Looking Ahead to February!

The period after New Year’s isn’t, frankly, that much fun.  It’s cold, it’s dark, and this year, we don’t even have the benefit of snow cover to reflect any kind of light back to us, making everything just a little bit bleaker.

Image result for february

Here at the Library, we try to disrupt the winter doldrums by providing fun classes, lecture series, and other events that can keep your brain buzzing and your imagination humming.  Here are just a few of the events we have on the horizon.  And keep your eye out, as our spring calendar will be out in a few short weeks with another helping of programming.

And, as always, if there are events or classes you’d like to see offered here or at our branches, let us know!  We aim to provide the best possible programming we can, and your input is vital to that process.


At the Main Library

Wednesday, February 20, 7:00 – 8:00pm: Guided Meditation

So often in our hurried lives we become ungrounded, unfocused and scattered. Please come for an evening of relaxation as Reiki Master Teacher Valerie York leads us in a guided meditation to ground and call back our energy.


At the Main Library

Tuesday, February 26, 6:00 – 7:00pm: Writing for Professional Success

Strong writing skills and a good understanding of grammar are more than just helpful assets to list on a resume. In fact, effective business writing skills, from emails and memos to reports and presentations, are the tools that can launch and build careers. This workshop is designed for those who are looking to explore the fundamental skills needed for effective professional writing. We will focus on some basic rules of grammar and sentence structure that will provide clarity to your writing, as well as tips and tricks for making your writing more credible and persuasive. We will also discuss etiquette for composing workplace emails and helpful strategies for networking and collaborating with co-workers. This course is designed for those who are new to professional writing, or just entering the workforce, as well as those looking to brush up on their writing skills or make a career change.


In the Teen Room

Wednesday, February 6, 10:00am – 12:00pm: Mosaic Sun Catchers

Bring some light and color into the gray landscapes of winter!  Join Leslie Doherty of Ways of Color for this workshop where you will learn to create a mosaic sun catcher. All materials will be provided.

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


At the South Branch

Thursday, February 7, 7:30 – 8:30pm: Real Talk Real Moms

Join Peabody native, Jessica Luque, to discuss the joys and hardships of being a mom. Jessica is a mom of 3 all under 4 years old and knows the struggle of working full time, raising her kids, and trying to squeeze in time for herself. Come to the South Branch to sit back, relax, and meet other moms who know just how you feel. Feel free to talk or just listen — all moms are welcome!   Moms, we encourage you take this hour for YOU, so we ask that you do not bring children along.  Registration is not required. Just show up!

For more information, please feel free to call 978-531-3380 x11 or email Jessica at jessicaluque86@gmail.com.

 


 

At the West Branch:

Wednesday, February 28, 1:00 – 2:00pm: Heritage Films presents “Ol’ Time Radio Days”

Before there were podcasts, there were radio shows.  The origins of most of our popular entertainment, from soap operas to game shows, got their start on the radio.  Come join us for a 40 minute film presentation by local historian and film maker Dan Tremblay of Heritage Films! This particular film will focus on the history of the Ol’ Time Radio Days.

Five Book Friday!

And guess what?

We have tax forms!

Just so you are aware, things are a little bit different this year.  For Tax Year 2018, you will no longer use Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ, but instead will use the redesigned Form 1040. Many people will only need to file Form 1040 and no schedules.

While our tax appointments are all full, if you need assistance from AARP, you can contact them.  Their website also offers a wealth of other numbers and institutions that can provide you with tax assistance.

Not only that, but we have books, too!  Here are just some of the new titles that forged their way through this ridiculous week of weather to grace our shelves this week!

