Books for Somerville Reads 2014 have arrived and are now available at all SPL locations!
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. The book that has been selected for 2014 is Dark Tide: the Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo. A companion children’s book has also been selected: The Great Molasses Flood: Boston, 1919 by Deborah Kops. Both of these authors will be visiting the Library in September. Details about the author visits and other Somerville Reads events will be coming soon.
In the meantime, stop by one of the SPL Libraries, pick up your book, and start reading! And to get in the spirit, why not try a molasses recipe or two? We will be printing out some recipes for you to try in the coming weeks – they’ll be available near the display of Somerville Reads books. Slow Cooked Boston Baked Beans, anyone?
The Art Forger to be discussed at events throughout September.
SOMERVILLE – Mayor Joseph Curtatone and Maria Carpenter, Director of the Somerville Public Libraries, announced today that the City of Somerville will launch its fourth “One City, One Book” campaign in September 2013. 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. The book selected for the 2013 project is The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro, a page-turner of a novel that deals with the largest unsolved art heist in history. The robbery took place on March 18, 1990, when thirteen works of art worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Claire Roth, a struggling young artist with her own scandalous past, is about to discover that that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye.
Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting-one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum-in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting-the one that had been hanging for one hundred years at the Gardner-is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery.
Claire’s search for the truth about the painting’s origins leads her into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life. B. A. Shapiro’s razor-sharp writing and rich plot twists make The Art Forger an absorbing literary thriller that treats us to three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. It’s a dazzling novel about seeing – and not seeing – the secrets that lie beneath the canvas.
“The Art Forger is a fascinating read that mixes local history with fine arts, thievery, and science,” Carpenter said. “We are absolutely delighted to feature this New York Times bestseller and present author Barbara Shapiro as our special guest at the Central Library on Wednesday, September 18th at 7:00 p.m.This event is free, refreshments will be served, and all are invited to attend.” You can register for the event online at http://bashapiro.eventbrite.com.
The Central Library will also host a free screening of Stolen, a documentary by Rebecca Dreyfus, on Wednesday, September 25th at 7:00 p.m.Stolen is a full exploration of the Gardner robbery and the fascinating, disparate characters involved: from the 19th century Grand Dame Isabella Gardner to the 17th century Dutch masters to a 21st century terrorist organization with a penchant for stealing Vermeers.
Copies of The Art Forger in a variety of formats are available for check out at all Somerville Public Library locations.
The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro is our book for this year’s Somerville Reads. Inspired by the 1990 Gardner Museum heist, the Art Forger is the story of Claire Roth, a struggling young artist who makes a meager living painting reproductions. Her luck seemingly changes when an art dealer offers a very large fee and a one-woman show at a hip gallery in return for copying a painting that bears an unsettling resemblance to one of the missing Gardner works. Is it authentic? And why is someone willing to offer Claire so much in return for a copy of one painting? Is she being asked to copy, or forge?
Soon we’re in the middle of an intriguing, twisting multilayered plot that takes us not only into the artistic underworld but also into the life of Isabella Stewart Gardner herself.
This is a novel that grapples with unsolved mysteries and philosophical conundrums. As Claire says, “People see what they want to see.” If a museum unknowingly buys a forged Degas, and all its visitors think they’re looking at a Degas, for all practical purposes haven’t they seen a Degas? The Art Forger is a compulsively readable mystery that grapples with the most profound of questions: what’s real?
We’re planning many great events and discussions, including a visit by the author herself on Sept. 18. Stay tuned….
We’re getting ready for Somerville Reads 2013 – 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, then vote for your pick at the bottom of this post.
