Tag Archives: Celebrations

Five Book Friday!

With June starting in just a few short hours, dear patrons, it’s time to start celebrating all that summer in New England has to offer.  And if you’re looking for some more fun things to celebrate, here are some fun (and some downright quirky) days for you to plan a party!

June 4: Old Maid’s Day: Founded in 1948  by Marion Richards of Jeffersonville, Pennsylvania, this day was intended to counter the high rate of weddings in the month of June with a celebration of the accomplishments of unmarried women.

June 9: National Donald Duck Day: In honor of the first appearance the sailor-suited Disney Duck in the 1934 film The Wise Little Hen.  In LA Mayor Tom Bradley proclaimed the first National Donald Duck Day.  In return, Donald himself gave the city a silver statue of himself as a gift in memory of the big day!

June 14: National Strawberry Shortcake Day: In addition to flag day, this is also apparently a day to celebrate (and savor) a great summertime desert!  Although we couldn’t locate the origins of National Strawberry Shortcake Day, it appears that you can share your own experiences and celebrations with the hashtag #StrawberryShortcakeDay.

June 19: Juneteenth: It should be a national holiday, but until it is, we’ll be advocating a commemoration of official end of the institution of slavery in the United States. The celebration originated in Texas when Major General Gordon Granger made a public declaration in Galveston, Texas, that according to General Orders, Number 3, the Civil War was over and all slaves were now freed.  The long legacy of slavery remains very much a part of the US’s past and present, but this day marks an important milestone in American history nonetheless.

June 21: The First Day of Summer: In the Northern Hemisphere,  the summer solstice is when the Sun reaches its highest position in the sky and is the day with the longest period of daylight.  A day of religious, cultural, and social significance, this is the official beginning of a period of long days and (hopefully) new adventures!  We wish you all a very happy summer!

And now…on to the books (which is always a reason to celebrate!)

RebelBeverly Jenkins is a queen of the romance genre, and her new releases are always a cause for celebration.  In this first book in her Women Who Dare series, Jenkins introduces us to Valinda Lacy, whose mission in the steamy heart of New Orleans is to help the newly emancipated community survive and flourish. But soon she discovers that here, freedom can also mean danger. When thugs destroy the school she has set up and then target her, Valinda runs for her life—and straight into the arms of Captain Drake LeVeq. As an architect from an old New Orleans family, Drake has a deeply personal interest in rebuilding the city. Raised by strong women, he recognizes Valinda’s determination. And he can’t stop admiring—or wanting—her. But when Valinda’s father demands she return home to marry a man she doesn’t love, her daring rebellion draws Drake into an irresistible intrigue.  Jenkins doesn’t shy away from the difficult periods of American history, or the very real struggles of Black men and women in the period she discusses, but those elements only enrich her stories with real humanity, and make the powerful, redemptive love stories at their heart that much more important!  Library Journal loved this book, celebrating how “Post–Civil War New Orleans comes to violent life in the hands of a veteran writer and delivers a vibrant, instructive, totally romantic historical tale that will resonate with many readers today. Beautifully done.”

Becoming Dr. Seuss: Theodor Geisel and the Making of an American ImaginationDr. Seuss is a classic American icon. Whimsical and wonderful, his work has defined childhoods for generations. The silly, simple rhymes are a bottomless well of magic, his illustrations timeless favorites, and his wit endlessly enjoyable. Agonizing over word choices and rhymes, touching up drawings sometimes for years, he upheld a rigorous standard of perfection for his work. Geisel took his responsibility as a writer for children seriously, talking down to no reader, no matter how small.  Theodor Geisel, however, had a second, more radical side.  He had a successful career as an advertising man and then as a political cartoonist, his personal convictions appearing, not always subtly, throughout his books.  Geisel was a complicated man on an important mission. He introduced generations to the wonders of reading while teaching young people about empathy and how to treat others well.  In this fascinating biography. Brian Jay Jones gives us a glimpse into the many sides of Geisel’s character and artistry, allowing his adoring readers to see him as a well-rounded, complex, and fascinating individual.  NPR waxed rhapsodical about this book, declaring that Jones’ work is “perhaps the most complete, multidimensional look at the life of one of the most beloved authors and illustrators of our time…Jones goes above and beyond to contextualize Geisel in the larger picture at every moment of his life. [A] fascinating read that discusses the origin of the humorous, simple rhymes, bizarre creatures, and magic that characterized Geisel’s books while also showing the author’s more radical side as an unemployed wanderer who abandoned his doctoral studies, a successful advertising man, and a political cartoonist.”

MiddlegameSeanan McGuire’s imagination is seemingly endless, which is phenomenal news for her fans!  In this new stand-alone novel, we meet Roger–skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.  There is also Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math. Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realize it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.  And finally, there is Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.  Fans of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians will be pleased to hear that McGuire’s book is drawing lots of favorable comparisons to that series, and Booklist called it “an ambitious piece of world building from a master of the craft . . . thoroughly engaging.”

