Tag Archives: Special Events

Back to School!

For all of you who are beginning a new academic year…or have already started!…we at the Library wish you a fulfilling, successful, and brain-expanding school year!  We’ll be here for all your study-related needs, from reference and citation help to computers, from study guides to study breaks.  In fact, how about you take a look at our super-terrific events calendar and find some new (FREE) opportunities to learn new skills, expand your creativity, and discover new fun!

Here are some of the programs being held at the Main Library and our Branches over the coming weeks that still have room just for you!

How to Work Your Network – North Shore Career Center Workshop, September 21
1:30 – 3:00pm, Second Floor Tech Lad (Main Library)

Provided by the expert staff from the North Shore Career Center, these career workshops are offered to assist job seekers whether they’re beginning the hunt, well along the path, or contemplating a career change. This is part of a series offered at the Library that has included classes on Occupational Skills, Resume Writing, and Interviewing practices.  Workshops occur on specific Thursdays, beginning July 13th; all classes begin promptly at 1:30 pm and go until 3:00pm.

Participants can sign up for  workshops with the North Shore Career Center by calling (978) 825-7200.

North Sea Gas Concert, September 25
7:00 – 8:00pm, Sutton Room (Main Library)

North Sea Gas is one of Scotland’s most popular folk bands with great vocals and tremendous three part harmonies. Guitars, mandolin, fiddle, bouzouki, harmonica, whistles, bodhrans, banjo and good humour are all part of the entertainment. They have received Gold and Silver Disc awards from the Scottish Music Industry Association and regularly have sold out shows at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  They have released 19 albums with ‘Fire in the Glen’ being the most recent and are constantly adding new material to their shows. Their prior album, ‘The Fire and the Passion of Scotland’ won the 2013 Album of the Year award from Celtic Radio in the U.S. as well as first place in the ‘Jigs and Reels’ category for the set of tunes on the album.   This concert is part of our Fall Concert Series, and is generously sponsored by the McCarthy Family Foundation and the Peabody Institute Library Foundation.

Crime Lab Case Files with Paul Zambella, October 5
6:30 – 8:30pm
South Branch Library

Calling all true crime enthusiasts! The South Branch is pleased to welcome Paul Zambella who will be here to discuss some of the most infamous cases he worked on as a forensic scientist for the -Massachusetts State Police. He will focus on how forensic evidence was instrumental in assisting prosecutors in securing convictions for such gruesome cases as a brother and sister murdered at the hands of two teenage boys, the fatal stabbing of a young girl by her boyfriend, the torture and murder of a young man kept prisoner in his home and the revenge killing of a man who was asleep in his motel room.  Paul Zambella was a Forensic Scientist for the Massachusetts State Police Crime Laboratory for 36 years.  Hehas taught courses on forensic science at Northeastern and Salem State Universities and Hesser College in addition to several lectures throughout the state.

These true crime tales are not for the faint of heart; this program is recommended for high-school age students through adults.  This  program is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required. To reserve your free spot, please register online, in person or by calling 978-531-3380.

This presentation will be given by Victor Mastone, Director and Chier Archaeologist of the Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources of Massachusetts.

When the public thinks about underwater archaeology, they generally picture intact shipwrecks, pirate treasures and mystery. I have never dealt with the first, unfortunately had to deal with the second, but constantly court the third. As archaeologists and resource stewards we are all familiar with mystery. We nearly always face that when we first approach a shipwreck site. ‘What ship is this? I don’t know. I need to investigate.’ At various points, we turn outward to colleagues and the public to find answers. The process of addressing this question becomes a form of collaboration and means to engage the public.   The Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources depends on the active involvement of and collaboration with the public to identify, evaluate, and protect these non-renewable resources. This presentation describes the state’s diversity of archaeological resources and various ways the public is engaged in their study.


Five Book Friday!

And once again, beloved patrons, we arrive at another Friday, and another round-up of some of the fascinating books that are frolicking on our shelves, eager to go along with you on a weekend adventure.


