable books available to you at the Library (we don’t have robots, but we have books!).  Here are some of the great ones that shuffled onto our shelves this week:

Picasso and the Painting that Shocked the World: Since we’re celebrating a Cubist artist today, Miles J. Unger’s book on the origins of Picasso’s  Les Demoiselles d’Avignon seemed like an ideal selection today.  Picasso arrived in Paris in 1900, living and working in a squalid tenement known as the Bateau Lavoir, in the heart of picturesque Montmartre.  Slowly, painstakingly, he built his reputation, and amassed a wealth of avant-garde comrades and friends whose collective artistic influence is being felt to this day.  In 1906 Picasso began his early masterpiece known as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. Inspired by the groundbreaking painting of Paul Cézanne, as well as African and tribal sculpture, Picasso’s work was seen as a defining image of modernity.  The painting proved so shocking that even his friends assumed he’d gone mad. Only his colleague George Braque understood what Picasso was trying to do. Over the next few years they teamed up to create Cubism, the most revolutionary and influential movement in twentieth-century art.  Unger’s book looks at the individuals, the interactions, and the influences that helped Picasso create this seminal work in a well-research and wonderfully readable book that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who called it “Riveting. . . . This engrossing book chronicles with precision and enthusiasm a painting with lasting impact in today’s art world.”

Broad BandThe Untold Story of the Women Who Made the InternetOh hey, and speaking of technology, how about Claire L. Evan’s book that re-frames the history of modern computer technology as female;  from Ada Lovelace, who wrote the first computer program in the Victorian Age, to the cyberpunk Web designers of the 1990s, female visionaries have always been at the vanguard of technology and innovation. In fact, Evans points out, women turn up at the very beginning of every important wave in technology. They may have been hidden in plain sight, their inventions and contributions touching our lives in ways we don’t even realize, but they have always been part of the story.   Seek inspiration from Grace Hopper, the tenacious mathematician who democratized computing by leading the charge for machine-independent programming languages after World War II. Meet Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler, the one-woman Google who kept the earliest version of the Internet online, and Stacy Horn, who ran one of the first-ever social networks on a shoestring out of her New York City apartment in the 1980s.   Join the ranks of the pioneers who defied social convention to become database poets, information-wranglers, hypertext dreamers, and glass ceiling-shattering dot com-era entrepreneurs. This inspiring history shines a light on some of the bright minds that have as yet gone unrecognized in the history of computer sciences that The Wall Street Journal called  “a celebration of the women whose minds gave birth to the motherboard and its brethren…. an engaging series of biographical essays on lesser known mathematicians, innovators and cyberpunks.”

The Coincidence Makers: Israeli author Yoav Blum’s debut novel is now available in English, and is an idea blend of genres for anyone looking for something completely novel.  What if the drink you just spilled, the train you just missed, or the lottery ticket you just found was not just a random occurrence? What if it’s all part of a bigger plan? What if there’s no such thing as a chance encounter? What if there are people we don’t know determining our destiny? And what if they are even planning the fate of the world?  Enter the Coincidence Makers―Guy, Emily, and Eric―three seemingly ordinary people who work for a secret organization devoted to creating and carrying out coincidences. What the rest of the world sees as random occurrences, are, in fact, carefully orchestrated events designed to spark significant changes in the lives of their targets―scientists on the brink of breakthroughs, struggling artists starved for inspiration, future soulmates?  When an assignment of the highest level is slipped under Guy’s door one night, he knows it will be the most difficult and dangerous coincidence he’s ever had to fulfill. But not even a coincidence maker can see how this assignment is about to change all their lives and teach them the true nature of fate, free will, and the real meaning of love.  This quirky and heartfelt story earned a starred review from Booklist, who said in its review, “Artfully blending elements of thriller, romance, and fantasy in a beautiful prose, Blum’s novel is a flight of imagination that will echo in readers’ minds long after the last pages have been turned.”