Deep Past: Eugene Linden’s book will appeal to science fiction readers and thriller fans alike, providing one of those intriguing summertime escapes we all crave at times. A routine dig in Kazakhstan takes a radical turn for thirty-two-year-old anthropologist Claire Knowland when a stranger turns up at the site with a bizarre find from a remote section of the desolate Kazakh Steppe. Her initial skepticism of this mysterious discovery gives way to a realization that the find will shake the very foundations of our understanding of evolution and intelligence.  Corrupt politics of Kazakhstan force Claire to take reckless chances with the discovery.  Among the allies she gathers in her fight to save herself and bring the discovery to light is Sergei Anachev, a brilliant but enigmatic Russian geologist who becomes her unlikely protector even as he deals with his own unknown crisis. Ultimately, Claire finds herself fighting not just for the discovery and her academic reputation, but for her very life as great power conflict engulfs the unstable region and an unscrupulous oligarch attempts to take advantage of the chaos. Linden himself has written several books on human evolution, so this is book, in the word of Lee Child (who wrote a blurb for it), is “An excellent thriller with real meat on the bones … makes you think as well as sweat.”

Professor Chandra Follows His Bliss: Rajeev Balasubramanyam has given us a delightful new curmudgeon to meet in this novel about finding ourselves in a world that seems to be moving too fast for introspection. Professor Chandra is an internationally renowned economist, divorced father of three (quite frankly baffling) children, recent victim of a bicycle hit-and-run—but so much more than the sum of his parts. In the moments after the accident, Professor Chandra doesn’t see his life flash before his eyes but his life’s work. He’s just narrowly missed the Nobel Prize (again), and even though he knows he should get straight back to his pie charts, his doctor has other ideas. All this work. All this success. All this stress. It’s killing him. He needs to take a break, start enjoying himself. In short, says his doctor, he should follow his bliss. Professor Chandra doesn’t know it yet, but he’s about to embark on the journey of a lifetime. A sensational story that manages to balance introspection and humor with elegance, Library Journal declared this book a “joyful, heartwarming novel . . . Balasubramanyam invests it with compassion, humor, and kindness. . . . Recommended for anyone looking for a satisfying, uplifting read.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a happy February to you all, dear readers!  According to Punxsutawney Phil, the fattest groundhog I ever saw, we have six more weeks of winter before us…and do you know what that means?!

Magic Weather-Predicting Rodents!

More time for books!!

I think I might be in the minority about being excited for more winter, but if you’re looking for some fun days about which to be excited during the coming, apparently wintry weeks, here are a few quirky holidays in the month to keep your spirits:

February 7: National Periodic Table Day

On February 7, 1863, English chemist John Newlands published one of the first table of elements, which divided the known 56 elements into 11 groups based on the “Law of Octaves.” This suggested that any one element will have similar properties to elements eight places before and behind it on the table (Dmitri Mendeleev amended this table in 1869, placing the known elements by atomic weight, which is the table we use today).  So take some time to appreciate a neon sign today, or take a deep breath of air, made up of oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, and enjoy!

February 14: National Ferris Wheel Day

Along with being Valentine’s Day, the 14th is also the birthday of George Washington Gale Ferris, the man who invented the eponymous Ferris Wheel for the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.  Ferris was inspired by a challenge laid out by the fair’s director, Daniel H. Burnham, who wanted a centerpiece to the fair that will rival the Eiffel Tower in Paris.  He got the idea in a Chicago chop house, and sketched out his first draft on a napkin.  If you’d like to learn a bit more about Ferris, his wheel, and the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, check out Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, or any of these other selections!

February 23: National Toast Day

If you, like me, believe that toast may perhaps be the greatest of all foods, then turn your eyes to the toaster this day, my friends, and hold your jam pots high!  National Toast Day was started in 2014 by The Tiptree World Bread Awards in the UK, but has found a following in the US.  And this year seems like the perfect one to make this a Thing.

February 26: National Tell a Fairy Tale Day

Though I can’t track down the origin of this day, there are any number of outlets that advocate this holiday as one to celebrate story-telling and imagination.  So take a day to spin some magic with a fairy tale from your childhood, or one of your own making!  If you need some help, you know the Library is full of stories just waiting to be shared.  Which leads us to….

The books!  Here are some of the shiny new books that climbed up onto our shelves this week.  It’s a week of fiction here, dear readers, so gather up your imaginations and enjoy!

4 3 2 1: Paul Auster’s newest release has the book-world all abuzz, and is already being called one of the best books of the year.  Though inspired (somewhat) by Auster’s childhood in Brooklyn, this novel centers around Archibald Isaac Ferguson, who is born on March 3, 1947.  From that single beginning, Ferguson’s life will take four simultaneous and independent fictional paths, with differing fortunes, talents, and experiences.  Each Ferguson falls under the spell of the magnificent Amy Schneiderman, but each in their own way.  Utterly realistic and yet wonderfully fantastical, this is a book about life in all its variety, vagaries, and fundamental truths.    Kirkus agrees, giving this book a starred review and noting, “Auster’s sense of possibility, his understanding of what all his Fergusons have in common, with us and one another, is a kind of quiet intensity, a striving to discover who they are. . . . [He] reminds us that not just life, but also narrative is always conditional, that it only appears inevitable after the fact.”
And just a note: if you try to look this up in NOBLE, you will need to enter a space between each number.