Ghost Wall:  Sarah Moss is a remarkable author, whose stories always bend and weave around your expectations to produce something truly unique.  This slim little tale is packed with emotions and revelations, and is an ideal read for those looking for something to add to the ambiance of a dark winter night.   In the north of England, far from the intrusions of cities but not far from civilization, Silvie and her family are living as if they are ancient Britons, surviving by the tools and knowledge of the Iron Age.  For two weeks, the length of her father’s vacation, they join an anthropology course set to reenact life in simpler times.  The students are fulfilling their coursework; Silvie’s father is fulfilling his lifelong obsession. He has raised her on stories of early man, taken her to witness rare artifacts, recounted time and again their rituals and beliefs―particularly their sacrifices to the bog. Mixing with the students, Silvie begins to see, hear, and imagine another kind of life, one that might include going to university, traveling beyond England, choosing her own clothes and food, speaking her mind.  The ancient Britons built ghost walls to ward off enemy invaders, rude barricades of stakes topped with ancestral skulls. When the group builds one of their own, they find a spiritual connection to the past…and the brutalities that marked it.  This is a unique kind of dystopian novel that has been riveting readers in the UK and Europe for a while.  We’re delighted to finally get our hands on the book that the The Wall Street Journal described as “A master class in compressing an unbearable sense of dread into a book that can be read in a single horrified (and admiring) hour . . . perhaps the finest novel so far to come out of the British literary response to these uneasy times.”

UnmarriageableFans of Pride and Prejudice, rejoice!  Soniah Kamal has provided you with a delightful retelling of this classic tale, set in modern-day Pakistan.  A scandal and vicious rumor concerning the Binat family have destroyed their fortune and prospects for desirable marriages, but Alys, the second and most practical of the five Binat daughters, has found happiness teaching English literature to schoolgirls. Knowing that many of her students won’t make it to graduation before dropping out to marry and have children, Alys teaches them about Jane Austen and her other literary heroes and hopes to inspire the girls to dream of more.  When an invitation arrives to the biggest wedding their small town has seen in years, Mrs. Binat, certain that their luck is about to change, excitedly sets to work preparing her daughters to fish for rich, eligible bachelors. On the first night of the festivities, Alys’s lovely older sister, Jena, catches the eye of Fahad “Bungles” Bingla, the wildly successful—and single—entrepreneur. But Bungles’s friend Valentine Darsee is clearly unimpressed by the Binat family. Alys accidentally overhears his unflattering assessment of her and quickly dismisses him and his snobbish ways. As the days of lavish wedding parties unfold, the Binats wait breathlessly to see if Jena will land a proposal—and Alys begins to realize that Darsee’s brusque manner may be hiding a very different man from the one she saw at first glance.  Kamal is a witty, insightful writer, and this twist on Austen’s story opens a cultural window that makes it feel fresh and new.  Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, calling it “funny, sometimes romantic, often thought-provoking glimpse into Pakistani culture, one which adroitly illustrates the double standards women face when navigating sex, love, and marriage. This is a must-read for devout Austenites.”

The Kingdom of Copper: S.A. Chakraborty’s follow-up to The City of Brass brings readers right back into her magical fantasy world for a second book that is being hailed by many as better than the series’ debut–no easy feat to manage!  Nahri’s life changed forever the moment she accidentally summoned Dara, a formidable, mysterious djinn, during one of her schemes. Whisked from her home in Cairo, she was thrust into the dazzling royal court of Daevabad—and quickly discovered she would need all her grifter instincts to survive there.  Now, with Daevabad entrenched in the dark aftermath of a devastating battle, Nahri must forge a new path for herself. But even as she embraces her heritage and the power it holds, she knows she’s been trapped in a gilded cage, watched by a king who rules from the throne that once belonged to her family—and one misstep will doom her tribe.  Meanwhile, Ali has been exiled for daring to defy his father. Hunted by assassins, adrift on the unforgiving copper sands of his ancestral land, he is forced to rely on the frightening abilities the marid—the unpredictable water spirits—have gifted him.  But in doing so, he threatens to unearth a terrible secret his family has long kept buried.  This is a book, and a trilogy, in which to get lost entirely.  Library Journal agreed, giving this book a starred review and noting  “With a richly immersive setting and featuring complex familial, religious, and racial ties and divides, Chakraborty’s second book in the trilogy wraps readers in a lush and magical story that takes over all the senses.”

