What Are My Neighbors Up To?

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up.  Remember that a lot of these items can be found on our new display space behind the Welcome Desk.  Check out the Wonder Wall for 14-Day instant gratification!

You Are What You Read!

Greetings and welcome to the Masters Edition of You Are What You Read.  This week’s housekeeping includes a correction.  It was pointed out to me that the convertible that Thelma and Louise road-tripped in was not red as I reported, but aqua.  So thank you to Marilyn K for keeping me honest.  In the Hopeful Signs Department, I regret to inform everyone there were none, and with the snow predicted for tomorrow?  Pfff. Don’t hold your breath.  We’re back on the Tundra People.  Bundle up.  The Countdown Clock has us at 51 days.  But right now it feels more like 51 years. 

Remember that horrifying and deeply dreaded 7th Grade Science class when you and a partner were assigned a deceased frog? Remember that hideous smell that then seemed to pervade everything, and stayed with you all day long, long after you left Froggie behind? And you had to impale it on that weird black wax thing that looked for all the world like a pan of brownies? Then with tiny sharp scalpels held by shaking hands and with all the surgical precision your adolescent self had to muster you cut into it and so you could study this poor sacrificed amphibian’s bits?    Remember the relief you felt when that part of your science study was over and you could move on to something else that you would never apply to your daily life? I mean I hope you all aren’t performing dissections on a daily basis.  Because that would be weird.  Anyway, in Hungary during the early part of the last century there was an artist who did not see the world of deceased frog the way you and I do.  And in fact he devoted his life to creating tiny taxidermy tableaus featuring frogs.  Between the years of 1910 and 1920, Ferenc Mere devoted his life to stuffing, and dressing frogs which he then posed in anthropomorphic ways with all sorts of props.  There are boxes filled with tennis playing frogs, frogs practicing dentistry, frogs at school, frogs taking pictures.  Apparently, this is not the easiest thing to do.  Their skins are fragile and can easily tear, but Mere persevered and developed a special way of preserving them that involved stuffing them with cork and sawdust through their mouths so that there would not be any seams to distract. While many seem to have been lost to time, 21 dioramas survive featuring 507 stuffed frogs and they are display in a museum appropriately called Froggyland.  You can read more about that here or if you prefer to visit their website you can do that here.  So, if you are spending your Spring Break in Split, Croatia make the time to stop in and if you do, won’t you bring me a t-shirt?   I wear a Medium.  Thanks.

This week we have good-for-nothing son, a comic, a family trip, landlords, octopi, some witches and customers who are never wrong.

Playlist?  Sure! Let’s make the leap into Spring Break this week. Let’s make the leap for those that no longer can.  I’m looking at you Ferenc!

Let us begin!

Sweet Ann has just listened to Thirteen Ways of Looking by Colum McCann.  This audio book is not just memorable for the wonderful stories and writing of Mr. McCann but also for the pleasure of listening to his lovely voice reading it. The first story, actually a novella, is the title of the book.  It follows a day in the life of a retired judge, who is quite elderly and dealing with many things from his past and present; including his good- for- nothing son, a snowstorm and a police investigation. I was so riveted that I will admit I drove a bit extra to finish the story.  I was somewhat concerned that the next stories would not be as good, but they also were brilliant. The second story, Sh'khol, a mother whose son wanders off one night is left to question if it was her fault.  In Treaty, a nun who was tortured and held captive in her past now has to deal with her torturer being regarded as a man of peace.  The last story, What Time is it Now, Where Are You? revolves around a marine calling home on New Year's Eve from Afghanistan.  In all these stories, you are quickly drawn into their lives and emotions.  I highly recommend these beautifully written stories.”

The Amazing Amanda is here with something completely different.  I have been following the work of author, web cartoonist, infographics creator, and thing explainer Randall Munroe for ten years. Munroe is the legendary author of the web comic, XKCD . His comic is drawn in stick figure style and snaps between complex math and science comics to silly "now *I* have your hat!" storylines. A few years ago, he began answering people's biggest daydream questions in his book, What If. Now he's back at the other side with Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words . This beautiful work should be read like a coffee table book. There is so much detail going on in the drawings as Randall sticks with using just the top most common words in the English language. He describes planes as sky boats and your organs as 'bags of stuff inside you.' The book is engaging, funny, and I've had the worst time trying to pull it out of my spouse's hands so he'll share!”

