Valley Reporter Column  


November 13, 2014

We are excited to welcome back Ember Photography for a multi-media slideshow on Thursday, November 13th at 7 pm. Ember’s shows always entail stunning photography, tales of inspiring athletic feats, and overall good story-telling. This show features ten years of skiing adventures in Iceland. And as at all of their shows, there will be a raffle of outdoor gear. Their shows fill up our relatively small space, so come early to get a good seat.

Another date to keep in mind is Thursday, November 20th. From 9-12 AM that day we will host a representative from Vermont Health Connect. She will be able to answer questions and offer people confidential help signing up and navigating the infamously non-intuitive process. Everyone is welcome – no need to be a library patron to take advantage of this, and, as always with our programs, there is no charge.

There are a couple of new books in the collection with very local connections. One  is a new book of haiku by Art Conway, this one entitled The Poet. You’ll recognize Art’s style from the poems he publishes in the Valley Reporter. You’ll also recognize many of his subject matters, as one of his gifts is distilling the experience of living in this beautiful part of the world into 17 syllables comprised of just the right words. He also writes about love, aging, and the passing of time, but includes the occasional humorous poem to lighten things up.

Also of local origin is The New NetZero: Leading-Edge Design and Construction of Homes and Buildings for a Renewable Future, by Bill Maclay of Maclay Architects.  This is packed full of information about carbon neutral buildings. The case studies are fun to browse, the photographs super fun to look at. And for anyone working in the field of green architecture or researching having a net zero building being built for them, this book would be a terrific resource. As one reviewer wrote, “there is hope in these pages,” and it’s always good to spend some time immersed in hope.

Slightly less local but still in Vermont: Ben Hewitt’s latest book, Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting Off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World. The first thing I thought of when I saw this book was how if I’d seen it before moving to Vermont, it would have been one of those moments that pushed my family and me closer to moving here. Hewitt and his family take homeschooling to a new level, using their land as a source of food and income, but also as the primary place their sons learn, rather than traditional school. As always, his writing is lyrical and his ideas often wise, and the courage with which his family makes their own path is inspiring even to those of us who don’t want to make quite as unconventional choices as his.

Lastly, some books on my to-read list and some that I’m guessing might be on the lists of others: a biography of Harper Lee, The Mockingbird Next Door. This is written by journalist Marja Mills, who moved next door to the famously reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, became friends with Lee and her sister, and learned what their lives and the culture in which they live are really like.  I’m always interested in reading about the experience of immigrants living in the U.S., and Richard Blanco, who read at Obama’s second inauguration, is fascinating for many other reasons, too. The words hilarious and inspiring pop up in just about every review of his memoir The Prince of los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, so I’m thinking it’s not to be missed. For fiction, Jane Smiley’s new book, Some Luck. Because who would ever want to miss a book by Jane Smiley, and there hasn’t been a new one in a while. Plus: new books by C.J. Box, Ken Follett, Louise Penny, and of course Archer Mayor.


October 16, 2014

Look for several new print and audio books, new Saturday hours and a new Saturday employee at the Joslin Library this fall. We are now open on Saturdays from 10 until 2, and Meredith Jacoby will be at the desk ready to check your books in and out, help you find something to read, and answer reference and tech questions. Also, we will celebrate our love of Halloween and board games with a costume party/game night Thursday October 23rd from 5-7. We will provide pizza, games, and friendly competition for all ages. Costumes are optional, but you can be guaranteed library staff will wear something unusual.  

One of the books from the new shelf that has stuck with me for weeks after finishing it is The Other Typist, by Suzanne Rindell. Set in New York City in the 1920s, it is the story of Rose, a stenographer for the New York City police department, and her entanglement in the life and exploits of another typist, Odalie. Rose is a plain, serious working-girl who lives a drab life outside of her work which can be sordid, colorful, and at times offer her a sense of power. Odalie has a mysterious history, and connections to the underworld, wealth, men, and excitement. Rose gets irresistibly drawn into Odalie’s world, and the result is a convoluted story and backstory that leaves the reader not quite sure what really happens. It becomes clear fairly early on that neither character is to be trusted, Rose because she is mentally unstable and unhealthily under Odalie’s control, Odalie because her ethics are shaky and she lies and manipulates people. It can be frustrating that the plot is confusing, the narrator is unreliable, and the other main character a liar, but at the same time, it is impossible to put down and will leave you trying to figure it out, especially the ending, for a long time. Supposedly this book will become a movie produced by and starring Keira Knightly, which is a fun thing to look forward to, since in addition to the addictive plot, it’s full of 1920's Great Gatsby glamour -- speakeasies, parties, beautiful rich people -- all good movie material.  

Malala Yousafzai recently becoming the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize is a good reminder to read her memoir, I Am Malala, for anyone who hasn’t already. Besides telling her amazing story and being a truly inspiring story of resilience, dedication to human rights, and education, this book also gives a lot of information about Pakistan’s history and geography and politics, which make following events in that tumultuous part of the world easier to understand. We have this book in both print and audio.  

Fiction choices include new books by Clive Cussler, Dennis Lehane, Louise Penny, and Jane Smiley, among others. For kids and adults who love beauty and kids’ books, two new gems are Misty Copeland’s new picture book, Firebird, and Mark Pett’s wordless picture book, The Girl and the Bicycle. Misty Copeland became the first African American soloist with the American Ballet Theater in twenty years just four years after she started dancing. Firebird’s message is to persevere and find confidence and a unique artistic voice as she did, even when she saw so few role models who looked like her and faced similar challenges as hers. The Girl and the Bicycle is also a story of perseverance, friendship, family, and generosity. Both books have terrific artwork that along with their powerful messages give them wider appeal than that of many picture books.  

Lastly, a picture book that is actually intended for adults: The Public Library: a Photographic Essay, by Robert Dawson, with text by Ann Patchett, Anne Lamott, Bill Moyers, Barbara Kingsolver, and other eloquent writers whose work many of us love. Dawson’s photographs taken over an eighteen year period represent libraries all over the country, ranging from small and beautiful like ours to majestic and grand, like the New York Public Library. The essays from the authors about what libraries mean to them will inspire and hopefully make you want to visit your local libraries more than ever!  

August 28, 2014

One of the fun things we did at the library this summer was to ask for book recommendations from our volunteers. This resulted in a display as eclectic as the people themselves, and got some books circulating that might not have otherwise. Before going into some specifics, I’m going to use this project and this space to remind readers that this is precisely the kind of human interaction that goes on in public libraries that can’t be replicated anywhere else. The many social media sites related to book sharing (Goodreads, LibraryThing, Shelfari) are very fun and informative, but they can’t match the experience of an individualized recommendation coming from a) a person you actually know in real life who is b) talking to you in person, c) lives in your town, d) has access to the same local library collections you do. And if you had a similar interaction in a bookstore, you might get a good book recommendation, but then you’d have to pay for the book, and why do that when the local library is stocked with yummy books?

So here are some ideas, all books we have in the library collection. First some recently published books: The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert, The Invention of Wings, by Sue Monk Kidd, and Ruth Reichl’s  first novel, Delicious. This last one has proved to be popular with people who have previously loved her memoirs and food-writing, not surprising, since there’s quite a bit of overlap in subject matter from Reichl’s non-fiction to her fiction. One that I hadn’t decided to read until it popped up on the recommendation shelf over and over again is The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion. I now love the main characters of this book and am excitedly awaiting the sequel and movie.

A suggestion that’s a bit older is Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese. For a while we couldn’t keep this on the shelf, but now patrons have either read it already or it’s not in their awareness. So a good reminder of a very powerful read. Another suggestion is The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman. This book could seem intimidating to a potential reader with its fierce women and mix of ancient history with fiction, but that’s where a personal recommendation makes all the difference. I’m always happy when people take out  The Reading Promise, Alice Ozma’s sweet description of her librarian father reading aloud to her every night -- literally every single night -- before she leaves for prom when she listens dressed in her fancy attire, over the phone when Alice’s teen social life keeps her out late, and even a final reading session the day she starts college. An added perk with this book is more reading suggestions: the back of the book lists many of the books Alice and her father read together.

Finally, there are the suggestions from me and other patrons who like to dip into the Young Adult collection even though we’re not young adults. One patron and I have agreed that a lot of books would be better if they had just been written by John Green, who most famously wrote The Fault in Our Stars, but also has several other books in our collection, including a favorite of mine, Looking for Alaska. And as often as possible I try to get people to enjoy the story of the female hip-hop group forcing diversity on their upper Midwest high school, Laura Goode’s entertaining and subversive Sister Mischief.

So come in, share your reading taste with each other and the library staff. If you have ideas for additions to the library collection, let me know. We can create a unique collection that best suits the reading taste of this unique community by working together.


July 31, 2014

This summer the library is teeming with good books to read, people to share them with, and a variety of programs to entertain and sometimes educate. So far this summer we’ve had two well-attended concerts in the park which just happened to occur on beautiful summer days that made spending time in the park very pleasurable. We have one more on August 8th at noon, featuring the Capitol Youth Brass from Montpelier. Many people have been bringing lunch and chairs to these concerts, others have sat on the benches or the grass. All seem to have enjoyed the music, the environment and the chance to chat with friends afterwards.

 Author Thomas Christopher Greene gave a fascinating talk about his most recent book (The Headmaster’s Wife), how he came to be a critically-acclaimed author and also create and run Vermont College of Fine Arts, and how he manages to do both so well. It’s always fun to listen to an author speak about their work. Late summer or fall we hope to again host Erin Moulton, who grew up in the area and whose children’s books are popular and award-winning. Her newest is Chasing the Milky Way, which we have in our collection. Stay tuned for details on her library visit.  

We are co-hosting a couple programs in August with the Warren Public Library. On August 7th at 7 pm pianist, composer and speaker Deborrah Wyndham will present “The History of Ragtime.” Wyndham has performed live in concert halls and other venues all over the country, and has appeared on ABC, FOX, and NBC. In this program she will discuss and perform early jazz and ragtime. This program is part of the Festival of the Arts and and will be held at the Waitsfield United Church. Free admission.  

On August 8th at 7 pm the Warren and Joslin Libraries will host a screening of Spies of Mississippi, a documentary about the Mississippi government’s role in spying on civil rights activists. This is presented by the Peace and Justice Center of Vermont and there will be a facilitator from the Center to lead a post-film discussion. This will be at the Warren Public Library.  

On a lighter note, we will have two visits from a therapy dog in August. Research has shown that reading to a dog reduces anxiety and increases confidence in struggling and reluctant readers. Laili is certified as a reading therapy dog and has made regular visits to her hometown library where she spends the winter. She will be at Joslin for story hour Monday August 4th at 10, and again Wednesday, August 13th at 3. For those of us who aren’t kids and who are neither struggling or reluctant readers, this is also a chance to celebrate the combining of two of the greatest gifts offered by the universe, reading and dogs.  

As for books, we have most of the books on the most recent New England Independent Booksellers’ Best-Sellers list. Highlights include: All the Light We Cannot See, Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, The Vacationers, Landline, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant (if you read one graphic novel in your life, this should be it), Tibetan Peach Pie, and Carsick. If you want a Young Adult fix, there’s a new book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, called Four. If you want a treat intended for an even younger readership but a delight for adults, too, Tim Federle’s books about Nate, a 13 year old boy with great passion and talent for musical theater are worth every minute they speed by: Better Nate than Ever, and Five, Six, Seven, Nate! (The plot, character development, humor and treatment of sensitive subjects is way better than the titles!)  

And another reminder that we have a large audio book collection as well as access to hundreds of downloadable audio and eBooks, all great for summer travel.

June 19, 2014  

This is a good time to think about fun ways to use your local library during the summer months. Of course there are the thousands of print books, with new ones coming in all the time. Popular authors with new books in the collection include Clive Cussler, Jo Nesbo, John Sandford, and Jeffery Deaver. We also recently began subscribing to the Sunday New York Times. It will stay available all week for leisurely browsing or more focused reading. For the younger crowd, we're always buying new picture books. We have many of this year's DCF and GMBA books, plus will be borrowing Waitsfield Elementary School's DCF books for the summer, so we'll have most or all of the list, and multiple copies of many titles.  

Inspired by the Makerspace movement and New York Times writer Jessica Lahey's "different kind of summer reading" list, we've added several books for parents and kids filled with activities to try on long summer days. Some involve technology, some the outdoors, with the unifying theme being hands-on, DIY projects that require creative thinking and physical skills. Book titles include The Art of Tinkering, by Karen Wilkinson and Mike Petrich, and Unbored: the Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, by Elizabeth Foy Larsen and Joshua Glenn.  

For summer travel, nothing is better than downloading audio or eBooks. Patrons can use their library number to access thousands of titles, compatible with just about any electronic reading or listening device. Not only does this eliminate the need to carry heavy books, but the selection for these includes some books we don't have in print. If you want to use an eReader without buying one, we have a Kindle which circulates.  