The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
On March 18, 1990, thirteen works of art worth over $500 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It remains the largest unsolved art heist in history, and Claire Roth, a struggling young artist, is about to discover that there’s more to this crime than meets the eye. Claire makes her living reproducing famous works of art for a popular online retailer. Desperate to improve her situation, she lets herself be lured into a Faustian bargain with Aiden Markel, a powerful gallery owner. She agrees to forge a painting—one of the Degas masterpieces stolen from the Gardner Museum—in exchange for a one-woman show in his renowned gallery. But when the long-missing Degas painting is delivered to Claire’s studio, she begins to suspect that it may itself be a forgery. Claire’s search for the truth about the painting’s origins leads her into a labyrinth of deceit where secrets hidden since the late nineteenth century may be the only evidence that can now save her life. B. A. Shapiro’s razor-sharp writing and rich plot twists make The Art Forger an absorbing literary thriller that treats us to three centuries of forgers, art thieves, and obsessive collectors. It’s a dazzling novel about seeing—and not seeing—the secrets that lie beneath the canvas. [publisher's description]
Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
This is Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Boo’s (The New Yorker) first book. She takes a look at the stark lives of the inhabitants of Annawadi, a slum across from Mumbai’s Sahar Airport, to reveal the wrenching inequality and urban poverty still endemic in India’s democracy. Using recorded and videotaped conversations, interviews, documents, and the assistance of interlocutors, Boo profiles the lives of some of the slum dwellers from November 2007 to March 2011. There is Abdul, a young adult scavenger with a profitable trade in recyclables. The one-legged Fatima’s home is divided from Abdul’s by merely a sheet. Readers follow the treacherous paths of these and other lives. A fateful chain of events leads to a criminal case against Abdul and his family. Boo presents glimpses of the corrupt police who feed on those without political power or education. She claims she witnessed most of the events described in the book. A tour de force, this book is powerful yet far from harrowing. Highly recommended. – Library Journal
The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken
The year is 1950, and in a small town on Cape Cod twenty-six-year-old librarian Peggy Cort feels like love and life have stood her up. Until the day James Carlson Sweatt–the “over-tall” eleven-year-old boy who’s talk of the town-walks into her library and changes her life forever. Two misfits whose lonely paths cross at the circulation desk, Peggy and James are odd candidates for friendship, but nevertheless they find their lives entwined in ways that neither one could have predicted. And as James grows–six foot five at age twelve, then seven feet, then eight–so does Peggy’s heart and their most singular romance. Named one of the 20 Best Young American Novelists by Granta, Elizabeth McCracken is a writer of fabulous gifts. The Giant’s House, her first novel, is an unforgettably tender and quirky novel about the strength of choosing to love in a world that offers no promises, and no guarantees. [publisher's description]
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
The first immortal human cells, code-named HeLa, have flourished by the trillions in labs all around the world for more than five decades, making possible the polio vaccine, chemotherapy, and many more crucial discoveries. But where did the HeLa cells come from? Science journalist Skloot spent 10 years arduously researching the complex, tragic, and profoundly revealing story of Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African American mother of five who came to Johns Hopkins with cervical cancer in 1951, and from whom tumor samples were taken without her knowledge or that of her family. Henrietta died a cruel death and was all but forgotten, while her miraculous cells live on, growing with mythological intensity. Skloot travels to tiny Clover, Virginia; learns that Henrietta’s family tree embraces black and white branches; becomes close to Henrietta’s daughter, Deborah; and discovers that although the HeLa cells have improved countless lives, they have also engendered a legacy of pain, a litany of injustices, and a constellation of mysteries. Writing with a novelist’s artistry, a biologist’s expertise, and the zeal of an investigative reporter, Skloot tells a truly astonishing story of racism and poverty, science and conscience, spirituality and family driven by a galvanizing inquiry into the sanctity of the body and the very nature of the life force. – Booklist
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
In his most compelling chronicle to date, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner
Tracy Kidder investigates a far harsher world in the company of Paul Farmer, a radical
public health reformer devoted to providing medical care to the poor, mainly in Haiti. A
Harvard-educated medical anthropologist, TB expert, and MacArthur genius gifted with an unshakable moral imperative, an ardent imagination, and limitless energy, compassion, and chutzpah, Farmer created Partners in Health, a renegade yet hugely influential organization. A powerful presence, this uncompromising visionary is too spectacularly impressive not to be disconcerting, and Kidder shares his puzzlement over and occasional discomfort with this charismatic and tirelessly giving man who eschews personal comfort to care for the underdogs of the underdogs. As Kidder accompanies Farmer on his exhausting and risky daily routines and epic travels, he parses the cruel realities of deep poverty and the maddening politics of international health care. Most importantly, Kidder portrays a genuinely inspired and heroic individual, whose quest for justice will make every reader examine her or his life in a new light. – Booklist
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.
My parents say I fell in love with food at first bite, and I must say it is a romance that has not faded. I consumed any and all comestibles in my path, earning myself the embarrassing, but accurate nickname, “bottomless pit,” bestowed upon me by a friend’s dad. As soon as I was allowed to be alone in the kitchen, my proficiency at eating segued quite naturally into “cooking.” At age seven, I had convinced myself I would be a master chef/part-time firefighter/paleontologist/first woman in major-league baseball (I was a somewhat clueless, but avid opponent to gender roles–darn them if they made me wear a dress!) and as pots and pans were more readily available and less dangerous than house fires and dinosaur bones, I started to explore the kitchen.
My first creations were “nibbles.” I was truly a pioneer in the field of modern culinary arts, and through my research had concluded that if you cut up an orange (or carrot or onion or tofu) into very small pieces, they tasted better, and could be distributed as “nibbles.” Once I began to use the oven under the police-like watch of my parents (couldn’t they leave me alone to my art?!?!), I began to bake, and would pour over recipes for pies, breads, cookies, and cakes.
Now, for most of my life, I have held the misconception that nonfiction is boring. As a preteen, I occasionally took out a book about World War II or science experiments, but generally stayed firmly planted in the fiction section. In high school, I read nonfiction when it was required for a class, but any good feelings I had about the material were obliterated by the response and analysis papers I had to write.
