Tag Archives: Resolve to Read

Resolve to Read: A novel by a trans or non-binary author

As we did last year, the Free For All is Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2019, and tackling the 2019 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge.  We haven’t been terribly good about posting our selected titles thus far this year, we know….however, the nice thing about New Year’s Resolutions like this is that there is always room and time to begin, and begin again, and start anew.  So in the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot 2019 Read Harder Challenge
Category: A novel by a trans or non-binary author

Everyone is made up of stories, dear readers.  We all have experiences that shape us, relationships that mold us, and revelations that change our perspectives in wonderful and unique ways.  But it’s critically important to remember that the stories that make us look very different.  They are seldom traditional narratives, and are seldom neat, organized, or rational.  It’s critically important for us, as readers and as people, to recognize how many different kinds of stories, narrators, and protagonists are really out in our world.  And that is why reading books by authors whose lives are not like our own is so necessary to our development.  They offered critical insight into the way the world works, the different struggles and triumphs that it holds, and how we as individuals, can assist each other to make the best world possible.  Today, we celebrate the stories that trans and non-binary authors have to share with us, and offer a selection of just a few of the titles you can try here.

For those looking to learn more about this category, according to the  website of the Trans Student Educational Resources, the word “Trans” is an encompassing term of many gender identities of those who do not identify or exclusively identify with their sex assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.  The word “Non-Binary” (or “Nonbinary”) is an umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man.  It is used as an adjective (e.g. Jesse is a nonbinary person). Not all nonbinary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as nonbinary. Sometimes (and increasingly), nonbinary can be used to describe the aesthetic/presentation/expression of a cisgender or transgender person. To learn more, please feel free to visit the Trans Student Educational Resources webpage!

And now, on to the books!

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee:  A high-energy mashup of fantasy and hard science-fiction, and social/political thriller tropes, the beginning of Lee’s Machineries of Empire series features Captain Kel Cheris, who has suffered disgrace as a result of her unconventional tactics.  In order to save her position and reputation (not to mention the survival of all those under her command and protection), Captain Cheris decides to ally the undead tactician Shuos Jedao.  But the alliance carries its own risk: Shuos Jedao went mad in his first life and massacred two armies, one of them his own.  How far can Cheris trust Shuos Jedao before becoming his next victim?  This series opener won rave reviews from reviewers and readers, including the New York Times, who called it “A tight-woven…breathtakingly original space opera.”

The Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan: Part mystery, part character-narrative, this novel falls into the “crimes of the past coming back to haunt the future” stories that have been proving incredibly popular recently.  On a warm August night in 1980, six college students sneak into the dilapidated ruins of Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, looking for a thrill. But it’s not long before they realize they are locked in—and not alone. When the friends get lost and separated, the terrifying night ends in tragedy, and the unexpected, far-reaching consequences reverberate through the survivors’ lives. As they go their separate ways, trying to move on, it becomes clear that their dark night in the prison has changed them all. Decades later, new evidence is found, and the dogged detective investigating the cold case charges one of them—celebrity chef Jon Casey— with murder. Only Casey’s old friend Judith Carrigan can testify to his innocence.  But Judith is hiding secrets of her own, and saving Casey will most likely mean destroying the live that she has worked so hard to build.  While the mystery aspect of this story isn’t as strong as some others, the powerfully-drawn characters and impressive insight that Boylan provides here earned a starred review from Booklist, who called it “a Shirley Jackson–like haunting, a secret-laden murder tale featuring an ensemble cast, and an eye-opening glimpse of the complex choices transgender people face.”

Jonny Appleseed by Joshua Whitehead: This novel tells the story of a Native American/Indigenous character who defines their gender as Two-Spirit, in the tradition of their people.  Off the reserve and trying to find ways to live and love in the big city, Jonny becomes a cybersex worker who fetishizes himself in order to make a living.  But when Jonny must return to the reservation in order to attend his step-father’s funeral, he finds himself trying to cope with the hardships of his present day life and left-behind past together, assembling the pieces of his identity to form a coherent whole.  This is a novel that offers a fascinating and sympathetic perspective of one individual’s unique journey, but also provides a glimpse into the various lifestyles Jonny inhabits, making it a radical and critically important book.  Booklist hailed Whitehead as ” A radically original new voice” in their praise for this novel.