We are always adding to our audio books on CD collection as well. A few new highlights in this format are Peter Mayle, The Corsican Caper, Michael Cunningham, The Snow Queen, and a nice pair for people who like Kennedy lore, The Pink Suit, by Nicole Mary Kelby, and JFK, Jr., George, & Me: A Memoir, by Matt Berman.  

And a reminder that we circulate passes to many fun locations: the Echo Center, day passes for up to 8 people to Vermont State Parks and Vermont State Historic Sites, the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, and the Vermont History Museum. We're hoping to also be able to offer passes or some free tickets to the Vermont Mountaineers.  

Our Children's Librarian Lisa Italiano, has a diverse lineup of summer programs for children and youth in addition to her weekly story time. Stop by the library for a brochure with the schedule and descriptions of these as well as youth programs happening in Moretown and Warren. For adults, critically acclaimed Vermont author Thomas Christopher Greene will read from and speak about his most recent book, The Headmaster's Wife, which has received starred reviews and been called "brilliant" and "compulsively readable." He will be at the library Wednesday, July 16th at 7 pm.  

We're hosting a couple concerts in the park outside the library in July. These are Friday noon concerts that hopefully will make the most of a pretty space in some nice weather and give people a chance to hear music for no cost in an informal setting. Friday July 11th is the Heliand Consort playing a joyful program of folk and dance music from a variety of traditions. Very conducive to kids (and adults) dancing and singing along! July 25th at noon is a Celtic Duo featuring singing, guitar, Irish drum, and probably some good story telling mixed in. For a more formal and educational musical event, join us for our Festival of the Arts program on August 7th, for "The History of Ragtime." This will feature live piano music as well as narrative about this catchy American music. This is co-sponsored by the Warren Public Library and will take place at the Waitsfield Church.  

Hope to see many people enjoying their library's diverse resources this summer!


May 22, 2014

 On Wednesday, May 21st at 6:30, we will host Bob Watson and Christopher Pyatak, owner/proprietor and coffee resources manager/roaster from Capitol Grounds in Montpelier. They will talk about the two different coffees theyimport from the State of Nayarit,Mexico, and their recent trip there to meet with the farmers, mill workers, and importerSan Cristobal Coffee. They will explain the differences in taste profiles for "Natural" and "Reserva" coffees, coupling the descriptions with tastings. They will alsodiscuss Capitol Grounds as a local roaster, and social and environmental responsibilities associated with the coffee industry.

 This program is obviously geared toward coffee lovers, but regardless of beverage preferences, coffee is undeniably a crop with enormous environmental, political, and financial impact anywhere it is grown or consumed. To quote roaster, lawyer, and author and "javatrekker" Dean Cycon, "All of the major issues of the twenty-first century- globalization, immigration, women's rights, and self-determination" are played out via coffee in villages and remote areas of the world. He goes on to write that "underlying the various coffee cultures are profoundly different understandings of the dance of good and evil, of communal responsibility and personal freedom- and of the very nature of the gods themselves." So maybe he'd had a little too much caffeine when he threw in that part about the gods, but he makes a lot of very convincing points, especially about the ways North American businesses can sometimes think they're committing to ethically sound business practices, but without having a comprehensive understanding of the history and culture of the region they're operating in, can sometimes do more harm than good. His book, Javatrekker:Dispatches from the World of Fair Trade Coffee is divided into coffee-growing regions from around the world, Africa, South and Central America, and Asia. The content is a mix of environmental and political insight and personal stories about the interactions he has with people he meets in his capacity as coffee importer and roaster, election observer, and champion of the rights of indigenous people. Fascinating, readable, and new to our collection!

 Also new to our collection in honor of this upcoming program is The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee: Growing, Roasting, and Drinking, with Recipes, by James Freeman, Caitlin Freeman, and Tara Duggan. More of a coffee table book than the Cycon, this is beautiful to browse while (what else) sipping a fine cup of coffee. There is a lot of practical information on brewing methods and roasting beans, and the recipes, which either incorporate coffee or reportedly taste yummy with coffee, all look fabulous. Another suggestion is  Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It transformed Our World, by Vermont author Mark Pendergrast. This focuses on the history of coffee and the cultural and political impact of the coffee trade.

And if you only have time to read one book about coffee before this program or really in your whole life, be sure to read  A Cafecito Story, by another Vermont author, the fabulous Julia Alvarez. Hopeful, beautifully illustrated, inspiring, and based on Alvarez's experiences helping coffee farmers in her native Dominican Republic, this is a fable-like story of an American man who goes to the Dominican Republic to figure out his life. His journey brings him to love, a new commitment to sustainable farming, respect for the local culture and traditions, and opportunities to help improve the lives of the people he meets who have experienced hardship and exploitation at the hands of agribusiness. It's not Alvarez's most subtle book, but when the messages are this positive, her writing is so lyrical, and the woodcuts by Dominican artist Belkis Ramirez are as moving as they are, a little preaching goes down pretty easily.  

All are welcome at the program, and all can purchase Capitol Grounds coffee by the cup or pound at the Village Grocery.

May 1, 2014

 Although every week is “library week” at the Joslin Memorial Library, each April there is a more formal event to commemorate the awesomeness of libraries: National Library Week. The American Library Association’s PSA for this includes the following description of contemporary libraries: “Today’s libraries can help you and your family discover a new and exciting world. Visit your library for computer resources for teens and adults, help with your job search, access to subscription databases, library-recommended websites and homework help. You also can obtain information about how to become a U.S. citizen, bilingual resources and neutral financial information to help you make important decisions. Libraries are an oasis if you are looking for adult education classes, or for a recommendation on the best books or e-books to expand your horizons. Open the door to change, visit your library!”

 A proclamation created for this event is also full of inspiring language about libraries: their ability to provide resources and services both inside and outside of the building, the way they bring community members together through programming and sharing access to information, their commitment to evolving with the changing world, and trained staff.  

To bring this local, here are some facts about your public library:

We were open over 1500 hours in 2013; we have over 1200 patrons of all ages; overall circulation in 2013 was over 12,500, drawn from our collection of 9,700 print books, thousands of downloadable audio and eBooks, 31 magazines, and close to 600 books on CD. We are always happy to get books through Inter Library Loan if we don’t have them. There is never a charge for borrowing any of these materials or using our computers and wifi. We don’t even charge overdue fines because while we really want our materials back in a timely manner, even more, we want you to use the books and other materials we offer, keep them as long as you’re still enjoying them if no one else is waiting for them, and never, ever feel discouraged from coming to the library because you owe money or think we’re grouchy!  

In 2013 we hosted 75 programs attended by over 1,000 people of all ages. We try to offer a variety of programs to appeal to diverse tastes. Programs so far in 2014 include practical topics like instruction on fraud and identity theft from the Better Business Bureau and technology assistance from a local high school student, plus live music, and book discussions covering a range of topics from spices to incarceration. This spring we have Jessica Lahey, a writer and speaker nationally acclaimed and published in the fields of education and parenting, and Vermont’s own founder of Circus Smirkus, Rob Mermin, sharing his knowledge about silent film and mime. A fun note about programming: In all of 2009, 113 people attended adult programs. In 2014 in just one month, January, we had 118 people at adult programs.

 As for the staff, we love talking to patrons about what they’re reading, taking their recommendations for book purchases and programs and chatting with the school kids about how their day went. We often try to feed those kids a bit, too.  Monday afternoons our Children’s Librarian, Lisa Italiano, is here making art, talking to kids about books, decorating our space with fun signs and things created here in our space. She might also break into song, play the guitar or recorder. And to disprove the stereotype of libraries as stuffy quiet places, the occasional brass instrument has made its way into this library.  

Lastly, Joslin staff can always be counted on the dress up for Halloween, and on a good day, when it’s not too muddy or the librarian isn’t staying late, the library mascot, Sebastian the Library Dog, might be here. He specializes in welcoming patrons, licking babies, and relieving stress when people are frustrated by technology.  

So come to the library often, tell us what you want us to offer that would make us more helpful to you. Celebrate knowledge, community, gorgeous architecture, technology, and a place to interact with your neighbors, our amazing volunteers, the Friends of the Library, Lisa, me, and Sebastian. This is your space.

March 6, 2014  

This winter the Joslin Library is enjoying some rewarding collaborations with other local organizations. Most notable is the library-focused Service Learning project Waitsfield Elementary School is doing. Teachers and students are both dedicating significant time and energy to improvements the library can make and ways the students can help us achieve those. Some are long term, but one very helpful tool that can be put into effect immediately is a long list of book suggestions from students. I read hundreds of book reviews and library blogs and I  communicate regularly with library colleagues about collection development, but no resource is as good as local readers telling me what they want on their library shelves. So look for new children and Young Adult titles inspired by enthusiastic readers from Waitsfield Elementary, including new series, fantasy, vampire books, adventure books and more. One of the best parts of this is that these suggestions come from a diverse group of  students including ones who might not regularly come to the library, so hopefully this will help our collection more inclusively  reflect the reading tastes of a broad range of local readers.  

Another collaborative effort is that starting on March 15th, every Saturday afternoon from 1-3 we will have a high school student at the library to offer one-on-one assistance with technology. This is a great opportunity to spend time with a "digital native" learning to become a savvy iPad user, learning to Skype with distant relatives, or figuring out skills like word processing and using spreadsheets that help with running your own business or organizing your personal budget. Call the library to make an appointment if you want a specific time slot, or feel free to show up spontaneously.  

On Wednesday, March 19th at 6:30 we will host the second of our social justice-themed book discussions offered in partnership with the Waitsfield United Church of Christ. This will take place at the church, and the discussion will be on the book Orange is the New Black, by Piper Kerman. Our first discussion was about a book written by women incarcerated in Vermont, and this book contains some of the same themes, as it is a memoir of Kerman's time in a women's prison in Connecticut. Copies of the book are available at the Joslin Library, compliments of the Friends of the Joslin Library. Many people have watched the Netflix series based on this book, but as if often the case with book-to-video transfer, the book offers a less sensationalized, in some ways more personal portrayal of Kerman's experience, so I strongly encourage reading the book even if you've also seen the series. All are invited to attend this discussion.  

And we're in the midst of our annual Vermont Humanities Council Reading and Discussion series co-hosted with the Warren Library. The next discussion is about the book The Mistress of Spices, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. The protagonist of this book is trained in the art of spices and imbued with special powers, as ancient wise women in stories often are. I haven't read this yet but this description from Amazon, "An unexpected romance with a handsome stranger eventually forces her to choose between the supernatural life of an immortal and the vicissitudes of modern life," promises not only a good tale, but also potential great discussion. The previous meetings for this series have inspired sharing of memories and family traditions, insight into history and poetry and unique insight into the texts, so please consider joining us for this -- you won't be disappointed! Books are available at the Joslin and Warren Libraries.

February 6, 2014

Every January brings big news in the library and publishing world when the American Library Association announces their awards for best children's and young adult media. Thanks to the Friends of the Joslin Library, I got to attend the announcement ceremony at the Midwinter conference again. There is a great sense of suspense, excitement, and happiness as the winning titles are announced. Sharing that experience live in a huge room packed with other book lovers is almost a religious experience, like a moment at a Grateful Dead concert when an emotional crowd bonds and is collectively transformed by a particularly imaginative shift in the music. It never fails to make me feel so happy that I get to work at a library with books and other people who love them.

 Some of this year's winners that we have in the library collection are: Newbery award winner Flora &Ulysses: the Illuminated Adventures, by Kate Dicamillo, and Newbery honor books, Doll Bones, by Holly Black, and One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake. The Caldecott award for best illustration went to the gorgeous and informative Locomotive, by Brian Floca, with David Wiesner's expressive and intrepid cat, Mr. Wuffles receiving an honor. The Coretta Scott King award, which recognizes outstanding portrayals of African American cultural experience, went to Rita Williams-Garcia, for P.S. Be Eleven, a sequel to One Crazy Summer, both of which we have at the library. An honor book for the Pura Belpre award for books that celebrate the Latino cultural experience is The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist, a historical novel written in verse by Margarita Engle. These last three books are also recognized by the project I work on, the Amelia Bloomer Project, which creates a list of recommended feminist books for youth. One of my favorite recent books was a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award for young adult literature: Belle Époque, by Elizabeth Ross, is the story of a young Breton girl who escapes village life for Paris in the late 1800s. The complete list of winning books and honor books is on the Joslin Library Facebook page and printed at the library. This is a great book selection resource for kids and parents.  

