Recommended by our Staff

June 7th 2021
Simon Doonan's Asylum book cover

“AH!  FASHION.  A nuthouse? A refuge? Or maybe both. Yes, an asylum in both senses of the word.  A place where unemployable crazy people are always welcome.”  

So begins Simon Doonan’s book The Asylum, with most of the ensuing 268 pages devoted to making his case that hardcore fashionistas and the mentally ill have far more in common than one might think. Doonan is the former, celebrated window dresser and Creative Ambassador-at-Large of shuttered luxury department store Barneys New... Read Post

April 27th 2021
Broken (in the best possible way) book cover

I’ve been following Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess for nearly 10 years, after stumbling across a copy of her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, at Porter Square Books one day. As soon as I finished reading it (which, fortunately, was at home, because people on the T get very nervous seeing a middle-aged woman hysterically laughing so hard that she’s crying, especially when she’s sitting across from them on the Red Line), I immediately jumped online, first to bookmark Jenny’s blog... Read Post

March 27th 2021

When it’s cold outside, or you can’t leave the house due to a raging pandemic, or you’re just plain bored, looking through a cookbook for just the right recipe and getting to work in the kitchen or planning a future meal can be just the ticket--after all, you can only knit so many shawls, show off your cat in a Zoom session so many times, or keep making TikTok videos of your family performing everything from Hamilton to Beyonce’s Formation video before they all rebel, but people always need... Read Post

March 18th 2021

It’s a little over a year since the pandemic began and in spite of lower case numbers and available vaccines, it’s still far from over.  It’s so easy to feel our lives are on hold. But they aren’t. It’s just this is what are our lives are right now: staying at home and doing very few of the activities we think of as normal life. And that’s hard. But whatever tension, restlessness and stress you’re struggling with, meditation can help. Studies have shown that meditation can help control... Read Post

December 17th 2020
Recommended Reads from SPL Staff

It’s the time of year for The New York Times and other media to publish their lists of the best books of 2020.  My list is a little different.  I read a lot of books this year, but almost none of them were published in 2020.  So here a list of the best books I read in 2020, regardless of publication date.

White Houses: A Novel by Amy Bloom. Lorena Hickock was a successful journalist and chief investigator the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, a Depression-era government agency... Read Post

November 19th 2020
You Are Where Your Mind Is: Books (And the Somerville Yeti) Can Take You Anywhere

As the days get shorter and the number of COVID cases rises, a lot of us are really tired of staying in our homes and walking the same neighborhood streets. Unfortunately, health experts agree that traveling is a really bad idea right now.

However, libraries offer a way to travel that’s undeniably safer and cheaper than any plane, train or car. You are where are your mind is, so books can take you anywhere. Below are some titles that can take you to far-off locations in the pre-... Read Post

October 15th 2020
Small Press Collection at the Somerville Public Library

Did you know that the Library has a few hundred zines? They range from comic books, to small treatises on birds or movies, to poetry chapbooks, to pamphlets on how to intervene when a stranger is being abusive to another stranger. 

Most of these items are hand-made, self-published, and printed in very limited numbers. Since many of them are locally-produced and cover topics of local interest, they offer a wonderful window into the minds of our neighbors. And as a group, they document... Read Post

September 17th 2020
Climate Justice by Mary Robinson book cover

It may seem that the news is all bad—COVID-19, hurricanes, forest fires--but by no means should we give up. Climate Preparedness Week is coming September 24-30, and the Massachusetts Library System has partnered with CREW (Communities Responding to Extreme Weather) to host free virtual programs on the intersections of climate resilience and social and racial justice. In keeping with those themes, here are some books and films about the struggle for a better future.

Former Irish... Read Post

August 24th 2020
Pandemic Reads Book Movie Covers

The pandemic has left many of us depressed, lonely or a little traumatized.  To cope with the anxiety and the loss of most of their normal activities, many people are taking comfort in books. They’ve intuitively stumbled upon what’s called bibliotherapy: reading to promote mental health. In that spirit, we at SPL decided to put together a therapeutic reading list.

In recent months, books and TV shows about pandemics have been extremely popular—perhaps because they provide a way for... Read Post

July 6th 2020
Artwork by Paula Champagne for ArtBeat 2020

The theme of this year’s ArtBeat (July 10-18) is chance, featuring virtual performances and real life art installations exploring the unexpected and unplanned. In honor of the festival---and the uncertain times we’re living in—we at SPL decided to recommend some books that engage with the risky and unpredictable. 

Our first stop is New Orleans in the early 1960s, the setting of John Kennedy Toole’s novel A Confederacy of Dunces. Toole’s protagonist—perhaps antagonist?—is Ignatius J... Read Post

March 10th 2020

St. Patrick’s Day will soon be upon us, and for many that’s an occasion to wear green and drink a Guinness. But I’m using the occasion to recommend books by Irish writers.

Not that there’s anything wrong with green clothes. Or Guinness.

Given Ireland’s history, imperialism is a compelling subject to many Irish writers. Booker-winner J. G. Farrell wrote extraordinary novels that explore the human costs of colonialism:  The Troubles, The Singapore Grip and The Siege of... Read Post

March 5th 2020
three women reading

March is Women's History Month! We hope you'll enjoy this list of recommended reads from SPL staff. 

The image of three women reading above is from the Donald C. King Family Photographs in our local history collection. View the collection online at Digital Commonwealth!

Formation: a Woman's Memoir of Stepping Out of Line, by Ryan Leigh Dostie

Formation tells the story of Dostie's experience growing up, joining the army, serving her tour overseas in the early... Read Post

January 2nd 2020
favorite books 2019

Wow, Somerville, you read so much this year!

These are the books Somerville readers checked out the most in 2019. How many have you read? Which ones were your favorites?

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens Becoming by Michelle Obama Educated by Tara Westover Normal People by Sally Rooney Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman, tied with The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong City of Girls by Elizabeth... Read Post
April 4th 2019

I love reading published collections of letters. You get to see people at their frankest and most unguarded moments. And depending on when the letters were written, they provide a window into the past, how what we now call history looked to people as it happened.

Of the many such collections we have in the Minuteman Library Network, here is one of my favorites:

The journalist Hunter S. Thompson (1937-2005) (left) was an outrageous presence on the American political and... Read Post

December 18th 2017

In This Book, Craftsmanship Is a Matter of Life or Death

In the underground city of Caverna, the setting of Frances Hardinge’s novel A Face Like Glass, a sip of wine can rewrite memories, a bite of cheese can spark visions, and certain perfumes make the wearer literally irresistible.  Its citizens’ facial expressions, too, are carefully and expensively crafted and taught by experts, and the ability to display the perfect Face for any occasion is more than just a mark of status: it’s... Read Post