Go Set A Watchman: The Obligatory Post

Since several news outlets have referred to it as such, it’s safe to say that the release of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is one of the most unexpected, curious, and pivotal releases in modern publishing history.  And today is the day, beloved patrons, that history is made.


The world at large was stunned in February when it was first announced that Lee had penned a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, a work that has been hailed as America’s “national novel”, which tells the story of Scout, a wonderfully intelligent and empathetic six-year-old, and her brother Jem, in the “tired old town” of Maycomb, Alabama with their widowed father, Atticus Finch.  When Atticus is appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman, Scout becomes witness to both the best and the worst extremes of human behavior; from the noble defense and relentless compassion of Atticus to the murderous and vengeful reactions of her closest neighbors.  Though it deals with some genuinely difficult themes and dark subject matter, this book is noteworthy for its sympathy and humanity, as well as for the way it deals with courage in the face of ignorance, fear, and prejudice.   Lee’s narrative style, which Time magazine called “tactile brilliance”, brings the world of Maycomb to life through the eyes of a precocious child who is clearly marked forever by the events of Tom Robinson’s trial.

Gregory Peck and Harper Lee, 1962
Gregory Peck and Harper Lee, 1962

The book was an immediate sensation, and although it met with sharp criticism from many Southern reviewers.  It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960, and in 1962, was adapted into an Oscar-winning film, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch in a role that would forever define his career (Lee thought Peck so embodied her father, who was the model for Atticus, that she gave him her father’s pocket watch).  By 1964, however, Lee was so overwhelmed and exhausted by the attention both she and her book received that she refused all press requests.  Since then, the book has gone on to be a classic, as famous for its subject matter as for the reclusive nature of its shy author.

Hence the genuine shock–and intense doubt– that resulted from the announcement that Harper Lee had penned a second book about Atticus, Scout, and Maycomb.  Many claimed that Lee, who is currently 89 years old, and suffers from failing hearing and vision.  was a victim of elderly abuse, and was being coerced into publishing the book.  News coverage was so intense that the Alabama Securities Commission investigated the situation, eventually concluding that Harper Lee was fully cognizant of the publication of her long-hidden novel, and eager for its release.  Shortly thereafter, Lee released a statement through her publisher, Harper Collins, stating, “In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called ‘Go Set a Watchman.  It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort…My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) from the point of view of the young Scout. … I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years”.

But reactions to Go Set A Watchman will very likely be mixed, as expectations collide with reality, and inevitable comparisons are drawn between this book and Lee’s immortal Mockingbird.  Last Sunday, London’s Guardian and The Wall Street Journal released the first chapter of the book to an eager public (you can read it here), and the results can only be described as collective bewilderment, particularly by those who expected the tone and feel of Watchman to emulate Mockingbird.  Instead, we find an adult Jean Louise (Scout’s real name, apparently), a resident of New York, who is returning home to visit her father, who is crippled by rheumatoid arthritis.  Her brother Jem is dead, and Jean Louise is nearly engaged to her lifelong friend Henry Clinton.  The story is told in the third-person, creating a completely different relationship between the reader and the world of the story.  But the real shock comes from the changes in Atticus.  From what we have been told, gone is the compassionate moral compass of Mockingbird, and in his place is…a very different man indeed.

The original notecard from Harper Lee's agent, noting the progression of Watchman and Mockingbird.
The original notecard from Harper Lee’s agent, noting the progression of Watchman and Mockingbird.

Perhaps because Watchman has been so heavily touted as a ‘sequel’ to Mockingbird that many are finding the premise, and the events of the book, so difficult to digest.  Perhaps it may be helpful to remember (assuming that everything that has come out of Harper Collins’ press department is true) that Watchman actually came first.  When she read the manuscript for Watchman in 1957, Lee’s editor told her to write Mockingbird instead, thinking that the views of a time long past might appeal to readers more than a commentary on contemporary events, and that a child’s view might soften the view of an ongoing debate over civil rights.  The country was convulsed by issues such as the desegregation of school, the rise of the NAACP, and the visceral, often violent indignation of those who feared their own power slipping away, and Mockingbird spoke to those issues without confronting them directly.  What we see in Watchman is a world where the Civil Rights Movement was proving as divisive as it was powerful, and exhausting even the most well-intentioned as wave after wave of protests and marches were met with water cannons, billy clubs, and hatred, a world where generation gaps became gulfs of misunderstanding, hostility, and indignation.