Upcoming Programs  

On February 13th at 6:30, one of our very talented library trustees, David Babic, will share stories and stunning visuals about his experiences as a competitive skier. David spent 7 years on the U.S.Freestyle Ski Team and was the first person to ever perform an off-axis 1080 degree spin in World Cup competition. Photos of him in midair almost defy belief and gravity. This evening will be a chance to see footage of his stunning athleticism, and also to hear about the discipline and dedication it took for him to achieve such a high level of accomplishment. All ages are welcome to what promises to be an inspiring and fun evening.  

Thursday, February 20th at 9:30 at the Warren library is the second of four Vermont Humanities Council book discussions. All the books in this year's series are about food, with each book featuring a different culture. The book for the 20th is Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jaber, and  the culture is Iraqi-American. It is a sensual, sometimes sad, beautifully written book with lovable characters, and descriptions of food that make even meatloaf and ketchup sound appetizing, in a touching moment when one of the characters painstakingly cooks what he thinks an immigrant more Americanized than he is would want to eat.  

As tax season approaches, a reminder that although we don't have as many tax forms as we have in past years, we do still have some. We also have computers and printers the public can use to download and print forms, and are always happy to help anyone who isn't comfortable with that process.

 January 16, 2014

This is a time of year when often people have recently received new eReaders or tablets as gifts. Remember that a library card provides free access to downloadable books compatible with many different devices. The selection of available books is large and different from our print collection, so be sure to consider this option if we don't have a copy of what you want on our shelves, especially if it's a book that is too new to get through Inter Library Loan. Great for traveling or for very long and heavy books, too. There is a link to this service on our website, Call if you need your library number or bring your device into the library if you're unsure how to use the system.  

This is also the time when thanks in part to the Friends of the Joslin Library I attend the American Library Association conference. Among the many professional development opportunities at the conference is the chance to participate in the Amelia Bloomer Project, which creates a list of recommended feminist books for youth. So in the spirit of championing not only feminist books for youth, but also adults reading young adult literature and diverse people (i.e. not just girls and women) reading feminist books, here are a few highlights being discussed this year: I Am Malala, by the amazing Malala Yousafzai, is informative and readable, and it's a complete understatement to call it inspiring. Malala Yousafzai is the young woman who became a household name when the Taliban shot her because of her work advocating for education for girls and other human rights. She has not only recovered from the shooting, but she continues to raise awareness about political and social issues. She seems to never be afraid to speak up for her beliefs -- there are many examples in the book of her confronting high profile political leaders who met her expecting a photo op and instead got questioned about their actions. Besides her story, the book provides a history of Pakistan and helps make sense of a part of the world so often in the news.  

I highly recommend browsing the entertaining and enlightening "Illustrated Encyclopedia of Lady Things," The Book of Jezebel, compiled by writers from the website This is full of short entries describing pop culture, political issues and figures, celebrities, fashion and more. The writing is irreverent and opinionated,  decidedly defying the lingering stereotype that feminism and humor are incompatible while at the same time offering pointed social critique.  

A good novel to sink into is Philida, by South African author Andre Brink. Set in South Africa in the 19th century before slavery was abolished, this is the story of the slave Philida's struggle for freedom and justice after actions and promises from her master and his family leave her in heartbreaking circumstances. Beautifully written and a very moving story, based partly on the history of the author's own family.  

Upcoming programs

Wednesday, January 22nd, 6:30.

Sarah Bartlett, author and editor of Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write.  

Thursday, January 30th, 9:30 AM

Vermont Humanities Council Reading and Discussion series. This is the first session of the series "Gastronomy: Novels About Food and Culture." The first book is Paper Fish, by Tina De Rosa. This is co-sponsored with the Warren Library and copies of all the books for the series are available at both libraries.  

Friday, January 31st, Noon.

Lecture/recital/potluck lunch. Violist Elizabeth Reid will discuss her personal experiences with the contrasting musical scenes of her native country of Canada and her adopted country, the United States. She will also play selected works for the solo viola from both countries, including pieces by Milton Barnes, Derek Healy, Quincy Porter and Brookfield composer Erik Nielsen.  

All programs are free and open to the public.

December 5, 2013

It's the time of year when many people exchange gifts and cook and eat lots of food. Which means it's a perfect time to think about cookbooks, and there are some beautiful new ones at the library. My favorite is The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation, by vegetarian darling Mollie Katzen. Like her previous books, this is full of delicious recipes that treat vegetables in interesting and yummy ways, delivered in a warm and chatty way. It's also a beautiful book, with a gorgeous cover and Katzen's distinctive illustrations throughout. Another icon in the healthy food world, Alice Waters, also has a new book, The Art of Simple Food II: Recipes, Flavor, and Inspiration from the New Kitchen Garden. This, too, has many delicious ways to cook vegetables, often simple but never boring. There are meat recipes in this, too, and lots of information about growing vegetables -- practical advice as well as a call to embrace gardening and the pleasures and importance of growing at least some of one's own food.   

Which is a good segue into another book about food and gardens: To Eat: A Country Life, by Joe Eck. This is about life on North Hill Farm in southern Vermont, where Eck lived with his partner Wayne Winterrowd until Winterrowd's death in 2010. There are funny stories about country life, more advice about growing things and examples of how rewarding that is, plus some recipes. The two men were working on this book together up until Winterrowd's death, and the collaborative way they lived, gardened, and wrote comes through strongly, giving the book a bittersweet feel that moves it beyond a food/gardening book into memoir.  

People often come into the library looking for gift ideas for little ones, so here are some fun picture book ideas you can read at the library before committing to buying. For aspiring musicians, meaning any young child who loves to be noisy, Want to Be in a Band?, by Suzzy Roche, is just the thing. Roche was actually in a folk band with her sisters, and her experience shows in this story of how the sisters work together throughout many stages of their lives. Roche is refreshingly realistic about how hard it is to make progress as a musician and the fact the lifestyle is often less than glamourous. The closeness of the sisters is also not sugar-coated, but is even more powerful because it survives their struggles and arguments. And this book has the best advice ever about dealing with stage fright: practice performing in front of your dog, who will make no judgements about your abilities.  

Young wordsmiths and their adults will enjoy the whimsical wordplay and enthusiasm for how cool words are in The Very Inappropriate Word, by Jim Tobin. The main character collects words and delights in their meanings, which are made visual by illustrator Dave Coverly. The plot thickens when young Michael discovers an "inappropriate" word and can't possibly resist the urge to use it as much as possible, even in school. The solution to this naughty behavior comes from the school library, where he learns so many more words that the "bad" one loses some of its allure.  

Should you want a holiday book, try the tale of an anthropomorphized and adorable tractor who acts heroically on Christmas Eve. An Otis Christmas is the latest of Loren Long's books about the adventures of the scrappy tractor, Otis. In this one Otis navigates a short cut through the snowy woods to reach the doctor, whose help is needed for a mare struggling to give birth. Since the action happens in the middle of the night, Otis also has the opportunity to use his fancy new horn to awaken the doctor. Nothing says Christmas like snowy woods, a birth in a barn and a tractor who plays horn. 

November 21, 2013

December will be an active month at the library. On Saturday, December 7th at 2:30 we will host Claudia Stauber presenting the book, Eddie's Tails: Animal Stories of Rescue and Love. Eddie is a rescue dog, and this book is full of heartwarming, true stories about Bear, Sumi, Titan and other rescued animals. Each story ends with a funny anecdote about animals, and Katherine Washburn's illustrations are lively and whimsical. The book is appealing to animal lovers of all ages. Proceeds from book sales go toward future animal rescue efforts, including opening an animal sanctuary in Morrisville, where Eddie and Stauber live. Join us to support a good cause and to enjoy good stories and art.

December 14th at 2 pm we will have one last party to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the library. We will create the time capsule we're leaving for the people of  2113. We are still accepting items and ideas for what to include in the time capsule, including examples of favorite books from 2013 library patrons, so think about that and share your thoughts anytime on or before the 14th. We will also celebrate the dedicated souls who read 100 books this year as part of our "Read 100 Books to Celebrate 100 Years." There will be a drawing for a Kindle eReader and other prizes as well. There is still time to be entered in the drawing if you fill out the form with 100 books you've read this year. We can remind you what you've checked out from the library. Plus part of idea of this is to celebrate reading all sorts of different types of material, so keep in mind that we have an entire room full of quality picture books which could get you up to 100 pretty quickly. As I write that I'm imagining one version of a perfect afternoon: come into the Joslin library, make a cup of tea from the supplies generously donated by the Friends of the Library, and cozy up with a pile of picture books. Maybe it would even be snowing outside. 100 books or not, all are welcome to stop by on the 14th for some food and drinks, and a chance to celebrate our library and community of readers and library supporters.  

Now, back to dogs. If you've ever read a collection of poems by Mary Oliver (and if you haven't, change that as soon as possible), you've probably read about her dog Percy, and the joyful and soulful way he experiences the world. Now Oliver has published an entire book of poetic tributes to the beauty, playfulness, and wisdom of dogs: Dog Songs. There are charming and humorous poems that get right to the heart of dog- ness, as when she describes a puppy as "a bundle of longing," or when she describes Percy rescuing her from the drudgery of doing taxes. But these poems transcend loving dogs and the subset of readers who feel that way about dogs by expressing the bigger picture of why people feel that way about dogs in the first place: it is the way they bridge the gap been wild and tame, and the fact that " because of the dog's joyfulness, our own is increased." And in a beautiful and wise use of metaphor, she interprets a mischievous dog's antics as "the wonderful things that may happen if you break the ropes that are holding you." You'll want to read this book once quickly because it's so lovely you can't get enough, then several times more slowly, lingering over the poems that conjure thoughts of someone specific, or the ones that remind you why you're happy to be alive, or make you feel inspired and excited about trying new things. Then you'll delight in the drawings, read some aloud to your people, and maybe even want to physically hold the book close to you and inhale it deeply. It's that kind of book. 

November 7, 2013

We are excited to be planning a new book discussion series with the Waitsfield United Church of Christ. Details are still being worked out, but it will focus on some aspect of social justice, and hopefully feature both fiction and non-fiction related to the topic. Researching book possibilities for this led me to the PEN/Bellwether Prize, given every two years to "the author of a previously unpublished novel of high literary caliber that promotes fiction that addresses issues of social justice and the impact of culture and politics on human relationships." In other words, juicy, challenging and often inspiring material that is some of the most rewarding kind of reading to do, and which also is likely to generate thoughtful and enlightening discussions. This award was created by Barbara Kingsolver, and past judges include Russell Banks, Anna Quindlen, and Ursula LeGuin, which immediately makes the list of previous winners intriguing. Some examples which we have in the library collection, are Hillary Jordan Mudbound (her book When She Woke is also terrific), Heidi Durrow The Girl Who Fell From the Sky, and Good Kings Bad Kings, by Susan Nussbaum. Stay tuned for details about the discussion series, and in the meantime, get your social justice on with these great books.  

On Friday, November 15th at 10 AM there will be a class at the library presented by Small Dog Electronics on use of Apple products. The class will focus on popular apps and helping attendees use iPhones, iPads, and iPods to their full potential. We have the maximum number of people signed up already, but are keeping a waiting list. We will confirm attendees and call people from the waiting list about any openings a few days before the class, so get on the waiting list if you're interested and you may get in.    

Some new additions to the audio book collection: The Testament of Mary, by Colm Toibin, was a fabulous, unusual read, made even better in the audio book because it is narrated by none other than Meryl Streep. Even if you've already read this version of the  life of Mary, Jesus' mother, it's worth listening to it, too. (Besides being great, it happens to be quite short, too.) We also now have the audio book of Markus Zusak's The Book Thief, the World War II story of a brave girl who loves books so much she steals them, often under the nose of threatening Nazis. Now is the time to visit or revisit this intensely moving book before the movie comes out November 15th.  

And new in print: Dave Eggers, The Circle, John Grisham, Sycamore Row (print and audio), Wally Lamb, We Are Water, and new books by Elizabeth Gilbert and Jhumpa Lahira, The Signature of All Things and The Lowland, respectively. Ann Patchett's new book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage and Amy Tan's The Valley of Amazement are on their way. Truly, to quote Frank Zappa, "so many books, so little time!"

October 24, 2013

Fall is such a lovely time to buy new books! September and October are often just bursting with new books by authors people want to read or at least are curious about. Here are just some examples.  

Mystery lovers will be happy to know that we have two copies of Three Can Keep a Secret, by Archer Mayor, who feels like an old friend now that he spoke at the library's 100th party. For the next few months the second copy will help meet the demand for this title. At the end of 2013, one copy will go into the time capsule we're creating so people 100 years from now can see the work of a popular twenty-first century Vermont author.  