And speaking of this weekend, don’t forget to stop by the International Festival this Sunday, September 11, from 12-6pm!  There will be plenty of entertainment, activities, arts, and, naturally, a smörgåsbord of food from Greece, Brazil, China, Poland, Portugal, to name only a few.  And lastly, don’t miss your chance to visit the Friends of the Library Booth, where you may just have a chance to meet the remarkable Lady Pole in person!  Free Parking & a Shuttle service will be available from Higgins Middle School or Northshore Mall parking lot (by East Boston Savings Bank).  Look for the Council on Aging Vans with International Festival Signs, and have a safe, wonderful, and delicious time!



3757349The NixThis book has been gracing any number of “Best of 2016” lists, and getting rave reviews from critics, authors, and readers alike.  A Nix, in Norwegian folklore, often appears as a white horse, and steals away children.  In Nathan Hill’s debut novel, a ‘Nix’ is anything that is loved–and lost.  For Samuel Andresen-Anderson, college professor and would-be writer, that ‘Nix’ is his mother, who abandoned him when he was a child, and, in 2011, suddenly re-appears, the alleged perpetrator of an outlandish crime that is attracting national media attention.  Though his mother is being portrayed as a radical, amoral hippie, Samuel has always held a memory of a kind, young, and very, very ordinary woman–so which version of his mother is true?  To find out, he embarks on a journey into his family’s past, from the Chicago riots in 1968 to Norway, and the mythical Nix itself, resulting in a big, sprawling, and emotionally impactful book that earned a starred review from Kirkus, which called it a “sparkling, sweeping debut novel that takes in a large swath of recent American history and pop culture and turns them on their sides. . . .A grand entertainment, smart and well-paced, and a book that promises good work to come.”

3773362The Pigeon Tunnel: John Le Carré created the Cold War spy novel, raising espionage from the land of magazine tales and pulp novels and crafting a genre that is still selling millions of copies today.  This newest release is his first memoir, detailing a life that seems equally as interesting and surprising as any of his fiction.   Le Carré himself worked for British Intelligence during the Cold War, and, both in that capacity and in his literary work, has travelled to some of the most extreme places, and met with some of the most extraordinary people (and parrots), on earth (the parrot could perfectly mimic machine gun fire and sing the opening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at will, in case you were wondering).  From Rwandan genocide museums to meetings with international heads of state, from preparing television adaptations to living in a bunker with a female German terrorist,  Le Carré’s incisive, insightful style brings each of these tales to life in a way that will make you think you, too, have acquired all the stamps he has in his passport.  Publisher’s Weekly agrees, saying, “Always insightful, frequently charming, and sometimes sobering, the memorable tales told by master storyteller le Carré about his life will surely delight both longtime fans and newcomers.”

3772824The FortunesPeter Ho Davies’ newest book re-imagines America’s history through the eyes of Chinese immigrants, a group of people who had an enormous and crucial impact on American culture and society, but whose story is so seldom considered in literature.  Intertwining the tale of four lives: a railroad baron who unwittingly launches the Chinese Labor Movement to a Chinese actress who is forbidden from kissing white men on public or on screen, to a hate-crime victim whose death mobilizes other immigrants, to a biracial writer who travels to China in the hopes of adopting a baby, this Davies spins stories that are heavily influenced by actual historic events, and deals with issues of identity and community, belonging and isolation, loss and hope in a way that is beautfully empathetic and relatable, not to mention surprisingly funny and genuinely touching.  Publisher’s Weekly also loved this book, giving it a starred review and cheering, “The book’s scope is impressive, but what’s even more staggering is the utter intimacy and honesty of each character’s introspection. More extraordinary still is the depth and the texture created by the juxtaposition of different eras, making for a story not just of any one person but of hundreds of years and tens of millions of people. Davies…has created a brilliant, absorbing masterpiece.”

3788996True Believer: Stalin’s Last American Spy: Noel Field was a British-born American who moved back to the US following his father’s death, and attended Harvard University.  He was hired by the U.S. State Department in the late 1920’s, and went to work for the League of Nations in 1936.  This was around the same time that he began working as an operative with the Soviet NKVD.  A devout Communist and staunch believer in the Soviet Union, Fields was arrested in 1949 by the Soviets, interrogated, tortured, and held for five years in solitary confinement.  Nevertheless, he remained devoted to the Communist cause until his death in 1970.  In this new biography, Kati Marton not only details Fields’ startling life, but also analyzes his beliefs, trying to understand what makes a person so loyal to a cause that has treated him with such inhumanity.  The result is a powerful and engaging book that is proving a hit with critics and readers alike.  Library Journal also notes that “Marton’s own parents were the only Western journalists to ever interview Field and his wife, Herta Field. . . . The conspiracy, subterfuge, and cataclysmic destruction of Field’s family and friends are all addressed in this well-researched book.”

