Tag Archives: patronsuggestions

Best of 2016: The End


As humanity tries to put this festering wound of a year behind us, you are going to see a lot of “Best of 2016” (and “Worst of 2016”) lists floating around.  But none, I promise you, is quite like the Peabody Library’s Best of 2016 List.  We asked our staff to share with us–and you–their favorite books, films, albums, or other Library materials that they encountered this year.   The response was so terrific that we’ll be running a weekly series for your enjoyment.

And, just a note, the rules were that the media had to be consumed in 2016 (books read, films viewed, albums heard, etc.), but that doesn’t mean that they were made in 2016.  There are some classics on this list, as well as plenty of new material, so you can see all the phenomenal finds the Library has to offer year round!

…There were a few books on a number of people’s ‘Best Of’ Lists this year, so here is a special final edition of our series that covers the “Best of the Best”!


From the Upstairs Office, the Reference Desk, and the Classics Book Group:

3784204Three Comrades by Erich Maria Remarque

“I wasn’t expecting the romantic beauty that this post WWI Germany set book delivered. All I knew going into this title was that the author wrote All Quiet on the Western Front, so I was expecting a “guy” book. In the end, it was a love book, but a messy love book with no false notes. The male friendships were as well developed as the romantic plot line, if not more so, and they make the book something truly special.”

“This novel drove home the real, lasting, and indelible impact that the First World War had on those who fought in it.  But, more than that, it is a stunning book about friendship, about a place, and about a time that Remarque knew was dying, even as he wrote the book.  Having read All Quiet on the Western Front, I knew Remarque the modernist soldier-writer.  But this Remarque was funny and earnest and insightful, and this book is one that I won’t soon forget.”

The year is 1928. On the outskirts of a large German city, three young men are earning a thin and precarious living. Fully armed young storm troopers swagger in the streets. Restlessness, poverty, and violence are everywhere. For these three, friendship is the only refuge from the chaos around them. Then the youngest of them falls in love, and brings into the group a young woman who will become a comrade as well, as they are all tested in ways they can have never imagined.

Written with the same overwhelming simplicity and directness that made All Quiet on the Western Front a classic, Three Comrades portrays the greatness of the human spirit, manifested through characters who must find the inner resources to live in a world they did not make, but must endure.

From the Upstairs Offices, the Reference Desk, and the South Branch:

3722322The View From the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

“My love for Gaiman knows no bounds, but listening to his collected nonfiction was a particular treat. He’s thoughtful, insightful and honestly, this collection is worth it just to hear him talk about libraries in his own voice.”

An enthralling collection of nonfiction essays on a myriad of topics—from art and artists to dreams, myths, and memories—observed in #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman’s probing, amusing, and distinctive style.

An inquisitive observer, thoughtful commentator, and assiduous craftsman, Neil Gaiman has long been celebrated for the sharp intellect and startling imagination that informs his bestselling fiction. Now, The View from the Cheap Seats brings together for the first time ever more than sixty pieces of his outstanding nonfiction. Analytical yet playful, erudite yet accessible, this cornucopia explores a broad range of interests and topics, including (but not limited to): authors past and present; music; storytelling; comics; bookshops; travel; fairy tales; America; inspiration; libraries; ghosts; and the title piece, at turns touching and self-deprecating, which recounts the author’s experiences at the 2010 Academy Awards in Hollywood.

Insightful, incisive, witty, and wise, The View from the Cheap Seats explores the issues and subjects that matter most to Neil Gaiman—offering a glimpse into the head and heart of one of the most acclaimed, beloved, and influential artists of our time.

From the Reference Desk, and Patron Recommendation:

3622766A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

“Tremblay’s love of the horror genre drew me into this book (and taught me a great deal, too!), but it is his power to tell a story, to twist a narrative, and most of all, to make me doubt everything I believed to be true, cannot be adequately described.  This book scared me, awed me, and rendered me incapable of functioning when I was done, as I tried to fully grasp the implications of those final eighty pages or so.”

