We’re getting ready for Somerville Reads 2016 – our next One City, One Book program, which will take place in the early Fall – and we need your input! Which of these books would you most like to read and discuss as a community? You can read about each book below (the reviews have been edited for length) then vote for your pick at the bottom of this post.
Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowel
What do you get when a woman who’s obsessed with death and U.S. history goes on vacation? This wacky, weirdly enthralling exploration of the first three presidential assassinations. Vowell (The Partly Cloudy Patriot), a contributor to NPR’s This American Life and the voice of teenage superhero Violet Parr in The Incredibles, takes readers on a pilgrimage of sorts to the sites and monuments that pay homage to Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley, visiting everything from grave sites and simple plaques (like the one in Buffalo that marks the place where McKinley was shot) to places like the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where fragments of Lincoln’s skull are on display. An expert tour guide, Vowell brings into sharp focus not only the figures involved in the assassinations, but the social and political circumstances that led to each-and she does so in the witty, sometimes irreverent manner that her fans have come to expect. (Publisher’s Weekly, starred review)
The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown
If Jesse Owens is rightfully the most famous American athlete of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, repudiating Adolf Hitler’s notion of white supremacy by winning gold in four events, the gold-medal-winning effort by the eight-man rowing team from the University of Washington remains a remarkable story. It encompasses the convergence of transcendent British boatmaker George Pocock; the quiet yet deadly effective UW men’s varsity coach, Al Ulbrickson; and an unlikely gaggle of young rowers who would shine as freshmen, then grow up together, a rough-and-tumble bunch, writes Brown, not very worldly, but earnest and used to hard work. (Booklist, starred review)
Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?: a Memoir by Roz Chast
New Yorker cartoonist Chast (Theories of Everything) had vaguely thought that “the end” came in three stages: feeling unwell, growing weaker over a month or so in bed, and dying one night. But when her parents passed 90, she learned that “the middle [stage] was a lot more painful, humiliating, long-lasting, complicated, and hideously expensive” than she imagined. Chast’s scratchy art turns out perfectly suited to capturing the surreal realities of the death process. In quirky color cartoons, handwritten text, photos, and her mother’s poems, she documents the unpleasant yet sometimes hilarious cycle of human doom. (Library Journal)
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
A resplendent novel from the author of The Sky Is Everywhere. Fraternal twins and burgeoning artists Jude and Noah are inseparable until puberty hits and they find themselves competing for boys, a spot at an exclusive art school, and their parents’ affections. Told in alternating perspectives and time lines, with Noah’s chapters taking place when they are 13 and Jude’s when they are 16, this novel explores how it’s the people closest to us who have the power to both rend us utterly and knit us together. (School Library Journal)
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
In a radical departure from her Jackson Brodie mystery series, Atkinson delivers a wildly inventive novel about Ursula Todd, born in 1910 and doomed to die and be reborn over and over again. She drowns, falls off a roof, and is beaten to death by an abusive husband but is always reborn back into the same loving family, sometimes with the knowledge that allows her to escape past poor decisions, sometimes not. Alternately mournful and celebratory, deeply empathic and scathingly funny, Atkinson is working at the very top of her game. An audacious, thought-provoking novel from one of our most talented writers. (Booklist, starred review)
The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
In 1692, the Massachusetts Bay Colony executed 14 women, 5 men, and 2 dogs for witchcraft. The ensuing terror cut a wide swath through the colony, affecting residents of all ages and educational backgrounds. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Schiff (Véra; Cleopatra) chronicles the surrounding events, painting a vivid portrait of a homogeneous, close-knit network of communities rapidly devolving into irrational paranoia. Proving, yet again, that truth is stranger than fiction, she mines existing records, extrapolates all the major characters, and pieces together the unfolding story in suitably dramatic fashion as neighbors, friends, and family members turn on one another. (Booklist, starred review).
Click here to vote for your choice!
Somerville Reads is a project that promotes literacy and community engagement by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss the same book.
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Our latest staff profile is of Donna, a self-described “jill of all trades” who can usually be found at the Central Library.