3788978We Eat Our OwnIn 1980, an Italian horror film called Cannibal Holocaust, which tells the story of a documentary film team that traveled to the Amazon to find cannibalistic tribes, and was widely thought to be a ‘snuff film’ (a film where the murders or suicides portrayed are real), and which is still banned in many places.  Kea Wilson’s debut novel takes that film as inspiration to tell the story of a down-and-out actor who gratefully (and a little desperately) accepts a job for a film being made in South America.  But he never dreams of the very real dangers that lurk around the set, from the area’s dyng economy, drug traffikers and guerilla fighters to the jungle that surrounds the cast and crew.  Playing with concepts of time and identity and truth, Wilson’s book has been making quite a splash already, with Kirkus Reviews noting ” Wilson shows impressive command of a narrative that weaves back and forth and back again in both time and locale; much like the viewer of a pseudo-documentary horror movie (ever seen The Blair Witch Project?), you wonder throughout whether you should trust whatever it is you’re told—and jumping to the end won’t help at all. You shouldn’t anyway, because Wilson’s writing style is hypnotic, tightly wound, and harrowingly evocative of the story’s stifling, bug-heavy atmosphere. Even the sunniest skies of this ill-starred shoot are thick with menace and portent. Keep telling yourself, ‘It’s only a novel, it’s only a novel'”.


Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

For the Love of Poetry


We here at the Free For All are committed to helping all our readers overcome their metrophobia, and live a life full of poetry.  We want to make poetry more than an arduous few weeks in high school where you learned how to dissect a verse into its component meters and feet and rhymes, and, instead, help us all better appreciate the sheer beauty and power of poetry without fear of getting it ‘right’.

To that end, there are several programs coming up on the Library’s Super-Terrific Calendar of Events for poetry lovers and recovering metrophobes alike that we wanted to bring to your attention:

First is the 82 Main Poetry Series, a partnership between The Peabody Institute Library and Mass Poetry that will bring a series of monthly poetry readings in the library’s historic Sutton Room.  Our first reading will take place on September 19th at 7pm, and will feature Boston’s current poet laureate, Danielle Legros Georges, who will offer a reading followed by a Q&A session.

Danielle-Legros-Georges-credit-priscilla-harmel-201x300Danielle Legros Georges was born in Haiti and raised in the United States. She received a BA from Emerson College in Boston and an MA in English and creative writing from New York University. She is the author of two poetry collections—The Dear Remote Nearness of You (Barrow Street Press, 2016) and Maroon (Curbstone Books, 2001). She has received grants and fellowships from the Barbara Deming Fund, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Black Metropolis Research Consortium. In 2014 Legros Georges was chosen as Boston’s second poet laureate. She is a professor at Lesley University and lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Professor Georges’ visit will kick off a series of three further poetry readings and discussions, each of which are described in our calendar (or click here).  You can sign up for these events by calling the Library, or online, by clicking here.

3144950In October, we are thrilled to be welcoming back Professor Theo Theoharis to the Library for another of his wonderful literary discussions.  This time, his program, which begins on October 19th, at 7:30pm, is also based on poetry, specifically The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry, edited by Rita Dove. The book is remarkable for being the first book of it’s kind to be compiled by an African-American woman poet. Together with the classic work by American white men–Frost, Williams, etc.–, the sessions will also focus on poems by black women–Rita Dove, Lucille Clifton, Audre Lord– and men–Robert Hayden, Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown–to show the range of experiences and voices that make up recent American poetry. The aim is to celebrate what Walt Whitman called ‘the various carols’ to be heard in American life.

For those of you who have had the pleasure of hearing Professor Theoharis’ talks at the Library before, you know that this is going to be a series to remember.  Those who need further convincing are welcome to call the Library for more information, but be prepared for my rhapsodical praise of these incredible programs.  You can sign up by calling the Library, or by clicking here.  Beginning Monday September 19th, books will be available at the Main Library on a first-come first-served basis. Meetings will be held on October 19th, October 26th, November 1st and November 9th at 7:30 p.m.

