Five Book Friday!

And a very happy Free-For-All Birthday to American novelist, essayist, and poet, Willa Cather!

Image result for willa cather poem public domain
Via Academy of American Poets

Willa Cather was born in Virginia on December 7, 1873. Her family moved to Nebraska in 1883, ultimately settling in the town of Red Cloud, where the National Willa Cather Center is located today. She attended the University of Nebraska–Lincoln.

Cather moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1896 to pursue a career in journalism and work for the women’s magazine Home Monthly.  She also taught English, and pursued a career in writing.   In 1906, she moved to New York City to take an editorial position at McClure’s Magazine, which published her first collection of short stories.  In the 1920’s, unhappy with the way in which Houghton Mifflin was marketing her books, Cather turned to the young publishing house run by Alfred A Knopf, Sr, and his wife Blanche.  Especially impressed with Blanche’s capability (and skilled managing of the switchboards during her lunch break), Cather eventually published most of her novels with the firm.

via WikipediaAlthough enormously popular for a time, Cather’s works fell out of public appreciation during the Depression and the Dust Bowl, as her work no longer felt relevant to the dire difficulties of the age.  Disheartened and defensive, Cather destroyed a number of her manuscripts and put a clause in her will stating that her letters never be published.   Nevertheless, in April 2013, The Selected Letters of Willa Cather—a collection of 566 letters Cather wrote to friends, family, and literary acquaintances such as Thornton Wilder and F. Scott Fitzgerald—was published following the death of Cather’s nephew and second literary executor, Charles Cather.  Today, her work remains a critically important part of the canon of American literature, and research into her fascinating life continues to this day!

In honor of Willa Cather’s birthday, please enjoy this poem, which appears in Cather’s famous novel My Antonia: 

Prairie Spring

Evening and the flat land,
Rich and sombre and always silent;
The miles of fresh-plowed soil,
Heavy and black, full of strength and harshness;
The growing wheat, the growing weeds,
The toiling horses, the tired men;
The long empty roads,
Sullen fires of sunset, fading,
The eternal, unresponsive sky.
Against all this, Youth,
Flaming like the wild roses,
Singing like the larks over the plowed fields,
Flashing like a star out of the twilight;
Youth with its insupportable sweetness,
Its fierce necessity,
Its sharp desire,
Singing and singing,
Out of the lips of silence,
Out of the earthy dusk.

And now…on to the books!

The Darkness: Fans of Nordic noir really need to discover Ragnar Jonasson and his compulsively readable Icelandic mysteries.  In this newest release, a determined and insightful detective puts her life on the line for a woman no one else seems to remember.  The body of a young Russian woman washes up on an Icelandic shore. After a cursory investigation, the death is declared a suicide and the case is quietly closed.  Over a year later Detective Inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir of the Reykjavík police is forced into early retirement at 64. She dreads the loneliness, and the memories of her dark past that threaten to come back to haunt her. But before she leaves she is given two weeks to solve a single cold case of her choice. She knows which one: the Russian woman whose hope for asylum ended on the dark, cold shore of an unfamiliar country. Soon Hulda discovers that another young woman vanished at the same time, and that no one is telling her the whole story. Even her colleagues in the police seem determined to put the brakes on her investigation. Meanwhile the clock is ticking.  Jonasson’s thrillers are always well-crafted and gripping, but he is also deeply compassionate toward his characters, giving emotional depth to these dark and twisty stories.  Kirkus Reviews loved this book, cheering,  “If you think you know how frigid Iceland can be, this blistering stand-alone from Jónasson has news for you: It’s much, much colder than you’ve ever imagined.”