This past December, gift card in hand, I entered Porter Square Books fully expecting to purchase a cookbook. Instead I found myself stuck staring at the food writing. Why had I not explored this genre before? It combined two of my passions: food and writing! With the purchase of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, eighteen years of stubborn avoidance of nonfiction came to a close, and a new chapter of my culinary and intellectual life began.
I devoured the book. Well, I was still in school so I guess it would be more correct to say I savored it. I didn’t have a lot of time to read, but I made sure I set aside at least ten minutes every day. Page by page, nibble by nibble, I took my time to let each piece of information sink in. During lunch I shared my newly acquired knowledge with my supportive, but clearly bored friends, and when they did not respond with the appropriate levels of enthusiasm, found some innocent teacher to thrust my information upon. (Did you know that people Michael Pollan HUNTED and KILLED a wild pig? And that fresh eggs do not taste or look the same as eggs you get at the grocery store? Have you had a fresh egg? Where could I find a fresh egg? I think my walls are the same color as the egg yolks Pollan describes. Can you imagine that color?) I was hungry for more. I began reading food blogs, bought another one of Pollan’s books, read Farm City (coincidentally a Somerville Reads book), and read Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw.
In fact, it seems I discovered this passion of mine at the right time; food seems to be the new hot topic. There are many blogs, articles, and books on the subject right at my fingertips. But what makes food writing so accessible, is its relevancy. Even after the trend fades, it will still be relevant to talk about food. What we put into our bodies will always be important, and where we get our food and how it is produced is just as important. While it seems every generation has its own personality, food is something that unites us all. We must eat to survive and the decisions we make around our food have wide-reaching effects.
As I slowly venture into the adult world, I look forward to using the knowledge I have gathered to make my own informed food choices.
As usual, there’s a lot going on at the Library and all over the City this weekend!
* Saturday at the Central Library from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., we invite you to join us for the Somerville Reads Potluck Celebration featuring great food, prizes, and music by the Michael J. Epstein Library. This is part of the Mayor’s Urban Agriculture Initiative – you can read about related events happening around the City here.
* Sunday at the Walnut Street Community Garden at 1:00 p.m., Cathy Piantigini and Jim Boyd host an all-ages discussion of Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks. Full information can be found here.
* Also on Sunday, at the Central Library at 2:00 p.m., Paul and Rachel Revere will ride again, in a performance by Lee Riethmiller and Jessa Piaia. More information on this program can be found here.
Will the weather cooperate? We don’t know, but either way, it’s SPRING!!! and that in itself is something to be glad about. Here’s a spring song to get you in the mood:
This Saturday, April 21! Join us as Somerville celebrates its third “one city, one book” campaign, Somerville Reads 2012, a project that promotes literacy and community engagement by encouraging people all over the City to read and discuss books on the same theme. This year’s theme is food—local, sustainable, and delicious! We’ve chosen two books for discussion: Farm City: the Education of an Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter and Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman. Copies of both books are available for check out at all Somerville Public Library locations.
As part of our Somerville Reads programming, the library hosted an Open Mic Storytelling event on Wednesday.
It was a great event, hosted by Tom Champion, also known as the “Voice of Somerville.” The stories covered a lot of ground and used different mediums for sharing. For more information about the event look at the Somerville Reads Blog.
The Somerville Public Library and the Somerville Reads team are pleased to introduce guest blogger Sarah Wolf. Sarah is a library volunteer who attended last Thursday night’s book discussion of Farm City, led by Jessie Banhazl. Many thanks to all who attended and especially Jessie and Sarah. Read Sarah’s post on the Somerville Reads Blog here.
Farm City may be described as a memoir about urban farming, city dwelling, urban plight, at-risk populations, food and nutrition, land rights, social justice, or adulthood and identity formation. These important issues could and should be discussed at length (the author gently raised questions on these issues through her self-exploration and experience). The sense of beauty and enjoyment that I derived from this good read, however, came from the quirky people who lived in or were somehow touched by GhostTown.
The narrator Novella herself, ardently claims she is not a hippie like her parents who lived off the land in Idaho, but she does follow some of her parents actions, such as tilling the land and raising, killing, and eating animals. She feels compassion for her neighbors and farm animals yet kills slugs and an opossum with angry zeal. And Novella and her auto-mechanic love, Bill, dumpster dive to feed their farm animals. Along the way they run into other dumpster divers and Novella forms a friendship with chefs and foodies who are passionate about making pickles and prosciutto. Other characters with quirk include Bobby, who lives on the street with his large collection of found cars and other stuff (until his stuff gets removed by law enforcement) and Lana, a vegetarian who runs a speakeasy in her warehouse.
For me, the characters with their unique personalities, passions, and idiosyncrasies, made Farm City come to life. They waved their freak flags by simply being who they are. I found them inspiring, indeed.