Non-fiction heavy hitters Malcolm Gladwell and Bill Bryson both have new books, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Battling of Giants, and One Summer: America, 1927, respectively. The premise of the Gladwell book is that sometimes adversity can be a good thing, inspiring the struggling person to find unexpected sources of strength and unexpected skills. I admit I don't love Malcolm Gladwell as much as I think maybe I'm supposed to, and often feel as if his points are either too obvious or kind of insensitive. (For example, I'm super glad I didn't lose one of my parents at a young age even though it might have made me stronger.) But his books always inspire lively discussion, and to not keep up with his latest book topic seems to mean isolating oneself from the zeitgeist. So come take his book home. Maybe you'll love it, or maybe it will annoy you and you will only want to read half of it, which you can do with impunity since after all, you didn't pay for it, you got it from your public library.  

Bill Bryson, on the other hand, can write about just about anything and make it interesting. This book is about a bunch of fascinating people and events prominent during the summer of 1927: Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, Babe Ruth, Sacco and Vanzetti, the Mississippi River. The Amazon review for this book says reading it is "like sitting beside a brilliant, slightly boozy barstool raconteur, who knows a little bit about everything." That not only sounds like a lot of fun, but what a perfect description of Bill Bryson's writing.  

Since Halloween is coming up, it's a good time for some spooky books, one for adults, one for kids. After all these years, Stephen King has written a follow-up to The Shining. Even the title and cover of Doctor Sleep conjures up chills, but in kind of an appealing, non-threatening way. I haven't read it, but it's getting good reviews that suggest it has plenty of paranormal, but maybe won't haunt the reader for years and years like The Shining. For the younger set, acclaimed children's book author Candace Fleming, author of biographies and picture books that often feature eclectic historical figures, has branched out with a collection of ten intertwined ghost stories. The book is On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave. In each story a person who died as a teen returns from the dead to tell 16-year-old Mike the story of how they died. You can just imagine what happens to the poor guy at the end. This is spooky enough to engage middle grade readers but probably won't give anyone nightmares. A fun detail is that the stories take place in Chicago over a time span of over one hundred years, so there is a lot of Chicago lore and geography in addition to the spooky tales.  

A reminder of our program with John Kirby, from Green Mountain Coins and Estate Jewelry -- free appraisals, free chocolate for people who remember the word for what he does for a living -- Tuesday, October 29th at 6:30. And Sunday, October 27th at 2 pm is what has become our annual Halloween costume party. Treats, a costume parade, fun activities for kids. All ages are welcome.

October 3, 2013  

A generous local supporter of the arts has lent the library an original print by famed children's book illustrator Eric Carle. Anyone who has read picture books in the last forty years or has even just walked through the children's section of a library or bookstore will recognize Carle's artistic style, which uses hand-painted paper cut and layered in colorful collages. He has illustrated more than seventy books, the most famous being The Very Hungry Caterpillar, but what is especially exciting about the print displayed in the library is that it is not from any of his books, but number 1 of 500 prints of a standalone piece called I'll Give Thee Fairies to Attend on Thee. We are honored to have it in the library where Eric Carle fans of all ages will see it often.  

Mark your calendars for October 29th when we will host our own miniature version of Antiques Roadshow. John Kirby, of Green Mountain Coins and Estate Jewelry, will present a program on methods used for appraising coins and jewelry. We have a few books on this topic (check the 700s shelf) if you want to study up on this before he comes, or even more fun, bring in coins and jewelry the 29th, and Mr. Kirby has offered to appraise them that night for no fee. Material value aside, planning this program has allowed library staff and volunteers to learn a seriously wonderful word: nu·mis·mat·ics  [noo-miz-mat-iks], the study or collecting of coins, medals, paper money, etc. There will be free chocolate at the program for anyone who remembers the word and can spell and pronounce it.  

On to some books on the new shelf: Someone: a Novel, by Alice McDermott, initially felt too familiar -- Irish family, World War II Brooklyn, a girl whose heart gets broken by a scoundrel who drinks too much, the priest whose faith falters because of his carnal struggles.  But the book got more interesting after it leapt ahead to points later in the main character's life, and when it returned to her young adulthood in Brooklyn, I felt as if I knew and liked her enough to be more interested, and as if her story was more individual. There are some endearing minor characters: her not terribly interesting but gentle and supportive husband, a thoughtful funeral home director, and his mother and her friends who manage to gossip in a compassionate way that would seem impossible until you read their conversations and the descriptions of their body language which criticize and forgive all in one subtle gesture. Don't read this waiting for something to happen, but stick with it and you'll gradually realize you're hooked.  

Now for one of my periodic pitches for Young Adult literature that also appeals to adults: If You Could Be Mine, by Sara Farizan. This is young heartbreak done so well that it will make you sad, angry, and so engaged you want to leap into the main character's world and prevent her from doing anything irrevocable. Set in Tehran, it is the tragic love story of two teenage girls, Sahar and Nasrin. When Nasrin is promised in an arranged marriage, Sahar becomes desperate, knowing that even the way they have loved each other since they were young children, secretive and frustrating as it is, will be destroyed by Nasrin's marriage. Sahar explores ways to save their relationship, by turns supported or thwarted by other characters, including her depressed father, and a community of transsexuals she meets through a gay relative. The result is a moving story of brave people who find ways to be themselves in spite of living in a time and culture full of repression and contradictions.  

And we do have plenty of new books for readers who don't want to read about multi-cultural self-realization: the latest books  by Clive Cussler, Nelson DeMille and Sue Grafton. Robert B. Parker's Damned If You Do, by Michael Brandman, has been flying off the shelf, and for less well-known mysteries, we have A Tap on the Window, by Linwood Barclay, and The Dying Hours, by Mark Billingham.    


September 12, 2013  

We will start fall library programming with two important presentations. The first is a presentation by Joni Zweig, speaking about Female Empowerment Through Literacy. Joni is a Valley resident and the executive director and president of Amurtel, North America, an international relief and development organization focused on women and children in need. In this program she will share experiences about the impact of literacy or illiteracy on women she has worked with all over the world. This program is September 24th at 7 pm.  

On October 1st at 6:30 we will host Sandra Singer, a Navigator for Vermont Health Connect. Navigators have been trained by the state and passed a certification exam to help them articulate the details of the new health program to the public. Mandatory enrollment begins October 1 and ends March 31, 2014 for the uninsured, VHAP and Catamount clients and employers with 50 or less full time employees (30 or more hours/ week). Come with any questions you have about your own coverage or what will be required of your business.  

One of the most powerful books of 2013 is on our new shelf right now: A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett. This is Lindhout's harrowing story of being held captive in Somalia for 460 days in 2008. It is the story of Lindhout before being captured - a young woman from a troubled home in Western Canada who works as a waitress to finance her urge to travel - naive, adventuresome, sometimes narcissistic, always curious. And it is about the remarkable woman she becomes during and after captivity - wise, generous, and, above all, compassionate.  This book is full of suspense, horror, optimism and love. The suspense aspect is a credit to the writing quality, since we know before starting to read that a) she will be captured and b) she will survive, since she's writing about it. But she and her co-writer completely engage the reader by starting with Lindhout's troubled childhood and the beginnings of her urge to see the world (fueled by reading National Geographic magazines) and sharing her early travels and friendships, so we feel close to her when she gets captured and drawn into the sequence of events, awful as many of them are. Reading about the world of the men and boys holding her hostage is frightening but intriguing, and getting a feeling for their personalities adds to the impact of her amazing ability to feel mercy for them, despite the violence they inflict on her. Lindhout has gone on since being freed to start a foundation called The Global Enrichment Foundation, an "incorporated non-profit organization that promotes peace and development in Somalia through sustainable educational and community-based empowerment programs, while undertaking humanitarian and life-saving emergency interventions in times of crisis." Read the book for details of Lindhout's journey, eloquently told.  

On a completely different note, we have a new graphic novel for adults based on the adventures and struggles of the Knights Templar: Templar, by Jordan Mechner, creator of the video game and movie Prince of Persia, and illustrators LeUyen Pham and Alexander Puvilland. This part of the Templar's tale focuses on their survival after the king of France tries to destroy their order, and the fate of the treasure they allegedly brought home from the Crusades. This book is full of strife, battles and action, but also has complex characters, history and narrative enough to appeal even to a reader like me whose taste in medieval fiction usually tends more toward young adult fiction about the monks who cultivated the gardens and the libraries, or servant boys who turned out to be of noble blood. And it is very accessible visually, with recognizable characters and easy to follow scenes - an excellent first graphic novel for those who might not have tried one before.  

August 1, 2013

New books continue to be added to our shelves this summer. Starting with the ones that are really getting a lot of buzz: The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith, who is really J.K. Rowling, author of Harry Potter. The story of her use of a pseudonym for this well-received but at first modestly selling crime novel and the sleuthing out of her identity makes a good story itself. Some of the clues, which were determined by software designed to identify authorship, included word choice, distribution, and length, plus, my favorite detail, since I loved this in the Harry Potter books, her use of words and phrases derived from Latin. This book gets the record for shortest time between arriving in the mail and being taken home by a patron and does already have a waiting list, but it appears to be a fairly quick read, so call or stop by if you want to reserve it.

Two other authors who write thought provoking, original and beloved books also have new books - Neil Gaiman and Chris Bohjalian.  In The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Neil Gaiman makes spooky threatening yet also sometimes oddly comforting. His descriptions of how children perceive evil and other-worldliness, which is often accepting and even matter of fact, makes his writing accessible to readers who might not ordinarily read supernatural books. And the weird details that come out of his imagination are captivating. The Light in the Ruins, Bohjalian’s newest, is filled with emotion, history and sympathetic characters. His portrayal of these topics is always a treat, as is his ability to tell a story. We have his book in print and audio. Both of these books can be downloaded in audio or eBook format through the Green Mountain Library Consortium as well. These do have waiting lists, but be patient, and be sure to call or stop by if you need your patron number or help accessing downloadable books. A reminder we also circulate Kindles, great for if you’re going on vacation, want to try one out, or just want to use one without purchasing one. We can show you how to use them if you’re unfamiliar with them.

One of the highlights of the recent library conference I went to was getting to hear Alice Walker speak and read her poetry. We have her newest book, The World Will Follow Joy: Turning Madness Into Flowers.  She is such an inspiring person and writer, and like much of her writing, this book discusses politics and activism, as well as influential world leaders. But unlike political writing by most writers or even her own prose, these poems portray a positive, light-filled approach to the world’s struggles. They are still a call to be involved, but in a quiet, meditative way.

And now for the most fun yet insightful book we’ve had on the shelves for a while: Amy Falls Down, by Jincy Willett. The premise is wonderful- Amy is a writer who had some success but hasn’t published in years. When she falls and injures her head shortly before granting an interview to the local paper, the result is either the stream of consciousness gibberish of a quirky and concussed person with a gift for language, or wisdom. Largely interpreted as the latter, the interview goes viral, her writing career picks up again, and she gets rather famous. Amy continues to be her own person, delightfully poking fun at self-indulgent bloggers and bookish types, her neighbors when they act nosy and shallow, her agent who reappears, and herself. Her humor is pointed but not mean, and this makes her awfully good company.

For anyone wanting to properly prepare for the Library’s 100th anniversary celebration on August 10th, we have over 20 books by Archer Mayor, who will be speaking that afternoon. Now is your chance to become acquainted or reacquainted with Lieutenant Joe Gunther and some local-ish mysteries. Please join us at 1 pm on the 10th for Mr. Mayor and other celebratory activities.

July 18, 2013  

Recommended books from the New Books Shelf: Meg Wolitzer's latest book, The Interestings, takes its title from the name a group of six friends give themselves when they are teenagers infatuated with their own interestingness. They meet at an arts camp that encourages artistic expression and also a sense of superiority over the more prosaic things in life (material possessions, jobs that don't offer self-expression and fulfillment). It is also 1974, so their sense of disillusionment with the government and adults in general fits right in with the time and culture. How they navigate individually and sometimes together from that beginning into middle age makes for a story rich with emotion and feelings of empathy for almost all of the characters. The plot complications engender questions of family loyalty, marital commitment, and most for all, honesty- honesty to idealistic values developed during youth, and honesty to friends and family. This book will make you blow off things you're supposed to be doing in order to read it; it's long but goes by far too quickly and will make you sad when it's over, and one night it kept me up writing an imaginary fan letter to the author in my head because I was so in love with the book.  

Another book I'm smitten with right now is Anton DiSclafani's debut novel, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. Set in the South during the Great Depression, this is the story of Thea Atwell, a privileged, eccentric and troubled girl. Sent away from her family to an elite riding school in the Blue Ridge Mountains because of a complicated family situation revealed gradually and sensitively throughout the book, Thea's vulnerability and sadness are balanced by her spirit and strength. Almost all of the girls are at the school because of "trouble with a boy," or so they won't be home to witness their family's falling financial status. But this is much more than a fancy prep school drama. Thea is a complex character from a loving yet unhealthily insular family. She has great passion and an unusually strong sense for a girl of that era of wanting to make her own decisions, but this often brings her more turmoil than happiness. She is a fierce, talented athlete, at times a loyal friend and sister, and always her own person. In addition to Thea's story, the book oozes with Southern tradition, steamy weather and national anxiety over the Depression, all of which combine to transport the reader to that time and those places, both the riding camp in the mountains and Thea's home in Florida. One of my favorite details is that Thea's family is surviving the Depression better than many because one of her forefathers had the inspiration to get one of the early railroad magnates to taste an orange for the first time, and from this developed a lucrative business transporting citrus all over the country. It's a brief scene, but the transformative moment when the Northerner tastes his first orange is so vivid my mouth watered.     

