Tag Archives: Summer Reading

Summer Staff Selections!

We truly enjoyed our series featuring some of the Peabody Library Staff’s Summer Reading Selections–so much so that recommendations are still coming in!  So, while there are still a few days of summer left (officially), we thought we’d bring you another list of books personally recommended by our staff!

We are a staff of diverse reading/listening/viewing habits, which makes these posts so much fun.  There is such a wide range of books and media that our staff enjoy that there is bound to be something in here to help make your summer that much more entertaining!  And so, without further ado, here is our fifth round of Staff Selections:

From the Upstairs Offices:

Nine Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah Maclean

A lady does not smoke cheroot. She does not ride astride. She does not fence or attend duels. She does not fire a pistol, and she never gambles at a gentlemen’s club…Lady Calpurnia Hartwell has always followed the rules, rules that have left her unmarried—and more than a little unsatisfied. And so she’s vowed to break the rules and live the life of pleasure she’s been missing.  But to dance every dance, to steal a midnight kiss—to do those things, Callie will need a willing partner. Someone who knows everything about rule-breaking. Someone like Gabriel St. John, the Marquess of Ralston—charming and devastatingly handsome, his wicked reputation matched only by his sinful smile.  If she’s not careful, she’ll break the most important rule of all—the one that says that pleasure-seekers should never fall hopelessly, desperately in love . . .

From the West Branch:

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

For more than two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in their Massachusetts town. Gillian and Sally have endured that fate as well: as children, the sisters were forever outsiders, taunted, talked about, pointed at. Their elderly aunts almost seemed to encourage the whispers of witchery, with their musty house and their exotic conconctions and their crowd of black cats. But all Gillian and Sally wanted was to escape.  One will do so by marrying, the other by running away. But the bonds they share will bring them back—almost as if by magic… This is a story that unfolds likes a modern-day fairy tale, immersing readers in the rich smells, tastes, and deep emotions of Hoffman’s incredible world, and unforgettable characters.

Pleasures of the Damned by Charles Bukowski

To his legions of fans, Charles Bukowski was—and remains—the quintessential counterculture icon. A hard-drinking wild man of literature and a stubborn outsider to the poetry world, he wrote unflinchingly about booze, work, and women, in raw, street-tough poems whose truth has struck a chord with generations of readers.  Edited by John Martin, the legendary publisher of Black Sparrow Press and a close friend of Bukowski’s, this book is a selection of the best works from Bukowski’s long poetic career, including the last of his never-before-collected poems. Celebrating the full range of the poet’s extra-ordinary and surprising sensibility, and his uncompromising linguistic brilliance, these poems cover a rich lifetime of experiences, and an astonishing poetic treasure trove.

From the Children’s Room:

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

In the summer of 1977, The Blyton Summer Detective Club solved their final mystery and unmasked the elusive Sleepy Lake monster–another low-life fortune hunter trying to get his dirty hands on the legendary riches hidden in Deboën Mansion. And he would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids. In 1990, the former detectives have grown up and apart, each haunted by disturbing memories of their final night in the old haunted house. There are too many strange, half-remembered encounters and events that cannot be dismissed or explained away by a guy in a mask. And Andy, the once intrepid tomboy now wanted in two states, is tired of running from her demons. She needs answers. To find them she will need Kerri, the one-time kid genius and budding biologist, now drinking her ghosts away in New York with Tim, an excitable Weimaraner descended from the original canine member of the club. They will also have to get Nate, the horror nerd currently residing in an asylum in Arkham, Massachusetts. Luckily Nate has not lost contact with Peter, the handsome jock turned movie star who was once their team leader . . . which is remarkable, considering Peter has been dead for years. The time has come to get the team back together, face their fears, and find out what actually happened all those years ago at Sleepy Lake. It’s their only chance to end the nightmares and, perhaps, save the world.

Happy Summer, Dear Readers!

The Great American Read!

A few days ago, PBS announced the production of a new eight-part television series, and related nationwide campaign “that explores the joy of books and the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved books”.  The working title of the project?

