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Staff Reads — January 2019

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Luke:

Laura:

  • The Unstoppable Wasp Volumes 1 and 2 by Jeremy Whitley: This next generation of the Wasp is Nadia, an unknown daughter of Hank Pym, raised to be an assassin and rescued by Hank’s ex-wife, Janet Van Dyne, the first generation Wasp. Frustrated by the lack of respect for women in the super hero realm, Nadia recruits other young female super powered individuals and starts G.I.R.L. This re-imagining of a Marvel story and character is very empowering and answers the question of what makes up a family. The new version of She-Ra on Netflix would make a great watch alike.
  • Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson: Very charming graphic novel about Phoebe, her new best friend, the vain unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. This is a great alternative for those of us who still miss Calvin and Hobbes.
  • The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory: The Wedding Date was one of my favorite books I read this spring, and I was delighted to read a new title by the same author, featuring one of the former title’s secondary characters as one of the protagonists. NIk (short of Nikole) is horrified when the actor that she has been casually seeing for a few weeks proposes to her via the Jumbo Tron at Dodger Stadium. Carlos and his sister come to her rescue and defense when the fans give Nik a hard time for refusing. Predictably, Nik and Carlos start a tentative romance, but just as in The Wedding Date the relationship is well done with both parts of the couple having a lot of agency and proceeding in a healthy way. The book is also just a lot of fun and the secondary characters are well rounded.
  • Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver: This character driven novel features inhabitants living in Vineland, New Jersey in present day and the late 19th century. This thoughtful novel features a strong sense of place as well as a real life (but little known) 19th century female scientist, Mary Treat. I would suggest this for fans of A Map of Salt and Stars (for readers who enjoyed the alternating time periods), The Paris Wife (for readers who enjoy fiction about real people who didn’t get their due in history), State of Wonder (for readers who enjoy a little science with their fiction), and Inherit the Wind (for readers who enjoy dramas about Darwin and the Scopes Trial).
  • Nutcracker by ETA Hoffman: I re-read this classic tale and inspiration for the ballet for the first time in 34 years and was glad to revisit this edition beautifully illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
  • The Library Book by Susan Orlean: Part true crime, part love letter to public libraries, this details the history of the Los Angeles Public Library as well as the investigation into the 1986 fire that damaged the building and its materials.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Read by Kate Reading (isn’t that a great last name for an audiobook narrator?): Reading Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy by Anne Boyd Rioux inspired me to revisit this classic about the March sisters. It had been so long since I had read it, that I had forgotten most of what had happened (and found I remembered more of the various film versions). A recent visit to Louisa May Alcott’s home, Orchard House, helped me appreciate the novel in a new way!
  • My Ex-Life by Stephen McCauley, Read by George Newbern: I’m currently listening to this novel, by the author of The Object of my Affection. David and Julie were married nearly thirty years ago, divorcing when David realized that he was gay. They parted on friendly terms but haven’t spoken since the divorce until Julie asks for David’s help regarding her teenage age daughter from her second marriage. This character driven novel is sardonic and often funny with melancholy moments.

Ashley:

  • Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan: I enjoyed this fantasy novel full of asian mythology and strong female characters.
  • Livia Lone by Barry Eisler: I’ll read almost anything set in my home state of Washington, especially thrillers with female protagonists. This had an engaging fast paced story, and i appreciated all the footnotes at the end detailing the author’s research with links.
  • Podcast: Surviving Y2K: Remember 1999 and the fear that computers wouldn’t understand they year 2000? Through present day interviews we are able to follow several different people as they prepared for the new millennium.
  • Top Chef Season 15 on Hulu I’m obsessed with this show and always binge it in a few days when it finally arrives on Hulu.

Debora H.:

  • The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable was a disappointment. I was enticed by the lure of a Kennedy story, but put off by the hugely unlikable characters. It felt like watching a movie with bad Boston accents. The story revolves around Alicia Darr, a Polish Jewish refugee and her romance with then Congressman Jack Kennedy. The author uses information released in 1977 that said Alicia was paid $500K by Bobby Kennedy just before JFK became President. We assume the money is to stay quiet, but quiet about what? That’s the question the author fleshes out. It’s a good premise but for me, fell flat.
  • The Practice House by Laura McNeal: Although I stuck with this novel, I don’t recommend it. It’s about Aldine McKenna, a 19 year old woman who leaves her home in Scotland to work as a teacher in the Dust Bowl that is Kansas in 1930. You think the story will be about Aldine and her sister because it begins with them, but shortly after the sister falls in love with a traveling Mormon (I am not making this up), the 2 young women leave for America and we never hear much about the sister after that. Then you think the story will be about Aldine, but in the second half of the book, many characters’ points of view are used. Aldine lives with a family on their failing farm, falls in love with the father, and when the family moves to California, is farmed out to work at a Harvey House restaurant. The writing is solid, but I found the plot and organization lacking. There is a satisfying twist at the very end, which made me glad I finished it.