“When I first started working at the Library I was in the audio-visual department, which I really enjoyed. Now my duties include payroll, administrative services, coordinating schedules, and working at public desks in a variety of departments including circulation, the children’s and teen departments, and occasionally the East and West branches.
“I like many things about working at the Library, but what I enjoy most is working at the public desks. I love the regular interaction with our amazing patrons. Young, old, in-between, boomers and beyond, everyone comes for their own reasons. It’s a wonderful opportunity to provide service to the community.
“I also enjoy contributing a feature called “Bibliobites” to the blog now and then. I’m an avid reader, and publishing on the blog has gotten me lots of positive feedback from people who appreciate the posts. I’ve gotten some great book recommendations that way!
“In my free time I enjoy my vacation time in Maine and love the beach. I’m also RYT-200 certified to teach yoga to children and adults and am an enthusiastic gardener.”
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In light of ongoing national conversations surrounding this topic, the City of Somerville invites residents to share their experiences, concerns, and ideas on race and racism in a new round of its Community Conversations Series beginning on Monday, October 5th.
Organized by the Office of Health and Human Services, ‘conversations’ will be held in each of the City’s seven wards. Residents are invited to join these small-group discussions to share their experiences and learn from their neighbors.
“We, as a city, must do our part to move the national conversation on race forward,” said Mayor Curtatone. “Somerville can and should lead the way in showing how a city can reflect on itself and take action against injustice. I look forward to hearing from our residents and working with the community to ensure everyone has the same opportunities and is treated fairly.”
Each conversation will be led by a trained facilitator and light refreshments will be served. Child care and translations services will be provided by request to enable more Somerville residents to participate in the dialogue.
“Systemic racism is a complex challenge that will result in various approaches, initiatives, and public conversations,” said the Mayor. “We will be using this time to listen to the experiences of residents and use that feedback to guide us moving forward.”
Community Conversations are scheduled for:
- Mon., Oct. 5, 6-8 p.m., at Clarendon Hill Presbyterian Church, 155 Powder House Blvd.
- Tue., Oct. 6, 6-8 p.m., at the Visiting Nurses Association, 259 Lowell St.
- Wed., Oct. 7, 1-3 p.m., at First Church Somerville UCC, 89 College Ave.
- Wed, Oct. 14, 6-8 p.m., Greater Works Church of God, 12 Marshall St.
- Tue., Oct. 20, 12:30-2:30 p.m., at Cantina la Mexicana, 247 Washington St.
- Thur., Oct. 22, 10 a.m.-12 p.m., at Connexion, 149 Broadway
- Mon., Oct. 26, 6-8 p.m., at Arts at the Armory, 191 Highland Ave.
Feel free to walk in to any conversation – no reservations are necessary. However, if you will need child care, translations services, or any ADA accommodations, please RSVP to Director of Human Services Nancy Bacci at email@example.com or 617-625-6600 x2250.
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DeCordova Sculpture Park
It’s been a long time since we’ve reminded you about the variety of discount museum passes that your library offers, so here goes.
We’re fortunate to live in an area with a wealth of fascinating museums and other cultural attractions. Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Library, passes are available for Somerville residents to visit a number of these nearby treasures at a discount. Borrow a museum pass soon and discover inspiring worlds of artistic and natural beauty right on Somerville’s doorstep.
Museum of Science
Discount museum passes are available for:
Each pass is different in terms of the discount offered. For more information click here or call the Reference Department of the Library at (617) 623-5000 x2955.
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Thank you for your patience.
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We’ve had to close the East Branch Library due to an issue with the air conditioning. We apologize for the inconvenience and will let you know as soon as the branch opens again. In the meantime, lots of library goodness (and coolness!) is available at both the Central Library and the West Branch – please stop in!
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Our latest staff profile is of Kevin, who you will recognize if you’ve ever been to the second floor of the Central Library.