All the Lives We Never Lived: Man-Booker-Prize-nominated author Anuradha Roy blends personal history and sweeping historical narrative into this novel, that deals with the nation of India during the Second World War, as well as about one son’s attempts to understand his mother’s story.  Growing up, Myshkin was known as “the boy whose mother had run off with an Englishman.”  Even though the man was, in fact, German, as Myshkin explains, “in small-town India in those days, all white foreigners were largely thought of as British.”  For years, that was all that Myshkin knew about his mother, Gayatri, a rebellious, alluring artist who abandoned parenthood and marriage to follow her primal desire for freedom.  Though freedom may be stirring in the air of India, across the world the Nazis have risen to power in Germany. At this point of crisis, a German artist from Gayatri’s past seeks her out.  What follows is her life as pieced together by her son, a journey that takes him through India and Dutch‑held Bali. Excavating the roots of the world in which he was abandoned, he comes to understand his long‑lost mother, and the connections between strife at home and a war‑torn universe overtaken by patriotism.  Roy manages scale expertly in this book, creating a large-scale landscape while still providing a deeply moving and detailed portrait of one man and his remarkable mother.  Library Journal agrees, saying in their review, “This novel has an epic feel but also portrays the feelings of an abandoned child and captured woman while strongly evoking the sounds, scents, plants, people, and social structures of India at the time.”

Babel: Around the World in Twenty LanguagesEnglish is considered the world language, but most of the world doesn’t speak it.  As Gaston Dorren points out in this intriguing work, only one in five people does.  Furthermore, Dorren calculates, to speak fluently with half of the world’s 7.4 billion people in their mother tongues, you would need to know no fewer than twenty languages.  He sets out to explore these top twenty world languages, which range from the familiar, like French and Spanish, to the those to which we have little exposure, like Malay, Javanese, and Bengali, taking readers on a delightful journey to every continent of the world, tracing how these world languages rose to greatness while others fell away and showing how speakers today handle the foibles of their mother tongues. Whether showcasing tongue-tying phonetics or elegant but complicated writing scripts, and mind-bending quirks of grammar, Babel vividly illustrates that mother tongues are like nations: each has its own customs and beliefs that seem as self-evident to those born into it as they are surprising to the outside world.  This is a book that travelers and language-lovers of all stripes will find fascinating, and may very well change the way you think about the words you use every day!  Publisher’s Weekly gave this book a starred review, delighting in the fact that “Dorren always succeeds in sharing his delight at the intricacies and compromises of human communication . . . Whether he is debunking common misunderstandings about Chinese characters or detailing the rigid caste distinctions ossified in Javanese, Dorren educates and fascinates. Word nerds of every strain will enjoy this wildly entertaining linguistic study.”

Nine Perfect Strangers: This came out a little while ago, dear readers, but due to popular demand, we’ve got more copies on the shelves for you! Fans of Lianne Moriarty’s Big Little Lies are going to delight in this newest of her novels, which brings her talent for creating complex characters with a classic mystery trope.  Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.  Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer – or should she run while she still can? It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.  Twisty, turny, and utterly engrossing, this novel is getting plenty of praise from the likes of Oprah and Stephen King, and earned a starred and boxed review from Publisher’s Weekly (no easy feat), which read in part, “A cannily plotted, continually surprising, and frequently funny page-turner and a deeply satisfying thriller. Moriarty delivers yet another surefire winner.”

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?Nebula-award-winning author N.K. Jemisin’s first book of short stories is a rich and and intriguing collection that equally challenges and delights readers with thought-provoking narratives of destruction, rebirth, and redemption. Dragons and hateful spirits haunt the flooded streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In a parallel universe, a utopian society watches our world, trying to learn from our mistakes. A black mother in the Jim Crow South must save her daughter from a fey offering impossible promises. And in the Hugo award-nominated short story “The City Born Great,” a young street kid fights to give birth to an old metropolis’s soul.  Fans of Jemisin’s phenomenal science fiction novels will love these stories, and those looking to introduce themselves to her ground-breaking work should look no further than this volume, which earned a starred review from Kirkus Reviews, who praised the ways in which Jemisin  “[E]loquently develops a series of passionately felt themes… one of speculative fiction’s most thoughtful and exciting writers.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

The Beverly Library’s Best of 2018!

We are enormously lucky to be part of NOBLE (North of Boston Library Exchange).  As many of you know, the NOBLE network allows you, our beloved patrons, to borrow books from the other libraries around us–including academic libraries at North Shore Community College and Salem State University–and utilize the programs and resources at our fellow NOBLE libraries.  It’s a fantastic system that we all value enormously.