Tessa:

  • The Library: A Catalogue of Wonders by Stuart Kells: I was hoping to learn about the fascinating history of libraries, but instead found this book to be an unorganized collection of mostly anecdotal stories referencing famous libraries and obscure bibliophiles. Most of the time I found myself searching online to understand the context of the stories the author told. There were some historical facts about libraries and books that I found interesting, but unless you are a dire hard book collector, this book is better left on the shelf.
  • The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicolas Carr: In this book, Carr questions the impact technology has had upon our lives and how it is changing the way our brains process information. I was pleasantly surprised how well the author interwove the history of writing and reading and prior research about brain plasticity to demonstrate how the human brain has evolved over time. The author also provides an overview of the history of computers and how the internet developed to become the powerful entity that it is today. I didn’t feel that Carr was negatively criticizing technology, but instead he argued why it is important for society to understand how technology is altering our ability to “think deeply” so that we can make informed decisions about how we personally use technology going forward. Sometimes the author gets a little heavy handed with the statistics he provides and there are a few sections that felt a little dry (and might require a basic understanding of cell biology), but overall it was a well-researched book and interesting read.
  • London: a Short History of the Greatest City in the Western World presented by Professor Robert Bucholz: This lecture series is by The Teaching Company, and I watched it to prepare for a trip to London. Even though there weren’t many visuals and it was mainly Professor Bucholz lecturing to the camera, I really enjoyed the series. It covers London’s formation in 60 B.C. by the Roman Empire through the early 2000’s. If you are someone who enjoys history or is planning a trip to London, I highly recommend this series. It was perfect for watching in the evening after work and before bed. There is an audio version, but if you choose to use that I recommend printing out a few maps of historic London so you can get your bearings.

Dana:

  • Feminasty: the Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy Without Drinking Herself to Death by Erin Gibson: The title and reviews of this book gave me high hopes, but the book itself didn’t quite live up to them. This collection of essays, ranging in topic from periods to #MeToo to makeup and more, made some excellent (and maddening!) points, but I didn’t find it as funny as it was billed to be.
  • Flocks by L. Nichols: A graphic memoir of a trans man’s experiences growing up in a very religious community in rural Louisiana, discovering the world and himself with the help of academics and the various groups that supported him in very different ways. It was a quick read – I finished it in one sitting – and both heart-breaking and hopeful. I don’t read graphic novels/memoirs often, but found that the illustrations in this one added so much to the story.
  • Pure: Inside the Evangelical Movement that Shamed a Generation of Young women and How I Broke Free by Linda Kay Klein: This book is part memoir/part investigation into how the Evangelical sexual purity movement (True Love Waits, etc.) affected those who were a part of it. As someone who came of age in the church during this movement, I found this book especially fascinating.
  • Room by Emma Donoghue: A novel told from the point of view of five-year-old Jack, who lives with his mom in a sound-proofed shed where they’re held captive by his mom’s kidnapper. I’d been curious about this book for years but was worried that it would be a bit too difficult/intense to read as the mom of a young kid. There were certainly some parts that got me right in the feels, but it was one of those too-rare books that I just didn’t want to put down!
  • Shade: a Tale of Two Presidents by Pete Souza: A poignant comparison of the Obama and Trump presidencies, featuring photos by Souza, who was Chief Official White House Photographer under President Obama. This book made me all kinds of nostalgic.
  • Juliet, Naked: I read the book that inspired this movie back when it came out in 2009, and I remember thinking it was just okay. The movie, however (in my opinion) told the story better, and was cute and enjoyable. It’s hard to go wrong with Chris O’Dowd, and the scenery in the English seaside town was charming.
  • Crazy Rich Asians: An incredibly well done romantic comedy that doesn’t drag out all the tired tropes that can plague the genre. That said, I’m not a fan of ostentatious displays of wealth and/or entitlement, and this movie was full of both. I should have known going in, given the title, but alas. Otherwise, it’s a great film!
  • The Essential “Weird Al” Yankovic: I was really into Weird Al in high school, and this was a fun trip down memory lane. It’s got some hits as well as some deeper cuts, which I enjoyed. However, I was a bit dismayed to realize how much of my brain’s real estate is still taken up by lyrics to these songs!

Janet Z.:

  • What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky by Lesley Nneka Arimah: I loved this collection of short stories set in Nigeria with its rich characters and compelling plot lines. Be forewarned, though, that the theme of family dysfunction runs rampant throughout.
  • Nutmeg the Guinea Pig by Jane E. Clarke (Dr. Kittycat Series): I love illustrations that blend photographs with hand-drawn elements. Turns out the story line is also compelling as the Doctor and her assistant solve a medical mystery involving a furry patient who is feeling unwell.
  • Full Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go by Crusshiform: Beautifully designed book with side-by-side illustrations of animals and inanimate objects that travel at similar speeds such as a hedgehog and millipede (one mile-per-hour) and a high-speed train, peregrine falcon, Formula 1 race car, and frigate bird (217 miles-per-hour).
  • What We Do in the Shadows: Hilarious take on the challenges vampires face in the modern world, such as gaining admission to nightclubs, dealing with slacker flat mates, and more.
  • Barry: Oh how I love Bill Hader, but not in this very popular series, in which he plays a hit man trying unsuccessfully to get out of the “business.” Cluelessness and innocence have a certain charm, but Barry has a bit too much of both. Henry Winkler as Hader’s boss, on the other hand, is fantastic!

Liz R.:

  • Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah: This debut collection of short stories is a terrifying and all too familiar set of dystopian tales revolving around race, privilege and capitalism. A mjst read for fans of “Get Out”, Toni Morrison and Margaret Atwood.
  • Marvel Rising, Vol. 1: Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl team up in this middle grade graphic novel. Joined by fellow superheroes America Chavez, Inferno and more. I’m overjoyed with the diversity Marvel has been embracing over the last five years. It’s great to see a variety of heritages and body types, particularly in volumes aimed at younger readers.
  • The Little Book of Life Hacks by Yumi Sakagawa: This was a fun start for the new year! This super cute book is full of tiny life tips for everything from relaxing, cleaning, crafting, cooking and more! My favorite tips were for ways to use white vinegar and lemon to clean different parts of your house, and the section on making your own hair care spa products.