The Great American Read.

The goal, apparently, is to harness the power of digital media to get the American people to compile a list of 100 books–an “Advisor panel of literary professionals” will also help compile the list, so that we don’t end up with the literary equivalent of “Boaty McBoatface”. The show will also work with local bookstores and libraries (PBS…HERE WE ARE.  SITTING BY THE PHONE.  WAITING FOR YOUR CALL) in order to get under the skin, so to speak, of American readers, and discover why the books chosen are so meaningful.

The books will, according to PBS’ press release, be organized in themes, “such as ‘Being American,’ ‘Heroes,’ ‘Growing Up,’ ‘What We Do for Love’ and more…As summer turns to fall, voting will close and America’s top 10 books will be revealed counting down to America’s Best-Loved in the final episode of the series in September 2018.”

Hey, I’m as intrigued about this as the next person–and I know, as a devoted reader yourself, you’ve already got a list of books ready to got that you would like to force the American public at large to read.  Maybe it’s not a round 100 books, but that’s ok…But I’m also really interested to see how the rules of this Literary Survivor is going to work.  Is it just a book that a lot of people in this country like to read?  Does the book have to be about America?  Does it have to be written by an American?  If so, how do we define American?  Indeed, what makes a novel American in the first place?

We’ll be keeping an eye on all of this for you, beloved patrons.  And it would be exiting if this show got us all talking a lot more about the books that shape us, shape our communities, and, perhaps, shape our country, as vast and varied and confused and contentious and fascinating as it is.  In fact, here are a few 20th century books to get us started thinking about how varied the literary USA really is.  We’ll add onto this list over the coming weeks!

Lolita: Vladimir Nabokov’s most well-known, and most contentious novel is, yes, the story of a middle-aged pedophile.  But the entire framework of the story–the road trips on which Humbert Humbert and Dolores Haze embark during the book–were inspired by the yearly driving trips Nabokov and his wife, Vera, took every summer to catch and study butterflies.  An immigrant from Russia, Nabokov was fascinated by American consumerism and kitsch.  If you ever wondered why ‘Lolita’ insisted on staying in hokey hotels, eating at diners with ads on the napkins?  It’s because those were the details that delighted Nabokov himself.

In Cold Blood: Speaking of road trips, travels across the country make up a significant part of Truman Capote’s non-fiction novel that details the 1959 murders of four members of the  Clutter family in the small farming community of Holcomb, Kansas.  When Capote learned about the details of the crime, he traveled to Kansas himself with his best friend, Harper Lee.  Together, they interviewed the Clutter’s neighbors and friends, creating a portrait of a family that was flawed, strong, strange, and wholly realistic.  Following the arrest of Richard “Dick” Hickock and Perry Smith, Capote turned his focus on them, telling the story of these two men, the life that brought them to Holcomb, and the country they had traveled in their strange, short lives.  This is very much a tale about a moment in American history, about the social framework that shaped all these people’s lives, and the environments in which they existed, giving us all a glimpse into a time and a place that feels at once utterly familiar and shockingly far away.  The image above is of the audio book, which is also stunning.

No Name in the Street: James Baldwin’s non-fiction work, detailing the racial tensions in the United States, especially during the 1960’s and 1970’s, are some of the most insightful, heartbreaking, and inspiring out there, and his name deserve to be on a list of great American writers.  This biographical work displays James Baldwin’s fury and despair more deeply than any of his other works. He vividly detail his Harlem childhood which shaped his early consciousness and forced him to realize the violence of racism first-hand, and the later events that scored his heart with pain–the murders of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X.  Baldwin also discusses his sojourns in Europe and in Hollywood, and his return to the American South to confront a violent America face-to-face.  This is a powerful, unforgettable account of another side of US history.