Promise: Rooted in historical events, Minrose Gwin’s journey through the heart of the Depression-era South is evocative, insightful, and probing, offering fans of any time period plenty to savor.  A few minutes after 9 p.m. on Palm Sunday, April 5, 1936, a tornado struck the thriving cotton-mill town of Tupelo, Mississippi, killing more than 200 people.  This figure does not include the town’s Black citizens, one-third of Tupelo’s population, who were not included in the official casualty figures.  When the tornado hits, Dovey, a local laundress, is flung into a nearby lake. Bruised and nearly drowned, she makes her way across Tupelo to find her small family.  Slowly navigating the broken streets of Tupelo, Dovey stops at the house of the despised McNabb family. Inside, she discovers that the tornado has spared no one, including Jo, the McNabbs’ dutiful teenage daughter, who has suffered a terrible head wound. When Jo later discovers a baby in the wreckage, she is certain that she’s found her baby brother, Tommy, and vows to protect him. During the harrowing hours and days of the chaos that follows, Jo and Dovey will struggle to navigate a landscape of disaster and to battle both the demons and the history that link and haunt them.  Library Journal wrote a beautiful review of this book, which it called an “atmospheric whirlwind of a book. A memorable, dreamlike narrative…that vividly conveys what it was like to survive the fourth most deadly tornado in U.S. history; it also brings to light the vast disparity in the care and treatment of white vs. black residents.”

The Affliction: Beth Gutcheon’s second novel featuring Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin has all the dark humor and dastardly deeds that have made this duo a fan favorite.  Since retiring as head of a famous New York City private school, Maggie Detweiler has been keeping busy.  Most recently, she’s served as the chair of a team to evaluate the faltering Rye Manor School for girls, and determining what future (if any) the school might have.  With so much on the line for so many, tensions on campus are at an excruciating pitch, and no one  seems more keen for all to go well than Florence Meagher, a star teacher who is loved and respected in spite of her affliction—that she can never stop talking.  Florence is one of those dedicated teachers for whom the school is her life, and yet the next morning, when Maggie arrives to observe her teaching, Florence is missing. Florence’s husband, Ray, an auxiliary policeman in the village, seems more annoyed than alarmed at her disappearance. But Florence’s sister is distraught. There have been tensions in the marriage, and at their last visit, Florence had warned, “If anything happens to me, don’t assume it’s an accident.” Two days later, Florence’s body is found in the campus swimming pool.  When she is asked to stay and coach the new head of the Rye Manor School, Maggie determines to get to the bottom of what happened to Florence.  She’s joined by her friend Hope, who has been desperate for a reason to ditch her local bookclub, anyways.  There are plenty of secrets buried in this idyllic small town, and Hope and Maggie certainly have their work cut out for them if they are to get to the bottom of all the nefarious work that’s afoot, including Florence’s silencing.  Booklist loved this follow-up mystery, noting, “Humor and suspense in equal measure make for a delightful read in this second outing…for the well-heeled duo of Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Resolve to Read 2018: A Book of True Crime

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot 2018 Read Harder Challenge
Category: A Book of True Crime

“True Crime” is a rich and diverse genre, that taps into some of our most basic human tendencies: creating narratives to explain how things happened, providing closure to questions and events, and helping us understand what makes other people tick, and why they do what they do.  The lurid details that many of them provide only add to the appeal of these books that often combine superlative research and analysis with visceral violence.

The neat thing about true crime is how wide a scope it covers in terms of its material.  Fans of Law and Order or CSI might feel instantly at home in this genre, but there is room for a surprisingly wide array of interesting.  History, science, government, economics…all can form the basis of a sensational true crime book.  So even if you’re not a dedicated scholar of jurisprudence or police work, there is still a wealth of books for you to savor within this genre!

Via TED Talks

True crime is also a genre that is maturing and evolving constantly, and, as Book Riot points out in their list, is a field that is getting better as a result of more diversity among the authors and subject matter they cover.  So here are some of our picks for some sensational reads for your 2018 Resolution.  We made a point to select books that both represented the diversity in the genre, as well as the many different angles that true crime can take!

Truevine : two brothers, a kidnapping, and a mother’s quest : a true story of the Jim Crow SouthAt the heart of Beth Macy’s enormously wide-ranging book is the kidnapping of two young boys from the tobacco farm on which they lived and worked in 1899.  George and Willie Muse, both albino Blacks, ended up being sold to the circus, performing in sideshows around the United States, as well as in Buckingham Palace and Madison Square Garden.  Their popularity was a result of their skin color and the outlandish performances that were staged for them, presenting them as everything from cannibals from remote jungles to martians.  But even as Macy shares George and Willie’s remarkable story, she also tells the story of their mother’s quest to find them again.  This is a book that was decades in the researching and making, and is jam-packed full of details, not only about the Muse family and their incredible life stories, but also the history of the circus in the United States, the realities of Jim Crow policies and laws in the American South, and the travel narrative of Macy’s research, all of which combines to create haunting and memorable story.

