Making Magic: Music in the Stacks

*This post is part of Free for All’s “Making Magic” series, which will focus on Kelley’s exploration of the opportunities in the library’s Creativity Lab as well as musings about the arts, creativity and imagination.

Last week, the library offered the first performance of our Acoustic Archives Concert Series. Acoustic Archives brings live music to the library’s historic Sutton Room and features singer-songwriters from the North Shore and Boston areas. Last Monday, we featured Jay Psaros, a Boston based singer/songwriter currently celebrating the release of his fourth studio release, a self titled collection of ten songs ranging from mellow crooners to roots rockers. Check out this video for a sample of what you may have missed!

Wish you could have been there? Read on for the upcoming schedule of performances in the series.

April 18th at 7 p.m.: Ian Fitzgerald is a folk singer and songwriter.  Based in New England, he has toured throughout the United States.  Ian has released five albums of original material, including his new album You Won’t Even Know I’m Gone, (November 2016).  Performer Magazine called Ian ‘a polished songsmith who is high atop a field of great artists breaking through to festival and folk concerts throughout the States.’  To that end, Ian performed at the 2016 and 2015 Newport Folk Festivals and has opened for Iris DeMent, Willy Mason, Vandaveer, The Ballroom Thieves, and many more.

May 8th at 7 p.m.: Winner of the Boston Folk Festival’s Songwriter Contest and dual Creativity Award recipient from Salem State University, Molly Pinto Madigan is a young songwriter who has earned praise for her angelic voice. Filled with smoke and roses, heartbreak and beauty and unrelenting hope, her songs combine haunting melodies with raw, poetic lyrics to create an intimate and evocative listening experience.

Saturdays @ the South: Indian Literature

As a practitioner of yoga, I’ve had several yoga teachers who have gone to India to both develop their practice and tour. Honestly, I’m a bit jealous, having already established that I have a sense of wanderlust. The nation of India sounds exotic and enticing, but it’s often difficult to reconcile this idealistic traveler’s notion to the Imperialized and turbulent history of this country.

To those who live there and have emigrated from there, I’m certain that India is more than chai, henna and the Taj Mahal. There are numerous individualized cultures, plus a much more recently emerging national culture and I think we owe it to a nation that’s becoming increasingly present in world affairs to familiarize ourselves with it a bit more. Naturally, there would be no better way than by traveling and becoming immersed in the culture, but for those of us who have neither the means nor the time for such a cultural education, traveling by book is often the way to go.

So here are some options of books by Indian authors, that can give us just a taste of the vast culture that lies in India:

The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh

Set in Calcutta in the 1960s, this story follows an English and Indian family whose lives intertwine in both tragic and comic ways. Buzzfeed Books says that Ghosh “brilliantly intertwines the traditions, cultures and histories of people from across the world, and paints a picture of a combined consciousness.”

A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul

The description for this books sounds like those who enjoyed A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman may enjoy this. Mr. Biswas is a classic anti-hero who spends his life searching for his own independence and trying to find a place to call his own.

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

This book is, at its heart a love story set in the newly independent India of the 1950s. Seth weaves a lush tale of the lives, loves and losses of four extended families who are linked by Lata and her mother’s search for a suitable boy for Lata to marry.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

This Booker Prize-winning book is set in 1969 in Kerala (a state in the South of India) and features young fraternal twins Rahel and Estha as they struggle to create a childhood for themselves amidst their family falling apart. Storypick calls this book a “masterpiece” that “explores the full range of human emotion.”

Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta

This non-fiction pick is a Pulitzer Prize finalist that gives readers an insider’s view into modern Mumbai (formerly Bombay) taking them from Bollywood do the underworld. India Times calls it “one of the best books written on India’s very favorite metropolis.”

That’s all for this week, dear readers. Till next week, I hope your reading takes you somewhere warm, and possibly less snowy!

Five Book Friday!

And a top of the mornin’ to you, dear readers!

