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 2017!
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!
Madame Zero: The Guardian dubbed Sarah Hall as “one of the most significant and exciting of Britain’s young novelists”, and this collection of nine works of short fiction will help you see why. Each of these stunning, insightful tales plumbs the truth of what it means to be female in this world, as well as what it means to be human. A husband’s wife transforms into a vulpine in “Mrs. Fox”…A new mother runs into an old lover in “Luxury Hour.” In “Case Study 2,” a social worker struggles with a foster child raised in a commune. In beautiful, rich prose, full of observations and striking clarity, Hall has composed nine wholly original pieces—works of fiction that will resonate long after the final page is turned.
Ill Will: This tale about intertwined crimes–one in the past and one in the present–mades Dan Chaon’s novel one of the most acclaimed psychological thrillers of the year, as well as being a selection at the Beebe Library. A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears that his adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. Despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning. Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients has been plying him with stories of the drowning deaths of a string of drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses his patient’s suggestions that a serial killer is at work as paranoid thinking, but as the two embark on an amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence–and paranoid enough to put everything he values at risk.
Her Body and Other Parties: Carmen Maria Machado’s debut book of short stories took the literary world by storm this year, and is a celebrated part of the Beebe Library’s staff picks for the year. A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella “Especially Heinous,” Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naïvely assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgängers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes. Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
Get Out: One of the most important, talked-about, and thought-provoking move of the year, Jordan Peele’s debut horror film is also among the Beebe Library staff’s favorites of the year. When Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), a young African-American man, visits his white girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) family estate, he becomes ensnared in the more sinister, real reason for the invitation. At first, Chris reads the family’s overly accommodating behavior as nervous attempts to deal with their daughter’s interracial relationship, but as the weekend progresses, a series of increasingly disturbing discoveries lead him to a truth that he could have never imagined. This is a movie with a social message that is genuinely entertaining, a horror movie that operates on so many more levels than the visceral, and a moving take on the State of Things that you won’t soon forget.
Be sure to check out the rest of the list over at the Lucius Beebe Library website!