The Fact of a Body : A Murder and a Memoir:  Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich’s genre-bending book was highlighted by many as one of the best of 2017…and for good person.  Intensely personal, unflinching in its dedication, and absolutely gripping, this is both the story of a child murderer named Rickey Langley and the Marzano-Lesnevich’s personal history.  On her first day at work for a New Orleans defense firm, Marzano-Lesnevich was shown a video of Langley.  Though staunchly opposed to the death penalty, watching that tape, she explains, she wanted to see this man dead.  As a victim of child abuse herself, the reaction in an understandable one.  But as Marzano-Lesnevich wades deeper into her own story, trying to navigate her sense of betrayal, not only at the family member who perpetrated the abuse, but the family members who did nothing concrete to stop it.  This book succeeds best when Marzano-Lesnevich deals with personal issues.  Her exploration of Langley isn’t quite as searing, but this is still a book that will hold the interest of devoted true crime readers and those readers who love memoirs and family dramas, as well.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer: For more than ten years, an unknown predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he committed ten murders. The person then disappeared, and has eluded capture even since.  Three decades later, true crime journalist Michelle McNamara, resolved to discover the identity of the person she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.  Her research is staggering in its depth and insight, and the energy that she invested in this case brings her story to life.  Michelle, sadly, passed away while writing this book, and it was completed in her memory by her lead researcher.  Though there isn’t the closure of a perpetrator at the end of this story, it’s almost more memorable for being open-ended.  This is a book that forces the reader to reckon with the aftermath of violent crimes, and to peer into the lives of people who are forever defined–and forever damaged–by their involvement with this case.  This is a book that is already being hailed as a classic in the true crime genre, and offers plenty of goodies for readers who revel in clues and conspiracies.  The introduction by Gillian Flynn only adds to the appeal.

Midnight in Peking: Paul French’s riveting book focuses on the unsolved murder of a British schoolgirl in January 1937.  The mutilated body of Pamela Werner was found at the base of the Fox Tower–a place that, in local superstition, is home to the maliciously seductive fox spirits As British detective Dennis and Chinese detective Han investigate the mystery only deepens and in a city on the verge of invasion rumor and superstition run rampant.  This is not only the story of a single investigation, but of on an extraordinary time: In 1937, a clash between Chinese and Japanese troops outside Beiping triggered the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and would lead to Peking being renamed Beijing.  This is a story of the last chaotic days before the outbreak of that war, and the way that international journalists covered not only the murder of Pamela Werner, but also the land in which she was killed.  French is and analyst and commentator on China and North Korea, and that expertise shines through in this book that is as much a political history as it is a true crime tale.

The Short, Strange Life of Herschel Grynszpan: A Boy Avenger, a Nazi Diplomat, and a Murder in ParisOn the morning of November 7, 1938, Herschel Grynszpan, a desperate seventeen-year-old Jewish refugee, walked into the German embassy in Paris and shot Ernst vom Rath, a Nazi diplomat. Two days later vom Rath lay dead, and the Third Reich exploited the murder to unleash Kristallnacht in a bizarre concatenation of events that would rapidly involve Ribbentrop, Goebbels, and Hitler himself. But was Grynszpan a crazed lone gunman or agent provocateur of the Gestapo? Was he motivated by a desire to avenge Jewish people, or did his act of violence speak to an intimate connection between the assassin and his target, as Grynszpan later claimed? Jonathan Kirsch’s book is part true-crime legal drama, and part historical detective work that digs to the roots of a nearly-forgotten story that has huge implications for our understanding of the Holocaust and Nazi occupation of Europe.  His concluding meditations on the nature of resistance (which may or may not be relevant to this story–you’ll have to decide for yourself) are really thought-provoking, and add another dimension to an already compelling book.


Until next time, beloved patrons–good luck with those resolutions!