Nevada by Imogen Binnie: Darkly comic and heartfelt, this novel tells the story of Maria Griffiths, a young trans woman living in New York City and trying to stay true to her punk values while working retail. When she finds out her girlfriend has lied to her, the world she thought she’d carefully built for herself begins to unravel, and Maria sets out on a physical, mental, and emotional journey that will change her thinking, her feelings about life and the world around her, and, ultimately, Maria herself.  Though bleak, and with a surprisingly tough ending, this book, which Imogen Binnie described as “a story about trans women that was intended for an audience of trans women,” has inspired other trans authors to begin writing in their own voice, which is the best kind of reaction to a book we can imagine.

And just to remind you, for those of you interested in talking more about these books, our good friends over at the Beverly Library have an LGBTQ Book Group that is held on the 3rd Monday of the month from 7-8:30 PM.  Take a look at their reading lists, and think about signing up!

Starting Some New Habits: Podcasts

As we mentioned last week, we here at the Free For All don’t believe there is a bad time to start a good habit.  And there is no habit better than learning and expanding your mind.


The Library offers a multitude of ways for you to learn and experience more, both ‘in house’, so to speak, as well as online.  Online platforms such as Hoopla, Overdrive, and apps like Libby offer you, our beloved patrons, ways to read, watch, listen and learn from our materials in the comfort of your own home, in the car, and while traveling far afield.

But there is a world full of knowledge, and we cannot hope to contain every single molecule of it.  So this year, we wanted to offer you some other ways to be educated and entertained for free.  We start today with podcasts.

Image result for old time radio

Podcasts function much like radio shows of the past.  Then tend to be serialized–some tell a continuous story across multiple episodes, while others feature the same format and/or cast, but change topic regularly, based on a theme.  They can be found on the internet, and listened to on the computer, or downloaded to an MP3 player to take with you on the go.  The word ‘podcast’ itself is a portmanteau word that combines ‘iPod’ (the device for which they were originally developed) and ‘broadcast’ (like the radio shows of yore).

Most podcasts are entirely free.  They succeed by monetizing–that is, selling ad space in their podcast, and usually offering listeners an incentive to check out their sponsors.  Anyone who is used to television commercials, YouTube or Netflix ads will be familiar with these ads, and, for the most part, they aren’t very obtrusive at all.

Anyone with internet access and some recording implement can make a podcast.  As a result, there is a very wide array of topics, themes, genres, and presenters from which to choose–a concept that is both exciting and a little intimidating for first time users.   So where to begin?  That’s where we, your friendly Public Service Library Staff come in.  We’re busy curating a list of podcasts that make us laugh, wonder, shiver, or inspire us to create, and we wanted to share those with you.  Below is our first selection of podcasts, along with links to access episodes.  Feel free to try them, and let us know what you think!


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

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

Off Book: The Improvised Musical:

This podcast features hour-long episodes featuring hosts Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino, pianist Scott Passarella, as well as drummer Dana Wickens , who are joined by a special guest for each epsiode, including such comedy and musical luminaries as Rachel Bloom and Paul F. Tompkins.  Together, they create a Broadway-style musical on the spot.  The results are delightfully wacky and startlingly clever.  Take, for example, the entire spoof on the Law and Order franchise, entitled ‘Law and Order: Restaurant Unit’!  Click the box below for more information about this podcast and to check out new episodes.

Off Book: The Improvised Musical

Welcome to Night Vale:

Perhaps one of the most well-known podcasts out there is this series, created in 2012 by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor.  This twice-monthly podcast is presented in the style of community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events.  This Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds, but…weirder.   This franchise has bloomed into two full-length books, several scripts, and spin-off podcasts over the years.  So for listeners who want a fully-developed world to discover, look no further than the odd little town of Night Vale.  Click the box below to access episodes.

My Favorite Murder:

Anyone who was a fan of the NPR series Serial can attest to the allure of true crime stories, to the haunting nature of the unsolved, and the dark intrigue of exploring the darkest shades of history.  If such tales are for you, and especially if your humor runs to the black, then be sure to check out this podcast, hosted bystand-up comedian and television writer Karen Kilgariff and Cooking Channel writer and host Georgia Hardstark.  In each episode, each host selects a single murder, true crime story, or survivor story to recount and discuss, occasionally sharing additional “hometown murder” stories submitted by friends and fans.  Rather than dwelling on the gruesome or the visceral, both hosts strive to emphasize compassion for both the victims and perpetrators of the crimes they discuss, actively combatting the more problematic aspects of the true crime genre, such as misogyny, victimization, and dangerous stereotypes about sex workers and the mentally ill or struggling.  The result is a surprisingly funny, consistently interesting series that has been earning a wide and very, very loyal fan base.  Click the box below to find out more.