Saint Patrick, and some less-than-metaphorical snakes…

I’ve already seen plenty of green being worn around the Library today in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, which makes my heart happy.  We’ve all, I’m sure, heard different stories about traditions that are meant to be performed on St. Patrick’s Day…I grew up with a lot of Irish relatives who taught me to throw salt over my shoulder to keep the Wee People distracted, and not to leave milk out because it attracts ghosts, so some of the newer traditions have been lost on me.  So, in honor of the day, let’s take a look at the real St. Patrick, and what we are really commemorating today.

  1. St. Patrick’s acutal name was most likely Maewyn Succat.  Though we don’t know too much about him, we’re pretty sure he was from what is now Wales…or maybe Scotland, and was captured by Irish pirates/brigands around the age of 16 and brought to Ireland as a slave, escaping via ship around six years later.
  2. He returned to Ireland after becoming a priest, and began converting local pagan inhabitants to Christianity.  Many of the symbols associated with Ireland today, especially the shamrock, were symbols with Druidic power that Patrick co-opted as symbols of Christianity.  That whole thing about him ‘driving the snakes out of Ireland’?  It’s a veiled reference to Druids being driven out.
  3. The first St. Patrick’s Day Parade was held in New York on March 17, 1762, and referred to a soldiers’ parade (when they display their ability to march and stuff).  It’s gotten a bit…bigger since then.
  4. For the love of all that is good and noble on this earth, don’t pinch people.  Please.  It’s not nice.  And it didn’t start as a thing until the later part of the 19th century by Americans (some of whom were Irish immigrants).  The explanation for this was that wearing green makes you invisible to leprechauns, so if you are not wearing green, other people get to pinch you on behalf of the leprechauns.  Which is absurd.  Leprechauns can always see you.  And they are far too clever to resort to pinching you.  And you are not a leprechaun (unless you are, in which case, fair play).  So don’t pinch people.  Today or any other day.  Thank you.
  5. Go to the Library!  Ok, this isn’t strictly a St. Patrick’s Day tradition, but libraries were and are critically important institutions around the world, as well as on the Irish island.  The Linen Hall Library in Belfast became a repository of materials for all sides during The Troubles, with all sides tacitly agreeing that a library was a safe, non-sectarian place to collect their history.  While there is an ongoing debate about staffing and funding in Libraries across the UK and Ireland, right now, one single library card will let you into every library in the Republic of Ireland.  How cool is that?  So why not come by, and enjoy a few of the books that are merrily performing jigs on our shelves today?

Taduno’s Song: Nigerian author Odafe Atogun’s debut is a retelling of the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, with a modern infusion of Nigerian music, and an homage to Nigerian musician Fela Kuti.  When Taduno receives a stained brown envelope from his homeland, from which he has been exiled for years, he determines to return again.  But though he arrives full of hope, the musician discovers that his people no longer recognize him, or remember his voice, and that his girlfriend, Lela, has been abducted by government agents. Taduno wanders through his house in search of clues, but all traces of his old life have been erased. As he becomes aware that all that is left of himself is an emptiness, Taduno finds new purpose: to find his lost love.  But in the end, will he forsake his people and give up everything, including his voice, to save Lela?  By translating Orpheus’ Underworld into a modern totalitarian government, Atogun expands his fable into something much more modern, and infinitely more complex than a mere fable, but his beautifully accessible language keeps this story entrancing.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, celebrating the “Uniting a retelling of the Orpheus myth, an indictment of totalitarian inhumanity, and a Kafkaesque meditation on identity within the spare language of fable, Atogun’s memorable debut novel testifies to the power of both oppression and art”.