“Wee folk, good folk, Trooping all together…” A Birthday Post for William Allingham

Today, the Free for All is celebrating the birthday of Irish poet and diarist William Allingham!

William Allingham

Allingham was born on 19 March 1824 in Ballyshannon, County Donegal.  His father was a bank manager, and though he made his career in Irish, and later, English customs-houses, he published several books of poetry over the course of his lifetime, as well.  After retiring from customs service in April 1870, Allingham  became sub-editor of well well-known Fraser’s Magazine.  On 22 August 1874 he married the illustrator, Helen Paterson, a well-known illustrator who was twenty-four years his junior.  Though Helen gave up her job as an illustrator upon her marriage, she became a well-respected watercolor painter under her married name–you can see an example of her work below this paragraph.  The couple settled in London to be near their friend Thomas Carlyle.  Though they relocated to Surrey after Carlyle’s death in 1881, they returned to London in 1888 due to William’s declining health.  He died on November 18, 1889.

A Surrey Cottage by Helen Allingham, via Fine Art America

Allingham’s work may not have been as profound as some of his contemporaries, but his lyrical verses were deeply rooted in Irish folklore and tradition, and as such, served as powerful inspiration to poets like W.B. Yeats and John Hewitt.  Perhaps his most well-known, and oft-quoted poem is “The Fairies”.  Anyone who has seen the 1973 film Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory will no doubt remember the genuinely odd exchange between Charlie and the ‘tinker’, who recites this poem.  It’s also provided inspiration for works as diverse as Hell Boy and Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men.  We provide it here as a way to keep your St. Patrick’s Day cheer flowing, and in honor of Allingham’s 194th birthday!

The Fairies
by William Allingham

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!

Down along the rocky shore
Some make their home,
They live on crispy pancakes
Of yellow tide-foam;
Some in the reeds
Of the black mountain lake,
With frogs for their watch-dogs,
All night awake.

High on the hill-top
The old King sits;
He is now so old and gray
He’s nigh lost his wits.
With a bridge of white mist
Columbkill he crosses,
On his stately journeys
From Slieveleague to Rosses;
Or going up with music
On cold starry nights
To sup with the Queen
Of the gay Northern Lights.

They stole little Bridget
For seven years long;
When she came down again
Her friends were all gone.
They took her lightly back,
Between the night and morrow,
They thought that she was fast asleep,
But she was dead with sorrow.
They have kept her ever since
Deep within the lake,
On a bed of flag-leaves,
Watching till she wake.

By the craggy hill-side,
Through the mosses bare,
They have planted thorn-trees
For pleasure here and there.
If any man so daring
As dig them up in spite,
He shall find their sharpest thorns
In his bed at night.

Up the airy mountain,
Down the rushy glen,
We daren’t go a-hunting
For fear of little men;
Wee folk, good folk,
Trooping all together;
Green jacket, red cap,
And white owl’s feather!

Five Book Friday!

And check out today’s Google Doodle, which celebrates our namesake, George Peabody!

Today is the 151st anniversary of Peabody receiving the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the two highest civilian awards in the United States, given to a persons “who have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.”

Peabody’s impact has certainly been long-lasting.  Born into a poor family in South Danvers (what is now Peabody),  George Peabody knew need and hunger growing up, and was only able to attend a few years of schooling.  As a result, he was notoriously thrifty as an adult (both in his private life and with his employees), but was also a dedicated philanthropist.  He established the banking firm of “George Peabody & Company”, which evolved, eventually into the firm  JPMorgan Chase.  The fortune he made from that endeavor provided the capital which he used to make his enormous and lasting donations.

In the UK, Peabody established the Peabody Trust, which is still among London’s largest affordable-housing associations.  Here in the United States, Peabody largely focused on providing funds for public education.  In 1852, he donated $217,000 to establish the Peabody Institute in his home town (that’s us!), and four years later, he donated $100,000 to the Peabody Institute in Danvers (they of the stunning building near the duck pond in Danvers).  In today’s currency, those donations are the equivalent (approximately) of $6.8 million and $2.85 million.  Ten years later, he donated the funds to build Georgetown’s public library (hello, Georgetown friends!) in honor of his mother.  He also established the Peabody Academy of Science in Salem, Massachusetts, which we know today as the Peabody Essex Museum.