A reminder inspired by the recent construction and chaos around our front door, first that if our front door is inaccessible during hours we're normally open, come to the side door on Bridge Street - we're there and ready to lend you books! This also seems a good time to remind people that if the library is physically inaccessible to you for other reasons, either temporary or long term, call or email, and we'll figure out a way to get books to you. Realistically an elevator or ramp for better accessibility isn't in the near future, but we are committed to providing service to the entire community, so please contact us if you've stayed away from the library because of access issues. 

June 27, 2013

We continue to be quite immersed in 100th anniversary fervor this summer at the Joslin Library. The big party to celebrate is August 10th from 1-4, with author Archer Mayor, historic music, ice cream and more. We are accepting submissions for a time capsule to enlighten people 100 years from now about life in Waitsfield in 2013. We'll be burying library artifacts to represent 2013 library materials and services - a book, a barcode, some aspect of technology used to access library materials. We'd also love contributions that document more generally life in this time and place, so please contact the library if you want more details about participating.

New, fun summer reads on our shelves include a book by Stephen King, Joyland, as well as a book by his son, Joe Hill, entitled NOS4A2. I have not read either of them, but can say that Joyland has a wonderfully inviting, campy cover, and is described in one review as "a smart, sweet, spooky, sexy gem of a story." Any book that can inspire so many and such varied adjectives intrigues me. NOS4A2 comes recommended by reviewers, at least one discerning local library patron, and a bunch of the women I serve on a book selection committee with, who speak with a level of excitement about this book that they usually reserve for new biographies of social justice icons or life changing graphic novels for teens. 

Kimberly McCreight's debut novel, Reconstructing Amelia, will leave you a) unable to put it down and b) wanting to put it down because it's so disturbing. Part mystery, part relationship drama, part expose of mean girls and clique-ish bullying at an exclusive private school, the book features the story of Amelia, who is endearing and realistic, but unfortunately dead. (No spoiler- she's dead at the very beginning of the book.) Her mother, a lawyer with a high powered career who battles guilt, stress and the consequences of bad relationship choices in the past, commits to finding out everything she can about her daughter and her daughter's death. Readers are swept up in the revelation of new details and the cracking of clues, especially since increased feelings of tenderness for Amelia are inevitable as her character becomes more developed throughout the book. 

We have two new autobiographies of interest to the sports-minded: Phil Jackson, Eleven Rings, and Jimmy Connors, The Outsider. Not surprisingly, based on their public personas, Jackson's has quite a bit more depth and delves more into his world outside of sports success, but Connors definitely maintains some of that bad boy appeal so popular in the 70s.  

Waitsfield Elementary has once again generously lent us their DCF books for the summer, giving us one or more copies of all but one book on the list. Some favorites of mine from the current list are Liar & Spy, by Rebecca Stead, which is quirky and warm, and See You at Harry's, by Vermont author Jo Knowles, which is sad but inspiring. We also borrowed the school's Echo pass, so we have two of those in addition to a day pass for 8 to Vermont state parks, and several museum passes. This is a great way to get to some fun places without spending too much money.  

Lastly, a public thank you to the Friends of the Joslin Library for helping me attend the American Library Association annual conference later this week.This will be educational and exciting, with authors, publishers, vendors, and thousands of librarians from all over the country convening in one place. It will be my first time hosting an author panel at this event, which is both slightly intimidating and wildly exciting, and would never have happened if the Friends hadn't consistently supported my professional development over the last couple of years. I will try to learn many things to bring back to our local library!

 June 6, 2013

On Thursday, June 13th, at 7 pm, we will host readings by several authors with work published in The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2013. The most fun and exciting part of this is that one of the authors is local Al Uris, whose first person story Sand in the Shoes will make you feel as you’re at the shore and know what it would be like to work there. His writing is very present, and the story’s ending is subtle and moving. Other participants will be fiction writer Shelagh Shapiro and poets Martin Bock and Lizzy Fox, whose bio promises performance poetry. Angela Palm is the fiction editor of the book, but her contribution to it is a wonderful non-fiction entry about her complicated relationship with technology, in which she also describes falling in love with the short-story genre via the remarkable Margaret Atwood, and collegiate struggles with Hemingway. Her piece ends with a sentence that is even better than its first sentence, which is,”You want to fall in love as an undergrad studying English literature.” This will be surely be an entertaining and thought provoking evening, and a chance to support a local author.

We’re moving firmly into audio book season, and here are some new offerings, with hopefully enough diversity for many: My favorite is Amy Brill’s debut, The Movement of Stars. Based on the real life of Maria Mitchell, America’s first female professional astronomer and the discoverer of “Miss Mitchell’s Comet,” this book has 19th century Nantucket culture, science, abolitionists and women’s rights advocates, and Hannah, a woman who refuses to be repressed, even embarking on a love affair with a man society considers completely wrong for her. Brill’s writing is descriptive and occasionally fierce, and Hannah is awesome.

Staying in historical mode, we have print and audio versions of Nathanial Philbrick’s newest book, Bunker Hill. I don’t always love listening to fiction because I like to reread sentences with particularly delicious use of language, but non-fiction audio is the best. You can learn so much while driving to where you need to go, and stopping and starting is not a problem the way it can be in fiction. The reader in the audio version helps make the material interesting and accessible.

For those whose fiction taste does not run toward groundbreaking historical women, we also have audio of James Patterson, 12th of Never, and Joel Rosenberg, Damscus Countdown. For kids and teens, we have the 2013 Newbery winner, The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate, and Drowned Cities, by Young Adult superstar author, Paolo Bacigalupi. Both of these work pretty well for adults, too, so a whole family can listen to the same thing.

If you’ve come into the library recently, you may have noticed that our poster entitled “100 Things We Love About Our Library,” in honor of 2013 being our 100th year, is actually overflowing with entries - latecomers to the project had to take to the margins to express themselves. There are recurring themes of books, people, computers access, pretty building, and this especially lovely and true entry- “feels like home only you get more done.” Stay tuned throughout the summer for more chances to celebrate the library and its centenary.


May 9, 2013

As we approach the halfway point of 2013, it’s a good time to remind people of our “100 Book Club” – celebrating the Library’s 100th anniversary by reading 100 books. Book logs are available at the library and Tempest Book Shop. You can count books you’ve read for other projects (DCF, school, work), audio books, and even very short books. Everyone who reads 100 books will get a prize from Tempest, a big party at the library plus, of course, a huge sense of accomplishment. One grand prize winner chosen randomly from all participants will win an eReader.  If anyone can’t remember what they’ve read in the last five months, we can help by at least showing you what you’ve checked out from the library.

Two upcoming library events are a presentation by Fariborz Mokhtari, author of In the Lion’s Shadow, on May 20th at 6:30, and a classical chamber music concert benefitting the library on May 22nd at 7. The subtitle of Mr. Mokhtari’s book is The Iranian Schindler and His Homeland in the Second World War. It tells the story of Abdol-Hossein Sardari, an Iranian diplomat in France during World War II. Using history from thousands of years past, Sardari saved the lives of thousands of Iranian Jews by asserting that they were racially different than European Jews. This is a fascinating piece of history unknown to many. Fariborz Mokhtari is a renowned scholar, writer and professor. His book has been featured on the BBC, at the Holocaust Memorial & Tolerance Center, on the website of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and many other venues, and we are fortunate to have this local opportunity to hear the author talk about his work. His book is at the library, Tempest Book Shop, and he will bring copies of it to sell at the event.

The Burlington Ensemble is a professional chamber music group with a commitment to contributing proceeds from their concerts to non-profits. This spring they have chosen libraries as their beneficiaries, and we are one of the lucky libraries. The concert will be at the Valley Players Theater. Tickets are $20 and will be available at the door or at It promises to be an enjoyable evening of string music, with music by Telemann, Bartok and Prokofiev.

We have some terrific new non-fiction right now. Both Temple Grandin and Michael Pollan have new books. Grandin’s book, The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum is co-written with science writer Richard Panek. It effectively combines science with her own story, making it accessible to non-scientists, and, as her previous work also did so well, this book promotes understanding by offering information about something which affects a huge number of people but is often misunderstood.

In Cooked: a Natural History of Transformation, Michael Pollan once again writes about food, with a focus this time on cooking. He chronicles his education about many different kinds of cooking- grilling, baking, fermenting – and also analyzes the social and cultural aspects of cooking. His premise that cooking is a way for individuals to counteract the industrialization of food and positively impact the environment is inspiring.

And a favorite of mine is The Girls of Atomic City: the Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, by Denise Kiernan. Just as I had no idea who Abdol-Hossein Sardari was until recently, I didn’t realize that Oak Ridge, Tennessee was created from scratch to support uranium enriching plants working on the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. This book is the story of the young women that worked in various capacities at Oak Ridge. Persuaded to take jobs that would help the war effort but knowing nothing about where they were going or what they were going to do, these women (men, too, but this book focuses mostly on women) came from a variety of backgrounds, races, and regions. They lived together, but knew very little about what work their peers did, and, in fact, knew little about their own work beyond what they needed to complete each task. This is the best kind of history reading – lots of information conveyed with a great sense of narrative and filled with interesting personalities.


April 18, 2013

Early 2013 has brought us many books by Vermont authors. Very locally, Jim Tabor's new novel, Frozen Solid, set at the South Pole and featuring The Deep Zone protagonist Hallie Leland, has gotten great reviews and is already popular at the library. Publication of a new book by this bestselling author is a good time to remember that you can place holds on books online, or call the library and we'll be glad to do it for you.

Staying very local, on Thursday, April 18th at 7, Rob Williams will speak at the library about the recently published book he co-edited, Most Likely to Secede: What the Vermont Independence Movement Can Teach Us about Reclaiming Community and Creating a Human-Scale Vision for the 21st Century. This is a collection of essays previously published in the news journal Vermont Commons, spanning from 2005 to 2011. Topics include energy use, food, information, economics and governance, considered from the perspective that smaller is more effective than huge. One author writes that "life in America is going to become profoundly and intensely local." Many of the essays give examples of ways that is already happening to some degree and with some success- CSAs and Front Porch Forum are both recognized as positive organizational models. On the other hand, mainstream media is critiqued for its monolithic delivery of information and its capacity to persuade or even brainwash people consuming it. Some of the book's language can be off-putting: for example, the challenge to "temper the excesses of the global capitalist empire" made me feel a bit like I was 19 and listening to caffeine-fueled classmates enrolled in their first lefty college political science class, but the passion is admirable, and there is no doubt that this book is filled with thought provoking and sometimes inspiring ideas. It will be great to get the big picture when Rob and possibly other writers from the collection share their thoughts with us on the 18th.   

Continuing in the vein of inspiring and passionate, My Name is Jody Williams: a Vermont Girl's Winding Path to the Nobel Peace Prize is Williams' own telling of her remarkable life. This book has so many of my favorite things: a fierce woman fighting for causes larger than herself, good storytelling, humor and adventure. It's a completely readable and personal account of both her impact on the world stage, and also the ways in which her life, although extraordinary, is still reconcilable experiences we all have.

On the children and young adult new book shelves we also have a good representation of Vermont authors, including two of my favorites, Tanya Lee Stone and Beth Kanell. Stone has a new picture book about Elizabeth Blackwell, entitled Who Says Women Can't Be Doctors? It is the story of Blackwell's perseverance in the face of gender discrimination and other obstacles, but it's kept accessible and far from preachy by Stone's language and Marjorie Priceman's zany illustrations. Stone's other new book is Courage Has No Color, The True Story of the Triple Nickels: America's First Black Paratroopers. Filled with information and photographs, this is narrative nonfiction at its best, and although intended for a youth audience, there is plenty of material to keep adults interested.

 Beth Kanell's newest book is Cold Midnight. Based on the real unsolved murder in 1921 of St. Johnsbury's one Chinese person, Sam Wah, this is naturally full of mystery. It also has likable characters, and a good sense of local-ish history. Also new to our collection is an older book by Kanell, Darkness Under the Water, which is the coming of age story of a half Abenaki Indian half French Canadian girl living in Vermont in the 1920s. I haven't read it yet but it looks intriguing and has long been popular at other libraries.