No Sunscreen for the Dead: This is Tim Dorsey’s 22nd crime novel, an a rollicking good time it is, too!  Serge A. Storms, known to readers and reviewers alike as “The Sunshine State’s most lovable psychopath”, is at it again with his buddy Coleman,  ready to hit the next stop on their list of obscure and wacky points of interest in Florida.  This time, Serge’s interest is drawn to one of the largest retirement villages in the world—also known as the site of an infamous sex scandal between a retiree and her younger beau that rocked the community.  What starts out as an innocent quest to observe elders in their natural habitats, sample the local cuisine, and scope out a condo to live out the rest of their golden years, soon becomes a Robin Hood-like crusade to recover the funds of swindled residents. After all, our seniors should be revered and respected—they’ve heroically fought in wars, garnered priceless wisdom, and they have the best first-hand accounts of bizarre Floridian occurrences only Serge would know about. But as the resident’s rally for Serge to seek justice on their behalves, two detectives are hot on the heels of Serge and Coleman’s murderous trail.  A time-hopping narrative full of quirky characters and mayhem, this is a book that series regulars and newcomers alike will be able to enjoy.  Booklist loved this installment, saying in its review, “Dorsey’s novels are unfailingly entertaining… Serge is, hands down, the most smoothly charming, irrepressibly goofy, joyfully out-of-his-mind series lead in contemporary mystery fiction…. Don’t miss this one.”

Women Who Rock: Bessie to Beyonce, Girl Groups to Riot Grrrl: Women have played an essential and undeniable role in the evolution of popular music including blues, rock and roll, country, folk, glam rock, punk, and hip hop since the dawn of the music industry. Today, in a world traditionally dominated by male artists, women have a stronger influence on popular music than ever before. Yet, not since the late nineteen-nineties has there been a major work that acknowledges and pays tribute to the female artists who have contributed to, defined, and continue to make inroads in music.  In this sensational book, writer and professor of journalism Evelyn McDonnell leads a team of women rock writers and pundits in an all-out celebration of 104 of the greatest female musicians. Organized chronologically, the book profiles each artist and places her in the context of both her genre and the musical world at large. Sidebars throughout recall key moments that shaped both the trajectory of music and how those moments influenced or were influenced by women artists.  Packed full of illustrations and sensational details, Vulture echoed our sentiments when it said in its review, “It’s about damned time there was a collection dedicated to major women musicians. Women Who Rock is a neon-pink compendium of odes to legends past and present…[It] takes the rallying cry “Girls to the front” to another level.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons, happy reading!

Starting Some New Habits: Podcasts (2)

We here at the Library are 100% for all acquiring new good habits and expanding our horizons, and in support of that, we have recently started a round-up of our favorite podcasts, available for free on the internet.

Image result for LISTENING TO PODCASTS

The Library offers a multitude of ways for you to learn and experience more, both ‘in house’, so to speak, as well as online.  But there is a world full of knowledge, and we cannot hope to contain every single molecule of it.  So this year, we wanted to offer you some other ways to be educated and entertained for free.  We start today with podcasts.

Image result for old time radio

As we mentioned last week, these podcasts are not run by, or in any way affiliated with the Peabody Library–or any library.  You don’t need a library account to listen to them, either.  They are freely available to all listeners on the internet.  These selections are, however, ones that staff members of the Peabody Library greatly enjoy.  For those of you with an iTunes account or similar smart phone app, you can also search for these podcasts and download them that way.  If you would like help with this process, just let us know!

And, by the way, if you have any suggestions for podcasts that you enjoy, be sure to let us know!  We’re always looking for recommendations ourselves.


