Tag Archives: Summer Reading

Peabody Library Summer Staff Selections! (Part 5)

Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive.  We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months.  Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well!  As our public services desk model has changed, you’ll note the headings on our recommendations has changed, as well.  Please feel free to speak with any Library staff member about finding a book to brighten your summer.

From the Public Service Desk: 

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll: When five hyper-successful women agree to appear on a reality series set in New York City called Goal Diggers, the producers never expect the season will end in murder.  Brett’s the fan favorite. Tattooed and only twenty-seven, the meteoric success of her spin studio—and her recent engagement to her girlfriend—has made her the object of jealousy and vitriol from her castmates.  Kelly, Brett’s older sister and business partner, is the most recent recruit, dismissed as a hanger-on by veteran cast. The golden child growing up, she defers to Brett now—a role which requires her to protect their shocking secret.  Stephanie, the first black cast member and the oldest, is a successful bestselling author of erotic novels. There have long been whispers about her hot, non-working actor-husband and his wandering eye, but this season the focus is on the rift that has opened between her and Brett, former best friends—and resentment soon breeds contempt.
From Our Staff: Jessica Knoll’s book works on a number of levels: it’s a salacious, vicious skewering of reality-tv and the culture it has created.  It’s a thought-provoking critique of ‘sisterhood’ and feminism.  It also turns into a compelling whodunit that will make you want to re-read the book just to pick up all the little clues and hints you might have missed.  It took me a little while to get into this book, but once I did, I was completely hooked!

Things to Do When You’re Goth in the Country and Other Stories by Chavisa Woods: These stories paint a vivid image of people living on the fringes in America, people who don’t do what you might expect them to. Not stories of triumph over adversity, but something completely other. Described in language that is brilliantly sardonic, Woods’s characters return repeatedly to places where they don’t belong—often the places where they were born. In “Zombie,” a coming-of-age story like no other, two young girls find friendship with a mysterious woman in the local cemetery. “Take the Way Home That Leads Back to Sullivan Street” describes a lesbian couple trying to repair their relationship by dropping acid at a Mensa party. In “A New Mohawk,” a man in romantic pursuit of a female political activist becomes inadvertently much more familiar with the Palestine/Israel conflict than anyone would have thought possible. And in the title story, Woods brings us into the mind of a queer goth teenager who faces ostracism from her small-town evangelical church.  This is fiction that is fresh and of the moment, even as it is timeless.
From Our Staff: There are so many quotable sentences in this book.

From the West Branch:

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy: Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.  Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi.  But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.  The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool.  But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke.  Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.
From Our Staff: Excellent bisexual representation, diverse character cast; a bisexual teenager works through realizing she’s not exclusively attracted to girls and what her future will be like while helping her pregnant sister as they struggle through poverty and personal relationships in coastal Mississippi. A lovely story of self-acceptance and recognition of self potential.

From the Children’s Room:

Dark Dawn Over Steep House by M.R.C Kasasian: At the opening of this fifth installment of the Gower Street Detective series, 125 Gower Street, the residence of Sidney Grice, London’s foremost personal detective, and his ward March Middleton, is at peace.  Midnight discussions between the great man and his charge have led to a harmony unseen in these hallowed halls since the great frog disaster of 1878.  But harmony cannot last for long. A knock on the door brings mystery and murder once more to their home. A mystery that involves a Prussian Count, two damsels in distress, a Chinaman from Wales, a gangster looking for love, and the shadowy ruin of a once-loved family home, Steep House . . .
From Our Staff: These books are full  of dry wit, a solid eye for detail and a great heroine who’s not afraid to tell it like it is. Kasasian doesn’t shy away from gory details, though, so they’re not necessarily for the faint of heart. But if you like Sherlock Holmes, these books are likely to be a hit. This installment has March and Sidney chasing down a man who’s attacking women in London. A great, timely topic even though it’s set in the 1800s.

Until next week, beloved patrons, enjoy the summer!

Summer Reading: Thinking Outside the Covers

Today we share with you a post that first ran in 2016, which has been updated with information for this years’ Peabody Summer Reading.  We hope you enjoy exploring the various kinds of reading you can accomplish at the Library this summer!