So this year, we thought it might be fun to invite the other NOBLE libraries and staff members to join us in our end-of-the-year celebrations!  This week, we bring you Beverly Library’s list of the Best Books of 2017.

The Beverly Library, via noblenet.org

The Beverly Library (located at 32 Essex Street in Beverly) was established in 1855, three years after the Massachusetts Legislature became the first in the nation to authorize cities and towns to expend tax funds to support free public libraries.  The institution was originally known as the Social Library, a private subscription library which traced its founding to a collection of books seized by Beverly privateers from a British merchantman during the Revolutionary War (I think that might be one of the coolest starts a library has ever had).  Elizabeth P. Sohier, a trustee of the Beverly Public Library, led the fight to establish the first state library agency in the country, and served as the State Library Commission’s first secretary.  The Essex Street site was opened in 1913, and was  designed by architect Cass Gilbert, who was also the architect of the Minnesota State Capitol, the Woolworth Building in New York City and the United States Supreme Court.  The building was subsequently enlarged in 1993.

In addition to its stunning Essex Street location, the Beverly Library also has a branch in Beverly Farms (located at 24 Vine Street, Beverly) and a Bookmobile!  On average, the Beverly Library loans over 280,000 items annually to almost 27,000 regular borrowers. The Main Library collection consists of over 125,000 books and the Beverly Farms Branch of 22,000 books.  They also have regular programs, displays, and book clubs–you can learn more about them by checking out their Events Calendar.

So why not drop by one of these days and take part in Beverly’s sensational events and their terrific selection of books and media!  If you’re looking for a place to begin, here’s a few selections from Beverly’s super-terrific Best of 2018 List (you can click on the title or this link to see the full list)!


The Poet X:  Elizabeth Acevedo award-winning novel-in-verse is on a lot of people’s Best Of lists this year, in good company with our friends in Beverly.  Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. In order to protect herself and her growing body and stretching mind, she uses her fists and her fierceness to face down the world.  But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.  Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Where the Crawdads SingDelia Owens’ work is another brilliant book about a fascinating woman who has gone overlooked and misunderstood by the world around her.  For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.  An exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World: Oh, and speaking of remarkable women! French cartoonist Pénélope Bagieu has provided us with a series of gorgeously-illustrated biographies of women who changed their world, and who can inspire us to change the world around us.  From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison, and from pioneering gynecologist Agnodice (who practiced in Athens around 350 BCE) to Christine Jorgensen, one of the first people from the United States to receive gender reassignment surgery, from Liberian social worker Leymah Gbowee to Syrian activist Naziq al-Abid, this book represents women from a broad range of experiences, nationalities, ages, and experiences, along with fascinating details of their unforgettable lives.

 

Thanks for sharing your super list, Beverly!  Happy New Year to each of your delightful staff members!

Celebrating the Best of 2018

It’s been a good year to be a reader, beloved patrons.  And a good year for music and movies, and all the other beautiful things that libraries provide!  And here, we are celebrating the year in books, music, and movies with as many people as possible!  In addition to having a Peabody Library Staff “Best of 2018” List, we will also be featuring some selections from our friends at other NOBLE libraries, as well!

And we’re eager for your input, too!  The NOBLE  Collection Management Working Group is assembling nominations for a “NOBLE Book Awards”, and NOBLE staff have been asked for their input.  So please let us know what books you’ve loved this year, and we’ll be sure to pass them on to the NOBLE Book Awards committee, but also to feature them here on the blog so that other readers can benefit from your recommendations!  Nominations will be accepted until December 16, so get yours to us today!  You can tell us in person, or via email (click the word “email” for our address).

And so, without further ado, let’s get to our first round of “Best of 2018” selections, courtesy of our marvelous staff!   In our request for nominations, we stipulated that books, movies, or albums could be from any year, but they had to have been enjoyed in 2018.  So you’ll see plenty of oldies-but-goodies on this list to savor, along with some new titles!


From the South Branch:

The Address by Fiona Davis: Readers looking for a book with a pitch-perfect sense of place will love this selection, which is set in The Dakota–perhaps one of the most recognizable and storied building in New York City.  After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility—no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else…and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.  In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her “cousin” Melinda—Camden’s biological great-granddaughter—will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in…and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.  A building with a history as rich—and often tragic—as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden—and the woman who killed him—on its head.