Marie:

Staff Reads — December 2018

Book Projector Treble Clef
Happy Holidays! Looking for some great gift ideas (or gifts to avoid?) Take a peek at what books, movies, music, shows, and more that we’ve been enjoying (and not enjoying!)
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Liz:

  • MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood: This is the final volume in Atwood’s environmental dystopian MaddAddam trilogy. Begun in Oryx & Crake and The Year of the Flood, this volume follows Toby, the rest of her small band of plague survivors, and the genetically engineered Crakers, as they navigate a familiar but dangerous world of genetically engineered animals, crumbling infrastructure, and vicious human enemies.
  • The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Volume 1: The Crucible by Roberto Aguirre Sacaso: Now a show on Netflix, this reboot of Sabrina the Teen Age Witch is dark, deranged and beautifully drawn. Teenage sorceress Sabrina Spellman is approaching her 16th birthday, when she must decide if she will be a witch for eternity through the power of Satan, or join the world of mortals so she can be with her football loving boyfriend, Harvey.
  • How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan: Journalist Michael Pollan dives into the much misunderstood world of psychedelic substances as medicine, spiritual catalyst and recreational product. Pollan focuses on LSD and psilocybin, a.k.a magic mushrooms, and related the medical studies and spiritual histories of both substance. A must read for anyone interested in alternative spiritualities or human psychology.
  • Fierce: The History of Leopard Print by Jo Weldon: This fun book is chock full of pictures of vintage fashions and accessories in a wide range of big cat prints. It’s also a fun look at how women’s fashion has evolved over the last 150 years, from cut and color to fabric and fit.

Dana:

  • The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke: I read the first book in this series, The Girl with the Red Balloon, last month, and loved it. I foolishly assumed this book was a sequel, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next to the characters from the first book. Turns out it’s a “companion book” and features totally different characters in a different time. I’m sure it was good, but I was so crestfallen that I had no interest in reading past the first chapter.
  • Everything is Trash, but it’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson: Phoebe Robinson is hilarious and I’d love to hang out with her. I had that conclusion after reading her first book, You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain, and reading this follow-up only cemented the feeling. Her tales of meeting Bono made me – as she might say – www.jealous.org/omg.
  • Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter: I’m admittedly late to the Hamilton party, but was lucky enough to be gifted tickets by a relative who loved the show and wants everyone she knows to see it. A friend recommended this book so that I’d have a better understanding of the songs before seeing the show, and she was right! Being able to read the lyrics and get some context before seeing the show made me enjoy it even more. The PBS special on the Watch Read Listen Roku was also helpful and fascinating!
  • Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley: This book was rough to read, but I think Conley’s story is an important one that needed to be shared. On top of digesting Conley’s story about being forced to attend conversion therapy for his sexual orientation, I did a lot of reflecting on our similar religious upbringings and where we are now. It was certainly the heaviest reading I did this month.
  • Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle: My son loves this book, and I like its theme of showing kindness to everyone, even bullies. The farm animals may be a bit suspect, but Little Blue Truck is a good chap.
  • Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle: This was my son’s introduction to the Little Blue Truck world, and he’d happily read it all year round. He’s especially fond of the flashing Christmas tree lights at the end.
  • 100 Farm Words illustrated by Dawn Machell: The page featuring different tractors and trucks is the highlight for my son!
  • When Sarah Met Duck by Sarah Gomes Harris: The BBC show, Sarah and Duck, is a favorite in my house, and both my son and I love that it comes in book form as well!
  • Hamilton: original Broadway cast recording by Lin-Manuel Miranda: Since seeing the show, the songs have been stuck in my head non-stop!

Seana:

  • The Unforgotten by Laura Powell: It is hard to believe that this dark mystery is Powell’s debut. It alternates between 1956 and 50 years later – the past being more fleshed out and interesting from my perspective. There are several twists and turns along the way which kept me guessing until the very end.
  • Listening to The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House by Kate Andersen Brower: I am totally enjoying listening to this book on my commute! It is filled with stories and first hand accounts of White House service staff covering prior First Families through Obama. It also gives a behind the scenes tour of the ins and outs of the working White House on a daily basis and during special situations, like state dinners and the changeover when a new President takes over the House.

Aurora:

  • How to Feed Your Parents by Ryan Miller is a cute story about Matilda and how she works to get her very picky parents to try new foods. It is fun to see the idea of parents trying to get teh picky eater kids to try new foods turned upside down. In short, a picture book that is an engaging, quick read with a point.
  • Ship It by Britta Lundin is well-written, humorous, and believable. I chose to read this book after listening to the author talk about the story, and I was not disappointed! I found the format of the chapters interesting, and the characters even more interesting. The story speaks to anyone who has been a major fan of any book, movie, or tv show, and it does it in a way that makes those interests feel natural.
  • Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn contains everything one would want in a Star Wars story. The cast of characters is exquisite, with Leia, Luke, and Han leading as they have in the films, while simultaneously expanding on smaller roles such as Wedge Antilles, and introducing some characters for the first time, like Grand Admiral Thrawn and Mara Jade. This host of roles are navigated through an exciting plot with new twists and turns that remain interesting even while rereading the story.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (extended edition) movie remains a peerless film. The story, characters, world, lines, costumes, actors, designers, sets, props, editing, sound, music, and just about everything else involved were excellent when it was made (as shown by the record breaking Oscar win) and each aspect has withstood the test of time. Add in all the behind the scenes appendices that show the making of the film, and this is a movie event that can always make me smile and keep me entertained for hours (followed by more hours of telling everyone else about it as well).
  • Listening to The Greatest Showman: Reimagined provides a simultaneously new and familiar experience as the songs are sung by different artists. While I’m not sure if I prefer one album over the other, it was definitely interesting to hear both versions!