Cinema Sins:

For those of you who enjoy poking fun at pop-culture, Cinema Sins is a terrific source.  Started as a YouTube channel by Jeremy Scott and Chris Atkinson, the premise of the entire enterprise is that no movie is without sin, even the greatest and bestest of all films.  In their YouTube channel, CinemaSins calls out continuity flaws, plot holes, wonky film logic, and odd acting choices.  They’ve come under criticism by several film makers for “ruining” movies, but honestly, they don’t take themselves too seriously, so there’s no reason for the rest of us to do so.  In their podcast, Atkinson and Scott are generally joined by co-writer Barrett Share.  Generally the trio discuss a larger topic for the greater part of the episode and then round of the episode by answering a couple of questions from listeners. The topics include discussion about upcoming movies, their favorite movies in different genres, stories from the host trio’s time as movie theatre employees and recasting classic movies. They also occasionally have special guests.  For film buffs and pop culture fans, this is a fun, and often edifying podcast that can certainly add a new depth to your movie-going experience.


The Mountain Goats

For those who enjoy the Welcome to Night Vale podcast we mentioned last time around, this podcast is  hosted by John Darnielle with Joseph Fink of Welcome to Night Vale.  This podcast is part of a current pop-culture phenomenon where hosts do a deep dive into a certain artists’ work (or works) and come up with revelations or commentary (another podcast features two men who watch the same Adam Sandler film for a year and talk about it on a weekly basis…which we probably won’t be featuring here…). In this podcast, the hosts analyze one album by the group The Mountain Goats, an American band based in North Carolina.  The title of the podcast is a reference to a slogan appearing on Mountain Goats merchandise such as T-shirts and stickers.  This is a great way to become familiar not only with a group of talented podcasters, but also talented musicians!


The Moth

This is a podcast that features the best stories and the art of storytelling.  Each episode features a person recounting a true story, told by an individual, live and without notes, in front of a live audience.  The result is beautiful, vibrant, and often surprising, reminding us anew of the power of stories and storytelling to us as humans.  This is a perfect podcast for those looking for a good story and new perspectives, as well as those who enjoy the high-wire magic of live performances.  These podcasts are recorded at events throughout the country, so there’s always something new to savor here.  To learn more about The Moth and its projects, check out their website, too!

In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Letter From Birmingham Jail
By Martin Luther King, Jr., August 1963
Image result for martin luther king birmingham jail
Martin Luther King Jr. looks out the window of his cell at the Birmingham City Jail. The photo was taken by the Rev. Wyatt Tee Walker in October 1967. Via The Washington Post

From the Birmingham jail, where he was imprisoned as a participant in nonviolent demonstrations against segregation, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in longhand the letter which follows, in response to a public statement of concern and caution issued by eight white religious leaders of the South. 

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the argument of “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across the South, one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Whenever necessary and possible, we share staff, educational and financial resources with our affiliates. Several months ago our local affiliate here in Birmingham invited us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct-action program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we lived up to our promises. So I am here, along with several members of my staff, because we were invited here. I am here because I have basic organizational ties here.

Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.

You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. I am sure that each of you would want to go beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. I would not hesitate to say that it is unfortunate that so-called demonstrations are taking place in Birmingham at this time, but I would say in more emphatic terms that it is even more unfortunate that the white power structure of this city left the Negro community with no other alternative.

To read the full letter, please click this link.

Five Book Friday!

And today, beloved patrons, we celebrate the life of Pulitzer-Prize-winning poet Mary Oliver, who passed away on January 17 at the age of 83.

Image result for mary oliver
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? (Mary Oliver, “Summer’s Day”) Image via thebark.com

Mary Oliver was one of America’s most popular and oft-quoted poets.  She was born on September 10, 1935, in Maple Heights, Ohio, and attended, but did not graduate from, Ohio State University and Vassar College, finding her best education in nature.  As she explained in a rare 2012 interview with NPR, “The two things I loved from a very early age were the natural world and dead poets, [who] were my pals when I was a kid.”

The love of Oliver’s life was the photographer Molly Malone Cook, to whom she dedicated much of her work. The pair met in the late 1950s, and remained together until Cook’s death in 2005.  In the book they produced together, titled Our World (Oliver wrote the text and Cook provided the photographs), Oliver wrote : “I took one look and fell, hook and tumble”.