From the Teen Room: 

The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzie Lee is the second installment in the Montague Siblings Series picks up a year after the adventure from Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue,starring our favorite moody sister Felicity! Felicity wants nothing but to be a doctor, but when the subject of her gender is brought into question she embarks on a journey through the German countryside to find Alexander Platt, an eccentric physician, to take her on as a research assistant.  This is another adventure story full of action, intrigue, and some truly fearless characters determined to live the life they want.  Any fans of Lee’s first book will find this book a sheer delight!


From the Public Service Desk:

The Hunger by Alma Katsu: An unsettling and deeply psychologically insightful fictionalization of the Donner Part’s disastrous journey west, this is a book for horror a history fans alike!   Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy…or the feelings that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it’s a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history.   As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains…and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.

 

Stay tuned for more recommendations soon!

From Our Archives

Today, we are honored to bring you this post, which originally appeared here in 2015, but is sure to help you get in the literary holiday spirit!

We had elaborate plans for a post today….And then I found this recording of Neil Gaiman reading Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  And I realized I could never, ever, top that.  So here, for your listening pleasure, and as a salvation to your Monday (and Tuesday.  It’s grading period, sorry!), is Neil Gaiman reading A Christmas Carol, with unending gratitude to the New York Public Library for making this happen, and offering it to the Internets.

PS: Anyone else wondering if the good Mr. Gaiman borrowed his top hat from our Blog’s mascot, Theophilus?

Looking for the Helpers…

I was spared from any great disasters when I was little, but there was plenty of news of them in newspapers and on the radio, and there were graphic images of them in newsreels.

For me, as for all children, the world could have come to seem a scary place to live. But I felt secure with my parents, and they let me know that we were safely together whenever I showed concern about accounts of alarming events in the world.

There was something else my mother did that I’ve always remembered: “Always look for the helpers,” she’d tell me. “There’s always someone who is trying to help.” I did, and I came to see that the world is full of doctors and nurses, police and firemen, volunteers, neighbors and friends who are ready to jump in to help when things go wrong.

(Fred Rogers, St. Louis Post-Dispatch.   6 September 2004)

The season that is currently upon us, beloved patrons, is one in which we are encouraged to put the needs of others before ourselves, to share what we have without thought of return–essentially, to be humane, as well as human, during a period of the year that is particularly difficult for us as a species.  We give gifts to those we love to show some tangible manifestation of our bond–a display of warmth during the deepening cold.  We hang lights to drive away the darkness of the encroaching winter.  We sing song to remember that we are not alone.  Regardless of your belief system, this is a time of year during which we are encouraged to look beyond ourselves and consider and perhaps even celebrate the ways in which we are bound up in each other.

Related image
Via Cleanfax

 

This year, a great many of our long-distance neighbors in California are facing the process of remembering, recovering, rebuilding after devastating wildfires destroyed their homes, their possession, and killed those they loved.  Indeed, we are breathing in the effects of those fires even here on the other side of the continent.  In the spirit of the season, and in keeping with our policy of providing you information on how to help others most effectively, we wanted to bring you some information about institutions and organizations that could use your kindness and consideration now more than ever.

As reported by the American Library Association, the Paradise California Library is still intact.  Additionally, the remaining five branches in the Butte county system are still operational and have become information centers, offering computers, Wi-Fi, and printers to help displaced residents contact insurance companies, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and other agencies.  Butte County Library Director Melanie Lightbody recognized just how critical libraries are to communities in crisis, explaining that “We are more than just a library but a symbol of hope to the community and a community center, which we will be once again.”  If you are in a position to give, Sara Jones, director of the Marin County (Calif.) Free Library, and the California Library Association has established a fundraiser for the fire-ravaged library system. has set up a fundraiser on Facebook to ensure the library system “will have sufficient financial resources to create and maintain a dynamic modern library system,” to replace the books that were destroyed in patrons’ homes, and to continue to assist in rebuilding efforts.