March 21, 2013

People interested in the publishing world, personalities of famous authors or, more specifically, people who read A Wrinkle in Time multiple times and eagerly looked for other books by Madeleine L'Engle each time they went to a library or bookstore when she was still alive, will love to sink into the world of Listening for Madeleine, by Leonard S. Marcus. This is a series of interviews and discussions about L'Engle, contributed by her family members, several people who edited her work or worked in publishing houses for whom she was a celebrity author, other well-known authors, and more. Reading this material offers a chance to separate myth from fact, learn about the real lives of people she based characters on, and to gain insight on what parts of her public persona were real, and which she constructed, and why there were these differences. It is also a glimpse a rich cultural and literary world of last century. This is a bit of a niche book, but if this is your niche, it's really a great read.

Continuing with children's literature icons, Maurice Sendak's last book is out, and it is a very intense and beautiful book, filled with pictures, but not a children's book. My Brother's Book was written in memory of Sendak's brother Jack, who died in 1995. It is about loss and grief and love, written in verse that requires more than one reading to make an impact, but the wash of strong feeling comes through strongly, especially through in the almost desperate and wild artwork.

On a lighter note, we have a program at the end of March that is an occasion for dipping into some juicy mysteries. Sisters in Crime is an international organization that promotes mystery writing and writers, and its local chapters sponsor programs. At 2p.m. on March 23rd, we are hosting Vermont writers Nancy Means Wright and Beth Kanell presenting “Historic Women as Sleuths.” Both authors write historical mysteries that feature resourceful women unlocking clues and figuring out things others can’t. Their books will be available for purchase and signing, and the library will have several books by both of them at the library. Call 496-4205 with questions.

We also have the latest by the prolific James Patterson and Robert Crais, plus a couple new books from less well-known authors that look to be good contributions to the suspense genre: The Burning Air, by Erin Kelly, Three Graves Full, by Jamie Mason, and Bear is Broken, by Lachlan Smith. And for the non-fiction minded, the new biography of Calvin Coolidge, by Amity Shlaes, Sonia Sotomayor's autobiography, My Beloved World, and Al Gore's latest, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change.

February 7, 2013

It’s the time of year when I put loads of time and energy into helping the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer Project create a list of recommended feminist books for children and youth. Knowing that other readers may not share my passion for feminism or, oddly enough, may not read young adult books when they are in fact no longer young adults, I’ve picked a few from the list that I think will appeal to adults, regardless of their thoughts on feminism. There is some great historical fiction on the list this year, magic realism, a spy story, and more than one adventure/survival story. There is also an Amish vampire book, The Hallowed Ones, by Laura Bickle, which is strange, but surprisingly readable. The full list and more about the project is at http://ameliabloomer.

Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, is not only on the Amelia Bloomer List, but it also is an Amazon Best Book of the Month, has been nominated for an Edgar Award (distinguished mystery writing), and is a Printz honor book, which is the American Library Association award for excellence in young adult literature. It is the story of two women in World War II, one a spy, one a pilot. Their friendship and loyalty to each other and to the Allied cause are entwined in an intricate plot that is unveiled slowly and mysteriously, through the character Verity’s “confession” to the Nazis who are holding her prisoner. You will be drawn in, surprised, moved, and won’t be able to put this down as you get near the end and all the pieces start to come together. A terrific mystery, spy novel, World War II novel and yes, also an homage to women in history who did unconventional jobs and showed great bravery and strength. We have audio and print versions of this book at the library.

Eight Girls Taking Pictures, by Whitney Otto, spans the twentieth century and geographically covers the United States, Europe and South America. The “eight girls” are all photographers, with some connections to real people, although this is definitely a work of fiction. As they pursue artistic expression and careers, they also reveal their personal passions and their struggles to cope with constraints of their circumstances, whether caused by war, bigotry, or repressive families. And because of the book’s large scope, the reader also gets a feel for important events of the time periods covered, such as two world wars, and the glamorous locations where the women live and work, including Berlin, New York, London and more. Descriptions of evolving photographic techniques are woven into the plot, supported by photographs at the start of each section of the book. The eight sections don’t meld together in the satisfying way the plot twists in Code Name Verity do, but there are enough connections to make this feel like a novel, not eight novellas.

To relax a bit and enjoy something lighter after a diet of social justice and fierce protagonists for most of January, this week I’ve been enjoying The Red Book, by Deborah Kogan. It’s a fictional look at Harvard alumni, whose travails serve as an entertaining reminder that a good, expensive education, lucrative jobs or partners with trust funds aren’t guarantees for happiness.

On Wednesday, March 6th at 6:30 pm, veterinarian Dr. Steven Metz, who recently spoke on WDEV, will speak at the library about his work as a vet and his new book, Exotic Tails. We have the book at the library, for those who want to read it ahead of time, and he will also bring copies to sell. He’s full of colorful anecdotes, and has the spirit of a storyteller, so this is sure to be educational and lots of fun. We also will have the second discussion on Peter Johnston's book, Opening Minds, Wednesday, February 20th, at 6:30. It's OK to come to this if you missed the first one, and we still have some copies of the book, so please join us if you're interested in exploring the power of language in working with children, either as an educator or a parent or grandparent.

December 20, 2012

It's the time of year to be happy about winter, and it's always the time of year to be happy about dogs, so here are some related books new to the library collection. First, dogs: Has there ever been any publication with better cartoons than The New Yorker? And of course it is also filled with great short fiction, poetry and essays by some of the world's most insightful and sometimes entertaining authors. So a compilation of years and years worth of New Yorker pieces related to dogs can only be wonderful. The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs starts with an adorable cover (James Thurber), followed by a foreward by Malcolm Gladwell. Then comes over 400 pages of work by John Cheever, Roald Dahl, Susan Orlean (of Rin Tin Tin fame), E.B. White, John Updike, and more. As you can tell by the authors featured, the book spans generations of writers who chose to express something about dogs, dogs' relationship with humans, dogs as metaphors for humans, good dogs, bad dogs and in-between. (The book is actually divided into sections with the titles Good Dog, Bad Dog, Top Dog, and Underdog.) This book works for browsing the cartoons or exploring more deeply to experience the range of content and enjoy the high quality of the writing.  

Moving into the winter theme, Twelve Kinds of Ice, written by Ellen Bryan Obed and illustrated by Barbara McClintock, is a celebration for all ages of not just ice in its many forms, but winter, family and nature. McClintock's inviting illustrations add to the atmosphere as the book follows a family from the beginning of winter through spring, with different kinds of ice at each stage of the season, from that first thin sliver to black ice, to great skating ice. Anyone who loves to skate or can't resist pushing their boot through a not completely frozen puddle will want to cuddle up with this book and a cup of hot chocolate.  

And combining dogs and winter, An Echo Through the Snow, by Andrea Thalasinos, is a mix of history, dog sledding and self-discovery. One story is of Rosalie, a struggling young woman who heals and evolves through rescuing and bonding with a Siberian husky, eventually becoming immersed in the world of competitive dog sledding. This contemporary story coexists with the book's parallel story, which tells of the treatment suffered by the Chukchi people in Siberian at the hands of Stalin. This is a fascinating, obscure part of history, and its juxtaposition to Rosalie's story seems a bit stilted, but it's still interesting to read about.  

For something more gritty, a new detective novel at the library is The Cold, Cold Ground, by Adrian McKinty. Set in Belfast in 1981, it features detective Sean Duffy, the rare Catholic detective in a mostly unionist force. In an environment exhausted by crimes and "The Troubles," people are suspicious of each other and detectives are overwhelmed by their workload. Duffy's exploration of the murder of two gay men leads to questions about a possible serial killer, the IRA, and corruption. This is the first of a trilogy about a fascinating time and place, featuring a complex main character who makes the reader want to learn more about him and his world.  

Other high interest new books are Janet Evanovich, Notorious Nineteen, Nelson DeMille, The Panther, and Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth. Remember, if the book you want is checked out, you can place a hold on it from home if you have a username and password. Call or stop by the library if you need your login information or need help. 

December 6, 2012

At this time of year the media is full of "Best Books of 2012" lists and gift book ideas. Whether you want a chance to look at these books before buying them as gifts or you get inspired about what to read yourself by browsing the lists, remember that the library has many of these books in our collection. We also know which of these are popular locally, which can often be a better recommendation than a more global resource. Some examples of nationally and locally endorsed titles that are on our shelves:

At Last, by Edward St. Aubyn, is the last of his Patrick Melrose novels. (We also have some of the previous ones.) In addition to glowing written reviews, I think almost everyone who has returned this to the library has raved about it and asked for more books by this author.  

Watergate, by Thomas Mallon, is a fictionalized version of the events surrounding the Watergate scandal. One review compared it to The TV show The West Wing, and it really is that accessible, full of fascinating personalities and plot twists, some famous, others not so much. Again, good reports back from a diverse cohort of local readers.  

And a favorite of mine, completely unusual and appealing to feminist, historical, anthropological and arguably spiritual and even seasonal sensibilities,The Testament of Mary, by the amazing Colm Toibin, is impossible to put down. It's short yet intense, and merits devoting time to sitting down and reading all at once, should you be so lucky to have time to do that. The Mary characterized in this book (the mother of Jesus) is much more complex, brooding and ultimately more powerful than iconic images of her with blond hair and a maternal yet long-suffering facial expression. This woman recognizes the stark reality and complexity of her life, and refuses to be manipulated into another persona by her son's followers.  

In the non-fiction realm, The Patriarch, David Nasaw's biography of Joseph Patrick Kennedy, is filled with interesting details about the patriarch of this famous, never boring family. Meticulously researched (Nasaw is the only biographer who had full access to J.P. Kennedy's papers in the Kennedy Presidential Library)and very readable, this is the story of a financier, an ambassador, a movie maker, and very human family man. And, of course, it's always fun to look at pictures of the Kennedys.  

Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: the Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis, by Timothy Egan, was recommended by a library volunteer (the volunteers are consistently good resources for books suggestions). Curtis' photographs are instantly recognizable and learning about the person behind them and the settings he traveled to brings to life the time period and people he documented. Also suggested and highly recommended by a volunteer, On a Farther Shore: the Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson, by William Souder.  

Upcoming library events: holiday party December 22nd. And in January we will host our first Parents' Reading Group, facilitated by Children's Librarian, Lisa Italiano. The discussion will be about Peter Johnston's book, Opening Minds: Using Language to Change Lives. Six print copies of the book are available for participants, and the book is also on the library Kindles, which can be checked out. The first discussion will be January 23rd at 6:30 pm at the library. Call for more information.

November 21, 2012

As we enter into the holiday season, things are about to get very festive at the Joslin Library. To begin with, there are cookies at the library during December. There are some very good cooks who volunteer at the library, so you don’t want to miss these treats. This year we also have a newly donated Keurig coffee maker to enhance your book reading and cookie munching pleasure. Look for some kid activities during the school break, too – more information on that when we have details.

But the real fun has to do with our 2013 100th anniversary. There will be activities related to this all year. The part you might already want to be thinking about is the challenge to read 100 books during 2013. There will be special prizes for those who finish in time for our big celebration August 10th, 2013, so plan your reading accordingly. Listening to books works, too, either through books on CD, downloadable audio books (stop by the library if you need help using this service either on your computer or mobile device), or, no matter your age, persuading another person to read aloud to you. Remember that you can count DCF books, books for the winter Vermont Humanities Council Reading and Discussion or other library programs, books for work, etc. (The books for the VHC program will be available at the Joslin and Warren libraries the first week of December.)

Also looking a bit ahead, VPR commentator and author Bill Schubart will discuss his book Panhead at the library January 10th at 7 pm. His book is available at the library, and is described by one reviewer this way: “Schubart has taken his native Vermont and transformed it into a meditation on the human condition.” Schubart has used the book as a point of departure for discussions at libraries and bookstores throughout the state about Vermont culture. These have been very well received, and our turn is January 10th.

Some of the themes of Panhead, such as the complexities of small town or rural life and the changing perspective about that gained after a person ventures out into the broader world, are also expressed in Richard Russo’s new memoir, Elsewhere. There is much familiar in this from his fiction, too: the struggling blue collar town, and colorful personalities whose relationships are complicated by the limitations of the options available to them. Russo’s mother is a large personality who dominates this book as well as, seemingly, at times, his life. From the outside it looks awfully messy and a tad co-dependent, but there is something very sweet about his dedication, too. And as with a lot of memoirs by writers who portray their families as wildly dysfunctional, one ends up wondering how in the world Russo was able to turn his upbringing into great art and critical acclaim.

A real treat on the new books shelf is Mary Oliver’s A Thousand Mornings. Oliver writing about nature in every season always makes me want to go enjoy the outdoors, and her writing about animals is exquisite. This woman loves dogs possibly even more than I do, and expresses it beautifully.

At the other end of the reading spectrum, the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book is here: this installment is The Third Wheel, and finds Greg in middle school looking for a date. As funny as ever.