Oliver’s poetry is still under copyright, so we can’t reproduce it here without permission, but we welcome you to come and meet her beautiful body of work in our books at the library anytime!

And now…on to the books!

Fault Lines: A History of the United States Since 1974We hear a lot of discussion these days about the polarization of American society and its inhabitants–but when did it start?  For leading historians Kevin M. Kruse and Julian E. Zelizer, it all starts in 1974. In that one year, the nation weathered the Watergate crisis and the departure of President Richard Nixon, the first and only U.S. President to resign.  In addition, people coped with the winding down of the Vietnam War and rising doubts about America’s military might, as well as the fallout from the OPEC oil embargo that paralyzed America with the greatest energy crisis in its history.  More locally, the desegregation busing riots in South Boston showed a horrified nation that our efforts to end institutional racism were failing. Longstanding historical fault lines over income inequality, racial division, and a revolution in gender roles and sexual norms would deepen and fuel a polarized political landscape in the years to come, and were widened thanks to profound changes in our political system as well as a fracturing media landscape that was repeatedly transformed with the rise of cable TV, the internet, and social media.  This is a fascinating, insightful, and thoroughly engaging book from some genuinely savvy historians that earned a starred review from Library Journal, who called it “a concise, riveting, and carefully argued chronicle of the last four decades of American history…This highly readable, compelling book should be required reading for all Americans of voting age.”

The Shaker Murders: Have you met Eleanor Kuhns’ hero Will Rees?  If not, this is a perfect time to get acquainted with the revolutionary war veteran and traveler weaver, because these historical mysteries are fascinating.  In this sixth series installment, Will is still trying to reconcile himself with his previous case, and has taken his heavily pregnant wife Lydia and six adopted children to take refuge in Zion, a Shaker community in rural Maine. Shortly after their arrival, screams in the night reveal a drowned body … but is it murder or an unfortunate accident? The Shaker Elders argue it was just an accident, but Rees believes otherwise.  As Will investigates further, more deaths follow and a young girl vanishes from the community. Haunted by nightmares for his family’s safety, Rees must rush to uncover the truth before the dreams can become reality and more lives are lost. Yet can the Shaker Elders be trusted, or is an outsider involved?  Publisher’s Weekly praised this book’s “authentic period detail and nuanced characterizations”, and noted that “Kuhns makes the most of the cloistered Shaker community setting in this top-notch outing.”

The Accidental Further Adventures of the 100-Year-Old Man: Another hilarious, witty, and entertaining novel from bestselling author Jonas Jonasson is just what readers need on a cold and snowy weekend like this, and this brilliant second outing for our favorite centenarian is going to make your weekend so much better.  It all begins with a hot air balloon trip and three bottles of champagne. Allan and Julius are ready for some spectacular views, but they’re not expecting to land in the sea and be rescued by a North Korean ship, and they could never have imagined that the captain of the ship would be harboring a suitcase full of contraband uranium, on a nuclear weapons mission for Kim Jong-un. Yikes!  Soon Allan and Julius are at the center of a complex diplomatic crisis involving world figures from the Swedish foreign minister to Angela Merkel and President Trump. Needless to say, things are about to get very, very complicated.  Booklist wrote a delightful review of his novel, calling it  “A welcome visit from an old friend that’s filled with laugh out-loud hijinx as well as thought- provoking and timely satire on the current state of the world and the perils of power.”