And stay tuned, beloved patrons, for more podcast selections from your favorite Public Service Staff members in the near future.  Happy Listening!

Resolve to Read in 2019!


via dreamstime.com

We’re not terribly big fans of New Year’s Resolutions in general, beloved patrons, as I think we’ve mentioned here previously.  If you want to make a change in your life, there is no better time to start than right now(ish), regardless of the date or time.  And there is no reason to feel pressured to make changes if you don’t feel the need or desire to do so, no matter what anyone tells you.  We think you’re terrific.

That being said, there’s no time like the present to indulge in some good habits, right?  And in that spirit, we wanted to let you know about some of the phenomenal reading challenges and book lists for 2019 that will help you expand your reading horizons, walk a mile in some new shoes, and find some new kinds of storytelling the the new year.

A good place to start is right inside the Main Library, where we have some book displays to get you started.  Check out our “Resolve to Read” Card Catalog Display, which features some of the titles listed below, as well as the “Broaden Your Horizons in 2019” Display, which has books to help you become a better human; we have books to help you learn how to cook, how to fix things, about understanding your rights in the workplace, and about our brains and bodies, how they work, and what they can do, all of which have been organized to help you find some new skills or new facts to store in your brain for the perfect upcoming occasion.

via BookRiot.com

In addition to our curated lists, we also encourage you to check out Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge, an enormously popular reading resolution list that provides (according to BookRiot) “24 tasks designed to help you break out of your reading bubble and expand your worldview through books. With new genres, new authors, and new points of view, the challenge will (hopefully) help you discover amazing books you wouldn’t have otherwise picked up.”  We had great fun following this list in 2018, and are looking forward to doing the same this year, as well!  For those of you interested, here is a discussion of the challenge, and the list as assembled by our friends over at BookRiot:

“We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. No one is keeping score and there are no points to post. We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out. That’s what this is—a perspective shift—but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself.”

The BookRiot 2019 Read Harder Challenge:

  1. An epistolary novel or collection of letters
  2. An alternate history novel
  3. A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018
  4. A humor book
  5. A book by a journalist or about journalism
  6. A book by an AOC set in or about space
  7. An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America
  8. An #ownvoices book set in Oceania
  9. A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads
  10. A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman
  11. A book of manga
  12. A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a point-of-view character
  13. A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse
  14. A cozy mystery
  15. A book of mythology or folklore
  16. An historical romance by an AOC
  17. A business book
  18. A novel by a trans or nonbinary author
  19. A book of nonviolent true crime
  20. A book written in prison
  21. A comic by an LGBTQIA creator
  22. A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009
  23. A self-published book
  24. A collection of poetry published since 2014

Let’s see what we can accomplish together with this list, beloved patrons!


We hope these lists and challenges have provided you a good place to begin on your reading resolutions for 2019, beloved patrons!  We’ll be offering some reviews and suggestions as the year goes on from these lists, and, of course, sharing with you some of the titles that have made our 2019 “Best Of” lists.  So stayed tuned, stay well, and keep on reading in the New Year!

Resolve to Read 2018: A Mystery By a Person of Color or LGBTQ+ Author

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot 2018 Read Harder Challenge
Category: A Mystery By a Person of Color of LGBTQ+ Author 

This is one of those great aspects of the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge that actually makes you think…we all love and respect the #WeNeedDiverseBooks, which helps us recognize and celebrate diversity in children’s literature–but how diverse are the grown-up books I am reading?  Whose books are getting promoted in ads and book displays?  What can I do to change that?

You can start here, by trying out some of the sensational mysteries in this category of the Book Riot challenge.

The neat thing about these mysteries is the way they challenge their genres, by rethinking commonly-held assumptions, perceiving of characters and their relationships in new ways, and presenting a different view on the world than you might otherwise find in books that are more “mainstream” (“mainstream” in this case meaning “books that are readily advertised and often indistinguishable from their fellows based on premise and cover design alone).  So this is one of those challenges that helps you expand your literary and personal horizons by doing that which we all know you already love to do–read!  Here are just a few titles to get you started on your quest, but we’re always here to help you find more!