I think we’ve made the analogy here at some point before, but books are a lot like food.  Some formats, genres, styles, etc., are like candy, that you can just keep consuming with nary a thought.  Some are like really expensive, decadent cakes that you bring out for special occasions, and some are like bananas, that, frankly, make you gag just thinking about them (I’m using a personal example here.  If bananas are your thing, then more power to you.  You can have All My Bananas, too).

food-in-fiction

Furthermore, the way that we ingest stories is as varied and as particular as the way we ingest food.  Some people gobble, some people nibble…you get the idea.  The point I am trying to make here (other than the fact that I wish it were lunchtime) is that there is no right way or wrong way to get your daily dose of reading.

downloadIn the case of younger readers (and anyone who has Summer Reading to accomplish).  Time was when ‘Summer Reading’ was akin to force-feeding, especially for those students who weren’t visual learners, or who read more slowly, or in a way that wasn’t strictly standard.  And that experience turned a lot of people off of reading for a very long time, which is truly heartbreaking.  Thankfully, now, summer reading lists tend to be much more flexible in terms of students’ choices, as well as much more inclusive of popular titles and more modern themes (incidentally, if you want to see some of these lists, for you or a student near you, you can see them here).  And, even better, is that, as we learn more and more about the wonders of the human brain, we are beginning to appreciate more that not everyone absorbs books in the same way.

AudiobooksFor example, despite the fact that we live in a world that is increasingly based on visual learning in the form of computers, tablets, and screens, there are still any number of people who are auditory learners, meaning that they remember better after hearing directions or a story or a lecture than they do after reading or watching one.  Often, auditory learners have a tough time with summer reading because it is supposed to be an individual, and highly visual exercise that often feels at once very challenging and very boring.  For these readers, audiobooks have been a saving grace.  Not only to they present books in a way that auditory learners can absorb much better, they offer any number of benefits for all.  For example, audiobooks can help readers access stories about their reading level, or in an unfamiliar vernacular–for example, books like Wuthering Heights or Return of the Native that are denser, and tend to feature very rural language and slang that isn’t always easy to comprehend if not spoken out loud.  Additionally, I often find that audiobooks allow me to see the humor or subtext in stories that aren’t always readily obvious from the text.

Fortunately, the Library not only has plenty of audiobooks on our shelves, we also have access to digital audiobooks via Overdrive (which you can download) and Hoopla (which allows you to stream content).  You can chose to read along with the audiobooks, or listen exclusively.  Additionally, a number of e-books offer audio narration along with the text (which Amazon has named WhisperSync) so that you can listen and read at the same time.

graphic-novels-melbourne-482x298For Peabody middle school readers, praise the Heavens, the only requirement for the summer is to read two books.  Any books, whatever books make you happy.  And this opens up a whole world of potential for readers.  For those who aren’t huge fans of traditional books, the Library has a sizable collection of Graphic Novels.  These books are just as valid, just as emotionally and intellectually engaging as straightforward novels, and feature a range of plots, genres, and reading levels.  It’s also worth noting that, as graphic novels become an increasingly popular genre, we are seeing the rise of picture books for adults, that feature beautiful, vivid, and imaginative illustrations for those of us who might not be graphic novel readers.  These books are a great way to start a conversation about visuals in books, and to help readers of different mediums find some common ground.

Finally, reading never has to be a solitary pursuit.  Check out our great Teen and Children Events calendars to see some of the great programs we have lined up to help you meet your reading goals, whatever those might be.

 

Peabody Library Summer Staff Selections! (Part 4)

Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive.  We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months.  Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well!  As our public services desk model has changed, you’ll note the headings on our recommendations has changed, as well.  Please feel free to speak with any Library staff member about finding a book to brighten your summer.

And just a reminder, the Main Library and both Branches will be open until 5pm today.  We will remain closed all day on July 4 in honor of Independence Day.  Our normal hours will resume on Thursday, July 5.  Please feel free to call or stop by if you have any questions!

From the Public Service Desk:

The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories by Osama Alomar,  translated from the Arabic by C.J. Collins: In these delightful, eye-opening stories, inanimate objects and personified animals come to vivid life on the page, living out spell-binding, harrowing, and emotional journeys all their own, performing in Alomar’s sharp allegories that shed light on current day politics, economics, and personal relations in ways that are as funny and subversive as they are moving.  These are surprisingly quick little tales, but they pack quite the punch.