Image result for paradise california public library
The Paradise California Library, via Butte County CA

While we are too far away for donations of food, clothing, or other items to be helpful at this moment, money is a resource that can literally change lives.  To that end, here are some institutions that are doing good on the ground in California that could use your help:

Helping People:

  • A longstanding local institution, the California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund has offered aid to those affected by wildfires for the past 15 years. Grants have gone to rebuilding homes, providing financial and mental health assistance and helping those affected to get medical treatment.

 

  • The North Valley Community Foundation is a nonprofit organization in Chico that  is raising money to support organizations and institutions providing shelter for evacuees of the Camp Fire. Such locations include churches, fairgrounds and community centers, and all could use support in order to provide the most and best help to those who need it.

 

  • Likewise, the California Fire Foundation is on the ground distributing financial assistance to people who have lost everything in the fires. Through its emergency assistance program, firefighters distribute pre-paid gift cards to help those who need to purchase necessities like food, medicine and clothing.

 

  • The Red Cross is providing both shelter and emotional support for evacuees. You can visit RedCross.org, or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make an automatic $10 donation.

 

  • Additionally, The United Way of Northern California has set up a relief fund for victims. Go to the designated website to donate, or text “BUTTEFIRE” to 91999. The fund will provide emergency cash to victims and aid the United Way in its response to the fire. Businesses and organizations that want to contribute to the fund can call Jacob Peterson at (530) 241-7521 or (916) 218-5424; or email jpeterson@norcalunitedway.org.

 

  • Another organization called Baby2Baby is working to get high-need items to children affected by the ongoing Camp, Hill, and Woolsey fires in California. Help them supply diapers, wipes, blankets, and other basic baby essentials to families in need by purchasing from their registry.

 

Image result for charities to help california wildfire victims
Via Curbed SF

Helping Animals:

  • The Veterinary Catastrophic Need Fund pays some of the cost of veterinary medical treatments for animals injured in the Camp Fire at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at the University of California, Davis. Injured and burned cats, horses, pigs, goats and other animals are receiving care. Call (530) 752-7024 or go to their website to contribute.

 

  • Additionally, at the request of Butte County, the Humane Society of the United States has set up a longer-term, temporary shelter in Richvale, California, to house and care for owned animals, whose families have been displaced by the wildfires. To donate to the Emergency Animal Rescue Fund, visit their website or call 866-720-2676.  You can also purchase items like food and toys through their Amazon wish list, which will be delivered right to the shelters in need.

 

  • For more information, visit Red Rover’s website to find out how you can help our four-legged friends during this time.
Image result for charities to help california wildfire victims pets
https://redrover.org/news/cafires/

As always, if this is not a time that is good for you to give, have no fear.  Although reports are stating that the fires are now completely contained, disasters on the scale with which those in California are being forced to deal will take years to overcome.  Your help and support are always encouraged, in whatever form you can provide it.

Thank you for your thoughts, your goodwill, and your assistance.  You make our community what it is, and there is plenty enough love among us to share with those who need it–this time of the year, and always!

Six Book Saturday!

Since we weren’t around yesterday, beloved patrons, we weren’t able to bring you our traditional Five Book Friday.  But our doors are open today, and we are pleased to welcome you to come and find your new favorite reads (or films, or music…)!  And, to make up for the lack of reading recommendations yesterday, we’re adding an extra one to our list to provide you with a stellar Six Book Saturday!

Bitter OrangeClaire Fuller’s talent for creating psychologically complex, compelling fiction has already made her newest release a highly-talked-about title, but according to readers, this novel easily lives up to the hype.  We begin in the summer of 1969, where Frances Mother discovers a peephole in her dilapidated English country mansion that allows her to spy on the couple spending the summer in the rooms below while Frances is researching the architecture in the surrounding gardens.  To Frances’ surprise, Cara and Peter are keen to get to know her. It is the first occasion she has had anybody to call a friend, and before long they are spending every day together: eating lavish dinners, drinking bottle after bottle of wine, and smoking cigarettes until the ash piles up on the crumbling furniture. Frances is dazzled.  But as the hot summer rolls lazily on, it becomes clear that not everything is right between Cara and Peter. The stories that Cara tells don’t quite add up, and as Frances becomes increasingly entangled in the lives of the glamorous, hedonistic couple, the boundaries between truth and lies, right and wrong, begin to blur.   And as lies escalate to crimes, Frances’ small indiscretion threatens to spiral into some truly terrible.  Reviews are comparing this story to the incomparable Shirley Jackson, which, frankly, seems like enough reason to check out this novel soon!  In fact, the comparison was made by Kirkus Reviews, who gave this book a starred review in the process: “In the vein of Shirley Jackson’s bone-chilling The Haunting of Hill House, Fuller’s disturbing novel will entrap readers in its twisty narrative, leaving them to reckon with what is real and what is unreal. An intoxicating, unsettling masterpiece.”