Goodnight Moon: Hey, if we’re going to talk about books that meant something to as many people as possible, there are few books as widely-read and widely-enjoyed as Margaret Wise Brown’s classic tale about a bunny getting ready for bed, and saying goodnight to all the things in the bedroom.  It’s led to any number of parodies, from the philosophical to the profane, but despite it all, Brown’s 1947 story remains. In a 2007 on-line poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children”, and in 2012 it was ranked number four among the “Top 100 Picture Books” in a survey published by School Library Journal…so you don’t have to take my word for it!

…And Sometimes We Just Want to Go Home…

Yesterday, we talked about the joys of adventures, road trips, and the wonderfulness of summer getaways.  And encouraged you to take your own excursion, whether that was in a car, on a bike, or in your favorite chair.

But let’s be honest:  sometimes, adventures aren’t that great.  Sometimes it rains every day you’re at the exotic beach (been there).  Sometimes the museum you wanted to visit is closed for emergency ventilation work (been there, too!).  Sometimes you just get lost.

And you know what?  There are books for that, as well!  Sometimes, the most exciting books–and the most memorable adventures–are the ones that defy your expectations, grab you with unexpected revelations, or lead you down a dark, unexplored path.

So here, to balance things out, are a selection of books about journeys that didn’t go according to plan, fictional and non-fictional, funny and scary, real-world and outlandish.  Use them to comfort you, should you summer plans fall apart, or perhaps see them as a cautionary tale, but, either way–enjoy!


River of Doubt: After losing the presidential election of 1912, Theodore Roosevelt and his son left the United States for the Amazon.  Teddy was determined to conquer the most grueling and perilous physical challenge that he could find–and he met his match on one of the most dangerous rivers on earth, a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world.  In this fast-paced, well-researched, and wonderfully insightful book, Candace Millard takes us down the Amazon with Teddy, giving us a look into the man himself, as well as into the journey that nearly broke him (and killed three of the men in his party).

A Wretched and Precarious Situation : In Search of the Last Arctic Frontier: In 1906, from atop a snow-swept hill in the ice fields northwest of Greenland, hundreds of miles from another human being, Commander Robert E. Peary spotted a line of mysterious peaks looming in the distance. He called this unexplored realm “Crocker Land.” Scientists and explorers agreed that the world-famous explorer had discovered a new continent rising from the frozen Arctic Ocean.  Several years later, two of Peary’s disciples, George Borup and Donald MacMillan, assembled a team of amateur adventurers to investigate Crocker Land, dreaming of placing their names next to those of Magellan and Columbus.  Instead, they found themselves trapped in a bizarre, harrowing, and pitiless landscape that defied not only maps, but seemingly reason itself.  David Welky’s book captures the cold and the confusion of this epic adventure perfectly, and he also brings a scientists’ eye to the details of their plan, helping readers understand the real wonder of this whole story.

Station Eleven: This book is nothing like you’ve ever read, I think I can guarantee it.  A little bit of science fiction, a little bit of mystery, and a whole lot of Shakespeare combine in this story that starts with an influenza epidemic that decimates the population.  Twenty years later, Kirsten Raymonde is part of a nomadic group of actors and musicians known as the Travelling Symphony, circling the Great Lakes in a two-year cycle.   Her memories of an actor that she saw die at the beginning of the plague sparks an exploration into human nature, love, memory, and all the ways that our lives are bound up in each other.  This book is as much about personal journeys as it is about a wandering troupe of players, and is a haunting, powerful, and utterly imaginative book that is so unlike most dystopian novels out there that even those who don’t consider themselves sci-fi fans will find plenty to enjoy.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks: We’ve talked about this book before, but honestly, it’s so weird, and so unsettling, and so absolutely unlike anything else out there that I think we need to talk about it a lot more.  Jack Sparks is a pop-culture journalist, sensationalist, and all around cynical jackass, who delights in busting myths, superstitions, and religious events with equal gusto.  But after he witnesses an exorcism in Italy, odd things begin happening to him–beginning with a video being posted to his YouTube account that he never shot.  This book is presented as a compilation of the last days of Jack Sparks’ life, his wild (paranoid, desperate) adventures around the world, his increasingly erratic behavior and the many, seemingly infinite layers of truth, lies, self-delusions, and terrors that make up his existence.  It’s an exhausting, terrifying, eye-opening book that will certainly make any summer trip of your seem tame…and maybe that’s ok…

Best of luck in your travels, dear readers!  Send us a postcard!