Wife of the Gods by Kwei J. Quartey:Detective Inspector Darko Dawson is a dedicated family man, a rebel in the office and an ace in the field.  When we first meet Dawson, he’s been ordered by his cantankerous boss to leave behind his loving wife and young son in Ghana’s capital city to lead a murder investigation: In a shady grove outside the small town of Ketanu, a young woman—a promising medical student—has been found dead under suspicious circumstances. Dawson is fluent in Ketanu’s indigenous language, so he’s the right man for the job, but the local police are less than thrilled with an outsider’s interference.  But Dawson’s past is also waiting for him in Ketanu in the form of the family he left behind twenty-five years earlier after his mother’s mysterious disappearance.  And in Delving deeper into the student’s haunting death, Dawson will uncover long-buried secrets that, to his surprise, hit much too close to home.  Quartey’s books are funny, insightful, and expertly-crafted, and offer the chance for armchair travelers everywhere to visit places in Africa that are not featured on any prime time specials.  Readers who enjoy this book will be delighted to hear that there is a whole series feature D.I. Dawson for you to enjoy!

Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon: With few other options, African-American classical musician Gethsemane Brown accepts a less-than-ideal position turning a group of rowdy schoolboys into an award-winning orchestra. Stranded without luggage or money in the Irish countryside, she figures any job is better than none. The perk? Housesitting a lovely cliffside cottage. The catch? The ghost of the cottage’s murdered owner haunts the place. Falsely accused of killing his wife (and himself), he begs Gethsemane to clear his name so he can rest in peace. Gethsemane’s reluctant investigation provokes a dormant killer and she soon finds herself in grave danger. As Gethsemane races to prevent a deadly encore, will she uncover the truth or star in her own farewell performance?   This is a terrific book about fishes-out-of-water, cultural clashes, music, and ghosts that, thankfully, is also the beginning of a winning series that continues Gethsemane’s adventures (misadventures?) in Ireland.

The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan: This is a book that delves deeply into real-world atrocities, even as it spins a moving tale about trust, belonging, and truth-telling that makes for a hard-to-forget read.  Despite their many differences, Detective Rachel Getty trusts her boss, Esa Khattak, implicitly. But she’s still uneasy at Khattak’s tight-lipped secrecy when he asks her to look into Christopher Drayton’s death. Drayton’s apparently accidental fall from a cliff doesn’t seem to warrant a police investigation, particularly not from Rachel and Khattak’s team, which handles minority-sensitive cases. But when she learns that Drayton may have been living under an assumed name, Rachel begins to understand why Khattak is tip-toeing around this case. It soon comes to light that Drayton may have been a war criminal with ties to the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.  Khan holds a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law, and uses actual eyewitness testimony to the massacre at Srebrenica  throughout the book, making for difficult, but vitally necessary reading.  This is also the first book in a series, so readers who find this hybrid kind of mystery will have plenty of fodder for further reading.

The Arnifour Affair by Gregory Harris: Those of you looking for a historical mystery, have no fear–Colin Pendragon’s adventures are sure to keep you enthralled.  When a carriage bearing the Arnifour family crest–a vulture devouring a slaughtered lamb–arrives at the Kensington home of Colin Pendragon, it is an ominous beginning to a perplexing new case. Lady Arnifour’s husband has been beaten to death and her niece, Elsbeth, left in a coma. Is the motive passion, revenge, or something even more sinister? Police suspicions have fallen on the groundskeeper and his son, yet the Earl’s widow is convinced of their innocence. Even as Colin and his partner Ethan Pruitt delve into the muddy history of the Arnifour family, a young street urchin begs their help in finding his missing sister. Ethan, regrettably familiar with London’s underbelly, urges caution, yet Colin’s interest is piqued.  The links between the two cases seems extraordinary, and yet, as Colin and Ethan journey across Regency London, from the slums to the highest echelons of society, they begin to unravel a secret larger and more complex than they ever imagined.  There is an air of Sherlock Holmes to these mysteries, but Harris revels in the complexities of his characters and their relationships far more than Doyle ever did, making this book (also, no surprise, the beginning of a series) a layered, complex, and wholly engaging one.

Until next time, dear readers, keep on keeping on, and enjoy your Resolution to Read!

Resolve to Read 2018: Read a book written by someone who’s from my state

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

…And, like many of you, we’ve fallen a bit behind on our resolutions, dear readers!  But everyday is a chance to try again all over again, so let’s get back on track, shall we?  This week, we’re looking at the Scholastic 100 New Year’s Reading Resolutions.  We love this list because it can be used by readers from any age to find new, exciting, and challenging books (and reading scenarios) to expand your literary horizons in 2018.

