August 20th 2013
Elmore Leonard, author of such works as Glitz, City Primeval and Killshot, died at his home in Michigan. He was 87. His works were populated by murderers, conmen and schemers, people living alongside us, but in a separate world with its own rules and risks and expectations.  Leonard wrote  about this world with an emotional depth and a gritty realism that endeared him even to critics prone to be dismissive of crime novels. Readers curious about Leonard have two options for sampling his... Read Post
August 14th 2013
We all know Somerville's a great town that faces a lot of issues, particularly gentrification and the conflicting desires of different communities with different histories. Earlier in the month Tufts professor Susan Ostrander (left) gave a talk based on her research for her book Citizenship and Governance in  a Changing City: Somerville, Massachusetts.  She talked to Somervillians of various ethnicities, occupations and ages. And she found that whatever people's differences, most of us want the... Read Post
August 12th 2013
James Whitey Bulger Captured

It's official: Whitey Bulger has been found guilty - of a whole lot of stuff - and will presumably be spending the rest of his life behind bars.  Many of us would like to forget all about the notorious thug but, human nature being what it is, a fair number of us want to know all there is to know about Whitey and his doings.  To that end, here's a list of relevant books available through the Minuteman Library Network.

Whitey: the Life of America's Most Notorious Mob Boss by Dick Lehr... Read Post
June 25th 2013
The mercury's breaking 90 today and it's going to be almost as warm through the weekend.  Here are some tips to make the next few days a little more comfortable. Cooking can make an already hot kitchen unbearable, so check out this link to Mark Bittman's 101 recipes ready in fewer than ten minutes. Longtime readers of this blog probably recall that I've posted this link before, but there's always something on it I haven't tried, and I'm assuming the same is true of you. You should also browse... Read Post
June 20th 2013
I'm sure you've all heard by now about celebrity chef Paula Deen's admission that she has used racist language--and her insistence she's not a racist (um, yeah, keep telling yourself that). This troubling admission (and many others) occurred during her testimony in an L.A. courtroom--a former employee is suing Deen, alleging that she was subjected to "violent, sexist, and racist behavior" during the years she worked at one of Deen's restaurants. Incidents like this demonstrate that 150 years... Read Post
June 11th 2013
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... Read Post
May 26th 2013
Today is the day the nation remembers those who have died serving in the armed forces.  Originally called Decoration Day, the holiday began to honor those men who had died for the Union in the Civil War.  Time has a brief history of the holiday  here. If you're interested in learning more about the grim realities of military service, I recommend War by Sebastian Junger.  The award-winning author of A Perfect Storm and A Death in Belmont accompanied a platoon during a fifteenth-month tour of... Read Post
May 20th 2013
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... Read Post
May 10th 2013
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... Read Post
April 22nd 2013
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 Post
March 4th 2013
The Somerville Public Library is introducing a new collection, Muslim Journeys, which is currently available for browsing and checkout at the Central Branch of the library. This bookshelf collection aims to familiarize residents and visitors with the places, history, faith and cultures of Muslims in the U.S. and around the world. It is intended to address both the need and desire of the American public for trustworthy and accessible resources about Muslim beliefs and practices and the cultural... Read Post
October 25th 2012
A friend read the earlier post about therapeutic reading and wrote to me that The Divine Comedy had helped him through a very difficult time (he thinks it was either Mark Musa's translation or John Ciardi's).*  He has also found comfort in Gerard Manley Hopkins' "Terrible Sonnets" (an example here) and the poetry of George Herbert. He added that in a crisis he often turns to books he knows will make him laugh, such as the works of David Sedaris (he specifically mentioned Me Talk Pretty One Day... Read Post
October 15th 2012
Recently someone wrote to the editors of The Paris Review for reading recommendations. The person in question was suffering from severe depression. As a result he had already lost his job and relationship. He wrote that  he was in therapy, but wondered if the editors could recommend books that would help him recover. Sadie Stein responded with a thoughtful and lengthy list of reading suggestions. She began with books by people who have suffered from depression, on the grounds that whatever you... Read Post
October 12th 2012
...I'm talking, of course, about literary awards. Earlier this week the National Book Foundation announced the finalists for the National Book Award. The fiction finalists include MacArthur Fellow Juno Diaz's short story collection This is How You Lose Her, Native American writer Louise Erdrich's novel The Round House, and Dave Eggers' A Hologram for the King.  Among the nonfiction finalists are Washington Post writer Anne Applebaum's Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1945-1956, the... Read Post
September 21st 2012
I love published collections of correspondence.  You often see surprising sides of famous people. And some letters are delightfully well-written.  Below are some collections of letters that I've enjoyed. Some show the private sides of public figures.  Others give you behind-the-scenes glimpses of tumultuous events. And all of them are absorbing. For almost all of his adult life Thomas Merton  (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. But he wasn't anyone’s idea of... Read Post