Debora H.:

  • Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross: This was a fascinating read. It’s based on the legend that for a few years during the Middle Ages, the pope was a woman who successfully disguised herself as a man. According to the legend, she was discovered only when she gave birth during a papal procession. The author takes this kernel of a story and builds an entire world around it, filling it with believable and some hugely likable characters. Cross’ Joan is a brilliant young girl who fights against the norms of the times to become educated and then assumes the life of her dead brother. She falls in love with her foster father, but it’s years before they are actually romantic. This is one of those stories that, as a woman, makes you glad you were born in the twentieth century.
  • Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly: I had seen the movie and now I’m glad I read the book. The author tells the important story of the African American women who worked as human computers at NASA both before it was NASA and during its space race. In a voice that often made me pause it was so captivating, Shetterly both explains the importance of the math behind the aeronautics and the segregation laws that shaped the lives of the women who produced those numbers. Beginning in WWII, the book follows these women up through the Civil Rights era and brings to life their intellect and drive to show the difference they made in this country’s air and space industry.

Louise:

  • Family And Other Catastrophes by Alexandra Borowitz: This book did not draw me in at the very beginning but, gradually, it got better and I began to feel fond of many of the characters. There are some very funny scenes in this novel that make it worth the read. The novel centers on a family get together in Westchester in preparation for Emily’s marriage to David. Emily’s mother, Marla, a therapist, decides to get the children together for “family therapy” and the scenes are a hoot. Also, Emily’s sister, Lauren, who is gender neutral and who argues about pretty much anything that is conventional, is funny and yet lovable. Lots of laughter, quirky characters, and a satisfying ending, make this book a good read, especially if you want something light.
  • Rise And Shine by Anna Quindlen: I listened to the audiobook of Anna Quindlen’s novel Rise And Shine. The characters are very well drawn in this novel which brings a mixture of laughter and tears in perhaps equal measure. The story focuses on two sisters, Bridget and Meghan Fitzmaurice, orphaned in their youth and raised by their Aunt Maureen. Bridget works in a homeless shelter in the Bronx, while Meghan is a famous talk show host who commits a faux pas that costs her the job that she has held for so long. Bridget is the narrator of the story and introduces us to all of the main characters, a colorful and diverse group, always interesting and always interacting in unpredictable ways. I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say, I liked the way that Ms. Quindlen concludes this novel.
  • The Other Mother by Carol Goodman: Okay for all of you psychological suspense fiction lovers (and I am one), this one gets you from the first sentence. Excellent narrator on the audiobook but I am sure that reading the book is also a gripping and fabulous experience. I have trouble getting out of the car with this one and am looking forward to hearing more when I leave work tonight. The plot? It could not be more twisted and gnarled, and, as with the best of this genre, it is not clear how reliable or not our narrator, Daphne, is. She is a new mother who suffered from postpartum depression as did the other main character, her friend Lauren. There is a murder or is it a suicide? There is an abusive husband, or is he? There is a mental hospital right near Daphne’s or is it Lauren’s new job working for one of her favorite authors as an archivist. The novel is narrated by Daphne who also reads to us from the journals that she and her friend Lauren kept. I have not finished this book yet but it is very hard to put down. For fans of Girl On The Train, The Wife Between Us, Eileen, and The Couple Next Door.
  • A Stranger In The House by Shari Lapena: More psychological suspense from Shari Lapena. Things are certainly not what they seem to be in Karen Krupp’s marriage. On the outside, a beautiful upper class suburban neighborhood. On the inside, trouble. The whole thing kicks off with a car accident. Karen’s husband comes home to an empty house and he has no idea what has happened to his wife. Things begin to unravel and, for me, this novel was deliciously disturbing. You may not like the characters in this novel, but the plot will keep you chewing on your nails and, you can at least be glad for the very perceptive detectives. Worth a try.
  • The People We Hate At The Wedding by Grant Ginder: I am reading this book now and loving the theme of the dysfunctional family and yet another wacky therapist. Alice, our main character, is sleeping with her boss and going to a support group to help her get over a miscarriage that she had in Mexico. Her self-doubting but lovable brother, David, is in a relationship with the perfect self-assured Mark and in a job working for a renowned therapist who takes exposure therapy a little too far. The wedding is their half-sister Eloise who is very much a cause of resentment and stress. For fans of Family and Other Catastrophes , Running With Scissors, and My Year of Rest And Relaxation.
  • Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller: There are definitely some bitter elements to this very well written novel with well-drawn characters and a suspenseful plot. The narrator of the novel is telling her story from an institution and looking back over the years to her youth and her friendship with a rather troubled couple. Oh, and there is a murder. Beautiful writing, great description, draws the reader in quickly and thoroughly. This novel is a great choice for fans of Donna Tartt’s A Secret History although it is not quite as long. Highly recommended.