A chilling thriller that brilliantly blends psychological suspense and supernatural horror…The lives of the Barretts, a normal suburban New England family, are torn apart when fourteen-year-old Marjorie begins to display signs of acute schizophrenia.

To her parents’ despair, the doctors are unable to stop Marjorie’s descent into madness. As their stable home devolves into a house of horrors, they reluctantly turn to a local Catholic priest for help. Father Wanderly suggests an exorcism; he believes the vulnerable teenager is the victim of demonic possession. He also contacts a production company that is eager to document the Barretts’ plight. With John, Marjorie’s father, out of work for more than a year and the medical bills looming, the family agrees to be filmed, and soon find themselves the unwitting stars of The Possession, a hit reality television show. When events in the Barrett household explode in tragedy, the show and the shocking incidents it captures become the stuff of urban legend.

Fifteen years later, a bestselling writer interviews Marjorie’s younger sister, Merry. As she recalls those long ago events that took place when she was just eight years old, long-buried secrets and painful memories that clash with what was broadcast on television begin to surface—and a mind-bending tale of psychological horror is unleashed, raising vexing questions about memory and reality, science and religion, and the very nature of evil.

The Romance Garden Top Picks:

3784064A Promise of Fire by Amanda Bouchet

“First time novelist Amanda Bouchet has given the gift of a completely addictive fantasy romance to genre fans everywhere. A Promise of Fire is the first book of Bouchet’s The Kingmaker Chronicles, and based on the Orange Rose Contest and Paranormal Golden Pen wins, Romance Writers of America thinks it’s pretty great too. In addition to a very well developed cast of characters- Griffin’s family in particular- the world Bouchet creates is believable and well-built. The plotting is also first-rate, making it very difficult to find a good place to put this book down. If you like fantasy and you like romance, like me, you’ll be wonderfully glad you picked it up… until you remember that A Promise of Fire is Bouchet’s first book, and you have to wait until January 2017 for The Kingmaker Chronicles Book 2: Breath of Fire.”
3803359The Fixer by Helenkay DimonThis is not a man who “takes what he wants”, like so many other heroes whose privileges are used to justify their horrible behavior.  This is a romance of equals who respect each other and value each other’s talents and input, and of two people who aren’t used to making interpersonal connections, which adds an utterly charming artlessness and humanity to both characters.  The mystery element of the plot is strong and interesting as well, but for me, this book was about shattering genre conventions, readers’ expectations, and telling a story about a strong, healthy, and honest relationship that was as meaningful as it was engaging.”

“We must always travel with hope”…A Downton Abbey Edition of If/Then

It’s that time of year again…


Downton Abbey season is upon us.


And while every season of this marvelous historic drama has been memorial, the knowledge that this is the final season makes every episode, every lingering glance, ever caustic put-down, and every jauntily-angled hat that much more meaningful.  The season has already aired, and ended, in Britain, but we here in the US have only begun to savor our final season of one of the highest-rated shows in the western world.   Since it’s inception, this show has been hailed for its splendid characters, its rich historic setting, and its utterly engaging storylines, and has actually launched a shocking new generation of historical dramas, as production companies desperately try to capitalize on Downton’s success.  Not bad for a drama that deals heavily in the vagaries of British inheritance laws, eh?


The terrific thing about Downton Abbey, apart from the actual show, is the fact that it has such a vocal fanbase.  I can’t tell you how many delightful chats I’ve had with patrons who are picking up discs of various seasons to watch, or looking for something to tide them over between episodes, or searching for another compelling and transportive show once they’ve returned from a Downton binge.