An Orchestra of Minorities: Man Booker Prize finalist Chigozie Obioma provides a stunning modern retelling of Homer’s The Odyssey set on the outskirts of Umuahia, Nigeria, and narrated by a chi, or guardian spirit.  Chinonso, a young poultry farmer whose soul is ignited when he sees a woman attempting to jump from a highway bridge. Horrified by her recklessness, Chinonso joins her on the roadside and hurls two of his prized chickens into the water below to express the severity of such a fall. The woman, Ndali, is stopped her in her tracks.  Bonded by this night on the bridge, Chinonso and Ndali fall in love. But Ndali is from a wealthy family and struggles to imagine a future near a chicken coop. When her family objects to the union because he is uneducated, Chinonso sells most of his possessions to attend a college in Cyprus. But when he arrives he discovers there is no place at the school for him, and that he has been utterly duped by the young Nigerian who has made the arrangements.. Penniless, homeless, and furious at a world which continues to relegate him to the sidelines, Chinonso gets further away from his dream, from Ndali and the farm he called home.  A book that is both enormous in scope and deeply personal in its subject matter, this book has earned starred reviews from a number of national outlets, including Publisher’s Weekly, who said in its review “Obioma’s novel is electrifying, a meticulously crafted character drama told with emotional intensity. His invention, combining Igbo folklore and Greek tragedy in the context of modern Nigeria, makes for a rich, enchanting experience.”

Joy Enough: A moving account of loss, love, family, this debut by Sarah McColl,  founding editor-in-chief of Yahoo Food, is making waves with reviewers and readers alike.  Mining the dual losses of both her young marriage and her beloved mother, McColl confronts her identity as a woman, walking lightly in the footsteps of the woman who came before her and clinging fast to the joy she left behind.  Even as she was coping with her marriage ending, McColl drops everything when her mother is diagnosed with cancer, returning to the family farmhouse and laboring over elaborate meals in the hopes of nourishing her back to health. In this series of vibrant vignettes, she reveals a woman of endless charm and infinite love for her unruly brood of children. Booklist wrote a glowing review of this book, saying in part that is it “Written with enough beauty to stop clocks ticking and heart’s beating…. McColl’s resonant first book is resplendent with love, and the hope she finds in discovering that her unfathomable grief also carved a space for more profound joy.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Suspend Disbelief! Magical Realism!

Today we jump into on of my favorite genres of fiction and that is Magical Realism! So what is it you ask? Well, magical realism is defined by a style of fiction that paints a realistic view of the modern world while also adding magical elements. Essentially this genre is a matter-of-fact inclusion of fantastical or mythical elements that suspends our disbelief from the “norm”!

Originating from Latin America, this genre was spearheaded as a genre of political subversion. Authors used the fantastic and magical elements to portray an alternative to reality which can be used against oppressive political climates. Italian author Massimo Bontampelli used his writings to create a “collective consciousness” and inspire an Italian nation under a fascist ruler!

If you’re pulled in by any of that then here are some titles to start you off on your magical journey into the genre of Magical Realism!

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Arguably the most famous out of the genre, One Hundred Years of Solitude is novel that tells the story of the Buendia family, and chronicles the irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love—in rich, imaginative prose that has come to define an entire genre known as “magical realism.”

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its owner might suggest.

The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. Unfortunately, he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ—the curse that has haunted the Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love.

Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.

Kafka on The Shore by Haruki Murakami
This story is a tour de force of metaphysical reality, is powered by two remarkable characters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons unknown. Their odyssey, as mysterious to them as it is to us, is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events.

Happy Reading!

Remembering Boston’s Great Molasses Flood

Via the Associated Press, https://www.npr.org/2019/01/15/685154620/a-deadly-tsunami-of-molasses-in-bostons-north-end

On Jan. 15, 1919, a tank of molasses stored in Boston’s North End, ruptured, sending a cascading wave of the thick, sugary syrup down the streets. This “Great Molasses Flood” killed 21 people, numerous animals, and injured 150.

The tank was built to be a holding vessel for molasses until it could be transported to a nearby distillery, where it was converted into industrial alcohol for World War I munitions.  Because the war was over, it was expected that the molasses would be shipped on to a distillery to produce rum.  As historian of the event Stephen Puleo explained in an interview with WBUR, the residents of the area–one of Boston’s busiest economic districts–knew the tank was structurally unsound before it ruptured:

There were signs that the tank was faltering, but the people of the North End had gotten used to its instability.