Thinking about Scout/Jean Louise and her world in this light, and considering Mockingbird as a kind of prequel to Watchman, instead of the other way around, makes these two books into a heart-rending, but timely commentary on the cost of idealism, the complicated relationships we have with our own pasts, and the realities of race relations in the United States.  The timing of this publication could not be more timely, or more poignant, and the ongoing debate over the lowering of the Confederate Flag in South Carolina only serves to remind us of how far we have come…and, like Jean Louise herself, how far we have yet to go.


Summer Concert Series: Hoot and Holler

Get ready for the upcoming performances in the library’s Summer Concert Series! Concerts are at 7 p.m. every Thursday night in July and August at East End Veterans Memorial Park. Every Monday, Free for All will offer an article or interview with the band of the week. The following is an interview with Mark Kilianski of this week’s band,  Hoot and Holler.

What made you decide to become a musician?

As an awkward and angsty 13 year old, I found it difficult, and frustrating, to express myself and connect with peers socially.  At the time, I loved heavy metal music, and picking up electric guitar helped me do those things.  The friendships and happiness I found in musical connection mellowed me out considerably, and initiated a journey through blues, jazz, and now, bluegrass and folk music.

How would you describe your sound?

Hoot and Holler is the combination of Amy Alvey’s fiddling and my guitar playing, with both of us singing.  Amy’s got a soft, sweet voice, and mine is more animated and rowdy.  We meet in the middle, and blend together the best we can.  Amy plays a mean fiddle, very rich and rhythmic.  I like to push the songs forward with big fat guitar chords, and take big fat guitar solos.  Our sound is mostly derived from Appalachian string band music, but our blues, rock, and jazz influences peek out sometimes too.

What is your songwriting process like?

Amy writes songs in 5-10 minutes.  I let an idea stew for about 6-24 months and then spend an excruciating afternoon with pen and paper working it out.  It’s all stuff that comes from personal experience, sometimes obviously, sometimes more subtly.  The point is to write folk songs, stuff people can relate to without being to brainy or esoteric.

Which artists have been your biggest musical influences, and what is it that draws you to their music?

As a band, Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings are a major inspiration, and a lot of the old guys like Bill Monroe, Arthur Smith, Uncle Dave Macon, Hank Williams, and Norman Blake.

Please tell us about any albums you have available or in production.

We’ve got a new EP called Nothing If Not Young that we released last fall.  It’s all original songs and tunes.  We also each released a solo album prior to the solidification of this project, which are again, all original material.

What should people expect when they come to your concert on Thursday night?

People can expect songs about losing love, looking for love, finding love, nature, humanity, despair, joy, and of course, rambling.  Classic folk themes with boy-girl harmonies, backed by fiddle and guitar.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

We hope you enjoy the performance!  Check out hootandhollermusic.com, and facebook.com/hootandhollermusic if you like what you hear.

More about the Summer Concert Series:
Concerts will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday evenings in July and August at East End Veterans’ Memorial Park. Bring a blanket or folding chair, and maybe even a picnic dinner, and enjoy live acoustic music from a new performer each week. East End Veterans’ Memorial Park is located at 45 Walnut Street. The concert schedule is as follows:

July 9th: Damn Tall Buildings
July 16th: Hoot and Holler
July 23rd: Colleen White and Sean Smith
July 30th: Semi-Aquatic Rodent
August 6th: Molly Pinto Madigan
August 13th: Eva Walsh
August 20th: Ian Fitzgerald
August 27th: The Whiskey Boys

Please note: In the event of rain, Summer Concerts will be held in the Sutton Room at the Peabody Institute Library and food will not be allowed.

For more information, please call 978-531-0100 ext. 10, or visit the library’s website at www.peabodylibrary.org.


On the Screen: There are books on my TV!

Summer is the season for miniseries, and this year has seen a bumper-crop of bite-sized series for your viewing pleasure. The great thing about mini-series, particularly ones developed for summertime, is that they are guaranteed attention-grabbers.  Gone are the days when summer was nothing more than re-runs and series marathons.  Studios want to keep ratings as high as possible year-round, and thus are willing to pay a pretty penny in production costs and casting to ensure that viewers come home from the beach, or the pool, or the game, (or the library!) early to check out the newest adventures of their favorites characters.