Sometimes We Need To Get Away…

Sometimes, dear readers, you just need to get away from it all.  Just turn off the navigational devices, turn up the radio/music device of your choice, and drive/fly/train/bike to a different place.   And there is no time like summer to have just those kind of adventures.

And whether you’re the kind of person to throw caution to the winds, pack up, and head out of town with the wind at your back, or the kind to spread out in a lounging chair of some sort and read your way through an adventure, the Library is just the place for you.

Our selection of travel books, featuring local, national, and international sites and locales is extensive…and, of course, we have the power to call forth books from all corners of the state in order to help you plan your perfect summer escape.  On top of that, we also have a vast array of books that featuring road trips, train treks…even covered wagon adventures, if that’s what makes you happy…in order to help your “stay-cation” be the most adventurous and fulfilling possible.  Take a look at some of the selections below, or come in and see us for more exciting and adventurous reading recommendations!

Wicked Becomes YouGwen Maudsley is wealthy, pretty, and popular, but she’s also nice.  So nice, in fact, that she’s been jilted at the altar twice by men who think she won’t mind.  So Gwen has decided that if nice has ended in such heartache, it’s high time she decides to be naught–and she knows just the man to help her: Alexander Ramsey, her late brother’s best friend.  Alexander wants nothing to do with this plan, because he wants nothing to do with changing Gwen in any way.  He loves her precisely as she is, even if he can never tell her.  Meredith Duran is one of my favorite historical novelists, because she embraces every aspect of the period and the place she is covering.  This romp through France and Italy, from the confines of a continental train to the luxuries of the high-class hotels, comes to life in this book–and it doesn’t hurt that Alex and Gwen are such an interesting, complex pair.  For fans of my favorite romance, Follow My Lead, this is a bit of a darker, deeper story, but one that will most likely appeal.  Stop in at the Information Desk to request this book through ComCat!.

The Oregon Trail: Remember the covered wagons I mentioned earlier?  Well, Rinker Buck recreated the epic journey of the 19th-century Americans who made their way west in a covered wagon, with mules, and wrote a truly fascinating book about his adventure.  More than just a travelogue, though (and there is nothing wrong with travelogues, either), this book delves into the history of the “settling” of the American West, and the significance of the Oregon Trail, and those who traveled it, on the US today.  Anyone who grew up with the Mecc computer game, anyone whose ever dreamed of ye olde timey adventures, and any history buff around will love this book, as well as Buck’s wholly unique voice and perspective.

Stephen Fry in America: So Stephen Fry owns a black London taxicab, and in 2007, he drove it across the United States, on a quest to understand American life.  This book details those adventures (and serves a brilliant companion piece to the DVD Documentary of the adventure).  For locals, there’s a whole section about Stephen going to Salem Willows on Halloween–but this is also a really charming, funny, and insightful way to see the country we inhabit through different eyes, and to appreciate all the weird, obscure, delicious, confusing, beautiful aspects of the United States, as well….And seriously, check out the DVD, too.  It’s a delight.

Reservation Blues: Sherman Alexie’s book about a Native American rock n’ roll band sometimes gets overlooked in favor of his more oft-banned books, but it deserves a lot more love and attention.  When blues legend Robert Johnson miraculously appears on the reservation where Spokane Indian Thomas Builds-the-Fire lives, and hands him his legendary guitar, Thomas knows his life is never going to be the same. Inspired by this devilish guitar, Thomas and his “Indian Catholic” band go on tour across the country, allowing Alexie the room and scope to tell a consistently surprising, engaging story that touches on big social themes, like conversions among Native American tribes and the economic pressures of reservations.  But this is also very much a coming of age novel that delves deep into the soul of each young musician on this magical journey.