Unbury Carol by Josh Malerman: Carol Evers is a woman with a dark secret. You see, every so often Carol descends into a death-like coma that she calls the Black Place. For two to four days her heartbeat slows way down, her breathing all but stops, and to the eyes of all she would appear dead as a doornail. Only two people know of her condition: her husband Dwight, and her former lover James Moxie–the most legendary outlaw the Trail has ever seen. Just before Carol can share her secret with a friend, she falls into the Black Place once again, only this time, Dwight begins preparations for her funeral two days hence, hoping to inherit her fortune. When a telegram arrives for Moxie, notifying him of the upcoming burial of his lost love, he rides out of retirement and hits the Trail once again, desperate to save Carol from a premature burial.
From Our Staff:  This is a weird, confusing, utterly bizarre novel that I find myself loving more and more as I think about it.  If you like westerns and weird fiction, this will definitely be up your proverbial alley, but there’s also stuff for historians and general fiction lovers and feminist readers alike!

 

From the Upstairs Offices:

Balzac & the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie: This is an enchanting tale that captures the magic of reading and the wonder of romantic awakening. An immediate international bestseller, it tells the story of two hapless city boys exiled to a remote mountain village for re-education during China’s infamous Cultural Revolution. There the two friends meet the daughter of the local tailor and discover a hidden stash of Western classics in Chinese translation. As they flirt with the seamstress and secretly devour these banned works, the two friends find transit from their grim surroundings to worlds they never imagined.

The Simple Faith of Mister Rogers : Spiritual Insights from the World’s Most Beloved Neighbor by Amy Hollingsworth: Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood–and perhaps supplement your viewing of the new documentary featuring this great human–with an inside look on Mr. Rogers’ spiritual legacy.  Eight years before his death, Fred Rogers met author, educator, and speaker Amy Hollingsworth. What started as a television interview turned into a wonderful friendship spanning dozens of letters detailing the driving force behind this gentle man of extraordinary influence. Educator? Philosopher? Psychologist? Minister? Here is an intimate portrait of the real Mister Rogers.  Hollingsworth also reads the audiobook recording of this title, and her very clear love and respect for Mr. Rodgers shines through, particularly in her anecdotal memories of their conversations.

From the Children’s Room:

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi: Aru Shah has a tendency to stretch the truth in order to fit in at school. While her classmates are jetting off to family vacations in exotic locales, she’ll be spending her autumn break at home, in the Museum of Ancient Indian Art and Culture, waiting for her mom to return from her latest archeological trip. Is it any wonder that Aru makes up stories about being royalty, traveling to Paris, and having a chauffeur? One day, three schoolmates show up at Aru’s doorstep to catch her in a lie. They don’t believe her claim that the museum’s Lamp of Bharata is cursed, and they dare Aru to prove it. Just a quick light, Aru thinks. Then she can get herself out of this mess and never ever fib again. But lighting the lamp has dire consequences. She unwittingly frees the Sleeper, an ancient demon whose duty it is to awaken the God of Destruction. Her classmates and beloved mother are frozen in time, and it’s up to Aru to save them. The only way to stop the demon is to find the reincarnations of the five legendary Pandava brothers, protagonists of the Hindu epic poem, the Mahabharata, and journey through the Kingdom of Death. But how is one girl in Spider-Man pajamas supposed to do all that?
From our Staff:  This is a fun middle-grade read that’s exciting for any age. Chokshi uses Indian fairy tales, lore and mythology to weave an exciting tale of a girl who’s just trying to fit in and find her own way. In doing so, she finds adventure and unlikely companions and a better understanding of herself. Chokshi has a great sense of humor and keeps a life-or-death situation surprisingly light with a fast pace that practically begs the reader to want “just one more chapter” right through to the end. 

Happy Independence Day, beloved patrons, and happy reading!

From the Teen Room: Beach Reads!

Looking for a good beach book? Prefer reading by the pool? Or maybe you’d rather cuddle up in a well air-conditioned room? We’ve got you covered! Here are the Teen Room’s summer-time recommendations to keep you going even on the hottest of days!

Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories: Written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

When Dimple Met Rishi: Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants: Carmen got the jeans at a thrift shop. They didn’t look all that great: they were worn, dirty, and speckled with bleach. On the night before she and her friends part for the summer, Carmen decides to toss them. But Tibby says they’re great. She’d love to have them. Lena and Bridget also think they’re fabulous. Lena decides that they should all try them on. Whoever they fit best will get them. Nobody knows why, but the pants fit everyone perfectly. Over a few bags of cheese puffs, they decide to form a sisterhood and take the vow of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.