Here at the Free For All, we’ve already discussed two of the best miniseries out there right now, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell on BBC America, and Poldark,  which has been renewed for a second season, much to my father’s delight.  But there are a number of other quality shows that might just tickle your fancy during these increasingly hot summer days, and the best part is that many of them are based on books, which are much easier to take along on your summertime adventures than a TV, and which don’t require an internet connection to enjoy–once you’ve downloaded them, naturally, if that is your preferred method of reading.   So have a look at some mini-series and the books that inspired them, and see what tickles your imagination…

MV5BMjMxMDA0NDM5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDMwNTIxNjE@._V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_AL_Fear the Walking Dead: This spin-off of the wildly popular show The Walking Dead has been getting a great deal of attention, primarily because AMC has yet to announce an official release date (it’s sometime in August, but, like the zombie-apocalypse itself, we might not know about it until it’s already happening).  What we do know is that this series is set in Los Angeles, and shows us how the world transformed into the dusty, fear-ravaged, hungry zombie-scape that we learned to love from the original show.  Though it features a different cast and a different plotline, this show will bring viewers right up to the point where The Walking Dead begins.  For readers, come in and check out Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel series that inspired the show.

250px-Under_the_Dome_intertitleUnder the Dome: Now in it’s third season, this summertime series tells and expands Stephen King’s novel of the same name.  Set in the town of Chester’s Mill, this show examines what happens to a seemingly ordinary place when an inexplicable, invisible, and impenetrable force isolates them completely from the outside world.  Though the show’s writers and creators have taken some liberties with the material, overall, King’s work is evident throughout this show; he is one of the executive producers, wrote the season two pilot, and appeared in a brief cameo (you can see it here).  For those who would like a refresher course, the library has copies of Season 1 and Season 2 on DVD.

Wayward_Pines_Intertitle (1)Wayward Pines: It’s taken a bit of effort for this series to get rolling, but since it began in May, it has captured viewers and reviewers alike–and it’s always delightful to see their shock-fueled, gaping reactions to critical plot twists that readers knew was coming.  Fans of Brett Crouch’s horror/sci-fi trilogy that beings with Pines will know all about the weird little town of Wayward Pines, Idaho, and the people who live there.  But for U.S. Secret Service Agent Ethan Burke, who ends up there alone after a terrible car accident to find two of his partners missing, the mystery has only begun.  Rumors are that this show will be renewed for a second season, which is great news for those of us who know all the creepy revelations yet to come.

The_Whispers_ABCThe Whispers:  “Who is Drill?” has become a mantra in our household this summer, but you can answer that question right now by checking out Ray Bradbury’s short story “Zero Hour”, which provided the inspiration for this series.  Though The Whispers takes Bradbury’s concept much, much further, it’s impressive to see how well the original story has stood the test of time.  Bradbury’s work frequently featured childhood, and that magical, often terrifying moment when childhood dies.  This story–and this show–perhaps encapsulating that theme the best, emphasizing the dangers that can come from not taking children’s games as seriously as the children do.

Zoo_IntertitleZoo: Though his delivery is a topic of some debate, there is no doubt that James Patterson can come up with a fascinating premise, and this mini-series, based on his 2012 book, co-authored with his frequent collaborator Michael Ledwidge, is one of his most intriguing.  Our erstwhile hero, Jackson Oz, has dedicated his life, and destroyed his professional reputation, by trying to draw attention to the number of mammal attacks–a pattern that points to a concerted effort to wipe out the human species.  This is a series that has received world-wide attention (Australia has fast-tracked each episode, so that it airs a day after the US broadcast), and it will be interesting to see how audiences react to Jackson’s theories and evidence.

In related news: Several of these shows have announced DVD releases of these shows, so you’ll soon be able to borrow them from the library and catch up on anything you might have missed!

Saturdays @ the South: Chocolate

I tried to think of a better title for this week’s post, maybe something with a pun like last week’s post or something more attention-grabbing, but then I thought, what’s more attention-grabbing than chocolate in its purest, unadulterated form? So the simple title stays in the hopes that chocolate lovers will naturally gravitate towards something they enjoy.

It’s no secret that we at the South Branch love food, as evidenced by one of my posts last month. The food programs we have at the South are perennially popular and I’m continuously working to keep our cookbook section current, relevant and interesting. This Thursday, July 16th at 7PM we’re offering a program featuring none other than chocolate! Local historian Anthony Sammarco will be talking about the 250-year history of the Baker’s Chocolate company. Not only did I have no idea that the Baker’s chocolate I see in every supermarket was a local company (based out of Dorchester), I also had no idea that they’d been in business for over two centuries! And don’t worry, true to my spoiler-free promise this is only the very beginning of the things Mr. Sammarco will be talking about. There’s much more to find out!

