2014 Darien Library Best Books of the Year

Every year, we ask our staff to nominate and vote on their favorite books of the year. This year, the top ten books that got the most nominations were:

1. All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
2. Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
3. Some Luck, by Jane Smiley
4. Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, by Roz Chast
5. Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng
6. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo
7. I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, by Courtney Maum
8. Not My Father’s Son, by Alan Cumming
9. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
10. One Pot, by the editors of Martha Stewart Living

However, many other books were nominated, and all are deserving of your attention. The complete list of nominated titles can be found below. Happy 2015, and happy reading!

Meet Us On Main Street

The  Meet Us On Main Street Group met with Mallory and Daniel today.  It was Daniel's first co-hosting and he was in good company with Mallory, a veteran presenter.  Daniel kept it neat:  a legal thriller that some say rivals any of Grisham's court room dramas; and one of 2014's most heart-felt stories of the year -- worth the read during the holiday break.  Mallory spiced it up: a quadruple award-winning YA story on audiobook; another YA book set in the wilds of Florida; a book of advice on how to persevere in business in a graphic novel format by the co-founders of the newly popular Honest Tea brand beverage; and lastly, a holiday story, of sorts, about a spouse who decides not to visit the in-laws for Christmas and what she learns from the fallout of such a decision.  Mallory also dazzled the group to  Serial Podcast, a thriller mystery she just can't get enough of.

Museum Passes

NYC and Connecticut are home to some of the greatest museums in the country. Renaissance masterpieces, visionary modern art, and celebrations of great historical figures are an easy train or car ride away. As part of our continuing dedication to enriching the lives of our patrons, Darien Library is pleased to provide a variety of museum passes that will engage, excite, and inform you in a cultural learning experience.

Spotlight On

The Museum of the City of New York

The Museum of the City of New York. From now until March 20th there is an exhibition of photographs by Jacob A. Riis: Revealing New York’s Other Half. Jacob A. Riis (1849-1914) “was a pioneering newspaper reporter and social reformer in New York at the turn of the 20th century. His then-novel idea of using photographs of the city’s slums to illustrate the plight of impoverished residents established Riis as forerunner of modern photojournalism. The exhibition features photographs by Riis and his contemporaries, as well as his handwritten journals and personal correspondence.” This is the first major retrospective of Riis’s photographic work in the U.S. since the City Museum’s 1947 exhibition.

To Check Out a Library Pass
  • You need to live in Darien, work full-time in Darien, or be a Friend at the $300 level
  • Passes may be picked up after 3 p.m. the day before your museum visit and then returned by 10 a.m. the day after. They are not renewable. 
  • Late fines are $10 per day. If a pass is lost, you will need to pay the full replacement cost.
  • Museum passes are very popular, so please cancel your reservation if you can't make it so that another patron can enjoy a visit to the museum. Otherwise, after not picking up two passes, you'll be unable to reserve any museum pass for six months. After that, you'll be able to reserve passes again. 
  • Some passes may not be valid to attend special events at that museum. If you have questions, contact that museum directly.
  • All passes are to picked up and returned to the Welcome Desk.
  • Please call or visit the website of the museum to verify their hours of operation.
  • You may reserve a pass online or call the Welcome Desk at 203-669-5239. Passes may be reserved up to 90 days in advance.
  • You may reserve two passes per month and no more than one at a time per household.

 

Meet Us On Main Street

Today Alan met with the Meet Us On Main Street Group to talk about a stories from the past:  of Japanese/Chinese cultural tensions pre WWII; of revenge from the coasts of Portugal; the pursuit of the American Dream from Woodside, Queens; oarsmen who dared to defy more than just Hitler; and short stories about the aftermath of the Vietnam War.   And for the factually minded:  a true history of today's innovators who ushered in the digital age; a book on how we can make choices for better lives, health and wealth; as well as, a true account of one hundred years of The Darien Library.  Check out the books below:

You Are What You Read!