An Abundance of Katherines: On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has ten thousand dollars in his pocket, a bloodthirsty feral hog on his trail, and an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun–but no Katherines. Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl.

Happy summer reading everyone!

Peabody Library Summer Staff Selections! (Part 3)

Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive.  We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months.  Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well!  As our public services desk model has changed, you’ll note the headings on our recommendations has changed, as well.  Please feel free to speak with any Library staff member about finding a book to brighten your summer.

From the Public Service Desk:

Himself by Jess Kidd: Having been abandoned at an orphanage as a baby, Mahony assumed all his life that his mother wanted nothing to do with him. That is, until one night in 1976 while drinking a pint at a Dublin pub, he receives an anonymous note implying that she may have been forced to give him up. Determined to find out what really happened, Mahony embarks on a pilgrimage back to his hometown, the rural village of Mulderrig. Neither he nor Mulderrig can possibly prepare for what’s in store.  From the moment he arrives, Mahony’s presence completely changes the village.  The real and the fantastic are blurred as eager books fly and chatty ghosts rise from their graves with secrets to tell, and local preacher Father Quinn will do anything to get rid of the slippery young man who is threatening the moral purity of his parish.
From our Staff: This book is indefinable in the best of ways: it’s part murder mystery, part ghost story, with a love story and some small-town shenanigans built in for good measure.  There’s literally something here for everyone, and the storytelling is pure magic.

From the Teen Room:

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness: Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn’t she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd’s gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.
From Our Staff: It’s an incredible beginning to a very exciting series. Honestly the world building is incredible and immersive to the point that you feel part of the story. I also think it’s an important book to read because it has a lot of parallels to today’s political climate.

From the Upstairs Offices:

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy: As she drives her mobile library van between villages of Ireland’s West Coast, Hanna Casey tries not to think about a lot of things. Like the sophisticated lifestyle she abandoned after finding her English barrister husband in bed with another woman. Or that she’s back in Lissbeg, the rural Irish town she walked away from in her teens, living in the back bedroom of her overbearing mother’s retirement bungalow. Or, worse yet, her nagging fear that, as the local librarian and a prominent figure in the community, her failed marriage and ignominious return have made her a focus of gossip. With her teenage daughter, Jazz, off traveling the world and her relationship with her own mother growing increasingly tense, Hanna is determined to reclaim her independence by restoring a derelict cottage left to her by her great-aunt. But when the threatened closure of the Lissbeg Library puts her personal plans in jeopardy, Hanna finds herself leading a battle to restore the heart and soul of the Finfarran Peninsula’s fragmented community. And she’s about to discover that the neighbors she’d always kept at a distance have come to mean more to her than she ever could have imagined.
From Our Staff:  The audio book recording of this novel is terrific, as well, so fans of either format will be able to savor this story!

 

Let the Great World Spin by Collum McCann: In the dawning light of a late-summer morning, the people of lower Manhattan stand hushed, staring up in disbelief at the Twin Towers. It is August 1974, and a mysterious tightrope walker is running, dancing, leaping between the towers, suspended a quarter mile above the ground.  In the streets below, a slew of ordinary lives become extraordinary: Corrigan, a radical young Irish monk, struggles with his own demons as he lives among the prostitutes in the middle of the burning Bronx. A group of mothers gather in a Park Avenue apartment to mourn their sons who died in Vietnam, only to discover just how much divides them even in grief. A young artist finds herself at the scene of a hit-and-run that sends her own life careening sideways. Tillie, a thirty-eight-year-old grandmother, turns tricks alongside her teenage daughter, determined not only to take care of her family but to prove her own worth.  Elegantly weaving together these and other seemingly disparate lives, McCann’s powerful allegory comes alive in the unforgettable voices of the city’s people, unexpectedly drawn together by hope, beauty, and the “artistic crime of the century.”

 

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy summer reading!

Peabody Library Summer Staff Selections! (Part 2)

Every year, we at the Free For All ask the Peabody Library staff about the books, films, and music recordings that they would like to recommend to you for your summer reading/viewing/listening pleasure, and every year, we are delighted with the variety, the diversity, and the genuinely excellent recommendations that we receive.  We will be offering suggestions over the course of the summer, beloved patrons, in the hopes of helping you find a new favorite story to savor over the coming summer months.  Feel free to share your favorites with us, as well!