Poetry has, for too long, been treated like an inaccessible and/or ‘boring’ mode of expression, but the truth of the matter is that it is all around us–in the commercials we hum inadvertently to the songs in our earbuds to the films we see to the graffiti on walls to the words on our pages, and its high time we celebrated the loveliness and the humanity of this form of expression.  Come join us at the Library and learn just how fundamental, how inspiring, and how moving poetry can be–and how easy it is to love–at the Library this fall!

The Guardian: http://bit.ly/2c8fSf2

The 82 Main Poetry Series is generously funded by the Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries.

Homer to the rescue!

Hey there, Homer.

I don’t know about you, Beloved Patrons, but this season can be lovely and happy and frolicksome..but it can also be pretty stressful, too.  For all the “most wonderful time of the year”-ness of it all, for many, there just comes a point where you need a little escape, and some respite from the muchness of it all.

Mercifully, for those of us who need a little moment of reflection, and a bit of an escape, the Almeida Theatre has put the entirety of its marathon reading of Homer’s The Odyssey online.  This is happiness.  In more ways than one.

1206190On Wednesday, one of our favorite guest bloggers discussed the beauty and the joy that can be found in poetry, and encouraged us all to face it without fear.  It also turns out that poetry has added health benefits outside of engaging our sense of wonder.  In the second century BC Greek physician named Soranus used poetry as a supplemental treatment for patients who were exhibiting symptoms of depression.  This was, in fact, one of the earliest known cases of Bibliotherapy, a topic we’ve touched on previously.  Today, doctors are once again prescribing books to patients with mild to moderate depression–naturally, this is no cure, but it has been proved as a helpful addition to professional therapy.  A beautiful article from The Guardian  observes how reading during troublesome times “makes you view the world through new eyes, and in doing so rediscover your own place in it”.

But The Odyssey has some added benefits.  According to several big, intimidating scientific studies like this one,  it has been proven that the rhythm of poetry, particularly hexameter verse, like The Odyssey, can significantly regulate our breathing and our heartbeat. This is the case whether a poem is read, or read to you–our remarkable brains thrive on rhythm, and poetry and music provide some of the best metronomes on earth.

Even more impressive are the benefits of having a book read to you.  Studies have observed how literature can improve blood flow to the brain, and increase the development of new brain cells–but it also improves our mental stamina, and our sense of empathy.  Even more interesting, hearing stories in a group not only improves our empathy with the storyteller (or reader), but with the rest of the group hearing the story.  And if there is one thing that can help during tough times, it’s knowing that you aren’t alone.

Also, when you watch the Odyssey, you get an unparalleled visual escape…you can see the London Eye and the Thames, walk down some bustling High Streets, join Bertie Carvel in a cab, and enjoy Ian McKellan wearing a lovely scarf.  To make things even better, the lovely people at the Almeida put the full list of their tweets from the day online, which are some of the funniest bits of literary analysis I have ever read:

And then, there’s the private saga of the squirrel who kept wandering into the control room…because squirrels love Homer.

So might I recommend a dose of reading–and been read to–this weekend to calm your Sunday?  I hope it brings you a little peace, a little comfort, and a little adventure today–and for as long as the lovely people at the Almeida keep these videos online.


Homer has a question for you...
Homer has a question for you…

Question: What are you doing right now?

Answer: Checking this blog in order to get the link to the Almeida’s day-long reading of The Odyssey!







Good!  Then here it is: http://www.almeida.co.uk/the-odyssey

Also, for people who do The Twitter Thing, you can follow along with Odysseus and his water-logged crew: @almeidaodyssey,  and #Odyssey

Fair winds, and fair sailing, beloved patrons!  We’ll check in again once the journey is over and share our impressions!



“By hook or by crook this peril too shall be something that we remember”


I hope you remember back in August, when we covered the live reading of The Iliad that took place between the British Library and the Almeida Theatre in London.  It was, as I said at the time, by far and away the greatest-super-colossal-fantastic days I can remember, and proof positive that people telling people stories is still one of the most powerful forces in the world.