The World Remade: America in World War I The US didn’t declare war until 1917, but it was certainly involved in the First World War from the very beginning.  In this accessible and thought-provoking history, journalist G.J. Meyer takes us through the bitter debates within American politics and society over the war and the possibility of American military intervention, as well as the global conspiracies, policies, and plans that affected those decisions.  His passion for understanding characters and personalities makes this story an engaging one that history buffs of all stripes will enjoy.  There is always a concern with journalists writing history, as the tendency is to over-simplify matters for easy consumption.  Meyer, however, does an impressive job outlining just how complicated and divisive a time this was in American history, and keeps a keen eye on the ramifications that the decisions made in 1917 have on us today.  The Washington Post agrees, saying, in a really excited review, that this book is “Thundering, magnificent . . . a book of true greatness that prompts moments of sheer joy and pleasure . . . It will earn generations of admirers.”

Shadowbahn: I’ll be honest with you, I’m not entirely sure what to make of this book, dear readers.  And that is precisely what makes it so exciting.  Steve Erickson’s story begins 2021 with the Twin Towers suddenly reappearing…in the Badlands of South Dakota.  To all the people who flock to visit them, including siblings Parker and Zema, who are traveling from L.A. to visit their mother in Michigan, the towers seem to sing–but everyone hears a different song.  But as Parker and Zema drive on, taking a detour through a shadowland that doesn’t appear on any map, ghosts, spirits, and the neverborn begin to awake, lured and driven mad by the music of the towers.   This is a story about music, about American culture, about what’s wrong with it–and full of hope for what might be made right again, and is being hailed as a wholly original kind of masterpieces by readers and critics across the country, with The New York Times Review of Books cheering that it is “compassionate, weird, unpredictable, jaunty. It’s sad, and it’s droll and sometimes it’s gorgeous … In this novel, Erickson has mobilized so much of what feels pressing and urgent about the fractured state of the country in a way that feels fresh and not entirely hopeless, if only because the exercise of art in opposition to complacent thought can never be hopeless”.

The Principles Behind Flotation: And speaking of books with bizarre premises, this delightfully quirky coming-of-age novel features a magical sea that appears overnight in a cow pasture in Arkansas.  Around that sea grows a religious order that puts on passion plays for tourists about the sea’s appearance and a thriving tourist destination, but the Sea’s owner has no interest in allowing any one to study the Sea of Santiago itself, which is hard news for A.Z. McKinney, whose lifelong dream has been to chart the sea’s depths and wring all its secrets from it, drop by drop (she resorts to carrying samples home in her bathing suit).   But for all of A.Z.’s big dreams, she is still a teenager, and still trying to figure out how she fits in the world, and on dry land, let alone on the great and mysterious Sea.  Alexandra Teague’s novel is one of the weirdest I’ve read in a while, but also one of the most fun, defiantly inventive, and strangely moving.  Also, there are lots of scenes set in a library (where A.Z.’s mom works), so that is always a plus.  Romantic Times Book Reviews agrees, giving this one a Top Pick rating, calling it “A rich, insightful, ambitiously inventive coming‐of‐age tale that will fire the imagination and capture the heart . . . The delightfully quirky details of this setting combine to create a richly textured world that readers will find difficult to leave behind, and the beautifully flawed and fully realized characters will linger long after the final page has turned.”

The Book Thieves The stories of how Nazis looted the museums, galleries, and private collections of Europe has been well told in film and in print.  But what we don’t talk about as much is how many books the Nazis stole.  Not to burn–though they did plenty of that–but to hoard, with a plan to wage intellectual warfare against the very people from whom these books were stolen: Jews, Communists, Liberal politicians, LGBT activists, Catholics, Freemasons, and many other opposition groups. But when the war was over, most of the books were never returned. Instead many found their way into the public library system, where they remain to this day.  But there is a team of librarians in Berlin who are working through their library system to find stolen books and return them–and Anders Rydell tells their story, and his own, in this heartbreaking, infuriating, hopeful, and redemptive story.  This is a book about history, about heroism, and about Rydell’s journey across Europe to return one book to its rightful family–the only item that survived its owner’s murder.  This is a book for book lovers everywhere, and a shatteringly powerful story about fascism, hatred, and hope.  A review from Rydell’s home country of Sweden states that his work  “constitutes a solid mapping of the quiet work being done in Berlin, Vilnius, Prague, Paris and other cities. The author tells of the monstrosities committed in the best possible manner. He mixes his library visits and historical background with a consistently confident tone. It might appear cynical to talk about tone here, but Rydell’s at times beautiful, at times matter-of-fact and restrained writing does wonders for the reader’s engagement. Reality as it has been – and is today – does not have to be added to with emotionally loaded pointers.”