“There were often comments made by people around the vicinity that this tank would shudder and groan every time it was full, and it leaked from day one,” Puleo said. “It was very customary for children of the North End to go and collect molasses with pails.”

So on the day of the flood, despite leaks and groans, no one anticipated that the tank was about to burst, unleashing a wave of 2.3 million gallons of molasses that would move 35 miles an hour down Commercial Street.

While we don’t have any hard and fast answers as to why the tank failed, a number of theories and facts have come to light.  One of the first rumors to be circulated was that an anarchist’s bomb had broke the tank open, but no proof has ever been found to verify that rumor–which, admittedly, was largely fear-based and shows the effects of the First World War on people’s consciousness at the time.

As History.com reports, the tank itself

More recent investigations suggest several fundamental problems with the structure of the tank. Designed to hold 2.5 million gallons of liquid, it measured 50 feet tall and 90 feet in diameter. But its steel walls, which ranged from 0.67 inches at the bottom to 0.31 inches at the top, were too thin to support the weight of a full tank of molasses, found a 2014 analysis by Ronald Mayville, a senior structural engineer in the Massachusetts consulting firm of Simpson, Gumpertz & Heger.

Temperature also had an effect on the tank.  A new shipment of molasses had arrived days before, and that liquid was warmer than the air outside.  The weight of the molasses as it hardened further strained the walls of the tank.  Apparently, when the company received complaints that the tank was leaking, it painted the tank brown to disguise the leaks rather than repair them.  As it roiled down the street, the hot molasses congealed, trapping people, cars, trolleys, and everything else in its path.

The force of the wave was enough to buckle and destroy the elevated railway that ran through the North End at the time:

Via Wikipedia Wikicommons

Researchers from the University of Massachusetts Boston recently used ground-penetrating radar to determine the location of the giant molasses tank that caused the Great Molasses Flood of 1919.  Today, colored flags marked the site of the tank as city officials and history buffs gathered at Langone Park in the North End to mark the 100th anniversary of the disaster.

Looking to learn more about the Great Molasses Flood of 1919?  Check out these books!

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919: Probably the best known (at least ’round these parts) book about the Great Molasses Flood, reporter Stephen Puleo brings readers into the world of Boston at the time, and makes the smallest details of the date come to live.  But, as he also points out, the molasses flood was more than an isolated event. Its story overlays America’s story during a tumultuous decade in our history. Tracing the era from the tank’s construction in 1915 through the multiyear lawsuit that followed the tragedy, Dark Tide uses the drama of the flood to examine the sweeping changes brought about by World War I, Prohibition, the Anarchist movement, the Red Scare, immigration, and the role of big business in society.  Puleo is a friend of the Peabody Library, so we love to promote his super-terrific text.

The Great Molasses Flood : Boston, 1919: Written for a younger audience, Deborah Kops’ book places the Molasses Flood in its historical context with fascinating results.  She discusses the influenza epidemic that embroiled the city, as well as the recently ended First World War.  As she notes, January 1919 was a hopeful time. Schools had reopened. So had the soda fountains, where kids went to buy Cokes. On New Year’s Eve tens of thousands of cheering, singing Bostonians gathered to ring in the new year. They jammed the city’s cafés and hotels and overflowed into the streets. Everyone seemed thrilled that life in this old port city was returning to normal.  But the molasses flood would change the mood and focus of the city, and have repercussions that would linger for decades to come.

A Head Full of GhostsPaul Tremblay’s book isn’t really about the molasses flood, which should be fairly evident from the book’s description, but it does incorporate it into the plot.  Marjorie Barrett, the focus of the book, is a story teller, who understands the power of narrative to shape our ways of thinking.  One of the first ways that we learn this is in her rendition of the molasses flood–a horribly visceral telling that names one of the real-life victims of the disaster, and portends the terrible events of the book that will unfold.  If you want to talk about the power of history to terrify even today, then don’t miss this pitch-perfect novel!

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