So, in honor of all those lovely chats, and with the full knowledge that we’ll all soon be casting about for some news shows to savor very soon, here are some suggestions, from both sides of the Circulation Desk, based on the delightful denizens of Downton Abbey…

If you love Downton Abbey, Then be sure to check out:

2629560The Grand:  Like Downton Abbey, it sucks you in with its lovely setting (in this case, a spectacular hotel in downtown Manchester, England, in 1919), and holds you with its complex plots, surprising characters, and shocking twists and turns.  I owe the creator, Russell T. Davis (yup, the same guy who resurrected Dr. Who!), for helping me make friends in college. In the years before Netflix and Youtube (gasp!), this was our binge-watching fodder.  Downton Abbey fans will find the same attention to detail here in spades, and similarly powerful characters, especially as Stephen, the son and heir of The Grand Hotel’s owners, deals with his return from the First World War, and the new world in which he finds himself (in season one, Stephen is played to perfection by future True Blood star Stephen Moyer).  I realize I am rambling right now.  But it’s that terrific a show.  So go watch it, then we can chat.

3679092Peaky Blinders: On the surface, this superb BBC drama (which is now a Netflix production) has much in common with Downton Abbey: a superb cast, spectacular historical detail and costumes, surprisingly and memorable storylines…but on the other, it couldn’t be different.  This series is built around the gangs of Birmingham, England, in the 1920’s–some of the toughest, scariest, and most ruthless criminals in the country.  Their name was based on the fact that they sewed straight razors into the peaks of their caps, so that a single flick of the wrist could actually kill a man.  While not for the feint of heart, this is an addictive show that comes highly recommended.  Best of all, it stars Irish actor Cillian Murphy, who is one of my favorite people, as Tommy, whose voice can chill the blood effortlessly…and Season 2 features a guest appearance by Charlotte Riley, who played Arabella Strange in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell!

3645613The Crimson FieldIf, like me, your favorite season of Downton Abbey was the second, featuring the outbreak and experience of the First World War, then this drama of the nurses of the Western Front is for you.  It is very rare to see a story that focuses so much on women in the First World War, and, by and large, this show tells that story exceptionally well.  The French hospital in which these nurses find themselves is a battelfield in and of itself, for the hearts, bodies, and minds of those who must live, work, and suffer in it, and this show doesn’t shy away from the real and painful details of those experiences.  But it also tells stories of triumph and humor and, most importantly, of power for women at a time when women were not (and still are not) properly recognized for their work.

3645616Poldark: I went on (and on) about this show last summer, when the first season aired, but it’s certainly worth mentioning again.  Not only is this an adaptation wholly worthy of Winston Graham’s beloved literary series, it revels in its historical setting, costumes and accents, and doesn’t shy away from the deep complexities of its characters’ relationships.  Season One introduced us all to Ross Poldark, a British soldier who returns from service in the American Revolution to his home in Cornwall, and begins making a life for himself as a mine owner, a caretaker, and a husband.  Happily, for fans of this super series, season 2 is set to air in Britain sometime this summer, so our turn will be coming soon after!

Staff (and Patron!) Recommendations!


I’m not sure if you’ve noticed this by now, but I really like books.  A great deal.  I wouldn’t say I like them more than most people…especially not in a crowded room….but that is what is great about working in a library.  Not only am I surrounded by books (very friendly books, by the way), but I get to work with people who love books (and who are also very friendly), and I get to talk with patrons who love books, as well!
When you have a group of people who are all gathered in the same place for the same general purpose, magic happens.  In this case, we all share what we’ve been reading, what we enjoyed, what we didn’t, and what we plan to read next (when, magically, we start getting 30-hour days, or no longer need to sleep or something…).  And since, as Oscar Wilde said, “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on”.  Thus, here is another round-up of staff recommendations, with some additions from our Beloved Patrons!
Just as a side note here, patron recommendations are my favorite thing ever, besides chocolate-chili cupcakes and Jonathan Strange.
From the Archives:
Real_frank_zappa_book_frontThe Real Frank Zappa Bookby Frank Zappa, with Peter Occhiogrosso: There aren’t a great many star/rocker autobiographies that survive the test of time, but Zappa’s is not only of these.  Upon it’s publication, Vanity Fair raved that it was an “autobiography of mostly hilarious stories…fireside war tales from the big bad days of the rockin’ sixties”, and the New York Post stated that a copy of the book “belonged in every home”.  Nearly 26 years after its initial publication, this book is still delighting readers and music fans alike with its humor, wild stories, and frank discussions of the musical avant-garde scene in which Zappa reveled.
From Our Patrons!
2089106Bloody Jack : being an account of the curious adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber: L.A. Meyer’s swashbuckling series has plenty to offer–a fierce heroine who manages to survive not only life as a beggar on the streets of London, but life on the high seas aboard a British man-o-war.  Jacky’s adventures have stretched into twelve books, each full of derring-do, romance, adventure–and some fun historical details.  Our patron was particularly taken with the song lyrics that are included in the text, which not only bring the culture of Jacky’s world to life, but offer a neat soundtrack for the series, as well.