Until next week, beloved patrons, happy reading, and Go mbeirimíd beo ar an am seo arís!

Happy Birthday, Ben Okri!

The Free For All is delighted to wish novelist and poet Ben Okri a very happy birthday today!

Okri was born in Nigeria, but spent his early childhood in London while his father, Silver was studying law.  The family returned to their home in Nigeria in 1968, where Silver practiced, doing pro bono work for anyone who could not pay his fees. The family survived the Nigerian Civil War, which lasted from 1967 to 1970, an event that would, understandably, have a deep impact on his later work.

Okri applied for university at the age of 14, but was rejected because of his age.  It was, according to him, at that moment that he knew that poetry was his calling.  Though he eventually made it back to England to study in 1978 (thanks to a grant from the Nigerian government), when his scholarship funding fell through, Okri found himself homeless, living off the support of his friends and often sleeping in parks.  This didn’t deter his desire to be a poet, however–if anything, Okri has said that this period actually solidified his desire to write.  And it was writing, in the end, that saved him.  He published his first book, Flowers and Shadows in 1980 at the age of 21, and quickly found work as a poetry editor and reported for the BBC World Service.  His reputation as an author was secured when his novel The Famished Road won the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1991, making Okri the youngest-ever winner for that prize.

Okri is one of those rare writers who can blend folklore, myth, philosophy, and all these other academic, deep-thinking concepts into a writing style that is touching, accessible, and deeply engaging.  In discussing his writing, Okri stated in an interview (quoted here from The Patriotic Vanguard from Sierra Leone), “I grew up in a tradition where there are simply more dimensions to reality: legends and myths and ancestors and spirits and death … Which brings the question: what is reality? Everyone’s reality is different. For different perceptions of reality we need a different language. We like to think that the world is rational and precise and exactly how we see it, but something erupts in our reality which makes us sense that there’s more to the fabric of life. I’m fascinated by the mysterious element that runs through our lives. Everyone is looking out of the world through their emotion and history. Nobody has an absolute reality.”

So today, in celebration, we share with you a poem by Ben Okri, courtesy of The Patriotic Vanguard:

An African Elegy
By Ben Okri

We are the miracles that God made
To taste the bitter fruit of Time.
We are precious.
And one day our suffering
Will turn into the wonders of the earth.

There are things that burn me now
Which turn golden when I am happy.
Do you see the mystery of our pain?
That we bear poverty
And are able to sing and dream sweet things

And that we never curse the air when it is warm
Or the fruit when it tastes so good
Or the lights that bounce gently on the waters?
We bless things even in our pain.
We bless them in silence.

That is why our music is so sweet.
It makes the air remember.
There are secret miracles at work
That only Time will bring forth.
I too have heard the dead singing.

And they tell me that
This life is good
They tell me to live it gently
With fire, and always with hope.
There is wonder here

And there is surprise
In everything the unseen moves.
The ocean is full of songs.
The sky is not an enemy.
Destiny is our friend.


Saturdays @ the South: Fun with Time Travel (and also Murder)

Time after Time on ABC. Image from

I’m not sure how I nearly missed the memo that there was a new show starting last week that I can easily see fulfilling my need for campy fun with a somewhat-literary twist. I found out only just in time to set my DVR to a season pass for Time after Time an ABC drama that, while I don’t think it’s intention is to be funny, seems to be cracking some viewers up all the same.