Laura:

  • Chemistry Lessons by Meredith Goldstein: Goldstein, popular for her Love Letters blog and podcast, tries her hand at teen/young adult fiction and the result is an entertaining read with a sympathetic narrator, Maya and a richly detailed supporting cast. The settings of MIT and the city of Cambridge act are almost secondary characters and there is a small amount of science fiction that may be a good draw for some readers but can easily be dismissed for those who prefer realistic fiction. If you want to talk about this book with other adults who like young adult literature, please come to the February 13 meeting of our new book club, Always Young (At Heart) Adult.
  • Food Anatomy : The Curious Parts & Pieces of our Edible World by Julia Rothman with help from Rachel Wharton: This graphic novel is a good reference for any home kitchen or cookbook collection. Rothman details a brief history and evolution of food, including terms, products, and recipes. The language is accessible and brief and the style is colorful and bright.
  • I Am Actually a Penguin by Sean Taylor, illustrated by Kasia Matyjaszek: This picture book about a little girl who dresses up as and insists to everyone that she is a penguin is sweet and adorable. It really speaks to the power of imagination and the illustrations are charming.
  • Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters by Anne Boyd Rioux: I’m still reading this mashup of history, biography, literary criticism, and feminist theory and very much enjoying it. Little Women holds a special place in the hearts of a lot of folks in this area due to the Concord connection and I’m one of many who has read the book twice and seen multiple screen versions.
  • Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, Read by Lynn Chen: I was a little late to the party in tackling this story about Rachel Chu, who travels to Singapore, to meet her boyfriend, Nick’s extremely wealthy family. The plot driven novel, with a lot of dialogue and characters, is amusing and borders just enough on soap opera tropes without being too ridiculous. Chen as a narrator, does a good job, at bringing the written word to life.
  • China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan, Read by Lydia Look: While the first book in this series didn’t go over the top with its soap opera antics, this sequel doesn’t shy away from them. Poisoning, long lost siblings, an interrupted wedding, and a botched plastic surgery are only a few of the examples in this novel. Although I prefer the first book, this entry is still entertaining and detailed descriptions of food are making my mouth water. It took me awhile to get used to Look as a narrator, since I was used to Chen, but but she has grown on me.
  • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: This documentary about Fred Rogers provides a detailed look at his life as well as what went into Mr. Rogers’s Neighborhood. It’s become a cliche to say that we could use Mr. Rogers today, but I’ll echo the sentiment, regardless. I’m also not ashamed to say that the documentary made me cry.
  • Crazy Rich Asians: This was a very well done adaptation. I watched it days after I finished the novel and everything that was added or cut from the book was perfect. I liked that Nick’s mother, who had little to no redeeming qualities in the novel, was a little more sympathetic in the movie without betraying her harsh character. I also appreciated that the characters of Oliver and Peik Lin were expanded giving the very funny Nico Santos and Awkwafina a lot of screen time!
  • Superstore: I’ve been rewatching this clever, funny, and often biting show about a group of employees at an ersatz Walmart called Cloud 9. The whole cast is great, but the supporting actors, including Nico Santos from Crazy Rich Asians, make the show a success.
  • Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindewald: I love the universe where this takes place but I think I may have had enough of the world of Harry Potter and friends. I enjoyed the first movie in this series, partly because it introduced original characters in a familiar setting. This second outing tied everyone to the characters we met in the original Harry Potter books and, like the Star Wars prequels, I think this film suffers from trying to give everyone (and I mean everyone) a back story. Ever wonder about the origin story of Voldemort’s pet snake? Don’t worry. Neither did I.

Vanessa:

Ashley:

  • Pulp by Robin Talley: Told in two alternating perspectives spanning generations, this was an interesting look at the lives of LGBT people in the 50s juxtaposed with today.
  • Go to My Grave by Catriona McPherson: A crime from the past has repercussions on the present in this Scottish country house mystery meets thriller.

Amber:

  • If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin: This is the first James Baldwin novel I’ve read (though definitely not the last) and I’m so glad I have finally read something but this great author. A beautifully written story about two people in love, this devastating novel has been made into a film by writer-director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) and is set to be released mid-December.
  • Beastie Boys Book by Michael Diamond, Adam Horovitz: A must-have for any Beastie Boys fan, this gorgeous new release is a must-read for any music lover. I bought this the day it came out and immediately dusted off my favorite Beastie Boys cd to listen to while thumbing through the pages (yes, I still have a stash of cds in my basement!).
  • Watching

  • The Tunnel, Vengeance (Season Three): Season three is the final season in this spectacular drama set in England and France. The writing is superb and the acting is phenomenal. If you enjoy your crime dramas on the darker side I highly recommend this.
  • Listening

  • Vide Noir – Lord Huron: It seems rare these days to find an album that can be listened to (and enjoyed) from start to end. This music is beautiful and lush and and each track is fantastic.
  • English Language Learning Club 2019 Meetings

    Keep Calm and Keep Reading

    The library is pleased to offer an English Language Learning Reading Club. Are you learning English? Do you love to read? Join us for a monthly reading discussion group as we read and discuss selected American Short Stories. Links to the stories will be available at this space and on our library events calendar, the month before the meeting. We meet one Wednesday a month at 7:15 pm (19:15). This group is recommended for intermediate and advanced speakers.
    If you have any questions, please call Laura at 781-314-3435.

    2019 Meeting Dates

    2019 Saturday Morning Book Club Selections

    There There by Tommy Orange Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

    Announcing the 2019 reading list for the Saturday Morning Book Club!
    This group meets one Saturday a month at 10 am. Books are available at the First Floor Circulation Desk during the month before the meeting. The book club is open to everyone; no registration required. Coffee and snacks provided!
    Print this booklist.

    January 12
    There There by Tommy Orange
    February 9
    Florida by Lauren Groff
    March 2
    Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth by Sarah Smarsh
    April 13
    The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    May 4
    The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
    June 1
    Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
    July 13
    Far From the Tree by Robin Benway
    August 3
    Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
    September 14
    Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller
    October 12
    House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
    November 2
    JELL-O Girls by Allie Rowbottom
    December 14
    Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple

    Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club 2019

    Scythe by Neal Shusterman The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden Boneshaker

    Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Club 2019
    Going into our second year, Waltham’s Sci-fi/Fantasy Book Club continues to explore the magical, the scientific, and the just plain bizarre. Meetups are every second Monday of the month, 7:15-8:45pm. Books can be found at the First Floor Circulation Desk. No registration required! Nerd or not, all are welcomed! Snacks provided!