91zvp7FGSkL._SL1500_Copper: Fans of gritty British dramas like Ripper Street (be still, my heart!) will adore Copper, another original scripted police procedural, this time set on the streets of New York in the 1860’s.  At the center of the drama is Kevin Corcoran, a driven, intense Irish immigrant who refuses to give in to the corruption that stains the law enforcement of his city.  This leads Kevin into some dangerous confrontations, but also allows him into places where other policemen are never allowed, leading to a show that is continuously gripping and surprising.  Our patron was heartbroken that there were only two seasons, but assures us all that they are each phenomenal!

From the Director’s Desk:
2121333Cry the Beloved Country: Alan Paton’s seminal novel of South Africa, and the social structures and prejudices that would lead to apartheid is not only our Director’s favorite book of all time–it was also a huge hit with our Classic Books Group.  Beautiful and sympathetic, this book is drenched in atmosphere, drawing the reader into the heart of this world, and making the characters feel blisteringly real, especially as the fear that drives them all leads to tragedy.  Indeed, the title is echoed in this stunning quote about fear from Chapter 12: “Cry, the beloved country, for the unborn child that is the inheritor of our fear.  Let him not love the earth too deeply.  Let him not laugh too gladly when the water runs through his fingers…nor give too much of his heart to a mountain or a valley. For fear will rob him of all if he gives too much.” 
From the Circulation Desk:
3679651Carter and Lovecraft: All of Jonathan L. Howard’s books are so wonderful and original and funny and moving that it’s impossible to pick just one, but since this book has just been released, it seems timely to sing its praises.  Howard is a connoisseur of H.P. Lovecraft, and all of his books not only reference them, but reshape and reimagine them (check out the Cthulu Song in Johannes Cabal the Necomancer for a perfect example).  This book deals with Lovecraft a bit more directly, as Private Eye Daniel Carter inherits a bookstore–and a cheeky bookseller named Emily Lovecraft, the great H.P.’s niece.  As the bodies begin to pile up around them, Carter and Lovecraft have to grapple with the realization that Emily’s uncle wasn’t making this stuff up….Talk about a perfect Halloween read!

Wednesday at the West: More Tea and Books

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

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

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

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

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

beautiful ruinsBeautiful Ruins by Jess Walters




savingfishSaving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan




suprememacaroniThe Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigiani




lovelossLove, Loss and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman

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


touchofstardustA Touch of Stardust by Kate Alcott




claraandmrtiffanyClara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland




deadwakeDead Wake by Erik Larson




icecreamqueenThe Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman



outlanderOutlander by Diana Gabaldon

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



haroldfryThe Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

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


brokenharborBroken Harbor and other novels by Tana French




soulsatnightOur Souls at Night by Kent Haruf




hedgehogElegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery




fifthgospelThe Fifth Gospel by Ian Caldwell




zookeepersThe Zookeeper’s Wife by Diane Ackerman




invisiblecityInvisible City and Run You Down by Julia Dahl




underordersUnder Orders and other novels by Dick Francis



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

Summer Reading, off the list

We’ve had a number of readers come in looking to fulfill their summer reading lists lately, and it got me to thinking…..When I was in school, I hated summer reading lists.  Loathed them with a passion it is difficult to put into words.  This is mostly because I refused to be told what to read, and under what time restrictions.