Enjoy all of your adventures, dear readers!  Send us a postcard!

Summer Staff Selections!

Now that summer is definitely upon us (definitely here this time around–it’s baking hot out there!), it’s time once again for the Free-For-All to share with you some of our lovely staff’s selections for summer reading!

We are a staff of diverse reading/listening/viewing habits, which makes these posts so much fun.  There is such a wide range of books and media that our staff enjoy that there is bound to be something in here to help make your summer that much more entertaining!  And so, without further ado, here is our fifth round of Staff Selections:

From the Reference Desk:

Advise and Consent by Allen Drury

Russian spies, government corruption, and collusion in the United States government?  It’s not CNN.  It’s Allen Drury’s seminal 1959 Cold War novel.  The intrigue swarms around the confirmation of prominent liberal political Robert Leffingwell to the position of Secretary of State…a man who is backed by the Communist Party.  Though the nomination is supposed to be a quick, sure-fire thing, several politicians have grave doubts about Leffingwell’s character, leading to a race-aginst-time investigation.  Advise and Consent was the first in a series that continues these themes of Cold War intrigue, and are sure to grip your attention!

From the Children’s Room

Dangerous Angels by Francesca Lia Block

The Weetzie Bat books broke new ground with their stylized, lyrical prose and unflinching look at the inner life of teens.  This collection brings together the five luminous novels of the series, allowing readers to revel in the full saga of these interwoven and magic lives.  These postmodern fairy tales take us to a Los Angeles brimming with magical realism: a place where life is a mystery, pain can lead to poetry, strangers become intertwined souls, and everyone is searching for the most beautiful and dangerous angel of all: love.  Block’s quirky, lush descriptions make this story into something utterly divine.

Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart

In this darkly fascinating book, Amy Stewart takes on over two hundred of Mother Nature’s most appalling creations, compiling an A to Z of plants that kill, maim, intoxicate, and otherwise offend. You’ll learn which plants to avoid (like exploding shrubs), which plants make themselves exceedingly unwelcome (like the vine that ate the South), and which ones have been killing for centuries (like the weed that killed Abraham Lincoln’s mother).  Menacing botanical illustrations and splendidly ghastly drawings create a fascinating portrait of the evildoers that may be lurking in your own backyard. This is a book that will enchant (and chill) nature lovers, scientists, and gardeners alike!

From the Upstairs Offices:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It’s the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and there is a lot of discussion swirling about her works, their meaning, and Austen’s place in the world of letters.  So why not take this opportunity to enjoy (or enjoy again) one of her most beloved novels–one of the most popular novels in English literature and the foundation of some of the most beloved tropes in romance?  This book is a favorite with a number of our staff, so let their combined wisdom be your guide!

Summer Staff Selections!

Now that summer is definitely (I think it’s fair to say definitely now, don’t you?)  upon us, it’s time once again for the Free-For-All to share with you some of our lovely staff’s selections for summer reading!

We are a staff of diverse reading/listening/viewing habits, which makes these posts so much fun.  There is such a wide range of books and media that our staff enjoy that there is bound to be something in here to help make your summer that much more entertaining!  And so, without further ado, here is our fifth round of Staff Selections:

From the Circulation Desk:

The Meat Cake Bible by Dame Darcy

Dame Darcy is an artist of many and varied talents: musician, actress, fortune teller, dollmaker, Gen X/feminist icon, and last but not least, cartoonist to the core, delighting readers with her neo-Victorian horror/romance/humor comic Meat Cake.  This collection brings together her delightful (and occasionally gruesome) fairy tales and the Meat Cake comics, featuring Effluvia the Mermaid, the roguish roué Wax Wolf, Igpay the Pig-Latin pig, Stregapez (a women who speaks by dispensing Pez-like tablets through a bloody hole in her throat), the mischievous Siamese twins Hindrance and Perfidia, Scampi the Selfish Shellfish, the stalwart Friend the Girl, and the blonde bombshell Richard Dirt.  Take a peek inside this tiny little fun house and discover all the marvelous treats inside!  Voluminous, quirky, dense and delightful!

