For some reason, the library’s book discussion books this year seemed to have been dominated by World War II historical fiction. I didn’t mean that to happen when I chose the books, but somehow that’s what we ended up with. Many of them were good — TheAlice Network in particular — but I find I need to read books that are less stressful now.
If you are finding yourself looking for books to relax with, try some of these:
Anything by Terry Pratchett: his Discworld books are funny and full of endearing characters.
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman. This has been made into a series on Amazon Prime.
Many classic children’s books: the Harry Potter series, Secret Garden, Wrinkle in Time.
Most books by Jane Austen, but Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion in particular.
Anything by Carl Hiaasen. His very crazy criminals, politicians and environmentalists in Florida will take you to another world.
The Martian by Andy Weir. That really takes you to another world.
Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. One of the staff favorites and stands up to a re-read.
A good mystery! Since many mysteries have a definite conclusion and the bad guy usually gets his/her comeuppance in the end, these books make a good stress-reliever. Agatha Christie, Louise Penny, Spencer Quinn, and Tony Hillerman are some authors I would recommend. Stay away from those Nordic mysteries!
Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies Detective Series — especially the audio. Lisette Lecat captures the voices of the main characters perfectly.
Some of the classic westerns would also be relaxing for the same reasons as the mysteries.
Gayle G. finds thriller series relaxing. Maybe it’s because you know the hero will return in the next book!
While not all of Bill Bryson’s books are funny, several of them are. A Walk in the Woods and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid are good reads.
As part of our 125th Anniversary celebration, we are asking people to share their memories of our library. It could be just a note or letter, a poem or an essay, pictures or even a photo of your family showing their favorite books. I’m working on gathering documents of various activities we’ve done at the library such as our One Book/Town-Wide Reads, the North Needler activities, our Book plates we’ve placed in books in memory of particular patrons, as well as some of the information I’ve found while I was updating the history of the library.
We are looking for photos for events such as:
Act-Up Reader’s Theater that Miss Eunice started
Art work from one or more of the Pastel Workshops we and the Cultural Council have sponsored.
Every month the library has several displays of books, audios, and dvds to entice people to check them out. Browsing the books on the shelves throughout the library can be overwhelming, even in a small library like ours. It is easy to miss good fiction and nonfiction once they are no longer “new.” Displays allow older books to find new readers.
Choosing a theme for the display is actually the hardest part. For the big display near the elevator, I need to be able to make a list of at least 50 items to keep it full for a month. Some themes are yearly repeats: Debut fiction in January, Blind Date for February, Thrillers for sometime in the summer. Often I think of some word that might appear in several titles. This month I saw the Easter eggs in a bowl downstairs and I remembered how much I enjoyed Easter Egg Hunts. So the theme is “A’ Hunting We Will Go.” There were plenty of books with titles or subtitles that featured hunt, hunting, hunter, hunted.
The smaller “Around the Staircase” display only needs 20-25 books so I can choose themes that are more focused. This month we are featuring books with libraries in them because April 7-13 is National Library Week. You may not know this, but many librarians are mystery fans, and many mystery writers have set their series in libraries — usually with cats!
After we did a serious weeding of the nonfiction books last summer, we created a new display space near the Large Print books. This usually features nonfiction titles and is a very small display. Since April is Poetry Month, we are displaying some of our poetry collection.
As we prepare for events for our 125th anniversary, I have been going through the Town Annual Reports and the Library section of the report. For many years the report includes the circulation by month and by category. In the 1940s the report emphasized how much the nonfiction books circulation was increasing as people were preparing for new types of jobs and for the war effort. This is from the Town Annual Report of 1941:
I wondered if this didn’t show the bias of the librarian (or whoever made the purchases) in favor of nonfiction and practical education instead of “recreational” reading. So I went looking to see what goes out in our library now. We certainly purchase more fiction than nonfiction in the adult section as you can tell by the New Book shelves. As I write this 37% of our new books are checked out. Is that because those books have the most “buzz”, the shelves are easy to browse, or are people looking for the newest by their favorite authors?