SnowblindThe market for Icelandic mysteries doesn’t seem to be shrinking any time soon, and this debut novel from Ragnar Jonasson is guaranteed to keep all of you who love the dark and mysterious north delighted.  Set in a quiet, remote fishing village, accessible only by a mountain tunnel, our detective is Ari Thor, a rookie policeman on his first posting, haunting by his past and yearning for his girlfriend in Reykjavik.  When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed elderly writer falls to his death, Ari finds himself forced to work in with a community he doesn’t trust (and who doesn’t trust him), in a land that knows how to hold its secrets close.  This book is a smart twist on the classic ‘locked room’ mystery, and is drawing a number of comparisons to Agatha Christie, making it a great choice for classic mystery readers, as well.  The Washington Post has declared it “A chiller of a thriller…It’s good enough to share shelf space with the works of Yrsa Sigurdardottir and Arnaldur Indridason, Iceland’s crime novel royalty.”

No Man’s Land: J.R.R. Tolkien took inspiration from his time as a a stretcher-bearer during the First World War when crafting The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit (anyone who recalls passages about the mud and the muck and the mire might not be too surprised by this).  Now, the author’s grandson, a novelist in his own right, has penned a story inspired by his grandfather’s experiences on the Western Front.  His hero’s name is Adam Raine, a boy born into poverty in London at the turn of the century.  When his mother is killed, Adam’s father moves them to a coal-mining village in which Adam never quite fits in.  When he finally finds love and earns a scholarship to Oxford, he begins to believe the future may be brightening–until the outbreak of war in Europe.  Tolkien’s book isn’t the kind of sentimental story we so frequently hear about the First World War, where everything is beautiful and happy until 1914.  This book delves into the gritty reality of life in England during the Edwardian period, from its poverty to its brutal classist mentality, and shows that life for many was no better at home than at the front, even if war experience did change them forever.  The result is a tour-de-force that is surprising and moving and deeply insightful, and which NPR called ” a page-turner, an opera, a costume drama to binge watch. Simon Tolkien knows how to keep a story moving, and he does it well.”

BookburnersI panicked when I saw the title of this book, but it actually turned out to be a sensational read that absolutely panders to those of us who have ever felt consumed by a book.  Originally part of a Serial Box, this single collection brings together all the stories of Team Three of the Societas Librorum Occultoru, a Vatican-backed operation that seek out the dark magic hidden in demon-haunted books around the world.  Our heroine is Val Brooks, a woman whose brother was attacked by just such a book, and who joins Team Three in order to save others.  With stories by Max Gladstone, Margaret Dunlap, Mur Lafferty, and Brian Francis Slattery, there is a whole lot of fun to be had.  RT Book Reviews agrees, calling this book ” funny, unsettling, and downright creepy by turns, but also strangely touching.  The format of the bookallows the protagonists as well as minor characters become fully realized, and each interaction with Team Three are described with haunting sympathy, ensuring that each tale will hold readers rapt and eager for more.”

CaravalHere is another book that is garnishing quite a bit of attention lately, and will hold great appeal for fans of The Night Circus.  Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father.  But when she learns she is to be married, Scarlett decides to enjoy one night of freedom by visiting Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show.  She’s received her invitation–but no sooner is she whisked off to the show by a mysterious Sailor than Scarlett learns that Tella has been kidnapped by the show’s organizer, Legend, and the winner of Caraval will be the one who finds Tella first.  Though she’s been told that everything about Caraval is a performance, that everything around her is an elaborate fiction, Scarlett finds herself immersed in a dangerous and enticing world of magic, romance, and heartbreak, caught up in the race to find her sister before the show closes and steals her away forever.  This is escapism at its finest, and Stephanie Garber’s book is winning huge praise from critics, including Kirkus, who said of it “Caraval delights the senses: beautiful and scary, described in luscious prose, this is a show readers will wish they could enter. A double love story, one sensual romance and the other sisterly loyalty, anchors the plot, but the real star here is Caraval and its secrets. Immersive and engaging…destined to capture imaginations.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

Welcome, dear readers, to our first Five Book Friday post of the New Year!

I don’t know about you, but the holiday season, though lovely, just gets a bit….relentless….at times.  Which is why we at the Library love Blanket Fort Reading, about which, much more later.  But that doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate, right?  So here are some holidays in January that can be savored without a great deal of fanfare:

January 8: National Argyle Day

We all know the diamonds-and-stripes pattern of argyle from socks, golf sweaters, and Bert’s sweaters on Sesame Street.  But do we know why they are so familiar?  The argyle pattern is actually the clan colors of Clan Campbell, from Argyll, in western Scotland.  Though familiar in Scotland for centuries, it first gained popularity in the United States after the First World War.  As the US was a military ally of Great Britain, the American media began focusing heavily on the royal family and their doings.  And King George loved to wear argyle sweaters while golfing.  So today, sport a little Clan Campbell pride today!

January 13: National Rubber Duckie Day

And speaking of Sesame Street….according to the 1973 Sesame Street Calendar, January 13 is the birthday of Ernie’s very best pal. Rubber Duckie, who made his television debut in 1970.  The rubber duck has quite a history, as you can see here, but today, it’s ok to have this song stuck in your head…

January 20: National Cheese Lovers’ Day

All hail cheese!  Though I haven’t been able to dig up why we celebrate those who love cheese on this particular day, I am not going to let such as auspicious occasion pass.  Cheese, after all, is one of the oldest foods mankind has sampled, with records going back into prehistoric times.  If you are really a devotee of all things cheese, then you can feast on this fact: The world’s largest cheese was presented at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, weighing in at over 34,000 pounds.