    Printable Copy

    1/14/2019: Scythe by Neal Shusterman
    2/11/2019: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
    3/11/2019: Neuromancer by William Gibson
    4/8/2019: Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames
    5/13/2019: Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
    6/10/2019: Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke
    7/8/2019: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
    8/12/2019: Kraken: An Anatomy by China Miéville
    9/9/2019: The Prey of Gods by Nicky Drayden
    10/21/2019: Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
    11/18/2019: The Martian by Andy Weir
    12/9/2019: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

    100 Years After the Armistice: November 11, 1918- November 11, 2018

    The New York Tribune November 10, 1918 from the collection of the Library of Congress
    The New York Tribune, November 10, 1918 from the collection of The Library of Congress

    On Sunday, November 11, 2018, (“the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”), exactly one hundred years will have passed since the Armistice, signalling the end of World War I, aka “The Great War”. Armistice Day, known as Veteran’s Day in the United States, is a reminder of a bloody and brutal war which was supposed to end all wars, but which actually helped laid out a blueprint for future history and conflicts in the 20th and 21st Centuries. As we pause to remember, one hundred years later, please use our guide for resources related to the First World War.

    Museums, Local Exhibits, and Digital Collections

    Images

    Wake up America! from The Library of Congress Collection Back our Girls Over There from The Library of Congress Collection Two Unidentified African American Soldiers from The Library of Congress collection

    American Library Association Field Truck from The National Archives collection

    Newspapers and Articles

    Music

    Books
    There is an extensive list of books about World War I. This is by no means an exhaustive list but some that I, and others, recommend.

    Non-Fiction: call #s: 940.3 – 940.409

    Fiction

    DVDs

    Documentaries

    Movies

    More Information from Our Subscription Databases

    posted by Laura

    Staff Reads — November 2018

    Book Projector Treble Clef

    Laura:

    • Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar: This fast paced book about the life of the slaves of the United States’ first First Family, is riveting and presents a whole picture about slavery in the early years of this country. I’ve always admired the bravery of slaves who dared to run away from their owners, but this book gave me a new appreciation for what goes into that decision and the consequences. I also saw the Washingtons (especially Martha and her grandchildren) in a new (and not positive) light.
    • Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta, downloadable audiobook narrated (mainly) by Carrie Coon and Finn Wittrock, and featuring six “guest star” narrators: This character driven novel is the story of Eve Fletcher, experiencing empty nest syndrome after her son, Brendan, goes to college. This book easily could have relied on so many tropes, but it manages to send a lot of them on their head, and gives a lot of character development to minor and secondary characters. I appreciated, for example, that Eve’s ex-husband, while not the best husband to her, was actually portrayed as a decent and complex person. I usually don’t like the use of multiple narrators in audiobooks to portray different points of view, but it works well here.
    • Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter, downloadable audiobook narrated by Mariska Hargitay, with supplemental material narrated by Miranda and McCarter: This behind the scenes of the hit stage show is the perfect companion for fans of Hamilton: The Musical or musicals, in general. I read, quickly, through the print version of this several months ago as we planned for Watch Read Listen but I was able to listen to it with a new appreciation after having the pleasure of seeing the show. Since Hargitay is the narrator, I was a little disappointed that the Law and Order dun dun didn’t sound at the start of each chapter.
    • Yiddish Civilization: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation by Paul Kriwaczek: When I was a child, my grandmother often liked to tell bawdy jokes or relay family secrets by spelling everything. I made the fatal mistake of admitting that I could spell and knew what she was saying and that’s when she switched to speaking Yiddish when telling these secrets. Though born in this country and a native English speaker, the Yiddish language and culture was such an important part of my grandmother’s life and she passed on the love to me. Though sadly, I never became fluent enough to understand the jokes or family gossip. This book is a detailed and fascinating history of both the language and those who spoke it. If you’re interested in learning more, I also recommend visiting the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst.
    • Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin: These collected food essays by a late writer for The New Yorker and other magazines are humorous and very relatable. I love to cook and read food writing, but some food memoirists take themselves very seriously and it was nice to read one that had a good sense of humor. I would suggest this for any foodie who watched Julia Child, mainly for her entertaining personality and who wanted solace after any cooking disaster.
    • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: This plot driven novel, full of descriptive detail about rural Alaska in the 1970’s, is perfect for anyone who reads for a sense of place and who doesn’t mind characters suffering until the last few pages. When Leni is 13 years old, her Vietnam vet father, Ernt, moves the family to Alaska. He becomes more of a survivalist, and the entire family must deal with the consequences of his PTSD. The details of their new life and surroundings are exquisite and the book is very fast paced, despite its length. However, if readers are looking to read about a teenager living with a parent with PTSD, due to the war, I recommend The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson as an alternate title.

    Pat O.

    Ashley:

    Dana:

    • My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan: I really loved the first part of this book – the author’s descriptions of Oxford made me feel like I was actually there. My interest in the story shrunk as I read, though it held me long enough to finish.
    • My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh: I just could not get into this one and gave up after 50 pages. I think I was in the mood for a book with a little more going on, and a more likable protagonist than this one has.
    • How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids by Jancee Dunn: I spotted this one while checking in books and the title made me laugh. It’s mostly a parenting book with a touch of memoir thrown in, and it pretty much boils down to: communication is important.
    • The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke: This book was the latest title for Overdrive’s Big Library Read. The premise caught my eye – a sixteen-year-old girl accidentally time travels to East Berlin in 1988 – especially because I was in Berlin while I was reading it! It’s got magic, romance, history, and even a few German curse words for good measure. I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
    • Achtung Baby by U2: I couldn’t stop listening to this one before and after my recent trip to Berlin. The first track (“Zoo Station”) was in my head the whole time I was at the Berlin Zoo with my toddler. It’s such a good album.
    • The Great British Baking Show: A bit late to the party, I started watching Season 5 on Netflix this month. I love Noel Fielding! I always end up craving cake while I watch, though.
    • Won’t You Be My Neighbor?: What a fantastic documentary about Mr. Rogers. I didn’t think it was possible, but I love him even more after watching this.

