We are enormously lucky to be part of NOBLE (North of Boston Library Exchange). As many of you know, the NOBLE network allows you, our beloved patrons, to borrow books from the other libraries around us–including academic libraries at North Shore Community College and Salem State University–and utilize the programs and resources at our fellow NOBLE libraries. It’s a fantastic system that we all value enormously.
So this year, we thought it might be fun to invite the other NOBLE libraries and staff members to join us in our end-of-the-year celebrations! This week, we bring you the Lucius Beebe Library of Wakefield’s list of the Best Books of 2018!
The town of Wakefield was known as South Reading until 1868. During the early part of the 19th century, there was a library in South Reading known as the Social Library. That Library was a subscription library (meaning that people had to pay to take out materials), and held mostly divinity books. It turns out that, even in the 19th century, divinity books were not the most scintillating of reads, and the Social Library closed due to lack of support. However, you can’t keep a good library down, and the town’s first public library was established in 1856, with a $300 budget to buy books. Within three years, that initial $300 investment had grown into a library with some 1,678 volumes. Lucius Beebe was the first chairman of the Board of Library Trustees.
In 1868, when Wakefield became…well, Wakefield, the Library Cyrus Wakefield, after whom the town was named, donated a house to be used by the city, with one half dedicated as the new library space. Lucius Beebe (pictured below, left, via the Beebe Library website) donated $500 to the purchase of new books and, as a result, the town renamed the library as the “Beebe Public Library.”
With such phenomenal support, the Beebe Library soon needed to expand, and in 1916, the townspeople purchased a lot at the corner of Main and Avon Streets for $16,000. Junius Beebe, son of Lucius Beebe, donated $60,000 toward the construction of a new library building, to be built in memory of his parents, Lucius and Sylenda (to put that into perspective, the annual yearly income in the area at this time was right around $800). The US entrance into the First World War delayed the construction of the building, but in 1922, the cornerstone for the new library was laid, and the building was dedicated on April 15, 1923. The architect for the 1922 building was Ralph Adams Cram, who also designed Princeton University. The Beebe library has continued to grow, and was expanded most recently in 1995.
Today, the Library is a vital part of the Wakefield community, with a number of programs and reading groups–including a reading group that will be meeting at local restaurants! It was also was the first library in Massachusetts to sponsor a townwide reading program, “Wakefield Reads”. Check out the Lucius Beebe Library’s website to see all the phenomenal resources they offer, from job hunting to homebound delivery to college resources. They are also a wonderfully welcoming, friendly Library community. I can tell you from experience, as a reader who has lingered for way longer than anticipated in the chairs in their beautiful New Fiction section! So feel free to stop by, enjoy their beautiful space, and check out all this sensational library has to offer!
Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg: Set in the eighteenth century London underworld, this bawdy, genre-bending novel reimagines the life of thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard to tell a profound story about gender, love, and liberation. Recently jilted and increasingly unhinged, Dr. Voth throws himself into his work, obsessively researching the life of Jack Sheppard, a legendary eighteenth century thief. No one knows Jack’s true story–his confessions have never been found. That is, until Dr. Voth discovers a mysterious stack of papers titled Confessions of the Fox. Dated 1724, the manuscript tells the story of an orphan named P. Sold into servitude at twelve, P struggles for years with her desire to live as “Jack.” When P falls dizzyingly in love with Bess, a sex worker looking for freedom of her own, P begins to imagine a different life. Bess brings P into the London underworld where scamps and rogues clash with London’s newly established police force, queer subcultures thrive, and ominous threats of an oncoming plague abound. At last, P becomes Jack Sheppard, one of the most notorious–and most wanted–thieves in history. An imaginative retelling of Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, this utterly engrossing and emotional novel blends high-spirited adventure, subversive history, and provocative wit to animate forgotten histories and the extraordinary characters hidden within.
Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan: Lost and alone in a forbidden forest, Otto meets three mysterious sisters and suddenly finds himself entwined in a puzzling quest involving a prophecy, a promise, and a harmonica. Decades later, Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California each, in turn, become interwoven when the very same harmonica lands in their lives. All the children face daunting challenges: rescuing a father, protecting a brother, holding a family together. And ultimately, pulled by the invisible thread of destiny, their suspenseful solo stories converge in an orchestral crescendo. Richly imagined and masterfully crafted, this is an audiobook that pushes the boundaries of genre, form, and storytelling innovation to create a wholly original novel that will resound in your heart long after the last note has been struck.
The Gradual Disappearance of Jane Ashland by Nicolai Houm: An American woman wakes up alone in a tent in the Norwegian mountains. Outside a storm rages and the fog is dense. Her phone is dead. She has no map, no compass, and no food. How she ended up there, and the tragic details of her life, emerge over the course of this novel. We discover that Jane is a novelist with a bad case of writer’s block―she had come to Norway to seek out distant relatives and family history, but when her trip went awry, she tethered herself to a zoologist she met by chance on the plane, joining him on a trek to see the musk oxen of the Dovrefjell mountain range. At once elegant and gripping, this storyline moves seamlessly between Jane’s life in America and the extraordinary landscape of the Norwegian mountains. As we gradually unpack the emotional debris of her past―troubled Midwestern parents, a loving courtship in New York, and a cruel, sudden tragedy that rearranged everything―we begin to understand what led her to this lonely landscape.
The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell: When Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But pregnant and widowed just weeks after their wedding, with her new servants resentful and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her late husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure—a silent companion—that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of the estate are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition—that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her. This British ghost story was the talk of the town before it crossed the pond, and is now giving American readers the shivers–as well as a deeply well-thought-out and beautifully told tale that creeps its way through the consciousness in ways you least expect—much like the companions themselves.
Wine Bites: Simple Morsels That Pair Perfectly with Wine by Barbara Scott-Goodman: This delightful and inspiring cookbook for those who entertain casually and frequently. More than 60 recipes for simple, tasty snacks include suggestions for an accessible wine to pair with each, while vivid color photographs demonstrate how easy these delectable dishes are to prepare. Step-by-step instructions for putting together a first-class cheese plate, creating a generous antipasti platter, or transforming pantry staples into hors d’oeuvres make this an indispensable resource for great party-givings. We always encourage patrons to try out new recipes, and feel free to let us help you taste test!