Alan our Leader is reading true to form this week.  “In Descent by Tim Johnston we have a thriller that’s literary, with remarkable characters torn apart and pulled together after a sister, on a family trip through the Colorado Rockies, goes off on an early morning run with her younger brother, and he alone comes back, badly injured. Well-drawn characters, a remarkable sense of place, and an amazing crescendo of an ending make it well worth reading.”

Barbara M is counting her blessings this week. “I’m reading a very difficult book because there but for the grace of circumstances goes you or I. Evicted, written by a sociologist from Harvard, Matthew Desmond, tells the story of eight families living in dire situations in Milwaukee. It also tells the story of two landlords who say they’re just trying to make a living. It’s easy to place blame and to say that bad choices led people to these situations but Desmond puts a human face on the problem and explains why the solution is not always just finding a job and making money. I think this should be a must read for everybody.”

Laura has just finished Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery.  This is a book about wonderment.  Non-fiction, it is based at Boston’s Aquarium, the first of the large tank habitats ever built for the viewing public.  And in that aquarium is Athena, one of the many octopi that Montgomery visits.  I was astounded to find out that octopus are friendly, they love to be petted and they especially enjoy  wrapping their arms around their caregivers. The book was fascinating because it revealed that their intelligence is unfathomable and still being studied.  I consider this one of my ‘snack’ books meaning there is nothing heavy to read, or too deep in meaning.  Instead, Soul of an Octopus, is a wonderful tale about a woman’s interest, and love, for the octopi in her care, and the marine biologists, dedicated staff, and volunteers at the Boston Aquarium.” 

Maria is one of our new faces here at the library.  She can be found on the Help Desk, well, helping people.  She’s here this week with two things that she’s excited about.  “With the timely revival of The Crucible on Broadway, I thought it would be worthwhile to delve into the true story of what happened to our New England neighbors in Massachusetts and so I decided to read The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff.  Hauntingly, Ms. Schiff offers why our preoccupation with the subject still persists: What  sets Salem apart is not the accusations but the convictions. Fourteen women, five men, and two dogs were condemned to death.  The truth behind those convictions is unsettling, but with it Ms. Schiff offers insight into how hysteria can sweep over seemingly sensible, faithful people to tragically expose the darker side of human nature.  Unfortunately, an all too familiar theme we continue to deal with today's national and international news stories.    On a happier note, I have found a temporary cure to my Sunday night TV period costume drama withdrawals now that Downton Abbey has come to an end.   Mr. Selfridge" stars Jeremy Piven and  it is a captivating behind-the-scenes look at the life of an American retail giant who took our client service principles to London. Among his many innovations that are so familiar to us today, Mr. Selfridge is credited with the pervasive sales mantra that ‘The customer is always right.’”

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from Meat Chicken with the final thoughts and of course, The Playlist.  What’s good Pats? Spring Break is being celebrated by school-aged kids and their parents in sunny, sandy places as I write this. We had our break this past week and while my daughter went to Florida with a friend, the rest of us enjoyed a little staycation here in The D. Her brother is slightly bitter about it all, but really, who can blame him. I hope you’re packing your own bags for a little sunshine and sand time complete with a good book. For those of you who are staycationing it like us, may you find fun in all things local. The beach countdown continues…


Nice New Book Goodness!

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up.  Remember that a lot of these items can be found on our new display space behind the Welcome Desk.  Check out the Wonder Wall for 14-Day instant gratification!

You Are What You Read!

Greetings and welcome to the Final Four Edition of You Are What You Read! I for one, no longer have a dog in this hunt.  The Traveling Companion however is positively giddy being the UNC grad that he is.  He’s on his way  down to Augusta to begin covering The Masters for Augusta National but he already knows where he will be rooting on his Tar Heels.  Steph who eats, lives and breathes basketball will be cheering on her  ‘Cuse Orangemen.  May the best team win and may my bracket be whole next year because this year was tragic.  Thanks Yale.  Thanks for nothing.