    Casey:

    Janet Z.

    • A Girl’s Guide to Missiles: Growing up in America’s Secret Desert by Karen Piper: Karen Piper’s account of growing up on a U.S. missile development compound in the Mojave Desert is a great read. Piper draws upon her childhood memories, interviews with family members, and extensive archival research to explore aspects of U.S. military history that are uncomfortable, disconcerting, and fascinating all at once. I could have done with fewer details about Piper’s druggie post-college days in Oregon and other adult exploits but she apparently needed to make it crystal clear that that she did not follow in the footsteps of her evangelical, missile-designing, politically conservative parents, however much she loved them.
    • Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple: Ugh. This book was really hard to follow and none of the main characters were likeable. Need I say more?
    • Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Ann Fowler, audiobook read by Jenna Lamia: I loved learning about this fascinating woman. Dare I say she may have been F. Scott’s “better half?” You be the judge. The talented narrator glides effortlessly between male and female characters of varying ages, with convincing Southern, Midwestern, French, and Italian accents to boot.
    • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, audiobook read by Barbara Rosenblat: Gorgeously written, beautifully narrated. Made my many hours in the car over the past month fly by.
    • The Greatest Ears in Town: The Arif Mardin Story: When I found out that Arif Mardin produced records for both Aretha Franklin and Scritti Polliti I had to learn more. Turns out he also produced for Dusty Springfield, Norah Jones, Barbra Streisand, and many other artists. I particularly enjoyed watching a wide variety of musicians express their respect and love for Mardin, who was arranging music up until the day he died.

    Debora H.

    • The Lost Family by Jenna Blum: I read this because we hosted the author in September. It’s a story about both a man’s family actually lost in WWII and his second family, lost in his grief, silence, and trauma. I didn’t love all the characters, but I did love the writing.
    • Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan: WWII as a genre is my go to and this book did not disappoint. Set in Italy during the Nazi occupation, this is the story of Pino Lella, a young man who ends up as a driver for a Nazi official, gathering intelligence and feeding it to the resistance. It’s also a love story, beautifully told.

    Kelly:

    Mary V.:

    • Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh: I like this author because her stories are suspenseful with unpredictable twists. This is the story of Anna who is a new mother. Both of her parents died within the last year. The police determined that both deaths were suicides. Anna believes it was murder and is determined to find out exactly what happened.
    • Instructions For a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell: This book was in the book drop during one of our heat waves and it just caught my attention. Although the story takes place during a heat wave, the heat has little to do with anything. It takes place in Ireland. A man leaves his house to buy a newspaper and never returns. His wife of fifty years doesn’t know what happened to him. She gathers her children and together they discover what happened. I enjoyed reading it.
    • Dark Tide Rising by Anne Perry: This is the newest William Monk novel. A man wants Monk’s help in paying a ransom to kidnappers who have abducted his wife. Monk and five of his trusted staff plan to meet the kidnappers, pay the ransom and rescue the man’s wife. However, they are attacked and are unsuccessful. Monk believes that one of his men must have alerted the kidnappers. He pursues the kidnappers while trying to determine which of his men betrayed him.
    • The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd: This is the latest Inspector Ian Rutledge mystery which takes place in 1920. Ian is not on police business when he comes across a man who has just been murdered. As he investigates the murder, he discovers two more murders that are similar. He races against the clock to determine the connection among the three murders before someone else is murdered.
    • Diana’s White House Garden by Elisa Carbone: This is a children’s book from the book drop. Since it was about Eleanor Roosevelt and the White House, I borrowed it. It is based on Diana Hopkins who lived in the White House with her father, Harry Hopkins, Franklin Roosevelt’s chief advisor. She is ten years old and wants to help with the war effort. She plants one of the first Victory Gardens. It’s American history and a cute story. It is nicely illustrated by Jen Hill.

    Kim:

    • Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza: A great look at what it takes to be a woman running for office. Our country still seems to have concerns about working mothers, arguably with women generally, and especially those with political ambitions and this book really gets it right. Please tell me if you locate any other novel about a woman running for national office! I can’t think of any…
    • Goop Clean Beauty: Easy to read information about what we put on our skin and into our bodies. I’ve been trying to phase out anything that isn’t cruelty free (did you know that if a company sells in China they are required by law to test on animals to sell there?) and vegan, and focus on ingredients that aren’t questionable in their long-term effects both for skincare and cosmetics.
    • Feminasty: the Complicated Woman’s Guide to Surviving the Patriarchy without Drinking Herself to Death by Erin Gibson: The title says it all, right? Erin is whip-smart, caustic, and sometimes vulgar…not to mention well informed. Her essay topics run the gamut from Mike Pence to living with herpes to a list of women-owned cosmetic companies you can feel good about giving money to. Her honest, tell-it-like-it-is style is endearing and empowering. Erin also hosts a podcast, Throwing Shade, with Brian Safi and they delve into women’s issues and gay rights. I cannot recommend this book enough for everyone.
    • The Haunting of Hill House: It got rave reviews, but I felt very mixed feelings about it. Something about the script or the acting annoyed me, I can’t tell which was the problem. The first batch of episodes focuses on one sibling, and I didn’t enjoy that much. It really slowed down the progression of the story. Your mileage may vary.
    • Making a Murderer (season 2): Again, mixed feelings. Could’ve used more aggressive editing to cut down on the length overall. If you liked the first season, great. Just be aware that this is much more of a legal drama. It mostly follows his new, high-profile attorney in her efforts to break down the forensic evidence presented in the case against Steven Avery. It also covers Brendan Dassey’s attempts to convince courts that his confession was coerced. It’s very upsetting to imagine the kind of conspiracy that they appear to upturn.
    • Blackkklansman: Everyone should know the story of Detective Ron Stallworth’s successful infiltration of the KKK as a black man. I love John David Washington (of Ballers fame, and also Denzel’s son) and Adam Driver (aka Klyo Ren and former Girls castmember) so seeing this in theaters was a no-brainer. The film is somewhat heavy-handed in its digs at politics today, but it offers great screenwriting, superb performances and overall it’s a very Spike Lee film. If you have a heart you will leave the theater with tears in your eyes thanks to Lee’s content before the credits.
    • Halloween (2018): Not bad. I found it to be just slightly too short to really care or feel terror, but I think overall it was a good watch if you want a scary movie.
    • Calypso by David Sedaris: I always prefer to hear Sedaris read his own stories. His voice just soothes me. He’s one of my favorite authors and Calypso doesn’t disappoint. This book covers a lot of dark topics (suicide of his sister, the death of his mother) with loads of typical glass-half-empty kinds of light (feeding your tumor to a turtle for instance). You might cry, but you will also laugh and wrinkle your nose in disgust, but you’ll also feel warmed by all of it..that’s Sedaris’ gift. The Sedaris family simply fascinates me and I always enjoy getting a peek into David’s head.

    Always Young (At Heart) Adult Book Club, 2019!

    Untwined by Edwidge Danticat The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

    Do you still love reading young adult (teen) novels, even though you were in high school before Harry Potter received his letter from Hogwarts? Join us in early 2019 for the new book club, Always Young (At Heart) Adult and share your love of YA literature with other adults. We meet once a month on Wednesdays at 7:15 pm, starting on January 9.

    Print this list!

    2019 Waltham Public Library Thursday Night Book Club Selections

    The Tree Bird of Humingbird Lane by Lisa See The View from Flyover Country by Sarah Kendzio Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

    Announcing the 2019 reading list for the Waltham Public Library Thursday Night Book Club! Meetings are once a month on Thursdays at 7:15 pm. Books are available at the First Floor Circulation Desk during the month before the meeting. The book club is open to everyone. No registration required. And we always provide snacks!

    Print this list!

    Initiating Inspiration Book Group 2018-2019

    The Initiating Inspiration Book Group is a partnership between the Waltham Public Library and the Agape Spiritual Community of Waltham.

    This group meets every other month on the fourth Monday at 7:15.  The group ends at 8:45.

    Copies of the books are available at our Circulation Desk on the first floor of the library.

    Please call 781-314-3425 and press “2” at the prompt to check availability.

    Print this list!

    Monday, November 27, 2018

    Image result for boy erased image

    Boy Erased: A Memoir by Garrard Conley When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision:  either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he prayed to every day of his life.  Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin.  Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.

     

    Monday, January 28, 2018

    Image result for how will you measure your life

    How Will You Measure Your Life? by Clayton M. Christensen, James Allworth and Karen Dillon   How Will You Measure Your Life shows you how to sustain motivation at work and in life to spend your time on earth happily and fulfilled, by focusing not just on money and your career, but your family, relationships and personal well-being.

     

     

    Monday, March 25, 2019

    Image result for brene brown daring greatly

    Daring Greatly by Brene Brown Researcher and thought leader Brene Brown encourages us to dare greatly:  to embrace vulnerability and imperfection, to live wholeheartedly, and to courageously engage in our lives.

     

     

    Monday, May 20, 2019

    Image result for before happiness

    Before Happiness:  The Five Hidden Keys To Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, And Sustaining Positive Change by Shawn Achor  Why are some people able to make positive change while others remain the same? In his international bestseller, The Happiness Advantage, Harvard trained researcher Shawn Achor described why happiness is the precursor to greater success. This book is about what comes before both. Because before we can be happy or successful, we need to first develop the ability to see that positive change is possible. Only once we learn to see the world through a more positive lens can we summon all our motivation, emotion, and intelligence to achieve our personal and professional goals.

     

    Monday, September 23, 2019

    How To Relax:  By Thich Nhat Hanh   Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we relax, we “become calm water, and we will reflect reality as it is. If we’re not calm, the image we reflect will be distorted. When the image is distorted by our minds, it’s not the reality, and it causes lots of suffering.” Relaxation is essential for accessing the tranquility and joy that lead to increased personal well-being. With sections on healing, relief from nonstop thinking, transforming unpleasant sounds, solitude, being peace, and more, How to Relax includes meditations you can do to help you achieve the benefits of relaxation no matter where you are.

     

    Monday, November 25, 2019

    Image result for buddhas brain

    Buddha’s Brain:  The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom by Rick Hanson Buddha’s Brain joins the forces of modern neuroscience with ancient contemplative teachings to show readers how they can work toward greater emotional well-being, healthier relationships, more effective actions, and deepened religious and spiritual understanding. This book will explain how the core elements of both psychological well-being and religious or spiritual life-virtue, mindfulness, and wisdom-are based in the core functions of the brain: regulating, learning, and valuing. Readers will also learn practical ways to apply this information, as the book offers many exercises they can do to tap the unused potential of the brain and rewire it over time for greater peace and well-being.

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