January 23: National Pie Day

Oh, happiest of days!  For all those who, like me, believe pie to be the most perfect of all foods, may all your crusts be ever flaky, your fillings be piping, and may your epicurean delights be unending!  Like cheese, pies, in some form or another, have been around since approximately 9500 BC.  The pie-in-the-face gag has been around since Ben Turpin received one in Mr. Flip, a silent film from 1909.

And, since every day in the Library is New Book Day, here are some of the books that danced their way onto our shelves this week for your delight and enjoyment:

Five Books

3842521Lady Claire is All ThatMaya Rodale’s latest Keeping Up with the Cavendishes novel is a nifty spin on the old Pygmalion story, with the “creator” falling in love with his “creation” (and vice versa), but also a great tale about learning to appreciate yourself and your uniqueness in a world of conformity.  Lady Claire is a brilliant non-conformist who has dulled suitors to tears with her talk of mathematics.  While on the hunt for a newly married Duke with whom she intends to discuss equations, she encounters Lord Fox, an athlete and recently jilted suitor whose interest in math is nil–but whose interest in Claire is quite high.  Because Fox has made a bet that he can transform Claire into the bell of the season.  But Claire has plenty of other ideas in mind for her lessons with Fox–and soon their conniving leads to a love that neither ever expected.  Rodale is a master of funny, feminist romances, and this simmering tale of opposites attracting is another jewel in her metaphorical crown.  Publisher’s Weekly agreed, giving this book a starred review and saying “Romance readers weary of insta-love stories will glory in the slow, eminently believable development of physical and emotional intimacy between Claire and Fox. Rodale expertly blends sensuality and genuine admiration in this superb romance.”

3794617Avid Reader: A Life: You might not know his name, but I can guarantee you that you are aware of the enormous influence that Robert Gottlieb has left on publishing.  He began his career editing The Columbia Review, and working in the greeting-card department of Macy’s before landing a job at Simon & Schuster, and becoming the first head of Alfred A. Knopf 12 years later.   He was responsible for publshing Catch-22, among other bestsellers, and has worked with such noteworthy authors as Toni Morrison, Doris Lessing, John le Carré, Michael Crichton, Lauren Bacall, Bill Clinton, and Miss Piggy.  While this book is about his life, and his later work as editor of The New Yorker, Gottlieb’s book is also very much about the act of reading, the art of publishing…and his love of dance.  While inspiring in his success, Gottlieb’s work is also enthralling because of his sheer love of what he does. The New York Times Book Review had a similar observation, noting “Robert Gottlieb’s buoyant memoir of his indefatigable editorial career proves Noel Coward’s observation that work is more fun than fun.”  …Would that we can all be so lucky.

3859810Piano TideDo we belong to the Earth or does the Earth belong to us? The question raised by Chief Seathl almost two hundred years ago continues to be the defining question of our age–and in Kathleen Dean Moore’s debut novel, it sparks a startling confrontation in the wilds of rural Alaska.  Axel Hagerman has made his fortune in the forestry and fishing industries, and has recently decided to add to his takings by selling the water from a salmon stream, a quest which brings him face to face with Nora Montgomery, who has just arrived on the ferry with her piano and her dog.  Nora is eager to disappear into the Alaskan landscape, having left everything about her life in the continental United States behind.  But as Axel’s business operations move to more dangerous ventures–namely, a bear pit, Nora finds herself more and more involved, and increasingly ready to take a dangerous stand.  Moore is an award-winning naturalist, philosopher, activist, and she brings all her talents to bear in this novel, creating a story that is very much about nature, mankind’s violence towards it, and the dangers such acts pose.  But it’s also a brilliant character study that is as engaging as it is thought-provoking.  As Booklist notes in its starred review, this novel is “Moore writes so eloquently and with such passion about the natural world, from tiny tide pool inhabitants to giant grizzlies and towering hemlocks, that she leaves the reader in wonder and awe.”

3789497Selection DayAravind Adiga was awarded the Man Booker Prize for his novel The White Tiger, and this novel, a deeply moving coming-of-age novel set in the slums of Mumbai, is receiving similarly rave reviews for its insight, wisdom, and impressive scope.  Fourteen-year-old Manjunath Kumar knows he is good at cricket–if not as good as his older brother Radha.  But their obsessed father drives both boys nevertheless, determined to make cricket stars of them both, regardless of Manjunath’s love of science and all things related to CSI.  And when Manju meets Radha’s great rival, a mysterious Muslim boy privileged and confident in all the ways Manju is not, he is forced to come to terms with who he really is, and what that will mean for his family, as well.  A funny, heartfelt story that deals as much with privilege, class, and global ideologies as it does with inter-family relationships, this is book was lauded by The Atlantic‘s Mark Greif, who called it “The best novel I read this year… In its primal triangle of rival brothers and a maniacal father, hell-bent on success in cricket in India, Adiga grips the passions while painting an extraordinary panorama of contemporary sports, greed, celebrity, and mundanity. As a literary master, Adiga has only advanced in his art since his Booker Prize-winning The White Tiger.”

