Let’s celebrate Libraries! National Library Week is an annual celebration highlighting the valuable role libraries, librarians, and library workers play in transforming lives and strengthening our communities.
Susan Orleans wrote in her 2018 book, The Library Book, “Libraries are what is best about us as a society: open, exciting, rich, informative, free, inclusive, and engaging.” There’s something for almost everyone at the Library, and each library serves the needs of its own unique community. This is reflected in their collections, in their spaces, and in their programming and events. Libraries bring people together even when we have to stay apart, and we are here for you!
Don't forget to check out this week's featured Cooking booklist for some recipe inspiration.
Let’s have a look at what the staff has been reading this week!
Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero by Christopher McDougall is sure to make you laugh and cry away all your worries. In the spirit of James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, this book should come with a prescription. Better than an antidepressant, the anecdotes will delight and entertain any reader while relieving stress. The writing is smart, interesting, and infinitely amusing. You will learn a lot about determination, healing, and making connections. Even if you aren’t an animal lover, the examples of healing through bonding with our four-legged friends are irresistible. Sherman is the little donkey that could. The story is largely set in the heart of Pennsylvania Amish country, but McDougall, a runner and journalist, has travelled widely to recount his stories of the donkey’s healing and running prowess. Go Sherman!
Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown is the interesting story of two women who live in the same suburban house; one during the 1950s and one in the present day. Alice and her husband, Nate, currently live in this home after relocating from New York City. Alice does not want to live in the suburbs but has reluctantly agreed to do so. Nate believes she left her corporate job to become a writer. However, Alice has a secret reason for leaving her job, and this isn’t the only secret she is keeping from Nate. Although she feels guilty about her deception, she wants to prolong it for as long as possible. Nellie and her husband Richard lived in the same home during the 1950s. Nellie and Richard appear to be the perfect stereotypical couple of the time; he works outside the home and she spends her days gardening, cleaning, and cooking, but oh, there are dark secrets in their marriage too.
This story is told in chapters that alternate between the two women. Alice's chapters begin with marital advice for women from the 1900s-1950s—quite amusing to read in 2020. Nellie's chapters begin with recipes that were popular in that era. Alice’s discovery of Nellie’s old letters and her recipe box precipitates changes in Alice’s own life. Nellie’s life changes too, when she finds the strength to stand up for herself. I found the character of Alice to be somewhat unbelievable. She doesn’t seem like a modern day woman, being quite passive in letting her husband decide everything in their lives. She is nonetheless interesting and I grew to understand her choices. Nellie is a more believable character and I truly felt her joy in her gardening and the angst in her relationship with Richard. Recipe for a Perfect Wife is a compelling story and I appreciated the journeys of both women.
How well do you know Jo March? Louisa May Alcott's classic story, Little Women, is baked into our cultural memory. It's the story of four sisters coming of age during the American Civil War. Jo, the second oldest, is a fan favorite with her boisterous personality, disdain for restrictions, and disregard for social niceties. However, our culture and the 2019 movie focuses on Jo as a struggling writer who is trying to break through the system that suppresses her ambitions.
Alcott’s Jo is nothing like the Jo of popular culture. To my surprise (and gratitude) she weeps throughout many of the chapters that focus on her story. She struggles - it is true - but not as much with the outside world as with mastery over herself. Her mother is her confidant who helps guide Jo to spiritual and inner peace. The Jo in screen portrayals often fails to live up to the complex woman in the book.
The story can be heavy-handed in its moralisms, but the overarching messages - to be true to yourself and keep striving to be a better self - make this an exceptional novel. It's comforting and warm (though sometimes dated in ways that make a modern reader squirm). Little Women feels like coming home. You're not simply reading about the Marches, you’re becoming one.
Note to Shelf, Jr.
Not One Damsel in Distress by Jane Yolen is the perfect book for bedtime reading - or to curl up with and enjoy in one big gulp. This collection of fifteen folktales from around the world features strong, smart women who prove not all damsels are in distress. Powerhouse storyteller Jane Yolen, probably best known for Owl Moon and the How Do Dinosaurs? series, truly shines as she spins these fantastical old tales for a new audience. My favorite is the story of China’s Li Chi, who uses her wits and a sword to slay the serpent for whom she was meant to be a sacrifice - but honestly, you won’t find a single story not worth reading here. And with its extensive notes and bibliography, Not One Damsel offers readers myriad ways to dive deeper into their favorite tales.
Note to Shelf, Teen
If you’ve never met a Wes Anderson movie you didn’t like, Kate Gier’s A Castle in the Clouds is the perfect match for you! It’s a cozy and quirky tale of a young maid working at a hotel in the Alps when everything that can go wrong does go wrong. Set between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the story follows Sophie and a huge cast of hotel characters, from forbidden cats to dubious owners, as they find themselves in the midst of a mystery involving a very pricy and famous necklace. It’s the perfect book to be cooped up at home with!