The Feral DetectiveJonathan Lethem is a gifted storyteller with a rare talent for blending genres and tones into a work that is utterly unique.  This mystery, his second after the much acclaimed Motherless Brooklyn, features Charles Heist, a quirky detective to rival all quirky detectives.  Phoebe Siegler first meets Charles Heist in a shabby trailer on the eastern edge of Los Angeles. She’s looking for her friend’s missing daughter, Arabella, and hires Heist to help. A laconic loner who keeps his pet opossum in a desk drawer, Heist intrigues the sarcastic and garrulous Phoebe. Reluctantly, he agrees to help. The unlikely pair navigate the enclaves of desert-dwelling vagabonds and find that Arabella is in serious trouble—caught in the middle of a violent standoff that only Heist, mysteriously, can end. Phoebe’s trip to the desert was always going to be strange, but she never thought it would end quite like this.   Critics are avid that Heist needs his own series, which makes it clear how much potential there is in this story. Booklist praised Lethem’s characters, as well as his narrative, calling this books, “A funny but rage-fueled stunner. . . . Both [characters] are compelling, as are the desert setting and the vividly realized descriptions of its dwellers. . . . An unrelentingly paced tale. . . . Utterly unique and absolutely worthwhile.”

Mad, Bad, Dangerous to Know : The Fathers of Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce: Colm Tóibín begins his incisive and intriguing story of some of Ireland’s most famous writers and their fathers with a walk through the Dublin streets where he went to university—a wide-eyed boy from the country—and where these three Irish literary giants also came of age.  Oscar Wilde, writing about his relationship with his father, William Wilde, stated: “Whenever there is hatred between two people there is bond or brotherhood of some kind…you loathed each other not because you were so different but because you were so alike.” W.B. Yeats wrote of his father, John Butler Yeats, a painter: “It is this infirmity of will which has prevented him from finishing his pictures. The qualities I think necessary to success in art or life seemed to him egotism.” John Stanislaus Joyce, James’s father, was widely loved, garrulous, a singer, and drinker with a volatile temper, who drove his son from Ireland.  In this insightful study, Tóibín illuminates not only the complex relationships between these men of letters and their fathers, but also illustrates the surprising ways these men surface in their work.  The Washington Post was just one outlet that wrote a glowing review for this slim but scintillating volume, saying “This gentle, immersive book holds literary scholarship to be a heartfelt, heavenly pursuit.”

In Byron’s Wake: The Turbulent Lives of Lord Byron’s Wife and Daughter, Annabella Milbanke and Ada Lovelace: And speaking of controversial fathers….In 1815, the clever, courted, and cherished Annabella Milbanke married the notorious and brilliant Lord Byron. Just one year later, she fled, taking with her their baby daughter, the future Ada Lovelace. Byron himself escaped into exile and died as a revolutionary hero in 1824, aged 36. The one thing he had asked his wife to do was to make sure that their daughter never became a poet.  Ada didn’t. Brought up by a mother who became one of the most progressive reformers of Victorian England, Byron’s little girl was introduced to mathematics as a means of calming her wild spirits. Educated by some of the most learned minds in England, she combined that scholarly discipline with a rebellious heart and a visionary imagination.  When Ada died―like her father, she was only 36―great things seemed still to lie ahead for her as a passionate astronomer. Even while mired in debt from gambling and crippled by cancer, she was frenetically employing Faraday’s experiments with light refraction to explore the analysis of distant stars.  Utilizing new and under-utilized sources, Miranda Seymour has crafted a fascinating and revelatory new history that liberate Annabella and Ada from Byron’s shadow, while still recognizing the power his legacy had over both women.  The New York Times Review of Books wrote a sparkling review of this book, calling it “Meticulously researched. A skilled and experienced biographer, Seymour weaves her way through cowboy curtains of rumor and gossip, showing how tabloid intrusions are nothing new, privacy has always been won at a price, and reputation―the judgment of the public―remains a slippery, fragile thing. The combination of pure mathematics and agonized personal passions gives Seymour’s book an arresting power.”