But now that I am…well, older than I was then…the problem is that there are so many books to choose, and so many lists and suggestions and conversations going on about them that sometimes the decision is just impossible!

More than anything, in the summer, I want to read a book that I’ve never heard of previously; that is completely different from what I read normally; that is surprising and challenging and will make my summer thoroughly memorable.  And it turns out that there are those of you out there who feel the same way (This is why I love my job, in case you were wondering)!

So here, without further ado, is a list of off-the-beaten track suggestions for your summer reading list.  Stay tuned to this list for updates and opinions to follow!

CarterCarter Beats the Devil 

Glen David Gold wanted to write a biography of Carter the Magnificent (aka Charles Carter), but was unable to assemble enough information, and so he turned his sights on an historic thriller.  I don’t want to give away too much, but the reader gets to follow Carter from his first performance to his last, from his show for Warren Harding to his acquaintance with Houdini, from the development of his stagecraft to his lifelong search for his true love, who was foreshadowed by a gypsy during his early vaudeville days.  If you enjoyed this heartbreaking, redemptive, and constantly surprising novel, be sure to check out Gold’s mind-bending Sunnyside, featuring Charlie Chaplin, too!

2616459How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone

I heard Sasa Stanisic speak at the Harvard Book Store when this book was released, and it remains one of the absolute highlights of my linguistic existence.  He got up to read, looked at everyone and said, “I can’t wait to read this!  I haven’t seen this translation before, so I’ll be reading it for the first time with you!”  And his eagerness, his sheer delight, is evident in every page of this book.  Stanisic’s book is a loosely biographical tale about a child refugee from Bosnia, named Alexander, growing up in Germany, whose Grandmother makes him promise to “remember when everything was all right and the time when nothing’s all right”.  But Alexander is also a story-teller, so you never quite know where his memories end and his fantasies begin.  Stanisic is one of those writers who can break your heart and make you giggle hysterically in the same breath and his book is pure magic.  And he made a collection of things his readers had forgot.  And my contribution made the list. Woot.

2313323The Vesuvius Club

Dr. Who screenwriter and general all-around genius Mark Gatiss has crafted quite possibly one of the greatest series ever written in this spy-spoof and general send-up of Victorian literature, featuring the irresistible Lucifer Box of 9 Downing Street.  In this installment, we learn of his adventures in 1890’s Italy and London, and his illicit affairs across the continent while investigating the strange goings-on around Pompeii.  The second installment is set  in Switzerland following the First World War and made me weep openly on a bus, but more about that some other time…

jacketRelic & Reliquary

This series by the dynamic duo of Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child has been making the rounds of the staff and patrons this summer, because they are insanely suspenseful and wonderfully, deviously creative, and scary and utterly ridiculous, all at the same time.  These first two books feature monsters in t
he New York Museum of Natural History, the subway, and a gloriously magnetic, enigmatic FBI Agent named A.X.L. Pendergast who arrives to save the day.  These aren’t books that are easy to describe (mostly because you end up feeling very silly saying “I’m reading about about monsters in the New York Subway), but I promise you will have no trouble diving in for more Pendergast!

2608134I, Lucifer

Glen Duncan offers the Prince of Darkness a chance to speak for himself in this unsettling, thought-provoking, and fascinating work.  Somewhat guilty over their centuries-long sparring, God has offered Lucifer something of a do-over.  He gets the chance to inhabit a human body and try to redeem its soul.  They agree on a trial period, and down goes Lucifer into the form of writer Declan Gunn (hardy har har).  What follows is an account of Gunn/Lucifer’s reawakening that is sometimes a little-overenthusiastic in its extremes, but also full of some remarkably interesting insights into humanity and the real nature of Good and Evil.  There’s no way the book can end without feeling somewhat predictable, but the final scene between Lucifer and Raphael makes the entire book worth every minute.  For a debut, this is, ahem, one hell of a novel.

Hope this list gives you some inspiration for the upcoming holiday weekend, and be sure to keep the recommendations coming!

Seriously, where is that map?…Another wanderer’s If/Then….