From Circulation:

Mr. g by Alan Lightman: Once before time existed, Mr g woke up from a nap and decided to create the universe. In the shimmering Void, where he lives with his Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva, he creates time, space, and matter. Soon follow stars, planets, animate matter, consciousness,and intelligent beings with moral dilemmas. But the creation of space and time has unintended consequences, including the arrival of Belhor, a clever and devious rival. Belhor delights in needling Mr g, demanding explanations for the inexplicable, offering his own opinions on the fledgling universes, and maintaining the necessity of evil. As Mr g’s favorite universe grows, he discovers how an act of creation can change everything in the world—including the creator himself.  This is a book that eschews traditional creation stories and religious dogma, instead choosing to marvel at the wonders around us, and the stunning beauty of even chaos itself.
From our Staff: I am halfway through “Mrg” and I can already tell this is going to be one of my favorite books of all time. This was the one I sent Mo’s way and they have been bugging me to read it ever since. I’ve never read read a piece fiction that spoke so beautifully about physics and nature.

From the Upstairs Offices: 

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich: Set on and around a North Dakota Ojibwe reservation,Louise Erdrich’s first novel tells an epic story of the intertwined fates of two families: the Kashpaws and the Lamartines.  Told in a number of real, empathetic voices, this is a book where black humor mingles with magic, injustice bleeds into betrayal, and bonds of love and family marry the elements into a tightly woven whole that pulses with the drama of life.  This specific edition has been updated by Erdrich herself.  As she notes, “I have worked over a few small sections that were added in 1995, but the biggest change is this: I have deleted one of the chapters (“Lyman’s Luck”) added in the 1995 expanded edition, and moved another (“The Tomahawk Factory”) to the P.S. section at the back of the book”–a fascinating opportunity for fans of the book to enjoy it anwew!

From the Children’s Room: 

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure by Shoba Narayan:  When Shoba Narayan—who has just returned to India with her husband and two daughters after years in the United States—asks whether said cow might bless her apartment next, it is the beginning of a beautiful friendship between our author and Sarala, who also sells fresh milk right across the street from that thoroughly modern apartment building. The two women connect over not only cows but also family, food, and life. When Shoba agrees to buy Sarala a new cow, they set off looking for just the right heifer, and what was at first a simple economic transaction becomes something much deeper, though never without a hint of slapstick.
From our Staff:This is great for a bit of summer escapism. Narayan moved back to her native India and found an unexpected acquaintance in a woman who sells fresh milk and keeps cows. This is a story about their friendship, but Narayan also examines Indian culture with humor and sensitivity as she parses what led these two women together but also to lead vastly different lives.

From Reference:

Beneath a Ruthless Sun : A True Story of Violence, Race, and Justice Lost and Found by Gilbert King: In  December 1957, Blanche Bosanquet Knowles, the wealthy young wife of a citrus baron, was raped in her home while her husband was away.  She described her attacker as a “husky Negro” , and the sheriff, the infamous racist Willis McCall, did not hesitate to arrest every Black male in the area.  Within days, McCall turned his sights on Jesse Daniels, a gentle, mentally impaired white nineteen-year-old.  Jesse was incarcerated in the state hospital for the insane, locked away without trial.  But crusading journalist Mabel Norris Reese refused to stop questioning over the case and its baffling, unjust outcome. Who was protecting whom, or what? She pursued the story for years, chasing down leads, hitting dead ends, winning unlikely allies. Bit by bit, the unspeakable truths behind a conspiracy that shocked a community into silence begin to surface.
From our Staff: King does an impressive job creating a world in this book, discussing all the characters, relationships, secrets, and prejudices that shaped this world.  As a result, readers can’t help but feel both infuriated and utterly heartsore over the crimes that ruined Jesse Daniels’ life–and the lives of so many other Black men and women, as well. The parallels and connections to our own historic moment are chilling, as well.

 

The Year Without A Summer?

On this warm day, we bring you a post that ran last year, dealing with the treacherous nature of summer weather and how bad it could really be.  We hope you enjoy this trip down memory lane!

…It seems this year, dear patrons, summer is holding out on us.  Today’s temperature is hovering near records lows, and it’s a bit…well…murky.