Today’s Challenge: Scholastic 100 New Year’s Reading Resolutions
Category: Read a Book Written by Someone Who’s From My State

Since the Peabody Library–and George Peabody himself, was from Massachusetts, we’re going to stick with this state as our category, but readers from other states, please check with your local library (or, heck, check with us!) to find some books from authors nearer to you.

Massachusetts has a rich literary legacy, beloved patrons, from Phillis Wheatley, who was the first published African-American female poet to London Bridgez, a spoken word poet, writer, and playwright who was a short list finalist for the 2016 Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Playwrights.  From Anne Bradstreet, who was the first writer in England’s North American colonies to be published, to my own beloved Louisa May Alcott and her father Bronson..

In short, this is a category that can take you in any number of directions, and offers the potential for exploring a wealth of new books, types of story, and forms of story-telling.  We offer just a few suggestions below for some books to help fulfill this part of your reading resolution–come speak to a member of our staff to find even more!

(Presented in alphabetical order)

Holly Black: Although born in New Jersey, we are pleased as punch that she now lives in Massachusetts, and we can add her to this list.  Black’s imagination and story-telling skills are powerful, indeed, and she has put them to use in novels, graphic novels, and short stories over the course of her impressive career.  Black is perhaps most well-known for The Spiderwick Chronicles, the series she worked on in collaboration with her long-time friend, Caldecott award winning artist, Tony DiTerlizzi, which begins with the title The Field Guide.  However, she is also a wonderful teller of fantasy and modern fairy tales.  One of her most recent is The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and features Tana, who lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey.  For those who enjoy reading about the fair folk, check out The Darkest Part of the Forest, which is set in a world where fairies and mortal live side-by-side.  Hazel and Ben have been telling each other stories about the boy in the glass coffin, that he is a prince and they are valiant knights, pretending their prince would be different, kinder, from the other faeries. But as Hazel grows up, she puts aside those stories. Hazel knows the horned boy will never wake…until he does.

Dennis Lehane: Dorchester native Dennis Lehane’s work has put a new kind of Boston on the literary map.  Instead of the stuffy, upper-case, subdued landscape of Henry James, Lehane’s characters tend to be poor; they tend to live in the working-class areas of the city that residents know well, but the outside world may have never visited.  They deal in emotional extremes that make Lehane’s works compelling, gripping, scary, and stunningly moving.  He’s also a gifted screen-writer who has produced shows for The Wireand has written the script for The Drop and the adaptation of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes.  Readers looking to get started in Lehane’s sometimes-seedy, but incredibly well-drawn and insightful world should immediately check out his Kensie and Gennaro series, featuring private detectives Patrick Kensie and Angie Gennaro.  This series starts with A Drink Before the Warand winds through Boston’s streets, its suburbs, its drug and alcohol problems, its organized crime, and the wonderful, flawed, colorful people who make up its inhabitants.  It’s also an incredible tale of a partnership that is unforgettable in its poignancy and honesty.  Also, if your in the mood to have your pants scared off of you, check out Shutter Island, set in a mythical institution on an island off Boston Harbor. It’s so much better than the movie (even though the movie’s pretty great).

Kelly Link: A nominee for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize, Kelly Link is a formidable talent whose short stories are disquieting, disruptive, beautifully imagined and wonderfully written treasures.  Stories from her first collection, Stranger Things Happen, were awarded the Nebula, the James Tiptree Jr., and the World Fantasy Awards–and the cover is a weird take on a Nancy Drew cover, which is just plain wonderful.  There are elements of Shirley Jackson in Link’s slow-burning, captivating narration, while her story ideas have a lot to offer fans of Angela Carter’s work.  Despite the weird and the magical in her tales, Link is also a master of human emotion, grounding these tales in honest, empathetic relationships–and making the inevitable twists and turns in the stories that much more surprising and shocking.  Whether it’s “Origin Story”, from the book Get in Trouble, which deals with a woman and her erstwhile lover (who just happens to be a superhero), or “Stone Animals”, from Magic for Beginners, in which a house is haunted by a unique horde of rabbits that camp out nightly on the front lawn, it’s a pretty fair bet that you haven’t read anything like Kelly Link’s work before, but you’ll be very grateful you did.

