Recommended by our Staff

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
July 31st 2019

This week the Discovery Channel holds its annual celebration of all matters shark-related. Without a doubt, sharks are fascinating: two-thirds of their brains are devoted to their sense of smell; they grow up to 50,000 teeth in a lifetime; shark embryos sometimes devour each other in the womb—what’s not to love? But for people in the Boston area, sharks are of more than just academic interest: 17 great white sharks have been seen in the waters off Cape Cod in the past week. 

Sharks... 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

March 6th 2019

Another St. Patrick’s Day is coming up, and while for some of you that might mean having a Guinness at the Burren and listening to Irish folk music, you might consider passing the time with a good book. I assume you’re all familiar with at least the names of the classic Irish writers such as Swift, Joyce, Shaw and Yeats, so I’m going to focus on contemporary Irish books and authors.

 Let’s start with arguably the most important Irish writer of our time: John Banville (left). He won... Read Post

May 25th 2018
ant on fingertip

Let it go back to the anthill. 

If it brushes inattentively against your fingers
climbs them
and daydreams
in the furrows of your hand,
don’t chase it away or squash it. 

Let it go back, as best it can, to the anthill.
Guide it to where it belongs. 

Surely the others, those smart-asses, will make fun
of its new habits,
of its stubborn disorientation.

Let it go back, if it can, to the anthill,
even though... Read Post

April 24th 2018

Mystery lovers: have you read any of Robert Galbraith's novels yet? They're so good!

Galbraith (a pseudonym for J. K. Rowling...now where have I heard that name before...?) writes a series featuring private investigator Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. Of the three that have been published so far - The Cuckoo's Calling, The Silkworm, and Career of Evil - each is better than the last. A fourth book, Lethal White, is expected to be published this year, and Rowling has... Read Post

January 2nd 2018

I read so many books in 2017 most of them seem to have run together in my head. But four absolutely stand out in my memory. The first one is a re-read. The other three were new discoveries.

Absalom! Absalom! by William Faulkner.

Every time I read this novel I am astounded and moved, often by passages I don’t recall from previous readings.  For those who haven’t read Absalom, Absalom!, it’s a novel within a novel. For his entire life, young Quentin Compson has heard vague,... 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

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