Greetings! A Happy Friday to you all. It’s really hard for me to wrap my pea brain around the fact that on Monday I went for a run in shorts and ate my breakfast on a terrace OUTSIDE in the aforementioned shorts and I am ending my week with a winter coat, snow boots at the ready.  Granted, that breakfast took place in Florida, but still.  When the Traveling Companion asked me at dinner what we were going to be discussing this week and I said the sad, inevitable return of winter his reply was, “Already?”  So adieu to the Farm Share, the bare leg, beach weekends with a cooler filled with contraband, no coat, big hair (no tragedy there really but I feel the need to include it), dining al fresco (unless you happen to be in Florida), and sweaters that are a wisp of spider web nothingness.  Let’s embrace longer nights (more reading time!), chillier temps (fires to read by!  Lovely soups and stews for dinner!), chunky warm sweaters (they can hide the effects of all that lovely soup and stew and fireside sitting) and the occasional snow day (always have chocolate chip cookie fixings at the ready!).   Maybe this year won’t be so bad.   This week we have a tiny woman brain, a little poetry, panache, farmers, and love with a capital L.  Playlist?  It may be cold out there be we aren’t!

Let us begin!

Miss Lisa from the Children’s Library has just finished reading a book I am hearing great things about. “This weekend I read the excellent collection of essays Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit. It starts out with a droll and humorous account of the way men tend to explain things to her - for example, a man at a party who attempted over and over to explain to her what a book she had written was about, in spite of her protests that she knew, because she somehow, using her tiny woman brain, had written the book he was talking about.  She deftly moves on to discuss the issues of violence against women  and violence in general, Virginia Woolf's understandings of uncertainty and hope, and how to make change in our world, all with a deft sense of history, literature, and current events.  She argues for the basic rights of women to ‘show up and speak’ in all parts of our world; as she says, ‘The battle for women to be treated like human beings with rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of involvement in cultural and political arenas continues, and it is sometimes a pretty grim battle.’ But, somehow, you finish reading this book with hope and energy.  It's a great read for all genders. Similarly, another tale of powerful women is Queen of the Tearling, which I know has a lot of hype - but the hype is worth it! What a wild ride into an endangered kingdom that has struggled through a lot of weak and greedy leaders.  Good thing the new Queen can manage spectacular magical jewels, fight slavery, and stand up for the people!”


Pat T has been dipping her toes into the Poetry Pool. “I had the pleasure of coming upon Mary Oliver's newest book of poems last week, Blue Horses, and I must say it is a delight to read over and over again. Her poems reflect the everyday occurrences in life and nature yet transcend the ordinary by showing us what we experience as exceptional.  I laughed while reading, What I Can Do, was moved by the poem, I Woke, and was delighted by, Good Morning. I hope you take the opportunity to read anyone of her wonderful books of poetry!”


The Ever Delightful Pat S has just finished a book that is rapidly becoming a staff favorite with us entitled I’ll Drink to That by Betty Halbreich. “Described as 'a life in fashion, with a twist', this is the memoir of the now legendary personal shopper from Bergdorf Goodman. Now eighty six, Ms. Halbreich tells the story of her upper-class upbringing in Chicago where she was an only child celebrated for her beauty and her ability to wear clothes with panache. Capitalizing on these attributes, she then makes a young marriage to the handsome and wealthy scion of a Manhattan real estate family. After a twenty year marriage comes to an end, Ms. Halbreich finds herself her first job, and eventual career based on her talent with clothes. Forty years on, she has elevated that title of personal shopper to mother/therapist/lifecoach. While the stories of the celebrities and socialites are fun to read, it is the story of her personal transformation which provides gravitas to the book. And as an aside, she is currently working on a television series with Lena Dunham based on her life.”


