During lunch I was reading a book industry newsletter and came across this marvelous quote from Sarah McNally, a NYC bookshop owner:
“Never forget the wonks, and the weirdos, and the people who will be delighted by this book that they never could even have imagined could exist and they will find on your shelf.”
I love that. And it sums up my philosophy of library collections. Not every book on a shelf has to be popular. An individual book doesn’t take up that much space. So what if it doesn’t get checked out frequently? There’s always somebody who will want that book but just doesn’t know it yet. Keeping it on the shelf means keeping alive the possibility of that delightful moment when someone finds a book they didn’t know existed and realizes they can’t wait to start reading it.
It’s great that patrons can call the library and request books be put on hold for them, or ask for books online. But if that’s the only way they get books they’re depriving themselves of surprise. They’ll never know that moment.
Watertown author Jan David Blais will be appearing at the central branch of the Somerville Public Library (79 Highland Ave.) this Thursday (May 23) from 6 to 8 p.m. to discuss his tome “Twentieth Century Limited.” Lovers of historical fiction, war novels, journalism, and politics, take note! And, if all this wasn’t enough, it’s a bit of a mystery as well… follow main character Paul Bernard during his time fighting in the Vietnam War, his work as a reporter, and his criticism of George W. Bush.
An excerpt from the book:
“Paul Bernard reporting from lower Manhattan, September 11, 2001.
In my earpiece information was straggling in. There was talk of hijackings, a terrorist attack. I thought again of bin Laden, of our missed opportunities. A few minutes later, a plane reported crashed into the Pentagon, fires raging. What other scenes of devastation, I wondered. No mention, but buildings all over are being evacuated. The White House, U.N. headquarters, Sears Tower. U.S. airspace is shut down. Has anyone claimed responsibility? What’s happening with our air defense? Where is George Bush and what is he doing?
At 9:59 the screams begin. “The building’s coming down!” “THE BUILDING’S COMING DOWN!!”
Slowly, from the top, the South Tower starts to settle on itself, falling… falling… a grinding, screeching cry, the great building in its death throes. I glance at Charlie. His eyes fill with tears but still he mans his camera. An enormous cloud of dust and debris rushes forward, obscuring the lower stories of the doomed building, then settles, flooding across the plaza, into the street, up, down, across Church Street… ten, fifteen stories high! A maniacal blizzard, thousands of papers borne aloft, tens of thousands. “As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,” I murmur, beside myself with horror.”
Check out the first book (yes, there’s two) through the SPL catalog here. And join Blais for a talk and book signing. There will be light refreshments.
Contact Eileen Fontenot at email@example.com for more information.
Steven King-ophiles will enjoy this creepy keeper. The premise here surrounds Ig Perrish, a privileged man with a long held secret past who wakes up one morning after a drunken all-nighter with a throbbing headache and upon looking in the mirror sees his reflection….altered to include satanic horns coming out of his head. The “horns” are tuned into a “frequency” that causes everyone that Ig meets to purge unfiltered their innermost thoughts, secrets, and desires and unlocks for Ig the real truth behind the death of his girlfriend Merrin Williams, years earlier. If you get hooked on the style of this unsettling read like I did you will want to continue right on with one of Hill’s prior novels, Heart-Shaped Box. Imagine, you’re an uber wealthy collector of the macabre and your personal assistant gets an email sent directly to you with an offer to purchase something that you just can’t resist …. it’s a ghost. Judas Coyne has begun to see his rock-star glory days fading into the past but this could be a way to re-ignite his popularity if he is the highest bidder on a black funeral suit that – according to the item description - the ghost is attached to and will follow wherever the suit goes. This is a “keep your light on” fast paced novel filled with suspense and horror….
This might very well be your first “beach read” recommendation! Ann Leary crafts a fun, gossipy, novel about realtor Hildy Good. The story is set in the town of Wendover, Massachusetts (if you’re familiar with the North Shore, there are references to “fictitious” locations, and some of them may have readers living in Wenham and Andover smiling.) I enjoyed learning more about lobster fishing and the “horsey” Hunt Club characters who make the story a quick read that currently has close to 300 holds…get on that list!