Paul Tremblay: Paul Tremblay is a fan of libraries, which we can deduce by his appearances at the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival at the Haverhill Library.  He is not a fan of pickles, because he says so.  But regardless of his choice of sides and snacks, Tremblay is one heck of a good writer.  Like Stephen King, Tremblay can take the most innocuous things–a painted staircase, a blog, a notebook, a bag of fertilizer–and make those things the pulse-points of a genuinely unsettling, unforgettable story.  His short stories are delightfully twisty, compact gems, and his novels are some of this Library’s favorites.  Favorite among those favorites is A Head Full of Ghosts, which deals with the story of a teenage girl’s alleged possession, exorcism, and the reality tv show made about the events (which is set in Beverly, making is extra-awesome).  Told in flashbacks, blog posts and interviews, this is a story full of dread, lies, and carries a killer twist.  Mystery fans should also check out Tremblay’s PI series, which features Mark Genevich, a detective in South Boston who suffers from narcolepsy, which starts with the novel The Little Sleep.  His newest book, The Cabin at the End of the World, is due out in a few short weeks!

Resolve to Read 2018: A Book of Social Science

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Book Riot Read Harder 2018 Challenge
Category: Read A Book of Social Science

Via Shutterstock

So, first and foremost, what the heck is “social science,” you might ask.  And that would be an entirely valid question.  Very broadly speaking, the social science tell us about the world beyond our immediate experience–they explain how humans interact, the communities and network they form, the governments and laws they establish (and what happens to people who break those laws), and the cultures that evolve from those societies.  Social sciences can also tell us about how people express their ideas and emotions, the significance of the games they play, and their familial interactions.   Specifically, the social sciences involve the fields of history, language, sociology, criminology, anthropology, education, economics, politics, international affairs, social work…and more!

So, in terms of picking a “social science” book, you’re going to be a bit spoiled for choice.  But in this post, we hope to introduce you to some books that combine fields, use the tools of social scientists to shed unique light on some aspects of the world around us, or that are so delightfully quirky in their research or approach that they will leave you gasping and eager for more!

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers: Mary Roach is a master of cross-disciplinary research work.  Her focus is so often on the stuff that grosses us out–but also fascinates us in a uniquely human way (check out her book on the human alimentary canal if you don’t believe me!) .  For two thousand years, cadavers―some willingly, some unwittingly―have been involved in science’s boldest strides and weirdest undertakings.  This book is the history of the use of the human body; as tools of learning for medical students, as test subjects in car crash analyses, and as test subjects in studies about decay.  As gruesome at it might sound, Roach’s history/science/economic/industrial mash-up is told with a wonderful sense of humor and a light touch that makes this book as compelling as it is educational.

Bobby Fischer Goes to War: How the Soviets Lost the Most Extraordinary Chess Match of All Time: David Edmonds and John Eidinow are a sensational writing duo who revel in the stories you thought you knew well.  In this book, they use the historic competition between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky to analyze the fraught nature of the Cold War, the role of espionage in those tensions, the history of chess itself, and the complex, occasionally downright bizarre behavior of both Fischer and Spassky, before, during, and after the match.  The final section is a review of Fischer’s FBI file, which reveals some even more intriguing information about the players in this incredible drama.  This is a book that will appeal to history buffs, fans of international relations and politics, and chess aficionados–as well as those who just love realize that the truth really is stranger than fiction.

The  Other Wes Moore:  One Name, Two Fates: Two kids with the same name were born blocks apart in Baltimore within a few years of each other. One Wes Moore grew up to be a Rhodes Scholar, army officer, White House Fellow, and business leader.  But when he learned about the other Wes Moore, who was serving a life sentence in prison, he began an investigation into what really differentiated the two of them.  This book is part memoir, part journalistic investigation, and an in-depth study of the class, familial, personal, and institutional issues that separated the two Wes Moores.  This isn’t an easy-to-read book, but it’s a vitally important one that questions much about the economic, legal, and social strictures at play in our world today.

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer: Siddhartha Mukherjee’s study of cancer is a stunning, powerful, and utterly humane look at cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.  A cellular biologist by training, Mukherjee is able to explain the scientific ins-and-outs of cancer–but he never loses his human understanding of what cancer does to people, to families, and to those who are tasked with treating it.  In addition to dealing with the history of cancer treatment, from ancient history to the first recipient of radiation in the 19th century, and also offers a glimpse to the treatment of cancer in the future, providing plenty of food for thought for humanists and scientists alike.