Peabody also donated $3.5 million to establish the Peabody Education Fund in 1867 to provide educational funds for the children of the south following the Civil War (in today’s currency, that $3.5 million would be approximately $56,455,000).  The city of Baltimore, where Peabody enjoyed his first financial success, also benefited: The Peabody Institute in Baltimore (today known as the Peabody Institute of The Johns Hopkins University,) is the oldest conservatory in the U.S.   Today’s Google Doodle was actually created by students at George Peabody Elementary School in San Francisco, California, another site of George Peabody’s remarkable legacy.

So what better way to honor our namesake than with a selection of some of the book that have scurried onto our shelves this week, and are eager to make your acquaintance!


Happiness:  Aminatta Forna’s newest novel has been compared by some to The Remains of the Day, but her London-based novel is a wholly original tale that highlights the small moments and intimate connections that make us who we are.  A fox on a bridge causes two pedestrians to collide―Jean, an American studying the habits of urban foxes, and Attila, a Ghanaian psychiatrist there to deliver a keynote speech.  Attila has arrived in London with two tasks: to deliver a keynote speech on trauma, as he has done many times before; and to contact the daughter of friends, his “niece” who hasn’t called home in a while. The daughter, Ama, has been swept up in an immigration crackdown, and now her young son Tano is missing.  When Attila runs into Jean again, she mobilizes the network of rubbish men she uses as volunteer fox spotters. Security guards, hotel doormen, traffic wardens―mainly West African immigrants who work the myriad streets of London―come together to help. As the search for Tano continues, a deepening friendship between Attila and Jean unfolds, leading Attila to reconsider his own concepts about trauma, and the connections to the world around him.  This is a book that deals with difficult issues with dignity and grace, and weaves a tale that earned a starred review from Booklist, who explained, “The overarching message tucked into Scottish and Sierra Leonian writer Forna’s quietly resonant novel is this: Every living thing is the net sum of its history, and we carry the weight of our past on our shoulders…Forna’s novel is ultimately a mesmerizing tale studded with exquisite writing.”

Green SunThose of you loving the ’80’s nostalgia that is seeping into tv and literature lately will love this newest release from fan-favorite Kent Anderson.  It’s 1983 in Oakland, California, and Officer Hanson, a Vietnam veteran, has abandoned academia for the life-and-death clarity of police work, a way to live with the demons that followed him home from the war.  But Hanson knows that justice requires more than simply enforcing the penal code.  He believes in becoming a part of the community he serves–which is why, unlike most officers, he chooses to live in the same town where he works. This strategy serves him well…to a point. He forges a precarious friendship with Felix Maxwell, the drug king of East Oakland, based on their shared sense of fairness and honor. He falls in love with Libya the moment he sees her, a confident and outspoken black woman. He is befriended by Weegee, a streetwise eleven-year-old who is primed to become a dope dealer.  Every day, every shift, tests a cop’s boundaries between the man he wants to be and the officer of the law he’s required to be.  At last an off-duty shooting forces Hanson to finally face who he is, and which side of the law he belongs on.  Anderson has the ability to tell a difficult story with compassion, and this tale is no less gripping for its fundamental humanity.  NPR agrees, noting in its review Green Sun succeeds on so many levels, it’s hard to keep count. . . . Hanson is a fascinating and memorable character, but the real star of Green Sun is Anderson’s writing. . . . Anderson is adept at finding a terrible kind of beauty in the worst circumstances, which makes Green Sun difficult to put down even when it’s emotionally painful to keep reading. Above all, it’s a stunning meditation on power, violence and the intractability of pain, which Anderson seems to understand all too well.”

The Chalk Man: Another ’80’s nostalgia novel here, but C.J. Tudor’s debut is a taut psychological thriller that has, apparently, kept a number of respected authors awake with its chilling premise.  In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same. In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank –until one of them turns up dead.  That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.  Full of flash-backs, twists, and revelations about its characters that will linger long after the final page, this is a book that Kirkus noted  will speak to fans “of the kids of Stand by Me and even IT…[the] first-person narration alternates between past and present, taking full advantage of chapter-ending cliffhangers. A swift, cleverly plotted debut novel that ably captures the insular, slightly sinister feel of a small village. Children of the 1980’s will enjoy the nostalgia.”