The premise for the series is this: Legendary and groundbreaking sci-fi author H.G. Wells built a time machine prior to his authorial turn and while bandying about in Victorian times, manages to have said time machine stolen by Jack the Ripper. Both travel to modern-day New York City. Murder & mayhem ensue, Wells feels guilty and tries to track Jack the Ripper down and stop him. The series is also apparently very meta as it is based on a movie which was based on a 1979 novel by Karl Alexander (sadly, unavailable in NOBLE at this time).

For those of you looking for a more reality-based primer prior to watching (or completely ignoring) this show, here’s some brief info. H.G. Wells (1866-1946) was a British author most well known for writing The Time Machine and War of the Worlds but was also a sociologist, journalist and historian. His first book was, surprisingly, given his reputation for fantastical fiction in later life, a biology textbook. Jack the Ripper‘s true identity has never been officially proven , but numerous theories and obsessions abound about the pseudonymous murderer who struck in London’s Whitechapel district between August and November of 1888. It is also possible that the killer committed murders prior to and after those dates, depending upon how certain crimes of that time are viewed. Jack the Ripper has captured the imagination of many true-crime aficionados who still speculate who he was.

I’m not going to lie, I’m surprised to see these two figures in a television show together, given that the only link between them is that they were both alive in England in 1888. But I suppose that when one writes speculative fiction, it leaves those of us who read that work scads of leeway to speculate on our own.  If you’re interested in this show, or if aspects of time travel or Jack the Ripper appeal to you, you’re in luck. Here are some options for your reading and viewing pleasure:

Ripper by Isabel Allende

This is a fast-paced thriller in which true-crime aficionados around the world convene in an online role-playing game called Ripper. Most of these players are teenagers solving real-life mysteries on the game based on information fed by a game master, who gets her information from her dad, the Chief Inspector of the San Francisco police. This book is ideal for those who perhaps have some of their own theories about Jack the Ripper or who like Time after Time‘s modern caper appeal.

I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter

This is a historical thriller set in Victorian London. The main protagonist is none other than Jack the Ripper and Hunter goes to great lengths to get deep inside the mind of a killer, re-imagining how and why he might have done what he did. This is a natural pick for those intrigued by Jack the Ripper but would also appeal to those fascinated by the likes of Hannibal Lecter .

Ripper Street

This TV series, already discussed here on the blog is just fantastic. It follows the capers of the H Division detectives in London’s police force just after the Ripper murders as it delves into a re-imagined Whitechapel with several characters based on real-life investigators who were involved in (and somewhat undone by) the Ripper investigation. It is stunning, visually, in character development and in plot twists and is well worth watching.

Just One Damned Thing after Another by Jodi Taylor

This is the first book in the Chronicles of St. Mary’s series in which Madeline “Max” Maxwell is a time-traveling historian (quite possibly the coolest job description ever). There’s one major rule that all in that profession must follow: no interaction with the locals; observation only when time-traveling. Naturally, this doesn’t work out particularly well and Max realizes that being a historian who time-travels is a pretty dangerous activity.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai

Tom Barren’s 2016 is not the same as our 2016. It is the 2016 imagined by those living in the 1950s, complete with flying cars and moving sidewalks. Then, through a time-traveling mishap, he winds up in our version of 2016, complete with punk-music (which never needed to exist in his world) in what seems to him like a dystopian wasteland. His ultimate question is whether he fixes the tear in reality that occurred during the mishap and get back to his idealistic world, or learns to live and survive and possibly change for the better, the horrors of the time we live in.


This Showtime show is a perennial favorite at the South Branch and involves a nurse in 1946 who time-travels back to 1743 Scotland. Her heart is torn between the husband she loves and left behind in her own time and the man who she is forced to marry in the past in order to save her own life.

Till next week, dear readers, I’m going to try to get the Cyndi Lauper song out of my head…

Five Book Friday!