So if you enjoy chocolate, local history or the off chance that you might get to have a chocolate snack at the library, come on by the South Branch this Thursday night. Mr. Sammarco will be selling and signing copies of his book The Baker Chocolate Company: A Sweet History, but a purchase is not required. If you’d like a preview, you can find the book here.


If you simply can’t get enough chocolate (who can, really?), here are some suggestions that may ease some of those cravings:

3612592How to Make Chocolate Candies by Bill Collins

The South Branch hosted Chef Bill Collins this past winter for a session on making chocolate candies at home and he really knew his stuff. This book is the culmination of his research into mastering some basic techniques in order to replicate the chocolate-making techniques of skilled chocolatiers at home. This book will guide you through different types of chocolate, simple methodology, equipment and storage tips in clear, plain language. From there he provides detailed recipes for fudge, barks, molded chocolates, truffles and more. If you’d like to impress friends and family with quality homemade candies, this little guide will help you do just that.

Devils’ Food Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke

2978456Joanne Fluke is a heavy-hitter in the cozy mystery field, thrilling fans not only with charming murder mysteries solved by baker and amateur sleuth Hannah Swenson, but with enticing recipes that compliment her stories. Forgoing the in-title puns of her peer Diane Mott Davidson, Fluke gets right to what’s important, titling her books after desserts. Her recipes are so popular she even collected them in a Hannah Swenson cookbook. In this chocolaty adventure, a friend-of-a-friend is murdered, found face-down in a devils’ food cake and Hannah uses the natural comfort that is chocolate and baked goods to poke around where the police don’t have as much luck. As with all of Fluke’s books, come for the murder, stay for the recipes!

Chocolat by Joanne Harris

1547830Joanne Harris’s poetic novel follows Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk as they arrive in a small town in southern France and open a charming little chocolate shop… right at the beginning of Lent and across the street of the local parish. As the town chooses sides between church and chocolate, relationships are tested and forged. Harris’ work is a beautiful love letter to chocolate, family and what “home” truly means. Her prose will wrap you like like a velvety chocolate coating over a sweet, ripe strawberry creating an indulgent, hedonistic but all together delightful read. If you’d like to indulge more, you can follow Vianne and Anouk’s adventures in The Girl with No Shadow and Peaches for Father Francis.


2008774No, it’s not deja vu; no need to adjust your computer screen.  Harris’s book was made into a terrific movie and the two are different enough that I think the movie warrants its own recommendation. The overall vibe and the same plot as Harris’s novel are certainly present in the movie, but the cinematic effort crystallizes some themes and glosses over others to the point where reading the book and watching the movie are very different experiences. Juliette Binoche plays Vianne and her 1950s style in this movie is truly enviable. Johnny Depp gives a great performance as an Irish wanderer and Alfred Molina as Francis Reynaud nearly steals the show from the amazing chocolate creations. This is one of my favorite movies and it brings Harris’s setting and characters to life beautifully.

The Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by Robert Steinberg & John Scharffenberger

2398302If all of this chocolate fiction has you itching to get into the kitchen, you may want to try this cookbook from Robert Steinberg and  John Scharffenberger (of the artisinal Scharffen Berger chocolate company). With stunning photos and chocolate recipes of all varieties (I’m particularly intrigued by the savory options that pair the richness of chocolate with main-dish meats), even the most hardcore chocoholic will be hard-pressed not to find satisfaction in these pages.

I hope this week’s post has satisfied some cravings (and maybe even fired a few cravings up) and I hope to see you on Thursday night!

Five Book Friday!

For those of you who thrive on quirky library-related details, July at the library means the start of a new fiscal year, and, thus, the arrival of lots and lots of new books arriving at our doors.  They will be making their debut on our shelves soon (and a few lucky tomes will be featured here, as well!).  So, without further ado, here is our first Five Book Friday of July….

3605668Invasion of Privacy: Christopher Reich’s new big-brother thriller begins with the death of federal agent Joe Grant in a shoot-out near Austin, Texas.  But when his wife, Mary, hears the details about the event, she begins to realize that things just don’t add up.  Joining forces with a recently-fired investigative reporter, Mary soon uncovers a conspiracy that deals with the richest and most powerful Americans, and the most advanced surveillance system known to mankind.  This is a stand-alone thriller from an author whose work has received glowing attributes from fans and reviewers alike.

