Recommended by our Staff

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

October 30th 2017

On the evening of October 30, 1938, CBS radio broadcast an adaptation of H. G. Well's War of the Worlds, the 1898 novel about a Martian invasion of Earth, as part of the radio drama series Mercury Theatre on the Air. Written and directed by Orson Welles (left), the program was mostly in the form of simulated news bulletins. For decades stories have been told about the panic that ensued when many listeners jumped to the conclusion they were listening to an actual news broadcast.

The... Read Post

March 21st 2017
The Hate U Give book cover

First time novelist Angie Thomas has made a big splash with her young adult novel, The Hate U Give.  Released last month, the novel has already topped the New York Times's Best Seller List for Young Adult Hardcover Books, been optioned for a Hollywood film, and been acclaimed by critics and in numerous articles, such as this one in New York Magazine, this one on Fusion.net, and this one in the New York Times.  It is also currently one of the most requested books in the Minuteman Library... Read Post

March 20th 2017

On this day in 1778, King Louis XVI of France recieved at court two representatives of the newly declared United States, Silas Deane and Benjamin Franklin. Their reception by an absolute monarch was an astonishing coup for a fledgling nation rejecting the very notion of monarchy, but Louis' hatred of Great Britain trumped concerns about encouraging rebellion againts kings. The fact that one of the emissaries was Benjamin Franklin made Louis' decision easier: Franklin was the equivalent of a... Read Post

February 23rd 2017

Did you know that the Somerville Public Library has a travel section? Well, if you didn't know. We do. It's very popular, in fact, people come in to browse all the time! Starting in the 910 section of the library, we have shelves and shelves of Fodors, Frommers, DK Eyewitness, Rough Guides, and many more.

Looking to plan a trip to Costa Rica or Peru? We have that.

Do you want to backpack across Europe, check here first!

Would you like to swim with... Read Post

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