Now, that’s not to say that a brilliant, seasonal summer is not on the horizon.  I’ve already got one sunburn this year, so it’s not like we’ve never seen the sun.  It’s not like we’re in a year without a summer…

…although that did happen….

The year of 1816 is known as “The Year Without A Summer“.  This was largely due to global climactic abnormalities both caused and exacerbated by the eruption of Mount Tambora, on the island of Sumbawa in what is today Indonesia.  The eruption remains one of the most powerful eruptions in recorded history, and the only VEI-7 event witnessed (that means it’s super-colossal big).  The ash from that explosion was trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere, and spread around the globe, causing massive temperature drops (since sunlight could not penetrate the ash cover).  Since the Earth was already experiencing what is now know as the “Little Ice Age”, this means that temperatures that were already lower than average plummeted, causing continental-wide harvest failures, and what Historian John D. Post  has called the “the last great subsistence crisis in the Western world”.

From the New England Historical Society

We’re talking freezing temperatures here, snow in June (actually, on June 6th, according to historic records).  In the Berkshires, there was frost in August.  There were also wild temperature swings–areas of Pennsylvania recorded temperatures in the nineties in August, only to be below freezing three days later.  The result was widespread famine in Europe, especially in Ireland, north England, and Germany.

There were also a few not-so-horrific results of this summer.  Because of the pollution in their air reflecting the light, sunsets were said to be particularly spectacular during the three years that the effects of the Tambora were felt globally.  You can see these in the paintings by artist J.M.W. Turner, as seen below:

Chichester Canal circa 1828 by J.M.W. Turner via Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

The lack of oats to feed horses may have inspired the German inventor Karl Drais to research new ways of horseless transportation, which led to the invention of the velocipede, which was an early version of what we now know as the bicycle.

And because there was so much rain that summer, Percy Shelley and his wife Mary were forced to stay in doors during their holidays in Lake Geneva, which they spent with Lord Byron and Dr. Polidori.  That was the trip during which Mary Shelley first told the story that would become Frankenstein.

The comparative size of the Tambora eruption

Now, I’m not saying that you or I are going to use these chilly damp days (which are nothing compared to the Year Without A Summer, if we’re all being serious here for a second*) to invent a machine that will revolutionize human transport, or create a work of art that will redefine humanity.  But you might want to come into the Library and check out one of these books that focus on The Year Without A Summer.  You never know the effects it might have!

Tambora : the eruption that changed the worldThere are a number of books that look at Tambora and its effects, but Gillen D’Arcy Wood’s book looks at the eruption itself, and the global catastrophes it caused, but also brings the story forward,  utilizing modern climate science  to talk about manmade climate change in our own time.  Another quality selection is William Klingaman’s The year without summer : 1816 and the volcano that darkened the world and changed historywhich emphasizes the social, cultural, and political changes wrought by the effects of the Tambora eruption.

The poet and the vampyre : the curse of Byron and the birth of literature’s greatest monstersThough Frankenstein is probably the most well-known work to emerge from that infamous trip to Lake Geneva, it should not be forgotten that Byron’s physician-friend, John Polidori, also wrote what we generally assume to be the first vampire tale, called “The Vampyre”.  It was mostly a send-up of Byron, which whom Polidori was very, very miffed, but still.  Without Polidori, we;d never have Dracula.  In this weirdly wonderful book, Andrew McConnell Stott looks at the love affairs, literary rivalries, and the supernatural influences that combined and collided to bring Percy and Mary Shelley, Byron, and Polidori to Geneva, and the effects of their meeting on world literature to this very day.

To Charm a Naughty CountessJust to lighten the mood a bit…Theresa Romain’s novel is set during the summer of 1816, and features Michael, Duke of Wyverne, who is desperately trying to save his estate from financial ruin after another abysmal harvest.  The simplest course of action is to marry, but for someone as anxious and socially awkward as Michael, the prospect seems deem, until the widowed Countess of Stratton decides to take him under her wing.  This is an all around delightful romance, featuring a decidedly un-alpha hero and a heroine who defies all conventions, and comes highly recommended, regardless of its time-setting.

*And just for the record, this event is a meteorological/climatological phenomenon that has nothing to do with global warming.  Indeed, the process of global warming would begin in earnest about a decade after this summer with the escalation of the Industrial Revolution.  Just so we don’t get confused here.