The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy, and American Interests in the Twenty-First CenturyIn the late thirteenth century, Marco Polo began a decades-long trek from Venice to China. The strength of that Silk Road—the trade route between Europe and Asia—was a foundation of Kublai Khan’s sprawling empire. Now, in the early twenty-first century, the Chinese regime has proposed a land-and-maritime Silk Road that duplicates exactly the route Marco Polo traveled.  In opening of this enlightening anthology, an essay recently released by the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, Robert D. Kaplan lays out a blueprint of the world’s changing power politics that recalls the geo-politics late thirteenth century.  Drawing on decades of firsthand experience as a foreign correspondent and military embed for The Atlantic, as well as encounters with preeminent realist thinkers, the essays in this book offer timely and insightful commentary on the role of the United States in the world that considers both where we’ve been, and some suggestions as we move forward.  Kirkus Reviews gave this collection a starred review, calling it a “Thoughtful, unsettling, but not apocalyptic analyses of world affairs flow steadily off the presses, and this is a superior example. . . . Presented with enough verve and insight to tempt readers to set it aside to reread in a few years.”

The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South:   In 1990, Levon Brooks was arrested for the mrape and murder of a three-year-old girl in rural Mississippi.  Two years later, Kennedy Brewer was arrested and accused of killing his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter.  Both men waited two to three years in prison before their trial, and together, they spent a combined thirty years in prison before finally being exonerated in 2008. Meanwhile, the real killer remained free.  In this haunting work of investigative non-fiction, Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington recount the story of how the criminal justice system allowed two innocent men to be convicted of these crimes, and how two men, Dr. Steven Hayne and Dr. Michael West, built successful careers on the back of that structure. For nearly two decades, Hayne, a medical examiner, performed the vast majority of Mississippi’s autopsies, while his friend Dr. West, a local dentist, pitched himself as a forensic jack-of-all-trades. Together they became the go-to experts for prosecutors and helped put countless Mississippians in prison. But then some of those convictions began to fall apart.  This is a book about justice, and how the courts and Mississippi’s death investigation system–a relic of the Jim Crow era–failed to deliver it for its citizens. The authors argue that bad forensics, structural racism, and institutional failures are at fault, raising sobering questions about our ability and willingness to address these crucial issues. Publisher’s Weekly gave this troubling, fascinating work a starred review, calling it “A clear and shocking portrait of the structural failings of the U.S. criminal justice system… This eminently readable book builds a hard-to-ignore case for comprehensive criminal justice reform.”


Until next week,  beloved patrons: Happy Reading!

The Man Booker International Prize Long List!

Today, we present the Man Booker International Prize Longlist, celebrating the best books not originally written in English, and the people who translate them so beautifully.


Every culture, and every language, has its own literary traditions.   The English language tradition has Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Austen–all the names that we learned about in school, and whose skill shaped, and continue to shape, the books we read today.

But now, imagine growing up in a world where those authors….weren’t the ones you grew up reading.  A world where you had other authors–other traditions–other phrases that called up your emotions.

It’s really hard to do.  But that is what makes books not written in English so incredible.  They are based in different cultures, different linguistic structures, different overall world experiences.  And I don’t know if there is a more intimate way to experience a different culture than to read its literature.


Better yet, the Man Booker Prize celebrates translations, as well.  If writing a book is a difficult process, translating that book is another matter entirely.  The ability to interpret not only an author’s words, but his or her intentions is a rare one.  To be able to keep one foot in the original language and one in the new is a balancing act that few can pull off with grace.

So while we celebrate these remarkable books, let’s not forget the remarkable translators who made it possible for us to read them in English.  And be sure to check out these longlisted books soon!*

Via January Magazine:

*Note: The full longlist can be found here.  Because so many books have not yet been released in the US, only the available ones are provided below.

The 2018 Man Booker International prize Longlist

The 7th Function of Language by Laurent Binet, translated by Sam Taylor,


Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky


The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai, translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes

Like a Fading Shadow by Antonio Muñoz Molina, translated by Camilo A. Ramirez

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi, translated by Jonathan Wright

The shortlist will be announced on April 12, 2018, and the awards ceremony is May 22, 2018, so stay tuned, dear readers!