I love to bake as a means of relaxing and enjoy sharing the results. I really enjoyed this particular cookbook because, for those who bake, you will have the majority of the ingredients needed for most of the recipes on hand (nothing rankles me more than a cookbook whose recipes include a variety of far-fetched or cost prohibitive ingredients that you only need 1/8 tsp of)! My favorite chapters included the “Buckles, Cobblers, and Crisps” and the “Cookies and Bars” (yummy!) I look at it this way, if you can read a cookbook and almost taste the results, it’s a weight conscious cook’s dream! Most of the recipes have some connection to New England, so there are explanations and references to those things familiar (Grunts and Slumps for example) and a re-introduction to things like Easy or One Bowl Cakes. New England is a rich blend of ethnicities and there are some family favorites like biscotti, scones, and artisan breads and the King Arthur Bakers have a knack for teaching the reader with a no nonsense approach peppered “how-to”s and real kitchen “tips”.
Last Friday the Boston area entrepreneur, designer, and creator of the t-shirt empire Johnny Cupcakes came to the library. Johnny “Cupcakes” Earle delivered a talk focusing on hard work and the ways he has succeeded to truly create an experience around his brand. His talk detailed early business ventures (really early…meaning gradeschool) selling candy and learning about the benefits of buying wholesale – to later striking like lightning with the cupcake and crossbones logo that has become his trademark. I mean that literally… the logo and the phrase “do more of what makes you happy” are under copyright…
Johnny’s message of giving 110% to your projects, learning to delegate, and doing the little things right was inspiring and brutally honest. It was fantastic to see a packed auditorium with such an age range. Many were fans of the brand before but also great to see some younger attendees who are now emboldened to create their own ventures.
This was the fifth in a general series of design talks the Friends of the Somerville Public have organized, and a huge thanks goes to Johnny for adding us to his schedule. We have planned this for almost a year and was a real treat. Must also thank Eli Epstein of Union Press in Somerville for creating the handsome tickets/souvenirs that we used. - James Fox
To learn more about the Friends please find us online at
At the Central Library we’ve compiled a display of staff picks: books we find fascinating, absorbing, or just plain fun. So if you’ve been looking for something to read, consider (among other titles):
The Plot Against America by Philip Roth is an alternative history of the twentieth century (Lindbergh defeats Roosevelt in the 1940 election) that the NYT called “sinister, vivid, dreamlike, preposterous and, at the same time, creepily plausible.”
Gods, Graves and Scholars by C.W. Ceram is a high points history of archaeaology that covers all the spine-tingling moments of discovery: Carter’s first look into Tutankahmen’s tomb, Stephens stumbling upon Maya ruins, Champillion cracking the hieroglyphs, to name a few.
The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn’t Want You to Read. The title speaks for itself.
Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin. A novel about an ordinary, albeit quirky New Yorker that The Christian Science Monitor called, “as delightful as finding a free spot in Times Square.”
The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen. In 1973 Matthiessen accompanied a field biologist into the Himalayas in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard and to visit the Lama of the Shey Monastery. The Snow Leopard is “a magical book, a kind of lunar paradigm and map of the sacred” (The Nation).
What do the words algebra, benzene, and cipher have in common? They’re all derived from Arabic. Who was the first scientist to posit that light was composed of particles? Newton? Think again. In the centuries after the collapse of the Roman Empire, when much of the knowledge of antiquity was lost to Western Europe, science and learning thrived in the Arab world, which not only preserved knowledge of the classical world but also made original breakthroughs in chemistry, physics, mathematics and astronomy.
The House of Wisdom is the story of this crucial chapter in world history. It’s one of the books provided to SPL by the NEH Muslim Journeys grant. On Thursday, May 30, at 7 pm in the Central Library, Tufts University professor Malik Mufti will lead a discussion of this fascinating book.
There are a number of copies in the network, so place your requests now.