3783817Taste of PersiaIn this stunning cookbook, Naomi Duguid takes us on a culinary and visual journey through Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Kurdistan, reveling in their religious, ethnic, cultural and geographic diversity, and celebrating all their delicious tastes.  The photos in this book are truly breath-taking, and Duguid has a knack for writing about food, its preparation, and its deeply personal meanings, in a way that is both hunger-inducing and surprisingly emotional.  This book has been named the Best Cookbook of the Year by The Boston Globe, Food & Wine, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The San Francisco Chronicle, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, and is definitely one that needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.  The Wall Street Journal also notes “With one foot in the old world and one in the new, Ms. Duguid does a beautiful job of translating complex concoctions into accurate, easy-to-follow recipes that reflect not just the flavors but the spirit of the countries that once made up the Persian Empire.”  As ever, we at the Library stand ready and willing to taste any of the culinary delights produced from these recipes.

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading, and happy new year!

Five Book Friday!

And welcome, beloved patrons, to our final Five Book Friday of 2016!  We hope that the Free for All, and the Library have provided you with a safe, comforting, and inspiring space (both virtually and physically) during this troublesome year, and we look forward to making our collective 2017 a bright and fulfilling one!

I, personally, am not a New Year’s type of person.  As a little kid, for some weird reason, countdowns in general sent me into a panic, and I’ve never really recovered fully.  That shouldn’t stop you, however, from ushering 2016 into the history books with some sort of grand gesture or traditional celebration.  In fact, here are a few ideas from around the world to get your New Year’s Celebrations off to a good start:

  1. “Ring Out The Old, Ring In The New,”
    In Sweden, Alfred Tennyson’s old poem “In Memoriam”  (More generally known as ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells’) has been read out at Stockholm outdoor museum Skansen since the mid-1890s, usually by a famous actor.  You can have your own reading by following this link here.
  2. Tossing Crockery
    In Denmark it is a good sign to find your door heaped with a pile of broken dishes at New Years. Old dishes are saved year around to throw them at the homes where their friends live on New Years Eve as a sign of brotherhood and friendship.  Those houses with the largest pile of broken dishes outside their doors are the people who have the most friends.
  3. Eat Your Lentils
    In Brazil, lentils are considered a source of good luck, so most dishes are served with them.  If you’re not really into lentils, Austrians celebrate with green peppermint ice cream.
  4. Ring Out, Wild Bells
    In Japan, bells are rung 108 times in alignment with the Buddhist belief that this brings cleanness. It’s also considered good to be smiling going into the New Year, as it sets the tone and brings good luck with the coming year.
  5. Visit the Library
    This is a tradition I just invented, but if you wanted to start your New Years by paying us a visit on January 2, 2017, when we re-open, you would be most welcome, and wished a very happy new year.  And, to help you look forward to your adventure, here are some of the books that you will find waiting for you!


3844967The Man With the Poison Gun: In the fall of 1961, KGB assassin Bogdan Stashinsky defected to West Germany. After spilling his secrets to the CIA, Stashinsky was put on trial in what would be the most publicized assassination case of the entire Cold War, and would have lasting effects within the KGB and its leadership.  Stashinsky’s testimony, which openly implicated Kremlin rulers in political assassinations outside of the borders of the USSR, upended international politics, and confirmed some of the more outlandish Cold War fiction plots.  It would go on to inspire plenty more, as well, including Ian Fleming’s last James Bond novel, The Man with the Golden Gun.  Serhii Plokhy’s expertly researched and marvelously well-told history reads like one of Bond’s adventures, revealing the absurdities and the horrible truths of Cold War espionage, and the lengths that both the US and the USSR were willing to go to keep their secrets safe.  Kirkus gave this book a rave review, saying “With gusto and verve, Plokhy details Stashinsky’s intelligence work…. A thrilling, well-researched tale of espionage that has all the spycraft hallmarks of a blockbuster movie.”

3779012The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship: The world does not lack for books on the infamous and furious feud that flared up between Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov  and literary critic Edmund Wilson–their letters have been published, along with several histories.  But Boston Globe writer Alex Beam loves his subject so much, and brings such linguistic insight to his work that this book is a welcome addition to this rather bizarre story.  Wilson was Nabokov’s first patron, and a true friend when Nabokov and his wife were newly-arrived immigrants, struggling to make ends meet.  He introduced them to the right people, supported Nabokov’s work, and praised his intellect.  In return, Nabokov provided Wilson years of correspondence, intellectual discourse, and support for his own work.  But with the publication of Lolita, and Nabokov’s translation of Eugene Onegin, which Wilson savaged in reviews, and their once great friendship collapsed into highly intelligent, and bitterly savage wordsmithery.  Beam brings his own passion for literature and keen journalistic insight to this story, making it into something very human, very funny, and wonderfully engaging.  The Boston Globe, unsurprisingly, gave this book a rave (but wise and thoughtful) review, noting that Beam “has a keen sense of the absurd and is mischievous but not malicious in exposing the foibles of these frenemies. He also, while he’s at it, has some Nabokovian fun as he laces his narrative with wordplay and faux-scholarly flourishes…his book mostly leaves you asking yourself how prideful and pig headed even the smartest men can be. If there’s a broader application to The Feud, it stems from that question, which doesn’t bode well for any of us.”