It is really, truly one of the highlights of my day when a patron comes in and shares that they are enjoying our little endeavor here with this blog.  It makes my week, if not my whole month, when they share their own suggestions in response to some of our posts.  And it seems that last week’s If/Then post inspired some of our beloved patrons to share their own picks for books about exploration…generally exploration gone wrong…and adventuring.

It was also pointed out that most of our selections last week dealt primary with tropical, or at least, extraordinarily hot, climates.  Thankfully, we have some remedies for this, as well, for those of you who prefer the air conditioning to the sultry summer sun, or the alien expanses of the Arctic tundra to the otherworldly environs of the jungle.  I don’t know about most of you, but I find the descriptions of these frozen terrains far more unsettling…the emptiness of these landscapes, and what that silence can do to people is often more terrifying than the constant energy of the tropics–but it is out of such material that some of the best adventures are made!

So, without further ado, here are your picks, beloved patrons, for another round of books to settle your wanderlust….

If you liked last week’s post regarding books about exploration (and disaster), Then check out…

3458717Annihilation: The first book in a genuinely unique trilogy, Jeff Van Der Meer’s book is a very strange, but fascinating blend of sci-fi, speculative fiction, and horror that wraps the reader up and holds them captive.  Set in the mysterious land known as Area X, a land beyond civilization, full of disease and unknown peril, this is the story of the twelfth expeditionary party–comprised exclusively of women–sent to map the terrain and collect specimens.  However, as each member of the party documents the world around them, and the changes going on in the group itself, it grows harder and harder to tell whether the contamination lies in Area X, or in the people who have travelled there.  If you enjoy this book, be sure to check out Authority and Acceptance, to find out what happens in the rest of this bizarre adventure!

2323750River of Doubt: Candice Millard is a remarkably gifted story-teller, and this account of Theodore Roosevelt’s trip down an uncharted tributary of the Amazon following his defeat in the 1912 election is a harrowing, inspiring, and utterly gripping tale that has been hailed by library staff and patrons alike.  Though there are aspects of Roosevelt’s biography and his attitudes towards contemporary issues that make him something of a problematic subject, but there is no doubt that what he accomplished on this journey, both personally and publicly is admirable and remarkable.  Not only did he change the map of the Amazon forever, Roosevelt was forced to confront his own mortality during this journey–a moment that Millard is able to capture with subtlety and power, setting this story apart from many other works of popular history.  For those who enjoy audiobooks, the recording of this book also comes very high recommended!

2643713At the Mountains of Madness: This was a selection from the Main Library’s Classics Book Group several years ago that I simply adored.  H.P. Lovecraft has always been a favorite of mine, but this book was something different from his usual fare.  Lovecraft suffered from night terrors, and used the visions he saw as the basis for his stories.  As a result, the monster and other horrors he describes are usually intense and vividly described.  The terror in this book, however, lies in his manipulation of the reader’s imagination.  The story is told through the eyes of Dr. William Dyer, the head of a doomed expedition to Antarctica, describing the odd buildings, strange writings, and inexplicable horrors that he and his partner witnessed–and it is that very inexplicability that makes this story so chilling.  In forcing the reader the render their own nightmares, this book can be anything you want it to be–or anything you dread that it might me.

1592720Into Thin Air: This is another recommendation from one of our patrons…In 1996, journalist Jon Krakauer was sent to cover an expedition to the top of Mount Everest, an experience he had always dreamed of accomplishing.  The reality of the trip, however, was truly dreadful.  Krakauer was present during the ‘Mount Everest Disaster’, when eight climbers were killed and several other stranded in the overwhelming storms that raged across the slopes.   Oxygen deprivation at the time, and grief following the event colored Krakauer’s initial piece, leading to a number of tragically false errors.  This book is his attempt to set the record straight in terms of what happened on Everest during that trek, as well as an explanation of the inhuman conditions of Everest, and the super-human effort it takes to climb it.  This is a book that will leave you gasping, exhausted, and exhilarated; even for those with a knowledge or memory of the events described will find plenty here to learn, and plenty of moments over which to marvel.