“I’m Kevin. First and foremost, I work at the reference desk answering questions for library users, trouble shooting computers, helping people find books, and suggesting books to people who aren’t sure what they want. I speak Spanish, so I often help Spanish-speaking patrons. I also select books for the Library in Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Chinese. I find it fascinating to see what’s being published in other countries.
“In the past couple of years I’ve co-written some grants for special projects. One of these a StoryCorps grant, and SPL was one of just ten libraries in the U.S. selected for a pilot project for StoryCorps in public libraries. It was really interesting and moving to listen to the various people who came to the Library with stories they wanted to share. I also helped the Library get an ALA/NEH grant to do programming on Islamic history and culture. I learned so much. My favorite event in that series was definitely our interfaith panel discussion. A Protestant minister, the former Imam of Boston, and a rabbi talked about the similarities and differences of their faiths. I never would have thought hearing an imam and a rabbi joking together would make me laugh so much.
“In addition to my other duties I work in the cataloging department one morning a week and that’s really cool because I love books and I get to see every one that comes into the Library.
“I’m also in charge of the local history room, which is a real privilege because Somerville has such a rich and quirky history. George Washington and Marshmallow Fluff – who can beat that?
“In my spare time I read, do yoga, cook, spend time with friends, and review books for the Christian Science Monitor.”
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As you may know, the West Branch Library is going to be renovated and we’d like to get community input on the design that’s currently under consideration. Please take a few minutes to check out the website and leave your comments – we appreciate your efforts to help us make a West Branch that will serve the Somerville community well!
You can view the plans by clicking here.
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Welcome to the first in a series of short articles about the Library’s staff. First up: Ann (whose face is familiar to anyone who uses the Children’s Room at the Central Library) tells you all about her job – and a few other things too!
“I love my job! I love being with the kids. I’ve worked in a few different departments here at the Library, but this is the most rewarding. It’s hard work, but sometimes we’re having so much fun it feels like play. I tell stories, do programs, and when I do a storytime and watch someone fall in love with the same book that I love – my heart just melts. There’s nothing like it!
“I also love reading children’s books and recommending them to kids who I know will enjoy them – it’s fun matching kids we know with books they’ll like.
“Other things I enjoy are vacationing at the beach, shopping, foreign films, and puzzles. I’ve been dancing ballet since the age of three and I still enjoy going to dance classes twice a week.
“Stop by the Children’s Room to say hi anytime!”
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We’re still getting responses to our question about how the Library has impacted your lives. Some are short and simple, like this one:
The Library has taught me the invaluable lesson of research and how to learn something new by gathering the books to collect and learn. Whether it be the law, electrical, carpentry, computer knowledge, etc. And of course the simple pleasure of reading a good book.
and this one:
It’s great to be able to request books and DVDs through the Minuteman Network and have it delivered to the closest Library to my house. It helps as I’m on a budget and couldn’t afford to buy all that I want. Also, we walk our dogs on the grounds.
Others are filled with detail, like this one:
Each time I visit the Somerville Central Library I discover a book on a topic that I never would have found anywhere else but in this very well-stocked, fabulous library. I have learned of many different cultures and their ways of life. This promotes understanding of other peoples, which certainly helps us to live and work harmoniously with those of different cultural backgrounds. I’ve discovered novels, short stories, biographies, and cookbooks of many cultures, which has educated me profoundly about our varied world. I’m very thankful to our library for the opportunity to gain such knowledge.
The library also sponsors holiday-themed events, such as the “Snowflake Workshop” instructed by Thy in December, before Christmas. Both young and old learn, in a relaxed and joyful environment, how to make colorful snowflakes based on Asian art-forms. In his workshops, people from all walks of life work cooperatively in fabricating lovely holiday decorations. Refreshments are often included as well.
Whether it’s fiction, science, or politics, the library has helped greatly to educate me about the surrounding world. I learned many things I never knew about prior to coming here, although I’ve been to college!
We love them all!
Would like to share your story (and qualify for a chance to win a $25 gift card)? Email Glenn Ferdman, Director of Libraries, or click here to fill out a short online form. You can also fill out a paper form at any SPL location.
We’re looking forward to reading your story soon!
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