Remember when everyone was thinking of heading to the beach in February, dear readers?  Well, as we all knew, here we are in March paying for the unseasonable warmth with…unseasonable cold.  March, it truly seems, has trotted in like the proverbial lion…


…But is that what that phrase actually means?  A few years ago, The Paris Review published a fascinating piece on the phrase “in like a lion, out like a lamb”, trying to conclude the origin of the phrase in an article that is both informative and delightfully quirky.  I’ll just leave it here for you to check out.

And if you’re looking for things to keep you busy this chilly weekend, here are a selection of the super-terrific books that have waltzed their way onto our shelves this week, and are very eager to make your acquaintance!  Though the summer thrillers are already making their appearance, they are also perfectly suitable for helping you through a lion-like March just fine:

The Girl Before
Oh hey, look!  It’s another book with “Girl” in the title.   *Sigh*.  Anyways, despite my overwhelming frustration with this trend, there’s no arguing that J.P. Delaney’s is getting everyone very excited–critics, authors, and reviewers alike are raving, and Ron Howard has already started adapting it for film.  The story centers around two women who, it would seem, have found the perfect home; an architectural marvel; a masterpiece in design.  However, enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does..  But before they move in, they are both confronted with an odd request….Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.  For Emma, who is still coping with the after-effects of a traumatic break-in, this is the first place that feels safe.  For Jane, who is dealing with a painful tragedy, the place (and its creator) are a haven and a welcome distraction.  Until Jane learns about the girl before her, and her untimely end.  And as she tries to uncover the truth about Emma, she finds herself caught in the same situation, encountering the same people–and sharing the same fate?  This is a twisty, turny, psychological novel that is drawing comparisons to Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins, with the USA Today gleefully commenting that “Delaney has created a genuinely eerie, fascinating setting in One Folgate Street. . . . The novel’s structure, volleying back and forth as first Emma and then Jane begin to question their improbable luck, is beautifully handled. The pages fly.”

Her Every FearAnd while we’re on the topic of houses being scary, Peter Swanson’s newest book features a Boston house doing it’s best to freak us all out, and the woman who has to face down the truth these walls conceal.  Kate Priddy has always been anxious and perhaps a bit obsessive–traits that grow nearly crippling after an ex-boyfriend kidnaps and nearly kills her. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, now an art student in London, leaps at the idea, hoping that a change of scene will help her get a grip on her life again.  But soon after her arrival at Corbin’s Beacon Hill apartment, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered.  Though Corbin is quick to profess his innocence, several discoveries in the apartment make the jet-lagged Kate more and more uneasy about her cousin–and Alan, the quiet, attractive young man across the courtyard.  Is there anyone she can trust?  Swanson excels at writing good noir, shifting narrative perspective with ease and creating an atmosphere that is being compared to Hitchcock’s Rear Window as his heroine confronts the evil before her and the fear inside her in a story that earned a starred review from Booklist, who said “The skillfully conjured Boston winter creates the perfect atmosphere for breeding paranoia… Swanson … introduces a delicious monster-under-the-bed creepiness to the expected top-notch characterization and steadily mounting anxiety.”

The DryFrom the chill of a Boston winter, we move to the deadly heat of an Australian summer in Jane Harper’s mystery debut.  Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades, after being summoned to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Two decades ago, Falk was accused of murder, and Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.  Now, amidst the worst drought in a century, Aaron is beginning to realize just how well little towns can keep secrets–and to discover who killed his best friend.  In addition to praising Harper’s ability to set a scene, crafting the choking heat and creeping menace of a hometown that will make your skin crawl, her talent at crafting a mystery has reviewers raving.  Kirkus gave it a starred review, declaring it “A nail-biting thriller…A chilling story set under a blistering sun, this fine debut will keep readers on edge and awake long past bedtime.”

The Aleppo Cookbook: It probably should come as a surprise that one of the world’s most long-inhabited cities is also home to some of its richest culinary traditions. And in this stunning new cookbook, Marlene Matar, one of the Arab world’s most renown chefs, takes us on a tour of the many cultures, people, and ingredients that have shaped, and been shaped by, this remarkable city.  Along with the requisite pictures of food (which are quite enough to produce a fit of the munchies in and of themselves), there are also a number of photographs of the markets and people of Aleppo, offering readers insight into life there today.  The result is a deliciously enticing cookbook, as well as a haunting testament to the survival, endurance, and humanity of the people of Syria.