The last post I made was just before New Year’s: the weather was cold, and I was thinking about hot chocolate and holiday recipes. Now, with April just starting the weather is (slowly) getting warmer and I’m starting to think about ice coffees and starting my garden. I’ll be honest, I’ve never had much of a green thumb, but with help from a few good gardening books, my family and I have been able to create a nice outdoor space, and grow a range of flowers and vegetables from calla lilies and hydrangeas to tomatoes and lots of herbs. Check out books in the 635 call number range for a wide variety of gardening tips and techniques, and don’t forget that you can also borrow ebooks like Urban Gardening for Dummies on your tablet, smartphone, laptop or even desktop, using the library’s Overdrive® system.
Summer might still seem far off, but now is the time to start thinking about summer vacation. Whether you are thinking of a get-away to some distant place, something a little more local, or a staycation, the library has plenty of resources to help you plan and make the most of your time off. Look in the travel section (917 call number range, or use the catalog to find ebooks) for guides to help you plan tours, map routes, and choose places to stay and dine. While you’re at it, you might want to check out the library’s Mango Languages® — an electronic resource for language learning. Whether you want to go in-depth or just learn a few phrases, this system can help you get started. And if you’re staying local, keep an eye on the library events calendar for ideas to keep you and the kids busy, and don’t forget that you can reserve passes to most of the area museums through the library.
As I said, it’s been a few weeks since my last post, and it’s amazing how much has happened at the Somerville Public Library since then! I want to wrap up with a big congratulations to Library Director Maria Carpenter and her staff for all of their accomplishments so far this year: the Somerville Public Library is one of only ten libraries nationwide to be awarded a grant to act as a StoryCorps hub, allowing patrons to record oral histories to be archived at the Library of Congress. In addition, East Branch librarian Marilyn Eastwood was named a 2013 Woman of Excellence by the Somerville Commission for Women. The library has also launched the Awesome Box project—let the library know what you think is awesome, and see what others have recommended!—and beat out Arlington, Belmont, and Lexington for the largest increase in new library card registrations in February- over a 300% increase from last year!! So put those cards to good use, and check out what’s happening at the library!
I didn’t submit my suggestions in time to be included in the last post but I’ll throw a few out there now. I recently saw Woody Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery , which was a lot of fun. Woody re-teams with his erstwhile muse Diane Keaton, and the inspired addition of Alan Alda and Anjelica Huston makes the whole thing even better. Carol and Ted (Keaton and Alda) are sure that their elderly acquaintance Paul (Jerry Adler) has committed the perfect murder. Hard-boiled author Marcia Fox (Huston) jumps into their bumbling investigation with both feet, but Larry (Allen) thinks they’re all nuts. Extra: before they were famous fun! Look for Zach Braff (aka J. D. Dorian) and Aida Turturro (aka Janice Soprano) in blink-and-you-miss-them roles.
Some of the old sitcoms make me laugh too, and The Dick Van Dyke Show has to be one of the best. The show features great writing (much of it by Carl Reiner) and an incredibly talented cast. Check out this clip for some crazy 60′s dancing by Buddy, Sally, and the rest of the gang, including a 25 year old Mary Tyler Moore. As for Dick Van Dyke’s performance, I have no words, only a question – how does he do that?
After last week, a lot of us could probably use a break from reality: a few minutes or a few hours of not thinking about the horrors of last week. I asked my colleagues what makes them laugh, cheers them up when they’re down, or just makes them forget their worries. Here are a few suggestions.
East Branch Director Marilyn suggests A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole. I have to second that: Confederacy is one of the craziest, best-written pieces of inspired lunacy that I have ever read. To get a sense of the book and what it means to so many readers, check out the foreword by the writer who shepherded the manuscript of the novel to publication, Walker Percy.
Marilyn also recommends Cold Comfort Farm, a 1932 comic novel by English writer Stella Gibbons. She’s also partial to the 1995 film adaptation, starring Kate Beckinsale and Stephen Fry.
We’re all stunned and saddened by yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon. The attacks were cruel and senseless. The only bright moment yesterday was when people ran towards the blasts to apply tourniquets or help people on to their feet.
It’s nice when it’s possible to be proud of human beings.
Actually helping others is one of the best things someone can do in a situation like this, not just for the inherent decency of doing so, but also because it reminds us we’re not helpless.