As many of you know, I spend some serious time in New York talking to publishers about what they are excited about for the coming year so that I can make sure that the library has the latest and greatest.  In fact, I was in New York yesterday having lunch with the totally delightful folks from Harper Collins, the author Sophie Hannah and some of the editors from Library Journal.  The buzz at the table was all about a manuscript that has been found by Harper Lee’s estate. It is a work of non-fiction where Lee writes  about December, 1959 when she accompanied Capote  to Kansas to help him with the preliminary research  on his book  In Cold Blood.  The current working title is  There is No Stork Club in Topeka:  Harper Lee, Truman Capote and the Making of a New American Classic.  It’s being edited as we speak and should be ready for a Fall 2017 release.  In it we learn about the zany train trip out to Kansas, the culture shock that only a trip to a fly--over state can induce, and of course, the whacky occasions interviewing Hickock and Smith in the state Penitentiary.  Apparently, there were some rollicking good times to be had by the two besties.  Think Thelma and Louise, only other people died . And without the red convertible. Or the bank robberies. And I think a cliff is hard to come by in Kansas. And I am fairly certain that Harper Lee and Truman Caopte never had sex with Brad Pitt.   Okay. Maybe it was more like a buddy picture with a body count. Anyway, you can read more about that here

This week we have some good nerdy fun, a two-year-old, Lithuania, Poland, First Ladies and Book Two of Three.

Playlist? Don’t be foolish!

Let us begin!

The Amazing James has just tackled the nerdiest thing ever.  It’s rather in keeping, actually.  “ In Thing Explainer, Randall Monroe, attempts to describe how complicated systems like, the International Space Station (“shared space house”), animal cells (“tiny bags of water you’re made of”), and dishwashers (“boxes that clean food holders”) work using diagrams, illustrated in the same style as his webcomic, XKCD, and labeled with only the 1,000 most common English words.  This book doesn’t feel like it is intended to be read from cover to cover, nor does it try to be some sort of authoritative reference resource. With silly—though admittedly pretty accurate—descriptions, this book is ultimately for fun, though I did find myself learning a thing or two on each page.”

The Fabulous Babs B has just finished one of our most wanted titles, Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben.  “Checking the nanny cam, Maya, an ex-special ops pilot, sees her two-year-old daughter playing with her husband.  The only problem with this scenario is that he was murdered two weeks ago in front of her very eyes!  So begins Coben's new thriller which is a twisted adventure as May tries to figure out what is real and isn't real.  The strains of being a single parent and suffering the effects of PTSD add to the mix.  I thought I had figured out the ending but it came as a complete surprise.  Despite that, I don't think this was of of Coben's best books and did not feel any sense of resolve or satisfaction.”

Steph is leading with her heart this week. ”This week my heart is with Dear Fang, With Love, by Rufi Thorpe, the latest book from the author of The Girls of Corona del Mar. It’s the heart-wrenching but also quite funny story of an absentee father and his teen daughter on a trip to, of all places, Lithuania. In alternating chapters, the book follows the hapless Lucas and effervescent Vera, who has recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, on their journey. Thorpe so accurately probes at the many ways family binds us to other people without ever getting into mushy territory. I guffawed, I cried, I pouted, I sighed. This is excellent fiction for fans of Maria Semple, Jincy Willett, or Mary Gaitskill.”

One of my favorite books of the year is coming out next week. In Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly we meet three young women in the fall of 1939 who could not be more different. Caroline Halliday a bright young socialite working for the French Embassy in New York, Polish Kasia Kuzmerick a Catholic schoolgirl who's being drawn into the Polish Resistance Movement and Dr. Herta Oberheuser, a German, who has just accepted a position at Ravensbruck,  the female 're-education camp'. Based on the lives of real women, we learn about the horrible wrongs committed and the extraordinary lengths we go to as humans to allow humanity towards each other ultimately triumph. 

Pat T is, as usual, listening.  “The audio book, NPR American Chronicles First Ladies, is a fascinating look at the spouses of our Presidents. As Cokie Roberts says, the role of the First Lady is not for the faint of heart since they have not been elected to the position yet are scrutinized for what they say, do and wear! Martha Washington, our first First Lady, was widowed with four children when she married George Washington. Abigail and John Adams corresponded with one another, writing over 1200 letters, which is one of the main reasons there are so many published books about this couple. Florence Harding, like Eleanor Roosevelt was an activist. Pat Nixon was politically savvy and Bess Truman was her husband's confidante in all matters. From Nancy Reagan's "just say no" campaign, to Michelle Obama's campaign ‘to get moving’, each of these First Ladies have left their special mark. It was a great audio book for Women's History month!”