3105391Into the Silence : the Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest: For those of you who can’t get enough of Everest, here is another tale of heroism and disaster to read in the safety of your own armchair.  On June 6, 1924, Colonel George Mallory, Britain’s premier mountain climber, and his comrade, Sandy Irvine, disappeared somewhere near the top of Mount Everest (it is for Mallory that the final approach to Everest’s summit is named).  This is the story not only of this expedition, but of the world that Mallory left behind to climb the mountain–a world that had recently been ravaged by the First World War, and was desperate for hope and for heroism.  Mallory’s courage and resiliency, both in the war and on Everest, captured the imagination of Great Britain, making his disappearance that much more significant.  This is a book for history buffs and adventurers alike, providing a story that is both touchingly sympathetic and intellectually fascinating.

Keep those recommendations coming, and keep exploring, beloved patrons!

Wednesdays at the West: Bringing Together Books, Tea and Readers


Last Tuesday, a group of tea and book lovers gathered at the West Branch Library for what quickly turned into a literary tea party.  It was the first meeting of Literatea, a new monthly event that allows readers to sample different loose leaf teas and chat about books.

First, the tea.  This month’s tea selection was Earl Grey Creme.  Adding a touch of vanilla to the traditional Earl Grey tea lends a nice, creamy taste to this British favorite.  The ladies and gentlemen of Literatea give this tea an enthusiastic endorsement, both for its flavor and its delightful and welcoming aroma.

To learn a bit more about Earl Grey Creme, check out the Literatea June Newsletter, which also includes all the staff recommended titles for the month of June, some news from the literary world and five books that pair especially nicely with our tea selection of the month.

As our tea party progressed, things got even more interesting as the talk turned to the titles that the bibliophile library patrons suggested.  Some of the new and new-to-us titles mentioned include:

pemberleyDeath Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James, featuring Jane Austen’s much loved characters from Pride and Prejudice.


onceuponatimeinrussiaOnce Upon a Time in Russia by Ben Mezrich, is the latest novel from this prolific, but not always well known author.



palaceoftreasonPalace of Treason by Jason Matthews is another new release attracting the attention of our readers.



troublewiththetruthThe Trouble with the Truth by Edna Robinson is a tale with an interesting backstory of its own.  Robinson’s novel was originally accepted for publication in 1960, but was never released because its publishers believed it shared too much in common with To Kill a Mockingbird (also released that year).  Robinson’s daughter was determined to see it in print and managed to have it published after her mother’s death.

truthaccordingtousThe Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows is causing significant excitement amongst fans of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (and really, who isn’t a fan?),  since Barrows was one of that charming book’s co-authors.


inthewoodsIn the Woods by Tana French gets accolades from self-described fans of “creepy” fiction.



Then our discussion turned towards some perennial favorites.

no1Anything by Alexander McCall Smith, especially the books in the The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.



companyholmesIn the Company of Sherlock Holmes, which is a collection of short stories written by authors who took their inspiration from Sir Arthur’s legendary character.


extraordinarythingsThe Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.  Is there anything more intriguing than a book that no one can agree on?  Even those who love Alice Hoffman couldn’t agree on whether to love or hate this one.



Less controversial and much loved is anything by Adriana Trigiani, including The Shoemaker’s Wife and The Supreme Macaroni Company




If you’re a fan of literature that makes you hungry, even as it feeds your mind and soul, our book lovers suggest checking out The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister




If you still can’t get enough books about food, including some tempting recipes (not Weight Watchers approved), our readers suggest you take a look at Delicious by Ruth Reichl, a fictional tale, and also the author’s food related memoirs, Garlic and Sapphires and Tender of the Bone.

forgottengardenOur bibliophiles final suggestion for June was The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  And if you love it, keep an eye out for Morton’s newest release due out in September.



The next Literatea event will be Tuesday, July 7th at 10am.  Feel free to join us in person for even more from the world of books and tea.