Resolve to Read 2018: Read A Book That Will Teach Me A New Skill

As we mentioned here previously, we here at the Library are Resolving to Read (more…different….) in 2018, and tackling both Book Riot’s and Scholastic’s 2018 Reading Challenges.  In the hopes of encouraging you to broader your literary horizons along with us, here are some suggestions for books that fall within the categories of the various challenges.

Today’s Challenge: Scholastic 2018 Reading Challenges
Category: Read A Book That Will Teach Me A New Skill 

Oh my goodness, if you are in the mood to learn something new, there is literally no better place to get started than at the Library.  That is quite seriously part of our reason for being in communities is to help people find things they are interested in and to learn more about those things!

The first step, of course, is thinking about what kind of skill it is you’d like to learn.  Have you always wanted to learn how to grow your own fruits or vegetables?  Or to knit?  Perhaps you were thinking about making children’s toy as gifts or for profit?  Or maybe learning a new language?  We can help you out with all those goals–and many more, besides.  If you’re having trouble coming up with an idea you like best, or if your wrestling with a number of different competing ideas, come by and talk to a member of our staff.  We’re here to help!

Here are just a few books that are waiting on our shelves for you, eager to help you acquire new knowledge, to flex your muscles and your memory, and to create things that can bring beauty to your life and the lives of others.  And please know this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg!

Simple Knitting : a complete how-to-knit workshop with 20 projects: There are lots and lots of books in the Library on how to knit, but, for my money, there aren’t many better than Erika Knight.  Her attention to detail and her easy-to-follow instructions make the daunting prospect of learning how to knit into something that is both accessible and rewarding (and take it from a left-handed knitter, here, if she can teach me, she can teach almost anyone).  This book also comes with a number of projects to make with your growing knitterly skills–projects that are both easy to make and easy to wear.  These are the kind of gifts that make a whole holiday season worthwhile.  And now is a perfect time to start working on those gifts!

And for the experienced knitter looking to take on a new challenge, why not give brioche a try?  There isn’t a better teacher out there than Nancy Marchant, and her book Knitting fresh brioche : creating two-color twists & turns offers a terrific tutorial (that the right- and left-handed amongst us can follow) as well as some fun projects to work on at the same time.  There are directions in this book for basic brioche, as well as multi-colored and motif knitting, so you are sure to emerge from this book with oodles of new skills and projects!

Natural Wooden Toys : 75 easy-to-make and kid-safe designs to inspire imaginations & creative play: Erin Freutchel-Dearing is a stay-at-home mom who taught herself how to make toys without any prior woodworking experience.  In this book, she shows you how to acquire the same skills, with step-by-step instructions that lead to  cute and creative wooden toys for children.  There are no complicated tools needed for these projects: just a scroll saw, a palm sander, and a drill.  Not only do these projects result in pitch-perfect gifts, but studies have shown that working with your hands reduces stress, focuses concentration, and leads to even greater leaps of creativity.  Just think what you can achieve after mastering wooden toys!

Apartment Gardening : plants, projects, and recipes for growing food in your urban home: Hey, we’d all like to live in a world where we can wander among the lush fields and have lots and lots of space to grow the food we need.  But that’s not the case for many (most) of us.  But Amy Pennington’s book offers a number of creative solutions for those looking to grow more of their own food, even if space is at a premium.  Whether you’re a veteran gardener or a novice getting your hands dirty for the first time, this book provides hands-on advice to start using urban space in a sustainable, efficient, and inexpensive manner.  From the right containers to use to choosing your soil, this book guides you through the growing process, and even offers advice for how to prepare your newly-grown goodness.  In fact, the recipes and illustrations in this book are inspiration enough to want to give Apartment Gardening a try!

On Writing : A Memoir of the Craft : Part memoir and part guide to good writing, Stephen King’s incredible book discusses all the things that make an author’s work compelling and emotional and evocative.  It is also a stunning book for reminding us why reading is such a fulfilling, meaningful, and deeply human practice. Those who love King’s fiction will savor this peek behind the curtain into his process, and may very well gain some tips in their own work.  But this is a book that even those who aren’t King’s fans have loved, because it is such a clear and frank look at writing.  For those looking to write or read more in the coming year, this is a reminder of why those things are so critical to us all.  It’s also one of those books that feels like a long chat with an old friend, and for that reason alone, this is a book worth savoring.


What skills are you eager to learn in 2018?  Come into the Library, and let us help you find the right tools to get you started!