3858755Love In Vain: Robert Johnson 1911-1938, The Graphic Novel: Robert Johnson wrote some of the most enduring and formative songs of the original blues era, songs that would go on to help shape the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s.  Despite his death at the age of 27, and his somewhat late start on the road to fame–Johnson started as a traveling musician in the American North, but really only gained fame after he returned to the deep South, Johnson’s career was incredibly prolific, and an enormous collection of myths emerged about his talent and his productivity (perhaps the most famous of which is that he sold his soul to the Devil to be able to play the guitar).  In this hauntingly beautiful and well-researched graphic novel, J.M. DuPont and illustrator Mezzo bring Johnson’s career and very real, flawed, and fascinating life to light in a book about which Publisher’s Weekly intriguingly wrote: “The basics of Johnson’s brief life are detailed in a dark and almost succulent level of prewar woodcut-style detail by artist Mezzo. Dupont’s intimate and prying narrative tracks Johnson’s life closely from his dirt-poor Mississippi youth through his later vagabond years as a womanizing roamer and guitar slinger…The key question of the devil’s involvement is left for readers to decide.”

3512560To The Mountaintop : My Journey Through The Civil Rights MovementOn January 20, 2009, 1.8 million people crowded the grounds of the Capitol to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama. Among the masses was Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who had flown from South Africa to witness an event that was for many the culmination of the generations-long Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Hunter-Gault uses this event to reflect on her own involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, from her youth, where she was one of two black students who forced the University of Georgia to integrate, and through some of the most pivotal events of the last forty years.  Her narrative is striking for its historical importance, and deeply effective as a personal journey, and the addition of a wealth of photographs further enhances this journey.  Booklist gave this title a starred review, calling it a “powerful complement to the civil rights canon draws a compelling line from the beginnings of the movement to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which opened the door to the long corridor that led to the White House in January 2009.”

3800720Food Anatomy : The Curious Parts & Pieces of Our Edible WorldJulia Rothman’s Anatomy series provides irresistibly fun and fascinating journeys through bits of pieces of everyday life, focusing on those tiny details we often miss–texture, color, cultural significance–to bring the world around us to life in a whole new way.  This newest addition to the series is all about food (hooray!), from short-order cook’s lingo to the countless ways potatoes are fried and consumed around the world (and the myriad sauces into which they are dunked), to how and why the croissant was invented.  This is a book for foodies, bakers, cooks, and the curious alike, and her quick-wit and delight in her subject make this book a treat to read.  Just…bring a snack with you!  Food Republic ate this book up (hardy har har), saying in their review, “It’s a beautiful thing when food and art come together. Julia Rothman is definitely familiar with this notion. In the third book of her Anatomy series, Rothman enlists the help of James Beard Award-winning journalist Rachel Wharton and illustrates nearly everything there is to know about food. Not only is Food Anatomy easy on the eyes; it’s also educational. Within its pages readers can find the percentage of butterfat in different dairy products, how popcorn pops, how to make tofu, short order lingo for egg orders and more.”


Until next year, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Five Book Friday!

And a very happy December to you, beloved patrons!  There is a lot going on this month, and we will be here with some suggestions to to make your holidays more delicious, more bearable, funnier, calmer…whatever you need them to be.

And today, I also wanted to share with you some other December holidays that may not show up on your standard calendar, but are worth celebrating nonetheless:

December 8: Pretend To Be A Time-Traveler Day

This is not a joke.  This day was started in 2007 on a blog, which you can see here.  There are rules, and endless possibilities, and I, for one, am a little giddy with excitement.

December 10: Dewey Decimal System Day

I admit, I have weirded a few people out in my time with my love of the Dewey Decimal System, and all its intricate beauty.  Developed  by Melvil Dewey in 1873 and first published in 1876, the Dewey Decimal System is based on the principal that all knowledge can be classified, and therefore, contained in a Library.  We’ll talk more about this as the day draws nigh, but on Dewey’s birthday (Dec. 10), let’s take a second to thank him for giving us all that can be known.

December 17: National Maple Syrup Day

If I had my way, every day would be national maple syrup day.  If you’re looking to learn more about this phenomenal, delicious delicacy, the Boston Globe wrote a really interesting article a few years ago in honor of this special day.  And while I know many of you are none too pleased with the onset of Winter, allow me to remind you that cold days lead to more maple syrup, in the end.  There’s always a bright side.

December 21: National Crossword Puzzle Day

While crossword puzzles had been published in England as part of children’s books, the first modern newspaper crossword puzzle was printed in the New York World on December 21, 1913, and was developed by journalist Arthur Wynne from Liverpool.  This day is for people like my father, who can do crossword puzzles.  In ink.  And for people like me, who…don’t.

December 27: National Fruitcake Day

Whether you love them or hate them, fruitcake has entered the vernacular, not only as a holiday treat, but as a way to describe someone who is…well…the phrase was coined in 1935 by Southern Bakeries, who had access to cheap nuts, and therefore loaded them into their fruitcakes.  The first mail order fruitcakes were dispatched in the US in 1913.  So have some fruitcake today, or give some away (to a friend or enemy, we won’t tell), and keep the merriment going a the whole month long!