Laura has been having fun with a cult classic. “I highly recommend book groups to read Stoner, by John Williams.  Set in the 1900's, the reader meets Stoner early in his life as the only child to stoic, hard-scrabbled Missouri farmers who have little time for neither conversation, nor interest in anything beyond the few acres they own. He is sent to university by his father to study agriculture but instead he falls in love with literature and takes a different path by becoming a scholar. His life develops; marriage, friends, career, child, his mistress, and his nemesis, sadly all but one, are what may be seen as failures.  Once I started reading, I couldn't wait to continue.  The story while not a page turner was so well written that reading it was a pleasure.   I didn't know how my book group was going to react to this story but they loved it and had a lot to talk about. The story was curious and everyone had a different take on the gentle, stubborn, stoic character that some of us adored and others of us worried about and the rest of us couldn't see Stoner's merits at all. It was the liveliest and deepest discussion our group has had in a long time.”   


Longer nights?  What am I reading before sleep?  Light of the World is Elizabeth Alexander’s amazing memoir of her journey through grief.   Alexander was just 49 when she lost her beloved husband and father to her two young sons.  Please don’t think that this is a depressing read.  It’s the exact opposite of that actually, because the one thing that shines through all the horrible is Love with a capital L.  At its heart this is a love story. Not just the love she had for her husband but also the love she has for her two sons.  Because her day job is as a Pulitzer nominated poet and a professor up at Yale you can expect some beautiful language and turns of phrase.  This comes out in April and I think you all will love it.


DJ Jazzy Patty McC is here from the State Up North (14 days until The Game!  Let’s go Bucks!) with this week’s musings and playlist.  She has had it a whole lot harder than us already this year with this whole reappearance of winter.  How’s tricks Pats? “We woke up this Thursday morning to snow. Yep. Those white fluffy frozen flakes were falling softly from above. My daughter moaned, my son jumped for joy, my husband gritted his teeth and I sighed. I knew this weather was headed our way so like a good Girl Scout I prepared the day before. Everyone had boots, winter coats, hats and gloves. The squirrels have been snacking on our carved pumpkins outside but those will need to go this weekend. Now we just need to unpack our sleds and begin searching for the perfect sledding hill. Me? I’ll be buying a big honking full spectrum light lamp in the hopes of working on a winter tan and to ward off any winter blues. While I am not ready to slide into winter, I do enjoy a pair of stylish boots and a fine cashmere sweater.”

DL SLIPPING & SLIDING 2014

Meet Us On Main Street

Sally brought pecans, spiced with smoke, to share with the Meet Us On Main Street group today and they were delicious.  She made them from a recipe book that she also shared with the group; Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen.  She also brought three memoir titles written by three of today's hottest entertainment personalities -- a YouTube sensation for millenials, TV's funny it-girl, and TV's really funny it-guy.  She also brought The Beatles....lyrics, that is, Gold Rush history, public speaking how-to's from the pros and a thoughtful cartoon book about aging parents and how to care for them.  And finally, a collection of awkward family photos that will help to chase the blues away.  All in all, it was a non-fiction day on Main Street.  See below:

You Are What You Read!

Happy Friday to you all!  By the time you read this, I will be in Florida with The Traveling Companion getting ready for the big party tomorrow night to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday.  I really have to say this reading habit that I have is entirely his fault.  From the very beginning, one of the strongest aspects of our relationship was all about books and our love of them.   Read-aloud story times morphed into his pressing his childhood favorites into my hands.  He recognized early on that while a girl does love a pretty dress on special occasions like Christmas and Birthdays, the gift that still excited the day after, and even years later, came between two hard covers with a dust jacket.  Every Saturday, I would ride my bike to Leroy Avenue and load up my basket with the reads for the week and then head across the street to the Fairbanks Sweet Shop for a little something to nosh on while working through the stack (I was a rather round child). There was always an exception though and that was when the weather was not the best.  On rainy Saturdays, I would get an early wake up nudge and a, “Would you like a ride to the Library and breakfast at the Sugar Bowl?”  Well, I ask you, what girl could resist a tall stack of books with a short stack of Bobby’s French toast with bacon?  Heaven!  Even when we were in the thick of those ghastly teenage years, the dialogue remained open because of the conversations we would have about what was being read. As I matured, so did our discussions.  Sometimes, there was not even a hello to begin with, we would just launch into what was good, what was great, what broke our hearts, and what we had to leave for dead on the side of the road. Sadly, Dad had a stroke a few years ago, and while he is in fairly decent health, the reading piece never really came back.  These days the conversation is entirely on me.  I try to think of it as a conversation that has come full circle with me telling him what the story is now.  So Happy 80th Birthday Peter Dayton!  And thank you for giving me the unquenchable and all-consuming Need for the Read.  This week we have some pandemic, a widow, Paris, some listening,  and G&T in a can (ingenious!).  