I could look at the numbers of our books, dvds, audiobooks and ebooks that are checked out, but, really, because we borrow books from other libraries in the SAILS system and even items from other Massachusetts libraries, that would not give an accurate picture of what our people really are reading.
So I’m left with the conundrum: does nonfiction go out less because we don’t order as much or because people now get more of their information from the internet, television and even youtube (which seems to have replaced cookbooks and many craft books.) Our dvd collection goes out a lot, which counts as “recreational.” If we bought more, more would go out (but we certainly don’t have the space.)
This year those of you who like downloadable books and audios can still take part in the Blind Date with a Book in February.
Below you will read a description of the book. If it looks interesting, just click the link and you will be sent to Overdrive. Unlike the wrapped Blind Date, you will get to see the cover of the book before you download. The numbers do not correspond to the Blind Date display, but the descriptions do.
Place: Earth. Time: Now. Over the last half-billion years, there have been five mass extinctions, when the diversity of life on earth suddenly and dramatically contracted. What — or who — will be the cause of the sixth? Ebook and Audio.
Place: Colorado Time: Now. With beautiful prose, the author lets you into the lives of people facing death, loss, parent and child estrangement and other aspects of real life. But they take the time to enjoy the “precious ordinary.” Ebook
Place: Earth and space. Time: now. True story of an American astronaut who had spent over 500 days in space. Ebook
Place: Dublin, Ireland. Time: 1960s. Being a woman is not easy in these times. An inspiring story of friendship, hope, and unyielding courage. Ebook
Place: US and the Moon. Time: 50 years ago. Whether you remember the events in this book, or you are interested in space, this author does a great job setting the context of the time and the accomplishment of the men and women who helped us leave Earth. Ebook and Audio
Place: America. Time: 1908. A mission that encompasses dreadnought battleships, Teddy Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, Chinatown, Hell’s Kitchen, and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Ebook
Place: United States Time: Now. Two close lawyer friends are on opposite sides of a very public murder trial. Throughout the book, you are left wondering who you can believe as the victim, defendant and all of the witnesses have something to hide…do the defense and prosecuting attorney’s also have hidden secrets or agendas? Ebook and Audio
Place: Phoenix and Los Angeles. Time: 2004. Kids from the desert who had never even seen the ocean build an underwater robot for a competition. A story about overcoming insurmountable odds and four young men who proved they were among the most patriotic and talented Americans in this country. True story. Ebook
Place: New England and the Grand Banks. Time: End of last century. True story of swordfishing and sailing. Ebook
Place: New York and Appalachian North Carolina. Time: Now and beginning of 20th century. You’ll travel between two time periods and experience the lives and loves of two women who are broken but fighting for their place. The setting is so rich you can see every word. Ebook
Place: United States. Time: 1950s. A taut and tortured story about one man’s desperate search for himself in a world disfigured by war. Ebook and Audio
Place: Alaska and Oregon. Time: End of 19th century. Travel where few white men have gone before and experience the heartache of absence from your loved ones and home. Ebook and Audio
Place: Boston and the sea. Time: Now. For readers who enjoy learning about animals or just love animals or are just curious about life. Ebook
Place: France. Time: WWII. An American fighter pilot shot down, a woman turned prostitute as a way to survive, the French resistance — all of these players need each other, but can they trust each other? Ebook
Place: Pennsylvania. Time: Now. If you like romantic books where the author draws you into the story, placing you right into the scene with the characters then this might be the date for you. Ebook
Place: Scotland. Time:?? The annual Edinburgh festival draws six unique and vibrant individuals, who all come together to follow their dreams. Audio
Place: London. Time: Current. Weird, wacky, and on the wild side of wonderful. The author is a character in this mystery as he records a great detective trying to solve a strange murder. Ebook and Audio
Place: Nantucket. Time: Recent. The book is about autism, but also about the amazing sisterhood of women, about rocky marriages, grief, feeling interminably isolated, and what it takes to make us feel wanted, happy, secure, and loved. Ebook
Place: London. Time: Current. A murder without a body? Or is something else going on? What secrets are the neighbors hiding? Ebook
Place: Northumbria, England. Time: Current. A cold case involving corruption, trafficking, drugs, blackmail, abuse, adoption, and murder that may just end up hitting a little too close to our detective’s home. Ebook
Place: Norway and Denmark. Time: Now. Two parallel stories: one of two mysterious deaths and the other of the strained relationship between mother and son. How will the stories intersect? Ebook
Place: England. Time: Now. A cozy mystery with jealousy, greed, missing heirlooms, a SECRET ROOM, drugs and two deaths. Ebook
Place: Atlanta with a side trip to Seattle. Time: Now. If you like high-emotion, roller coaster of a story, try this date. Then come to Maggie to talk about the ending! Ebook and Audio
Place:?? Time: Now. A complicated set of characters with complicated backstories. While this story is weighted with a heavy sadness, it also has equal parts dry humor and wit. Ebook and Audio
Place: England. Time: Well that is the question. If you could do it over, and over, and over, and over, what would you do differently? Ebook and Audio.