And do you know what is always worth celebrating?  New Books!  Check out some of the ones that have ambled up onto our shelves this week:

Five Books

3810622A Wretched and Precarious Situation : In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier: I’ve personally been on a big Arctic fiction binge lately, about which more later, but I was thrilled to see David Welky’s new history has arrived.  In 1906, while in standing on Cape Colgate in northern-most Greenland, Commander Robert E. Peary saw in the distance a line of mountains that he named “Crocker Land”, after one of the bankers who had financed his expedition.  In 1913,  Donald MacMillan headed an expedition to Crocker Land to settle disputes as to whether it existed or not.  The expedition itself was a series of disasters, mistakes, tragedies, and discoveries that Welky skillfully discusses in this quick-paced and well-researched true-life adventure story.  Filled with plenty of illustrations and photos that will make you very grateful for the Library’s central heating, this is a book that earned a starred review from Kirkus, who said “Making magnificent use of documents and recreating the years-long Arctic sojourn with the drama and immediacy of a tension-filled adventure novel, [Welky] conjures a romantic quest emblematic of the rugged manliness of the time…. vastly entertaining.”

3821278Serious Sweet: This Booker Prize long-listed novel by A.L. Kennedy is a fascinating, genre-bending novel that takes place within the course of a single day in London, as seen through the eyes of Meg and Jon.  Jon, a recently divorced civil servant, has lost nearly everything–including his love for his country after years of covering up government secrets.  He has recently taken out an ad offering to send letters to a discerning woman–which brought Meg into his life. Today was the day they had arranged to meet…but Jon’s life is literally imploding before his eyes, and he hourly postpones the meeting, all the while losing faith in their tentative romance.  There are a number of big ideas in this book, but it’s the tiny moments–of holding another person’s hand, hearing their voice–that make this book so impactful.  The Guardian agrees, saying, in their review: “More than any of AL Kennedy’s previous books, this is a novel for our times…The London that emerges is a place that can be loved only in its dingier corners…It’s appropriate that the disconnected city should be partially redeemed through the love story of two middle-aged and broken lovers. It also seems fitting that their redemption should occur not through sex but through hesitant moments of touch.”

3765881Swing Time: Probably one of the biggest releases this year is multiple-award-winning author Zadie Smith’s newest novel, which deals with issues of race, class, gender, dance, friendship, celebrity, and talent in a wholly unique and beautiful way.  As young girls, Aimee and Tracey dream of growing up to be dancers–but only Tracey has talent.  Aimee is, instead, full of ideas about what makes a life and a tribe, and how to change the world.  As grown-ups, Tracey struggles in a chorus line, while Aimee travels the world as a singer’s assistant, eventually bringing her to West Africa with a huge philanthropic ambition.  Smith creates worlds with her books, and both of the worlds here, North London and West Africa are whole and real, and serve a perfect counterpoints to each other in a story that The New Yorker calls “Smith’s most affecting novel in a decade, one that brings a piercing focus to her favorite theme: the struggle to weave disparate threads of experience into a coherent story of a self…The novel’s structure feels true to the effect of memory, the way we use the past as ballast for the present. And it feels true, too, to the mutable structure of identity, that complex, composite ‘we,’ liable to shift and break and reshape itself as we recall certain pieces of our earlier lives and suppress others.”

3779102The Mayakovsky Tapes: Robert Littell is a master of the Cold Way spy novel, but this latest work goes beyond the intrigue and clandestine dangers of the Cold War, and instead probes more deeply into what it meant to live, to live, and to create, in a world marked by Stalin’s oppressive, deadly regime.  Set in March 1953, the book centers around the tales of four women, each of whom had some kind of relationship to the now-deceased poet, who is being upheld as a her of Soviet arts.  Their tales trace Mayakovsky’s life from the idealism of the Russian Revolution and the heady days of the Futurist movement to the desperate existence he was forced to live as Stalin’s repressions began to take effect.  The whole story is one for art lovers, historians, and wordsmiths alike, as a real, human figure, flaws and all, emerges from a time period that still remains for many notorious and deeply misunderstood.  Booklist called this book a “vivid picture of a gifted poet, a tireless womanizer, and a man beset by wild mood swings. The ladies’ narration is both raunchy and often hilarious. It also illuminates a tumultuous period of Russian history.”

3800722Butter: A Rich History: Do I really need to sell you on a history of butter?  I didn’t think so.  But, regardless of your level of affection for the stuff, Elaine Khosrova’s work is a fascinating study of food, culture, class, taste, and marketing in modern history, as well as a deeply personal study of her (and our) relationships with food and family.  As if that wasn’t enough, there are recipes–that, obviously, feature butter.  Need I say more?

Five Book Friday!

Welcome to the end of another week, beloved patrons, and our first Five Book Friday post from November!  The last of our 30-day months for the year (not that there are many left), November is the kick off of the holiday season, so brace yourself (and don’t go into a crafting store unless you must–I nearly drowned in tinsel).  But there are plenty of holidays in November that fly under the radar, and deserve to be savored as well.  Here are a few days worth observing this month:

November 6: National Nachos Day!  So the story goes, a maître d’hôtel at a restaurant in Piedras Negras, Mexico named Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya invented the dish in 1943 when some American servicemen stationed in Eagle Creek, Texas, crossed the border for dinner.  The restaurant had closed for the day, but Anaya took pity on the men and invented a dish with tortillas, cheese and salsa, calling it  “Nacho’s especiales“.  Word of the dish spread, and very soon entered into immortality.

Also November 6: Daylight Savings TimeCommemorate the First World War, which established daylight savings time in order to save on fuel to light munitions works and factories, as well as to give workers a few brief moments in the sun every day, and spend an extra hour in bed!  