3639241Second Life: S.J. Watson’s first book, Before I Go To Sleep had readers riveted, anxious, and guessing to the very last scene.  Now he has turned his talents to another psychological thriller that Library Journal calls “an exciting mix of sex, murder, and mystery to please adrenaline junkies”.  Julia’s quiet, idealistic world is shattered by the brutal murder of her sister, and when she learns that Kate had been using a website to indulge in various fantasies with strangers, Julia begins searching there for clues.  But as she slips deeper into the virtual world she has discovered, and the intense relationships she forms there, Julia finds herself in very real danger of losing herself, and everyone she thought she loved.

3573538Sidekicked: John David Anderson’s new release puts the spotlight on the superhero’s most invaluable companions in this wonderfully fast-paced, action-packed, and clever adventure.  Just because thirteen-year-old Andrew Bean is a member of H.E.R.O., a secret organization that trains superhero sidekicks, doesn’t mean life is easy.  His super-senses make him the most sensitive kid in school, and he is having a terrible time trying to keep his secret identity a secret.  But when a fearsome and powerful supervillain begins wreaking havoc, Andrew’s world collide as he resolves to restore order and justice all by himself.

3633656The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey: Perhaps you have to be of a certain age to think this is the greatest book ever, but for those of us who grew up playing the Oregon Trail, wiping the western plains of all animal life, breaking axles, and dying of cholera, Rinker Buck’s new non-fiction release might be the highlight of our summer.  Buck traveled the route of the Oregon Trail in an honest-to-goodness covered wagon, and his book is part history, part memoir, and part utterly-unique travel memoir detailing the hardships, joys, revelations, and tribulations of this epic journey that hasn’t been attempted in over a century.

3634638The Border: Robert McCammon’s books are some of the most unconventional, appealing, and well-told around, and this new book, though somewhat bewildering in its premise, sounds like just the kind of wildly imaginative, epic adventure at which he excels.  On a planet Earth that has been ravaged by warring alien civilizations, the hideout on Panther Ridge is the last bastion of humanity.  But the humans who hide there are threatened day and night by shock-troops, mutants, and pollution.  Out of this futuristic hell, one boy, an amnesiac who has named himself Ethan, determines to learn the powers that will save humanity–if he can survive long enough to try.

We hope you find something here to tickle your fancy, and wish you a bright and adventurous weekend!

Happy Birthday, Mervyn Peake!

MP Peake head and shoulders

Today is the 114th birthday of one of the most remarkable, surprising, and under-appreciated writers you haven’t (yet) read.  Though named in a public poll as one of the “best British writers since 1945”, Mervyn Peake hasn’t got the same credit in the US–and perhaps that’s because it’s so difficult to categorize both the man and his considerable body of work.  But readers who take a look at both Peake’s artwork and his incredible writings are in for a rare treat.

Mervyn Peake was born in 1911 in Kuling China to British missionary parents.  Though a writer from an early age (he apparently wrote his first novella at the age of eleven), he was also a gifted artist, receiving public acclaim and gallery space while still in university.  At the outbreak of the Second World War, Peake enlisted to be a war artist–a post that was established during the First World War for a very select group of artists who were charged with capture the day-to-day moments and moods of the war in a way that photography could never do.  Most war artists’ work was used as pro-national propaganda, though some had a decidedly pacifist bent.  Peake’s work, however, was so far outside the box that he may have lost sight of it entirely…he imagined an An Exhibition by the Artist, Adolf Hitler, where horrific images of war would be attributed to Hitler, and displayed alongside deeply ironic titles.  Though his sketches were purchased by the war office, they consistently rejected his applications.  As a result, Peake was drafted into the Army.

Though he continued writing during the war, the stress of his work, and continuous rejection of his application to become a war artist combined in 1942 to induce a nervous breakdown, and Peake was discharged in 1943.  Though this time would certainly leave its mark, it was also these war years that inspired Peake to write the books that would establish his name in the pantheon of literature.

jacketThe first of these, Titus Groanwas published in 1946 (the second book, Gormenghast, was published in 1950, and the third, Titus Alone was published in 1959).  In this book, Peake first introduced readers to the strange and strangely beautiful world of Gormenghast, an enormous, decaying castle that forms its own walled world.  Gormenghast is the home of the Groan Dynasty, which rules their domain according to an overwhelmingly complicated series of traditions, ceremonies, and rituals that have always existed, and shall always continue to exist–until the day a new heir is born to the Groan family.  Titus Groan is meant to be the 77th Earl of Gormenghast, but his presence disrupts the day’s ceremonies.