December 4th at 10 AM is the next Tech Tuesday. Come into the library for help using our website, to learn to get the most out of our catalog, and/or to learn how to download audio or eBooks or access our other electronic resources.

November 8, 2012

Louise Erdrich is such a satisfying author to read on so many levels, and her newest novel, The Round House, is one of her most gripping. Narrated by 13 year old Joe, son of a Native American tribal judge father, and tribal clerk mother, this is the story of what happens to Joe, his family, and their community after his mother is brutally attacked. Erdrich intertwines a page-turner crime story with tribal law, boys coming of age, and  complex relationships experienced in families and among friends. Joe narrates the story as a wise, thoughtful adult, so there is some comfort in the fact he seems to have reached adulthood emotionally intact, but there is also a looming sense of awful things that have happened and are about to happen that pushes the story forward. The characters are well- drawn and often lovable: his father is like a Native American Atticus Finch, his best friend Cappy full of magnetic young adolescent energy and confidence and as loyal and compassionate a friend as anyone could hope for. The minor characters are eccentric and enjoyable, too, with some of the older ones providing comic relief in an otherwise very intense book. Having a son almost Joe's age made this especially powerful for me, since I couldn't help wondering as I read what it would be like for my son if something awful happened to me- would he want to seek revenge, but even more, would he have the support system Joe has, which is so positively portrayed in spite of the dark plot elements. This is a book not to be missed by mystery lovers, people who love family stories, people interested in Native Americans, law, and, for anyone who has enjoyed Erdrich's writing in her previous books, you might love this one even more.  

We also have a new children's book by Louise Erdrich, Chickadee. This is the fourth book in her Birchbark House series, but because it focuses on new characters, is fine read as a stand alone. Historical fiction with lots of details about life in the upper Midwest and the Objiwe culture, this also has adventure and humor that will engage young readers. And on the subject of children's books, check out new additions to our biography shelf: subjects are Teddy Roosevelt, Marcel Marceau, Toussaint L'Ouverture, Louisa May Alcott and more. Many of these have enough information to engage adults who want to learn about a person without committing to an adult- length bio.  

A new feature in our catalog is the listing of over 40,000 eBooks available through Project Gutenberg. These are titles in the public domain, so include many older books and classics, but the offerings are quite diverse and also include newer books whose copyright has expired. Checkouts for these books never expire, don't count toward the 3 book check out limit, and can be downloaded or read online. This is a good source to check if we don't have something you're looking for- quicker and cheaper than Inter Library Loan.  

New in periodicals, we have begun getting Wired, which reports on the intersection of technology, culture, economics and politics. It's quite easy to read with contemporary kind of hipster graphics which seem at first like they might be distracting, but they're easy to get used to or ignore if you're so inclined.  

Lastly, a reminder the Friends of the Joslin Library is in the midst of their annual fundraising. This group makes possible so much of the really fun, cool stuff we do at the library- a variety of programs, guest authors, yummy food at programs and other times like December when they're feeling especially generous and nurturing, professional development for me so I get new ideas, and more. So please consider contributing if you can to help keep our library a vibrant, joyful place! Your donations are much appreciated and will be put to good use.


October 4, 2012

This fall seems to be overflowing with new books by respected and famous authors. New on our shelves in the past few weeks are books by J.K. Rowling, Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith and Salman Rushdie, among others. A favorite of mine so far is Michael Chabon's Telegraph Avenue. From the very beginning of this book there is a strong sense of the depth of the characters and such a feeling of place in the way he describes Berkeley. This is a book with interesting people, music, conflict that's easy to relate to, and language that is expressive and beautiful to read.  

Kati Marton's memoir, Paris: a Love Story, also offers good writing and a fascinating glimpse into famous world figures and, of course, Paris. Marton writes about her fairly exotic life, with tales about her famous husbands interspersed with cameos by Clintons and Kennedys and the like. Reading this is a bit of a guilty pleasure, a kind of highbrow People Magazine experience, good for rainy weekends.  

The movie Cloud Atlas comes out later this month, and for those wanting to read the book first (by David Mitchell), we have it. We also have new books by the ever popular and prolific James Patterson, Lee Child, Stuart Woods, Clive Cussler, plus Robert B. Parker's Fool Me Twice, by Michael Brandman.  

We are excited to add a new children's magazine to the collection for the first time in many years. Muse features great art work, and engaging articles about science and other non-fiction. According to the website, "Muse can be serious, silly, or subversive, but it is never dull." The October issue we just got, about zombies, definitely fulfills that description, and we hope kids will enjoy it.  

Upcoming programs at the library are Pizza and Game Night Friday, October 12th, from 5 until 7. This is for all ages, and we're open to any board games. We'll have several, but bring your own if you have a favorite. I personally am hoping a ruthlessly competitive Scrabble player shows up, but people with a more gentle approach to games are also welcome.  

On October 24th at 7 pm we will host a program by Moretown based photographers, Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson (Ember Photography). They will present a slideshow about their bicycle-powered skiing exploration of Norways Arctic Alps. This promises to be an educational and entertaining evening, with stunningly beautiful photographs.  

And a reminder that the first Tuesday of each month is Tech Tuesday, from 10 until 12. This is a time to bring in questions about downloading books, using our catalog, or other  tech related questions. The library isn't open for regular activities during that time, so it's a good time for focused attention on questions that come up. No need to sign up in advance, but if you know you're coming with a specific question, let me know ahead of time and I'll try to be sure to be prepared!

September 20, 2012

This year is the 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week. Sponsored by booksellers, publishers, libraries and other organizations committed to championing freedom to read and access to information, Banned Books Week provides an annual opportunity to celebrate these values, draw attention to censorship, and revisit some of the controversial books that have been challenged over the years. Highlighting some of the surprising titles included on lists of challenged books (classics, picture books, the dictionary) reveals how pernicious and sometimes absurd censorship can be.

Saturday, September 29th at 2 pm the Joslin Library is hosting a Banned Books Coffee Klatsch. The idea is for people to come together to share short excerpts from a challenged or banned book that especially affects them. A list of banned books could easily contain childhood favorites, required reading from high school or college, or any number of books by renowned and popular authors  - Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, Judy Blume. Think of a fantasy book that uses magical or supernatural imagery to portray the struggle between good and evil, and chances are someone has worried this book will corrupt or confuse children and should be banned.

We want to stir up passions about why we can love a certain book, but someone someplace and at some time could think that same book should be removed from library shelves or kept out of classrooms; to discuss the fear behind limiting access to unorthodox ideas, because censorship doesn’t embrace meeting a new or disturbing idea thoughtfully. Banning a book means preventing people from reading the ideas at all, rather than celebrating the fact that written words have the power to change the reader’s world view. Basically, attempting to ban a book suggests that readers aren’t capable of making their own decisions and processing information on their own because they are too young? not intelligent enough? lacking some sort of moral compass?

For the Coffee Klatsch we will provide copies of challenged books we have in our collection. People can also bring in their own books to share. There are many resources for lists of frequently challenged books, some of which include, even more intriguingly, the reasons given for the challenge. A good place to start is the American Library Association website ( Huffington Post also features the topic periodically, with pictures of book covers and commentary.

All ages are welcome at the Coffee Klatsch- this affects people of all ages, and books for readers at every stage. We’ll serve some good, strong coffee to stimulate the intellectual juices, and something more gentle for kids, too.


September 6, 2012

As fall approaches there are many new books to read, and several upcoming library programs. It always seems a little mean when great new children’s books come out right when school is starting and kids have less time for discretionary reading, but this has happened again this year. Rebecca Stead, author of the fabulous 2010 Newbery Medal winner, When You Reach Me, has a new book out: Liar & Spy. This is the story of several likable, eccentric children with wonderfully strange names. Mystery and coming of age elements effectively mix as Georges copes with changes in his family and friendships and learns more about the people around him. It is the endearing quirkiness of the characters that makes this such a good read, as well as the accuracy with which Stead portrays the worries, language and insights of middle school students.

Kizzy Ann Stamps, by Jeri Watts, is a thoughtful and unusual look at the first days of school integration in Virginia. This is material that’s been written about in countless novels, but this one is unique because of its voice, letters between Kizzy Ann and her White teacher plus Kizzy Ann’s journal entries, and because of the concurrent story of Kizzy Ann’s border collie. The way Kizzy Ann and her teacher reveal their temperaments and attitudes as they slowly get to know each other is warm and enjoyable to experience. The border collie story is appealing because it’s a girl and her dog story, not boy and his dog, but it’s also historically interesting. Border collies were still unusual in the U.S. fifty years ago, and although she knows from the start that her dog is smart and loyal, it’s not until she finds a Scottish expatriate to help her train Shag that Kizzy Ann discovers how special the dog really is. 

New in one of my most favored categories, Young Adult books complex enough to appeal to adults, Deborah Heiligman, author of the wonderful biography of the Darwins, Charles and Emma, has written Intentions, an intense novel in which 15 year old Rachel begins to deal with the adults in her life failing her in various ways. Early in the book she becomes disillusioned with her long-admired rabbi, who is the very person she once would have turned to for help dealing with her parents fighting and her grandmother’s dementia, to say nothing of more basic teen worries, like shifting friendships and first romantic and sexual relationships. Rachel makes some fairly large mistakes, but there is always reflection on the consequences of her behavior, and on kavanah, or acting with intention, an important spiritual tenet of her upbringing. Her move beyond self-absorbed behavior to brave conversations and actions that take into consideration the needs of others makes for a gratifying read. 

New on the adult non-fiction shelf is The New York Times Book of Wine: More than 30 Years of Vintage Writing, edited by Howard Goldberg. 592 pages long and featuring 29 authors, this is a compilation of 125 articles about wines from many different regions, what food goes with them, and lots of fun writing to augment the facts. Writing about wine seems to draw good writers who love words and narrative possibly as much as their liquid subject matter, making it fun to read about these wines even if you never actually end up drinking them.

 A short but engaging new novel is We Sinners, by Hanna Pylvainen. This is the story of the Rovaniemis, a huge family who are members of an extremely strict sect of the Lutheran church. Each chapter is   told by a different family member, revealing the challenges of this world for characters at different stages of life: the martyrdom of the mom, the rage inside the father, and the children coping with living in the contemporary world saddled with this background and the choices it requires. Part of what's intriguing about their life is that in many moments they seem pretty normal, but then there is reference to the many things they can't do, like see movies or go trick or treating, to say nothing of drinking alcohol or dancing. The religious language and church scenes are emotional and disturbing, since it is in these that the cult aspect of their world and the power it has over them is portrayed most strongly. This is a good story and a fascinating look into an obscure world.  

We will be holding a book sale at the Block Party on Bridge Street September 8th, with all proceeds donated to the Mad River Long Term Recovery. At the Block Party we will also have crafts and read-alouds highlighting the themes of sustainability and resilience. On Tuesday September 18th at 6:30, experienced Long Trail hikers Leigh Hunt and Jonathan Wahl will present a program on the history of the Long Trail and the challenges and rewards of hiking the entire thing. Featuring stories of their own experiences on the Trail and gorgeous photographs, this should appeal to avid hikers, armchair hikers, lovers of mountains and forests, and especially to anyone planning to trek the entire Trail. Open to all ages.

August 9, 2012

For the next two weeks we will once again be hosting a StoryWalk installation on the lawn next to the library. The StoryWalk® Project was created by Anne Ferguson of Montpelier, VT and developed in collaboration with the Vermont Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition and the Kellogg Hubbard Library. The pages of a picture book are displayed one page at a time over an outdoor space, allowing simultaneous enjoyment of taking a walk and reading. This year’s book is The Dot, by Peter Reynolds. This is the story of Vashti, a girl who is convinced she can’t draw, but whose teacher guides her to develop creativity and compassion. This book is like a parable, showing the hazardous way self-criticism can negate artistic expression, and how one inspiring person can change another person’s reality. The drawings are wonderfully expressive,  Vashti’s frustration practically leaping off the page at the beginning of the book, changing to optimism and engagement as she becomes more and more prolific artistically. So stop by and take a short walk and get inspired by Vashti and Peter Reynolds. Please sign our StoryWalk journal also posted outside to let us know you were here and what you thought about the experience.

Food lovers should be happy with a couple books on the New Books shelf: Yes, Chef: a Memoir, by Marcus Samuelsson, and Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, by Bob Spitz. Both of these are great reads and quite inspiring, although in very different ways.  Even if Marcus Samuelsson wasn’t a wildly successful chef, with accolades and awards from the James Beard Foundation, the Obamas and food reviewers all over the world, his life story would be fascinating. After being born into poverty in Ethiopia, getting tuberculosis and losing his mother to illness, he was adopted and brought up by a middle class White, Swedish family. He excelled at soccer but not enough to go pro as he would have liked to, and he learned to cook from his Swedish grandmother. In other words, his life has all the makings of a good novel, but this really happened. If they’re well written, books about high-end cooking offer such an entry into another world. The training, the competition, the lifestyle are crazy, as Anthony Bourdain has famously shared, and Samulesson’s life is, if anything, even more complicated, as he is one of the few Black people to be successful in the world of fancy food. His take on his own experiences, including his challenges to the cooking world and the taste buds of his fans through the use of different ethnic flavors, is captivating.