Our “big” display for December features the gift of books. We’ve wrapped both children’s and young adult books and labeled them with a descriptive teaser. The books can be read by adults, by children or read aloud to the whole family. As adults we often forget that books that are shelved in the children’s room are good books and can be appreciated whatever your age is.
Several of the library book discussion participants have recommended Kate DiCamillo books as their favorite for our Book Potluck. Over Thanksgiving dinner this year we got talking about books and my sister was trying to remember a book she had liked reading to her kids. After going through suggestions and her describing more about the book — a toy rabbit gets passed from person to person — we realized it was The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo. This was the very book that had been recommended to me! Other DiCamillo books include Because of Winn Dixie, Tale of Despereaux and Flora and Ulysses. Here’s DiCamillo’s take on reading: Reading should not be presented to children as a chore, a duty. It should be offered as a gift.
We suggest these books to you as a gift you may want to share with your family:
Auxier, Jonathan The Night Gardener
Barber, Antonia Catkin
Bradley, Kimberly Brubaker The War That Saved My Life
Feiffer, Jules Bark, George
Foreman, Michael Memories of Childhood
Myers, Walter Dean Patrol
Peck, Richard A Long Way from Chicago
Pinkney, Andrea A Poem for Peter
Pratchett, Terry The Truckers
Thompson, Kay Eloise
Wood, Audrey King Bidgood's In the Bathtub
Eunice and I were talking about the number of sets of Little House on the Prairie books that were donated this year. Her daughter loved that series when she was young, but when she read them as a mother, she couldn’t stand them. I reread some Nancy Drew books — I used to get one for my birthday and one for Christmas for several years — and I was disappointed in the writing and the characters. Which books did you read and love as a child would you still like as an adult?
My mother read the Christopher Robin/Winnie the Pooh stories and poems to us from books she had gotten as a child. I loved them then and I loved them when I read them to my children. The same goes for Kipling’s Just So Stories. I still hear my mother’s voice when I read them. I loved The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett when I was in elementary school, but I don’t remember if I have read it as an adult. I think the Harry Potter books will be loved by the adults who loved them as children, just as the Lord of the Rings series still appeals to the teens who read it when it first came out.
Will most of the Scholastic Book Fair series — Junie B Jones, The Babysitter’s Club, Goosebumps — still be “readable” by the adults who loved them as children? I read all of the Childhood of Famous American series (mostly the ones about girls/women.) “The Childhood of Famous Americans series, sixty-five years old in 1997, chronicles the early years of famous American men and women in an accessible manner. Each book is faithful in spirit to the values and experiences that influenced the person’s development. History is fleshed out with fictionalized details, and conversations have been added to make the stories come alive to today’s reader, but every reasonable effort has been made to make the stories consistent with the events, ethics, and character of their subjects.” In other words, they were historical fiction. Nowadays children’s biographies stick more closely to the facts.
Which books did you love as a child? Have you read them as an adult?