From the Reference Desk:

The Last Hack by Christopher Brookmyre

Since we were talking about this series earlier this week, it seemed like a good time to let you know that this book (and this series) are some of the most engrossing, bizarre, and twisty mysteries you can find.  I truly loved this eighth installment, in which we learn the true identity of a character whose had a major influence on this series–but this time, the hacker known as Buzzkill is facing blackmail, and is calling in every favor that Jack Parlabane owes in order to secure his help in a massive industrial espionage attempt.  And when they realize they have both been played and set up for murder, an attempted break-in becomes a manhunt that could cost Parlabane everything he has fought to recover–and could cost Buzzkill even more.

Tim’s Vermeer, a Penn & Teller film featuring Tim Jenison

Tim Jenison, a Texas-based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all art: How did seventeenth century Dutch Master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically, 150 years before the invention of photography? Spanning ten years, his adventure takes him to Delft, Holland, where Vermeer painted his masterpieces, to the north coast of Yorkshire to meet artist David Hockney, and even to Buckingham Palace to see a Vermeer masterpiece in the collection of the Queen.  You can watch the trailer by clicking this link!

From the West Branch:

Off to be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard. What could possibly go wrong? An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin…and not, y’know, die or anything.  Fans of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One will find a lot to enjoy in this book, and the entire Magic 2.0 series!

Summer Staff Selections!

Now that summer is definitely, apparently (?) upon us, it’s time once again for the Free-For-All to share with you some of our lovely staff’s selections for summer reading!

We are a staff of diverse reading/listening/viewing habits, which makes these posts so much fun.  There is such a wide range of books and media that our staff enjoy that there is bound to be something in here to help make your summer that much more entertaining!  And so, without further ado, here is our fourth round of Staff Selections:

From the Upstairs Office:

Burning Your Bridges by Angela Carter

Angela Carter produced a remarkable range of work over the course of her life, ranging from essays to criticism to fiction. But it is in her short stories that her extraordinary talents—as a fabulist, feminist, social critic, and weaver of tales—are most penetratingly evident. This volume presents Carter’s considerable legacy of short fiction gathered from published books, and includes early and previously unpublished stories. From reflections on jazz and Japan, through vigorous refashionings of classic folklore and fairy tales, to stunning snapshots of modern life in all its tawdry glory, we are able to chart the evolution of Carter’s marvelous, magical vision.

From the Reference Desk:


Let’s Be Still by The Head & the Heart

Fans of Fleet Foxes (or those looking for something a little more accessible), or Mumford and Sons will surely find plenty to enjoy in this second studio album from this Seattle-based indie rock group.  I can’t sell them as well as they can, so check out this video of their  performance of “Library Magic”, live on Brick Lane:

The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury brings wonders alive, whether it’s the chills and insight of Farenheit 451 to his incredible short stories.   But through it all, for Bradbury, the most bewitching force in the universe is human nature. In these eighteen startling tales unfolding across a canvas of tattooed skin, living cities take their vengeance, technology awakens the most primal natural instincts, and dreams are carried aloft in junkyard rockets. Provocative and powerful, The Illustrated Man is a kaleidoscopic blending of magic, imagination, and truth—as exhilarating as interplanetary travel, as maddening as a walk in a million-year rain, and as comforting as simple, familiar rituals on the last night of the world.

From the West Branch:

Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel

Quite simply, there is nothing that can, or ever will compare to Simon and Garfunkel.  As a young, angsty teenager who was saved by their music, I am wholeheartedly adding my voice to this particular recommendation.  This was the third album that Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel put out, and it’s the first one that really got them major attention.  It’s been named on Rolling Stone’s 500 best albums of all time, and features some of the most iconic of their songs, including ‘Scarborough Fair’ and ‘Homeward Bound’.