Blitzed: Drugs in the Third ReichIt has taken several generations of historians to being to tackle the nuances and intricacies of the Third Reich–and understandably so, as we are still trying to cope with the larger horrors of the Holocaust–but within recent years, some genuinely fascinating pieces have been written on gender, economics, humor and, now, on the drugs of Hitler’s Germany.  Though the Nazi party may have touted an ideology of physical, mental, and moral purity, Norman Ohler reveals that the Third Reich was actually saturated with drugs of all kinds.  Powerhouses like Merck and Bayer cooked up cocaine, opiates, and, most of all, methamphetamines, to be consumed by everyone from factory workers to housewives to millions of German soldiers.  Indeed, soldiers were fed a form of crystal meth in order to keep their morale and ‘fighting spirit’ high (which is a big step up from the cocaine that they were fed during the First World War).  Rather than seeing this widespread intoxication as an excuse or a rationale for the course of history, Ohler instead argues that drugs are a vital way of making sense of Nazi German society.  His work is well-researched and completely readable, making for a book that has been garnering praise from historians and pop-culture outlets alike, with the British Times praising its depiction of “how Nazi Germany slid towards junkie-state status. It is an energetic … account of an accelerating, modernizing society, an ambitious pharmaceuticals industry, a military machine that was looking for ways to create an unbeatable soldier, and a dictator who couldn’t function without fixes from his quack … It has an uncanny ability to disturb.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Time for a Baileys (Women’s Prize for Fiction)!

And right in time for International Women’s Day, the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction announced the Longlist for the 2017 award!

The 2017 longlist and judges! Courtesy of

This is the last year that Baileys will be sponsoring the award…insert loud, long sigh here…but the plus is that prize founder, Kate Mosse, has declared that whomever the next sponsor is will be spending the whole year promoting women’s writing, not only once a year, which, at least, makes me happy.  But, for now, let’s celebrate these phenomenal women and the stunning works they’ve given us!

For those who haven’t heard us go on and on about the greatness that is the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, here’s a brief (but no less enthusiastic) recap:  This prize was was set up in 1996 to celebrate excellence, originality and accessibility in writing by women throughout the world.  In the 20 years since its establishment, the prize has become one of the most respected, most celebrated and most successful literary awards in the world, and remains one of the only prizes to recognize the unique contributions of women in fiction.   In a world where men (and white men…and middle-to-upper class white men) carry away a disproportionate amount of awards, where books about women are relegated to “Women’s Fiction” shelves, apart from the others (because Reasons), where female authors are categorized differently than male authors, where we desperately need more stories from different voices, the Baileys Prize (and whatever prize it shall soon be called) is a vital way to encourage new and diverse storytellers to set their voices free.  And, as readers, that means that their award is really our gain!

So without further ado…

If the book is available in the US, it will have a link.  If not, then the release information will be provided.  Enjoy!

Courtesy of

Stay With Me, Ayobami Adebayo Will be released in August, 2017
The Power, Naomi Alderman Will be released in October, 2017
Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
Little Deaths, Emma Flint
The Mare, Mary Gaitskill
The Dark Circle, Linda Grant  Will be released in June, 2017
The Lesser Bohemians, Eimear McBride
Midwinter, Fiona Melrose Will be released in July, 2017
The Sport of Kings, C.E. Morgan
The Woman Next Door, Yewande Omotoso
The Lonely Hearts Hotel, Heather O’Neill
The Essex Serpent, Sarah Perry Will be released in June, 2017
Barkskins, Annie Proulx
First Love, Gwendoline Riley Will be released in March, 2017
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien
The Gustav Sonata, Rose Tremain

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