November 11: Veterans’ Day: Known in most countries as Remembrance Day (and formerly Armistice Day), this day commemorates the end of hostilities of the First World War, and a day to honor the fallen in that war and all subsequent wars.  However, the United States had already designated Memorial Day in May as the day to commemorate the fallen, so we acknowledge living veterans this day, as well as the end of the Great War at 11am.  The Library will be closed on November 11.

November 14: National Pickle Day: Did you know Americans eat approximately nine pounds of pickles a year?  Or that America is named after a pickle merchant?  Ok, Amerigo Vespucci started his career as a ship chandler, which means he sold supplies to outgoing ships, but his nickname was ‘the pickle merchant’.  Nerd alert.

November 28: National French Toast DayFrench Toast was neither invented in France, nor by a French person.  The earliest reference we have to the dish is from the 4th century, where a Roman cookbook describes a dish called “Pan Dulcis”, which is essentially French Toast as we know it.  Since then, it’s been used the world over to bring new, delicious life to day-old bread.

And now, on to the books!


3760358The Comet SeekersCritics have been waxing rhapsodical over Helen Sedgwick’s debut, which opens on the barren plains of an Antarctic research station.  And it isn’t just because Sedgwick has created two indelible and beautiful characters in Róisín, an Irish scientist who treks around the world to study comets, and François, the base’s chef, who has left his hometown only twice in his life–it’s because she gives us not only their lives, but the lives that fill both characters’ past and future, and showing how they are all inextricably bound together. By moving through time to explore all that have made these two into what and who they are in their present, Sedgwick is able to tell a story that is as multifaceted, and as fascinating, as the comet that brings her characters initially together.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, calling the novel “A haunting and wonderfully ethereal debut novel about first loves, inescapable loss, and the search for one’s place in a complicated world . . . Uniquely structured and stylistically fascinating, the multilayered story comes full circle in a denouement that is both heartbreaking and satisfying.”

3760365Smoke and Mirrors: Acclaimed mystery writer Elly Griffiths returns to post-World War II Britain, and her Magic Men series in this second adventure with D.I. Edgar Stephens and the magician Max Mephisto–who is currently starring in a production of Aladdin that has all of Brighton a-buzz.  But Stephens is on the hunt for a killer who strangled two children in the woods, then abandoned alongside a trail of candy in a gruesome recreation of “Hansel and Gretel”.  Does the answer to the case lie in the strange and disturbing plays that one of the children wrote?  Or is the staging of the bodies a clue towards the theater?  It lies with Stephens, and his erstwhile partner Max Mephisto, to find out the truth in this investigation, which Kirkus called “A dazzlingly tricky mystery, oddball characters, and an authentic feel for life in post-World War II England.”

3796476 Certain Dark Things: Silvia Moreno-Garcia combines elements of Latin American folklore with a surprisingly modern twist on the vampire to bring this noirish, gritty tale to life.  At its heart is Atl,  a descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, who requires the blood of the young to survive.  Desperate to escape a vampire gang that is hunting her down, she grabs a young man named Domingo and flees, never dreaming that her split-second choice will lead to a real affection between these two survivors.  But as the cops, gangs, and vampires all move closer and closer to a final showdown, what chance does their fledgling bond have to survive?  The New York Journal of Books loved this novel, noting how it “beautifully and powerfully reinvigorates one of the seminal horror fiction monsters in some truly unexpected and sublime ways….this novel is by turns sensual and grim, introspective and disturbing, suspenseful and moving, and all told in the sleek and lyrical prose for which Moreno-Garcia is deservedly acclaimed.”
3810892The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novels of Ursula K. Le GuinLe Guin is not only a pioneer in the science fiction and fantasy genres, for exploring issues of psychology, gender, and environmentalism in her work, but she has also influenced authors from a number of genres, as well, including Salman Rushdie and Neil Gaiman.  While collections of her stories have been published in the past, this is the first book to form a conscious retrospective of her writings, from the 1971 “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow” to her 2002 work “Paradise Lost”, allowing readers to follow Le Guin as she explains, to “wander around the universe, leaping from hither to yon”.  Though a big of a weighty tome, these thirteen stories are a sensational bit of escapism for fans and newcomers alike.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, writing in their starred review that “Le Guin is never soggily sentimental, but throughout her long career she has preferred to deal with heartbreakingly real characters who discover that they can extend themselves into acts of generous compassion. These stories are wonderful, and full of wonder.”
3817990You Will Not Have My HateOn November 13, 2015, Antoine Leiris’s wife, Hélène Muyal-Leiris, was killed by terrorists while attending a rock concert at the Bataclan Theater in Paris.  Three days later, Leiri wrote an open letter to his wife’s killers in a Facebook post that was read around the world.  His letter was one of deep grief, but it was also one of defiant hope, as he promised that his young son’s life would not be defined by the violence that took his mother: “For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom.”  In this book, Leiri shares the full story of his loss and his determined struggle to go on, forcing us to realize, in simple, stunning prose, what it means to be a survivor, and urging us all to find the hope to make a better world.  This is a book that is already been hailed as a best–and most important–book of 2016, and the Irish Independent notes that it is “An extraordinary read, honest, intimate and lightly poetic. It is a testament of love, loss and grief and also the often untold story of those who are left behind and must find a way to go on”.
Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!