In the bowels of the castle, at the same time as Titus’ birth, a young boy escapes from the steamy hell of the kitchens and begins his ascension to the sunlight.  His name is Steerpike, and he is, in many ways the villain of this world.  Peake wrote of him:


If ever he had harboured a conscience in his tough narrow breast he had by now dug out and flung away the awkward thing – flung it so far away that were he ever to need it again he could never find it.

Yet Steerpike is so much more than a villain.  He is ruthless and fearless, clever and mad, horrible, and yet so completely compelling that it’s impossible not to be drawn to him, and fascinating by his Machiavellian tactics for gaining control of the castle that forms his prison.

Peake never completed the Gorgemghast cycle.  He suffered from early onset dementia and, later, Parkinson’s disease, conditions which robbed him of both his creative outlets in time.  However, in 2001, the Mervyn Peake Awards were established in the UK, celebrating and encouraging the artistic endeavors of people with Parksinon’s, in the hope that his legacy will live on through others.

jacketgormThough Peake is often compared to Tolkein (whose work was inspired from his experiences in the First World War), he himself saw his work as far less philosophical and far more social commentary.  As a result, though Gormenghast is certainly a work of fantasy, it is also a fascinating allegory about the rise of fascism that Peake witnessed first hand, as well as a searingly funny social commentary.  He captures the absurdity of the aristocracy, and the fustiness of ritual with pitch-perfect and razor-sharp wit, but does it all with such heart and sympathy that it’s impossible not to feel some kind of ties to even the most grotesque secondary character becomes something compelling.  Gormenghast grows and evolves outside the pages of the book, wrapping around the reader and pulling them into the maze of rituals and relationships, betrayals and triumphs.

Though certainly not an easy read, the three books that make up the Gormenghast Trilogy are irresistible, rewarding books that deserve a far wider audience.  You can come in and check them out today in celebration of Peake’s birthday, or watch the superb mini-series that was made by the BBC.   2701108Though it only covers the first two books, give or take, the performances are so rich, and the scenic details so bizarre and detailed that it is a worthy complement to Peake’s books.  Starring a very young and magnetically manic Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Steerpike, Neve Campbell as the heartbreakingly naive Lady Fuschia, and featuring stunning work by the late Christopher Lee and the overwhelmingly talented Stephen Fry, even those not interested in reading the books should check out this DVD…it’s the perfect escape from these sultry summer nights!

And be sure, while you are savoring the world of Gorhemghast, to wish Mervyn Peake a very happy birthday.  I’m sure he’d appreciate the sentiment.

Wednesday at the West: More Tea and Books

literateaThe first week of the month means that once again lovers of tea and books gather at the West Branch to indulge in these two passions for an hour.

This month’s tea was pomegranate green, which was served iced.

For a full list of books and news discussed by library staff, check out the July Literatea Newsletter.  Of course, things really got interesting when the ladies of Literatea started discussing their recent book recommendations.

In the world of book news, one of the hot tidbits is still the upcoming release of Harper Lee’s new book, Go Set a Watchman (released in 7 days… but who’s counting?).  One participant suggested that book lovers may want to check out the new American Masters biography about Harper Lee that will be on PBS this coming Friday, July 10th.

Meanwhile, until you can get your hands on Lee’s new offering, you may want to check out these other titles suggested by the voracious readers at Literatea:

beautiful ruinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walters




savingfishSaving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan




suprememacaroniThe Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani




lovelossLove, Loss and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman

(This novel was adopted into a play with Nora Ephron)


touchofstardustA Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott




claraandmrtiffanyClara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland




deadwakeDead Wake by Erik Larson




icecreamqueenThe Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman



outlanderOutlander by Diana Gabaldon

(also recommended was the TV adaptation of this book series)



haroldfryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

(If you have read or read this one and enjoy it, note that the sequel was just released: The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy)


brokenharborBroken Harbor and other novels by Tana French




soulsatnightOur Souls at Night by Kent Haruf




hedgehogElegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery




fifthgospelThe Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell




zookeepersThe Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman




invisiblecityInvisible City and Run You Down by Julia Dahl




underordersUnder Orders and other novels by Dick Francis



And that fellow bibliophiles, should keep you happily reading until the first of August when we return with more books and tea that you won’t want to miss.

"Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." ~Frederick Douglass