Born to be Posthumous : The Eccentric life and Mysterious Genius of Edward Gorey: What can we say–it’s a good week for biographies! Edward Gorey’s wickedly funny and deliciously sinister little books have influenced our culture in innumerable ways, from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman to Lemony Snicket. Some even call him the Grandfather of Goth.  But who was this man, who lived with over twenty thousand books and six cats, who roomed with Frank O’Hara at Harvard, and was known–in the late 1940s, no less–to traipse around in full-length fur coats, clanking bracelets, and an Edwardian beard? An eccentric, a gregarious recluse, an enigmatic auteur of whimsically morbid masterpieces, yes–but who was the real Edward Gorey?  Based on newly uncovered correspondence and interviews with personalities as diverse as John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Lemony Snicket, Neil Gaiman, and Anna Sui, Mark Dery has created reveals Gorey in all his quirky glory, a deeply complicated and conflicted individual, a man whose art reflected his obsessions with the disquieting and the darkly hilarious.  Anyone who has savored Gorey’s remarkable illustrations and poems will love this work–NPR agrees, saying in its review: “The best biographies are the result of a perfect match between author and subject, and it’s relatively rare when the two align perfectly. But that’s the case with Born to Be Posthumous–Dery shares Gorey’s arch sense of humor, and shows real sympathy for his sui generis outlook and aesthetics. Dery’s book is smart, exhaustive, and an absolute joy to read… the biography [Gorey] has long deserved.”

The Kinship of SecretsEugenia Kim is an author long-endeared to readers, and this newest novel is a beautiful mix of historical insight and deep character work that fans and newcomers alike will find compelling.  In 1948 Najin and Calvin Cho, with their young daughter Miran, travel from South Korea to the United States in search of new opportunities. Wary of the challenges they know will face them, Najin and Calvin make the difficult decision to leave their infant daughter, Inja, behind with their extended family; soon, they hope, they will return to her.  But then war breaks out in Korea, and there is no end in sight to the separation. Miran grows up in prosperous American suburbia, under the shadow of the daughter left behind, as Inja grapples in her war-torn land with ties to a family she doesn’t remember. Najin and Calvin desperately seek a reunion with Inja, but are the bonds of love strong enough to reconnect their family over distance, time, and war? And as deep family secrets are revealed, will everything they long for be upended?  This book, told in alternating perspectives by the two sisters, is a story inspired by Kim’s own life, and is full of moving truths that make it unforgettable.  The Washington Post noted how it “Beautifully illuminate[s] Korea’s past in ways that inform our present….Kim infuses a coming-of-age story about being an outsider with the realities of the war, which forced many family separations, some of which still persist today.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

The 2018 National Book Award Winners!

On Thursday, November 15, the National Book Award winners were announced in New York, in a ceremony hosted by Nick Offerman.  In addition, writer Luís Alberto Urrea presented the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Isabel Allende, saying in his presentation that  “Isabel is calling us to believe in words of love, words of witness.  You can’t build a wall to keep them out. You can’t lock them up. She has taught us that words have wings. They fly over barriers, and they sing all over the globe.”  Hidden Figures author Margot Lee Shetterly presented Doron Weber with the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.  Weber is the vice president and program director for the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation,which runs a program for Public Understanding of Science, Technology & Economics, which supports projects that bridge science and the arts (check out the link–it’s a pretty amazing place!).

Then came the announcement of the Winners of National Book Awards in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature.  We are pleased to list the winners below, with links to their NOBLE catalog entries.  Come into the Library and check out these award-winning books for yourself!

Young People’s Literature

Congratulations to all the National Book Award Winners–we can’t wait to start reading!

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