Playlist?  Would we let your weekend not have a soundtrack?  Of course not! We are a benevolent dictatorship!


Let us begin!


Here is Abby’s take on a book that is making a lot of Best of 2014 lists.  “Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a book I really wanted to like. It sounded like an interesting book, and I had heard the author speak which gives me a greater stake in my reading experience. It took bit of time for Station Eleven to fight its way to the top of my To Be Read Pile, but I am so glad it did. The book is tough to categorize. It is most certainly literary, and while dystopian, and set in the future, it is not science fiction as some have classified it. The story follows the onset of a deadly flu outbreak moves forward through the decades as human settlements and a post-pandemic culture evolve. It has many disparate storylines set in different stages of the crisis, but as the book unfolds, there is a beautiful convergence of people and events. The book Station Eleven most brings to mind is the wonderful Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. He too creates a wonderful, complex story that comes together in an unexpected and powerful way. Station Eleven is a strong contender for my favorite book of 2014.  I suspect I will be thinking about this book for a long time to come.”


Sweet Ann has just finished Nora Webster by Colm Toibin. This is rapidly becoming a Reader’s Advisory favorite and here’s what Ann thought. “This is the story of Nora who lives in a small town in Ireland where she is widowed in her early forties.  Her husband, Maurice, was the love of her life and they had four children together.  Her two daughters are older when she is widowed and almost on their own.  Her younger two sons are struggling without their father and the grief of their mother. This novel follows Nora as she tries to get her new life together.  Nora tries to be strong and independent but at times she must ask for help to survive financially and just try to live without Maurice.  As a reader you feel for Nora's struggles and there is one scene early in the book where she confronts an aunt who watched her sons while her husband was sick that I think will haunt me for a long time.  The emotion is so raw.  Nora Webster is a beautifully written novel.”


Barbara M is back in her beloved Paris  again and she’s with a Nobel winner.  I’ll let her explain. “The three novellas in Suspended Sentences by Patrick Modiano, recent winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, are united in their sense of place and melancholy feeling. Loosely based on his childhood the author recreates the Paris of his youth, a Paris that no longer exists. He also evokes a sense of vagueness that occurs when an adult tries to remember things that happened to them as a child. The stories are mysterious and haunting and I absolutely adored the descriptions of Paris.”


Steph is trying something new this week.  “We all know that we are what we read, but we’re also what we listen to! And what I’ve been listening to the past few weeks is a new podcast called Serial, which comes from the producers of This American Life (you may have heard the first episode there, in fact). It’s in its first season, and has the tagline of ‘One story. Told week by week.’ This season, the story is a true crime procedural about a young man named Adnan Syed, who was convicted as a teenager of murdering his girlfriend in 1999. The host, Sarah Koenig, was told about this case by a friend of Syed’s, as he still maintains his innocence, so she began investigating to see if she could figure out the truth. So far, seven episodes in, she has not, and the mystery has hooked me and thousands of other people—Slate has created a podcast that has a new episode to analyze each episode, and Reddit has a special forum to discuss the clues. Though I admit the storytelling can be a little over-the-top and meandering, but it’s a great listen for any mystery or true crime fan, as well as those looking for a change from audiobooks. It’s become my companion when doing the laundry—I actually look forward to ironing now! You can listen for free on the site, but make sure you start with the first episode. 