Indeed, because the event was live-streamed and covered by Twitter, the reading became a worldwide phenomenon–I even understand some of you lovely patrons were able to watch parts of it!  For those who missed it, here is the link to all 16 hours of readings.  As mentioned, one of the most memorable moments was when and Marco Brondon read his passage out loud on the bus from the British Museum to the Almeida Theatre in order to ensure that the marathon would not flag.


Well, thanks to the enormous acclaim and overwhelming success of The Iliad, and no doubt because of my near-hysterical promotion of it to anyone who will listen, the good people at the Almeida are upping the proverbial ante….

Oh, hello Homer.

That’s right, beloved patrons.  In honor of the end of The Greek Season, the Almeida is planning a marathon reading of The Odyssey, another epic poem attributed to the poet/poets known as Homer, and the second oldest extant piece of literature in the ‘Western’ canon.

Now, at 12,110 lines, The Odyssey is noticeably shorter than The Iliad (which is 15,693 lines, for those of you who need to know these things), which should, logistically speaking, make this piece somewhat easier to manage, right?

Scoff, scoff.  The good people at the Almeida are never ones to take the easy route–a statement as factual as it is now literal.  Because this performance is going to be an actual Odyssey, performed at five as-yet-undisclosed locations throughout the city of London.  Listeners in the City will have the opportunity to listen to readers for up to 90 minutes at a single site, and there apparently are plans to read on public transport, and even the Thames.

When will all this wonderfulness take place?  November 12, 2015, 9am BT (4AM EST).

How will it look?  What will happen?  Who knows?  But I know that I’ll be watching on the Almeida’s live stream site and via Twitter (#Odyssey & ).  And I hope you will be, too!

For those of you would like to get into the spirit of things beforehand, here are some ideas to get in you in the mood for a day of high-stakes adventures, startling adventures, and sweet homecomings.  And a Cyclops or two.  It’s just no fun otherwise.

2599829The OdysseyPerhaps a bit of an obvious first choice, but there is no better way to get into the Odyssey than by traveling along with Odysseus and his beleaguered crew who suffer the wrath of Poseidon in their desperate attempt to return home.  It stands to reason that, since the Almeida used Robert Fagles’ translation of The Iliad, it’s a pretty fair bet they’ll be using his translation of The Odyssey as well.  Truth be told, it’s a very accessible translation that sounds simply wonderful when performed aloud–but don’t take my word for it.  Check it out for yourself!


2033697The Odyssey: Against all odds, this 3.5 hour adaptation of Homer’s epic (co-produced by the Hallmark Channel, who would have thought?) is actually quite good, overall.  With excellent performances, and special effects that are pretty impressive for turn-of-the-century television broadcast, this is a highly entertaining way to get introduced to Odysseus’ tale for those who don’t have the 12+ hours it is estimated to take to get through the print version.


3150458Torn from Troy: Patrick Bowman’s YA spin on The Odyssey stars Alexi, a fifteen-year-old Trojan boy who is made Odyssey’s slave following the conclusion of the Trojan War.  The trilogy of Alexei’s journey may parallel the events of The Odyssey, but this is by no means a simple re-telling.  As an outsider, and a conquered slave, Alexei’s view of Odysseus, and his analysis of his actions, are very different from Homer’s narrative, and Alexei’s personal story adds a very human dimension to this sweeping adventure story.  These books are a fun read no matter what your age, especially because they allow so many most characters in the story to come forward and tell their own stories and journeys.


2313233The Penelopiad: And for those of you who are a little tired of all the men unable to find their way home and seemingly unconcerned about their lack of punctuality, Margaret Atwood presents a cycle of stories about Odyssey’s wife Penelope, who appears here as a much more complicated figure than any of us ever expected.  Inspired by the “hanging of the maids” reference in the original text of The Odyssey, Atwood set out to reimagine Penelope’s world, her birth and childhood, as well as the events that took place after her marriage and during the timespan of The Odyssey.  The result is a woman who is strong and enigmatic, proud and secretive and, overall, utterly compelling, as is everything that Margaret Atwood writes.

Be sure to check back for more news regarding this performance, and see you on Thursday for the live-streaming of The Odyssey!