Pat S  has just finished The Man in the Wooden Hat by Jane Gardam.  “When last I left you, I was bemoaning the end of the best novel I had read in a couple of years entitled Old Filth by Jane Gardam. My only solace was the fact that it was the first book in a trilogy. The Man in the Wooden Hat is book two, and friends, I am happy to say it does not disappoint!  Betty, Old Filth's wife, is but a shadowy secondary character in the first volume. In TMITWH, we are told the story of their marriage through Betty's eyes. Like her husband, Betty too is born abroad in Tiensin and raised in a Japanese internment camp. We meet her as a young woman, on the brink of adulthood, where she gamely makes the decision to put away idealism for security in marriage to a rising advocate (lawyer). From their engagement through their fifty year plus marriage, we follow as Betty faces an inability to have a family, lack of passion, and the loneliness of being married to a workaholic. Yet as she makes the necessary adjustments to her dreams and hopes, she comes to find the strength in that which endures.
Much like Filth, Betty maintains an almost perfect veneer- attractive, well married matron, efficiently heading up a host of clubs and organizations, social leader, gardener extraordinaire. Yet gently scratch the surface, and we soon find that Betty is quite as enigmatic as her husband. It is the ultimate ‘humanness’ of Gardam’s characters that make them so hard to leave.
Don’t worry about me though, there is still book three, Last Friends, to read.

DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from That State Up North with our final musings for the week.  What’s good Pats?  Is there anything better than a good April Fools’ Day joke? Every year NPR gets me because I forget to check the date. Their prank articles are classic. I completely believed this one  and had to forward it along to an education buddy and ask him if the world had gone mad. He told me to check the date. Gullible. Me. Nutshell. May all you tricksters out there enjoy a day made for foolery and to everyone else...don't believe everything you read. HAPPY APRIL FOOLS’ DAY!  


Nice New Book Goodness

Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up.  Remember that a lot of these items can be found on our new display space behind the Welcome Desk.  Check out the Wonder Wall for 14-Day instant gratification!

Books By The Fire - The Un-Book Group

It was a full house at Books By The Fire, long lost members returned with.....

…… out-of-town guests (hello Litchfield County, welcome!).  Spread the word, BBTF is not a closed group, we’re open for business and we love to have visitors. We don’t make any demands, we are the UN-book group, more a reading group.  We gather to hear what everybody else is reading.  Feeling shy?  Bring a friend, bring a spouse, bring a lover.  We don’t bite and we don’t ask too many questions.  We just talk books, and topics, and trends, and food and movies and Broadway shows and…..

….digital electronics (yes we do!):  Hoopla to listen to music, Podcasts for Serial radio shows, 3m and Overdrive for books.  Confused on how to get on?  Come! Bring your devices, we’ll get you all sorted out. 

At today’s meeting Marianne brought favorite titles from the book groups in town -- good reads that have been well tested.  As well, the last four suggestions in the list below are BBTF member’s picks.  Check them out.

And don’t forget to look for Jen’s recent blogs: “You Are What You Read,” “Nice New Book Goodness,” and “What Are My Neighbors Up To” which can be found on the Library’s Catalog page (when there, just scroll half way down the pageher blogs will all be there.)

Ciao. Till next week!

Pssst. Hey You. Yes You. Want the 411 on all things popular and coveted?

Wonder Wall
Wonder Wall

We have a new place for you to find all those items that your neighbors want! Over by our Post Road Entrance you can find 14-Day copies of all of our most popular items. Let it be the first place you head to when you are looking for those sought after titles! Remember 14-Day titles cannot be held or renewed. We hope you find something that will make you very happy this weekend!

New York Times Bestsellers: Fiction

Top Ten Hardcover Bestsellers from the New York Times for the week of  May 8th.



New York Times Bestsellers: Non-Fiction

Top Ten Hardcover Bestsellers from the New York Times for the week of May 8th.


NPR Bestsellers: Fiction

NPR Fiction Bestsellers for the week of March 24th. 

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