What is coming down to Florida with me?  A debut novel entitled The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins is what is coming down to Florida with me.  Rachel is, at first, seemingly, just a girl on the train.  A girl on the train going to work.  Then you start to notice that she has a huge thirst; most specifically for Gin and Tonics (in England they come in CANS!!  How brilliant is that? Why can’t we have that?), and an odd obsession with a couple that she sees from the train on her daily commute.  As the book goes on, you also notice that she seems to be more than a bit off.   She is in fact, as the Brits say, bonkers. The second voice in the book is Megan, the object of her obsession who also seems to be less than reliable as far as truth goes.  When Megan goes missing the police come around to question Rachel.  I have no idea where all this is going. All I know is that the ride is so much fun I am, for once, looking forward to a plane trip so that I can enjoy 2 hours and 45 minutes of uninterrupted reading time.  This one comes out in January.


Here is DJ Jazzy Patty McC from the State Which Shall Not Be Named (T minus 20 to The Game!) with the wrap up and the Playlist.   What’s doin’ Pats? “I knew Jen was hopping on a jet plane headed to see her dad but somehow I nearly missed the detail that it was to celebrate his 80th birthday. Well, upon hearing this news, I was overjoyed both for her celebration with her family and also because I’ve been secretly harboring an obsession for curating an 80’s Playlist. If you know a librarian or two you’ll know that we are fond of themes and obsessions. I may not know anything about being 80 years old but I sure do know 80’s music.  This weekend I invite you to celebrate the elders in your own family. Celebrate those folks who’ve taught or modeled to you how to enjoy things in your life that bring you joy. Things like the pleasure of reading, the art of conversation, or the excitement and thrill of live theatre and music. I’ve always said life is better with a soundtrack. Out here in Detroit, I’ll be enjoying a Ryan Adams concert. So, call this your 80’s gift. Call it New Wave, call it Synthpop, call it what you will this is my musical nod and tribute to Post-Punk music. I recommend you listen to it on shuffle and have a good seat-dance in the car or a full-blown impromptu dance party. I promise it won’t disappoint.  DL IT'S GOOD BEING 80! 2014”

Meet Us On Main Street

Laura hosted to a large turnout at Meet Us On Main Street on Wednesday.  Her focus was old treasured favorites that are not necessarily main street finds; plus current titles, some hot of the presses, that our patrons are demanding.  Today's book selections are below.  Don't forget, if the title you are interested in is checked out, you can put it on Hold for later.  We'll let you know when it is ready for you to pick up.

 

 

You Are What You Read!

Boo!  Welcome to You Are What You Read the Halloween Edition!  Mostly, I think we should just be thankful that there is no snow, no hurricanes, no horrific acts of nature so that the Young Ones can actually HAVE a Halloween.  The real treat will be that at the end of the night we won’t need the flashlight once we are inside!  It is a fascination to me that Halloween has become a helliday on the scale of Christmas for some people.  There’s parties to go to, lights to string, webs to strew on bushes, graves to set on the front lawn.  Even pumpkin carving has gone from your classic jack-o-lantern face to sculptural art worthy of Bernini working in marble.  So whatever your plans are for tonight, stay safe and warm, and say a thank you to the Weather Gods that you can participate in this one. The SoNo Loft’s message this week, for those of us who are curious is Be Gentle with Yourself.   As always, Heed the Loft.  This week we have some discord, South Africa, more One Pot, New York, and some Baton Rouge. And The Playlist.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

Let us begin!

Pat T is reading Children Act by Ian McEwan.  “I was caught up in this story from the first few pages as the main character, Fiona May, sits in her living room, nursing her scotch and water, trying to recover from the bombshell her husband of thirty years has just dumped in her lap.  While dealing with her marital discord, Fiona maintains her professional obligation as the judge in an urgent medical case of a 17-year-old boy who is refusing a transfusion that could possible save his life on the grounds that the medical treatment goes against his religious beliefs. This is the first book I have read by Ian McEwan and I look forward to reading some of his backlist.”

The Always Delightful Pat S has just finished A Beautiful Place to Die by Malla Nunn.  “This is the first in an exciting new detective mystery series taking place in South Africa in the early fifties just after the legalities of Apartheid had been set in place. While this is a murder mystery, it is also a rumination on the cruelty, prejudice and immorality that defined this time.In a small rural village, the Afrikaner police Chief Pretorius is found murdered. An English WWII veteran by name of Emmanuel Cooper is sent out from Johannesburg to investigate and solve the crime. Only recently back from the war, and still suffering deep psychic distress, Cooper is untouched by Apartheid, and simply wants to do his job. Yet, this is not a straight-forward investigation for Cooper, for every lead is tainted by the laws governing the land.  Nunns’ characters are richly drawn and deeply human. At the top of the genre, A Beautiful Place to Die is not only highly compelling but informative as well.


This week Steph is singing the Hosanna’s of One Pot.  Sing it Steph! “I'd like to add my voice to the chorus of One Pot fans. This week I made the beet hash with eggs recipe from the Skillet chapter, and it was a hit! I am adding it to the rotation for the fall and winter because the recipes are easy to prepare, delicious, easy clean-up, the whole shebang. The directions are clear and simple, and I also love that the book features a photo for every recipe--it's made it a lot easier to dive in and figure out which recipes to try. This will be the cookbook that finally drives me to buy a Dutch oven, I am sure. It's easily my favorite cookbook of the year and I expect to give it to a few people during the holidays. I am looking forward to trying the cabbage and kale with salmon this weekend!”


Amazing Amanda is preparing for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in November, so she's reading Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld.  “The novel is written in two voices for two very different stories. The first is of Darcy, an 18 year old who wrote her first novel during NaNo and then successfully sold it for big bucks. She moves to NYC to chase her dream of the writers' lifestyle. On the flip side, is the less glamorous life of Lizzie, Darcy's heroine in her novel, Afterworlds. Lizzie survives a terrorist attack and in doing so, finds herself in the spirit world between life and death. That is, the Afterworlds. The novel is burning up online reviews with lots of acclaim and admiration. While I'm intrigued by Lizzie's story, Darcy's life in NYC is less engaging. I'm hoping that something as powerful as Lizzie's inciting event will occur soon in Darcy's story, otherwise, I'm just going to skip through and read only Lizzie's chapters.


I am wild for a debut novel that is coming out in February 2015.  M.O. Walsh's debut novel My Sunshine Away is a joy.  The narrator is a man looking back on the summer of 1989 when his Baton Rouge neighborhood's peace was shattered by a horrific act of violence.  But memory can be a tricky thing; healing and destructive and yet it can also lead to redemption. Which one will be the path he will choose? Told in spare and lyrical language this is a debut to be reckoned with. 


Here comes DJ Jazzy Patty McC with the playlist.  Why am suddenly all a-tingle?  “It’s that time of year when we get dressed up and go out into the dark. We open our doors to strangers, offer treats and hope that no one plays any tricks. What’s that you ask? Irrational fears? Where shall I begin? Clowns, dolls, leftovers in Tupperware at the back of the refrigerator, and offal are just a few things that immediately come to mind. None of these things paralyze me or keep me from doing what I do. I’d go so far as to say that most of us have some irrational fears that we deal with on a regular basis.  They may be weird to some but very real to us nonetheless. The Loft’s message this week applies. So while you’re out with the kids trick-or-treating or celebrating at a party remember to Be Gentle with Yourself and I would add Be Kind to Others but I don’t think that will fit on their banner. All the same, I know they’d join me in this sentiment. This week I’m giving you a throwback to the Creepy Halloween Dolls playlist as well as a great podcast from NPR on What We Fear. Boo! Happy Halloween!

DL Creepy Halloween Dolls 2013

DL What We Fear NPR: TED Radio Hour 2014

Meet Us On Main Street

John and Sally met with the Meet Us On Main Street group today and they did not disappoint.  Their presentations included two books, one being fiction, the other non-fiction, on Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine -- and, interestingly written by the same author. Also, a memoir of Sonia Sotomoyor of her amazing journey to the Supreme Court bench.  Two Golden Books for adults (not children) with whimsical lessons on how-to survive life's twists and turns and (just in time) a how-to manage Christmas!  Plus more -- plants that can live on just air; rules on how to run; plus an assortment of sci-fi, mystery and family drama novels to fill out the list below:  

Syndicate content