And what’s not to love about more information about Julia Child? Dearie does entertaining justice to this joyful, influential and delightful personality. It’s always fun to learn about what larger than life people were like before they realized they were larger than life, and this book covers Child’s entire life. This book makes the reader hungry:  for food, travel, adventure, love (her husband and marriage are pretty awesome to read about) and life. How great that both she and Samuelsson break stereotypes and live on their own terms, while also cooking delicious food.

As part of the Festival of the Arts, the Joslin, Warren and Moretown Libraries are presenting Vermont Poet Laureate, Sydney Lea. He will read his poetry and talk about his writing Sunday, August 19th, at 1:30, at the Waitsfield United Church of Christ. We have two books of his poems at the library, for anyone who wants to read some of his work in advance. His poems are accessible yet intense, and he’s a personable, dynamic speaker, so this should be a very rewarding presentation.


July 26, 2012

Chris Cleave, author of Incendiary and the wildly popular and intense Little Bee, has a new book just in time for the London Olympics. Gold is an inside look at the lives of three Olympic cyclists and their coach, himself a former Olympian still nursing disappointment from an almost won race in 1968. The book starts with Zoe waiting for her race in the Athens Olympics. Also up for gold is Jack, husband of Kate, Zoe’s longtime rival. Instead of racing, Kate is at home caring for infant Sophie. All of them are struggling with the consequences of Sophie’s birth and how that has influenced their state of mind at the start of these games: guilt, compromised focus, a sense of disconnection. Having watched my former orchestra on TV playing at Carnegie Hall when my son was 2 weeks old, I can attest that Cleave completely nails Kate’s inner dialogue as she experiences envy while simultaneously feeling certain that nothing is more important than taking care of her baby.

The race scenes are unexpectedly exciting. Cleave gets right inside the racers as they push their bodies in ways most people never will, and although each race is short, the suspense builds up each time. Gold is not void of melodrama and stereotypes. Kate is the good girl, filled with humanity even though she’s competitive, Zoe is the wicked competitor who will do anything to win, Jack the handsome, athletic Scot drawn to both of them, and daughter Sophie is heroically protective of her parents as she tries to hide how miserable her leukemia makes her feel. But it’s a good story and a fun glimpse into the world of elite athletes. What I liked best was being able to enjoy Cleave’s use of language and brilliant descriptions of settings and the moods of the main characters.  Little Bee is also full of evocative writing, but the plot is so disturbing that it’s not only hard to read in large doses, but it’s also so gripping that it’s hard to slow down and really luxuriate in the writing. A lighter book like Gold won’t change lives and stick with readers for years like Little Bee, but it does allow for that very enjoyable experience of really appreciating the author’s word choices and analogies.

8 is an audio performance of Dustin Lance Black’s play about the aftermath of California’s Proposition 8, which denied gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. The cast includes George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Martin Sheen in the leading roles, with Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon, George Takei and other renowned actors in smaller roles. The play recreates the legal battle over the constitutionality of Proposition 8, using court manuscripts and interviews with plaintiffs. Directed by Rob Reiner, this is truly a one of a kind offering on our audio book shelf.

Other new audio offerings are two DCF books: The Running Dream and Small as an Elephant.  Great for road trips or when the print books are checked out, especially for those high achievers striving to finish the DCF list before school starts! Related to summer fun, we now have two passes to the Echo Center – Waitsfield Elementary has generously let us borrow theirs until school starts. The pass reduces admission cost to $4 for 2 adults and 3 youth.  We also now have two passes to the Walking Trails and Children’s Farmyard at Shelburne Farms.

And one more reminder to come see author Erin Moulton, July 28th at 2 at the Joslin Library, and musician and storyteller Rik Palieri July 30th at 7:30 at the Moretown Recreation Field.

July 12, 2012

Finishing Roddy Doyle’s A Greyhound of a Girl gave me that conflicting feeling of happiness because such a beautiful book was written and sadness because it was coming to an end. I began to read very slowly toward the end because I wanted to savor what I knew was going to happen. Not because it was tritely predictable, but because since the book is about life and death, there is a natural and inevitable ending. This is the story of four generations  - a twelve year old, her mother, her grandmother, and her great-grandmother. Tansey, the great- grandmother has been dead for years, but that doesn’t prevent her from speaking, interacting with the others and expressing great love and compassion. So in a sense this is a ghost story or a story about the afterlife, but in the most gentle of ways. Tansey died when her daughter, Emer, was only three, and to Tansey’s thinking, no decent mother could leave such a young child completely behind. So she stayed around just enough to make sure her daughter was OK- never showing herself to Emer, but staying watchful.  Tansey reveals herself to Mary, the twelve year old, when Emer is an old woman. Tansey knows Emer will die soon and wants to help her make the transition and to assure her that all will be “grand.” (The plentiful use of “grand” and “lovely” and other Irish stylistic touches make the book especially charming.)

This book conveys such a loving perspective on family and death, including a non-specific but comforting idea of life after death. It seems to be generally considered a children’s book, probably because of the twelve year old, but I didn’t really experience it that way. While I often enjoy children’s books, as I read them I am usually quite aware that I’m an adult enjoying a book written for children. But this one completely grabbed me because of my experiences as a parent and an adult daughter whose mother is no longer alive. Part of the book’s strength is that any of the generations represented by the women (at least the living ones, since presumably dead great-grandmothers won’t be reading it) will be able to see elements of themselves in the emotions the characters experience.

An intriguing new non-fiction book is Ethical Chic: the Inside Story of the Companies We Think We Love, by Fran Hawthorne. Hawthorne looks at six companies, all of which enjoy reputations of being both hip and ethical. She looks in depth at how these reputations came about and, more importantly, whether or not they are justified. How much of the hip cachet is based on real facts? Or even if a consumer knows the facts, if they’re committed to both environmental and workers’ rights, should they patronize a company that has a relatively small carbon footprint but resists unions? What if a consequence of creating environmentally responsible products is prices so high only a small percentage of people can afford to buy the product? Hawthorne begins by looking at different organizations dedicated to answering questions like this. Part of the complication is that there are so many sources for information about these issues that discerning which are reliable and whose standards are convincing is time consuming and confusing. She also interviewed many industry players to get their perspective on their own companies or, in some cases, their former companies, since another influential factor is changes in workplace culture or even company mission that sometimes occur when a small company sells to a huge corporation. The six companies are Tom’s of Maine, Timberland, Starbucks, Apple, Trader Joe’s and American Apparel.  At the end of each chapter there is a verdict on whether or not the company deserves “its reputation as an exemplar of ethical chic,” and a short explanation of the verdict. These sometimes include ways the company is trying to improve or changes that are in progress, which can qualify the verdict. All in all, much good material for thought, especially if you have a particular interest in any of the companies.

June 28, 2012

It’s always a treat to get a new book from a favorite author, and this spring brought one by Toni Morrison. More readable than any of her books since Beloved in 1987, Home makes it easy to both sink into Morrison’s beautiful use of language, but, even more importantly, into the story and to feel compassion for the characters. Frank Money returns from the Korean War filled with anger and what we would now call post traumatic stress disorder, to a society reeling from racism and economic challenges. His description of the small town in Georgia he returns being “worse than any battlefield” expresses how very grim his reality is. So, too, do examples of racism woven into the story, which are not only appalling, but bring the time period vividly alive. Frank’s mental state remains ambiguous throughout the book – he seems to heal some from returning “home” to help his sister, but the interspersed passages in his voice don’t always seem to line up with the narrator’s version of things, so it’s hard to know exactly whose perspective is more accurate. This is a short book, easy to read in some ways, but full of emotional intensity, as well. It stays with you after you think you’ve put it down, which I usually take as a sign of a good book.

I finally had a chance to read Jonathan Franzen Freedom, and was so very pleasantly surprised. I didn’t read it when it first came out partly because it was never on the shelf, but also because the hype about it wasn’t always positive, and then people whose taste I often agree with started saying they didn’t like it. But a recent trip required a long book so I chose this, and ended up loving it. Franzen does a great job of getting inside the heads of college students, an ex-jock suburban mom, a well-meaning but somewhat clueless middle aged man, even an aging rock star. You won’t always sympathize with these characters, but you’ll be able to understand why act as they do, even when what they do is hurtful to another character who has grabbed your loyalty. And even though the novel takes place just a decade ago, the time right after 9/11 already seems so long ago culturally that the way he brings it to life so realistically makes it seem like a well done period piece. It is full of details that are odd but perfect, too – things no one else could possibly have thought of (example: one character’s attraction to a man whose looks are compared to Muammar Qaddafi…as if this is a good thing).

New in the Children’s Room is Erin Moulton’s Tracing Stars. Erin grew up in Moretown, and will be coming to do a program at the Joslin Library July 28th. I haven’t read this yet, but her earlier book, Flutter (which we also have) was excellent, and the new one is getting great reviews. A great addition to the Young Adult collection is Deadly, by Julie Chibbaro. This is historical fiction about New York City at the beginning of the twentieth century.  The heroine of this book, Prudence, curious, intelligent and eager to learn about medical and scientific advances of the time, has an opportunity to assist in tracking down the woman who comes to be known as Typhoid Mary. Study of bacteria and how disease is spread is new and fraught with misunderstanding, especially from people outside the scientific world. One of the most suspenseful parts of the story is Mary Mallon’s resistance to the scientists who want to observe her and do tests on her. From her perspective not only are the tests absurd, but they also feel like yet another instance of discrimination based on her Irish immigrant status. Readable and informative.


May 31, 2012

New things to enjoy at the Joslin Library include three new magazines, Kindles available to check out, a pass to the Vermont State Parks and as usual, an assortment of new books. Despite the title, The Economist is not exclusively about economics. In fact, its (rather intimidating) mission is "to take part in a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress." It can always be counted on for erudite analysis of politics and world events, and also has great coverage of things that appeal to the humanities minded: great book reviews and one of the best obituaries for baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau published, among other things. Thanks to the Friends of the Joslin Library for the generous contribution of this addition to our periodicals collection.

Scientific American describes its content as the "latest news and features on science issues that matter including earth, environment, and space." This was a patron recommendation which I enthusiastically embraced partly because, once again, this is interesting subject matter written in a way that is challenging but doesn't leave behind readers whose focus isn't particularly scientific. The graphics are enticing, too, and have evolved impressively since my brother subscribed to this magazine in the 70s. Both of these magazines have been published since the mid-nineteenth century, and it's fun to bring these intellectual traditions to our patrons.

The third new magazine is completely different, and probably for a different readership as well (but not necessarily). Created in 1989, Teen Ink is a compilation of fiction, book reviews, opinion pieces, poetry and art exclusively by writers and artists aged 13-19. It is the monthly print magazine of The Young Authors Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to providing reading and writing opportunities for teens. As we work to increase our collection and programming for this age group, it seemed only right to provide writing by people this age. Much of the creative writing is unusual and thought provoking, and reading books reviews written by real live teens is an invaluable tool in selecting books.

We have two Kindle eReaders available for check out. They are pre-loaded with some DCF books, some classics and one of them has a good selection of mysteries and thrillers. Patrons can add content when they have the Kindle checked out, either from Amazon or from the Green Mountain Library Consortium (free!). Suggestions of books to add are welcome, too.

Sy Montgomery's new biography of Temple Grandin, Temple Grandin How the Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and Changed the World is a great introduction to this fascinating person. It chronicles her childhood when one parent wanted her institutionalized yet the other championed her, finding schools and environments that allowed Grandin to develop intellectually and socially. A unique and ultimately hugely influential aspect of Grandin's perspective on the world is her affinity for the way animals perceive the sensory world. She has described her own experience as being similar to theirs: very sensitive to details and changes, easily over-stimulated because of living experientially and in the moment, rather than projecting expectations into a situation. This perspective lead her to create drastically different ways of treating animals raised for food, and her work has influenced corporations as big as McDonalds to change the way meat they use is raised and slaughtered. Reading this bio, which includes drawings of several of her inventions as well as many photographs, is a good stepping stone to Grandin's own writing. One we have in the collection is Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals. Others are available through Inter Library Loan.

Recommendations based on patrons bubbling with enthusiasm when they return these books are Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed, Second Person Singular, by Sayed Kashua, and  Following Atticus, by Tom Ryan. And yes, we do have a copy of 50 Shades of Grey for anyone so inclined.

 May 17, 2012

Perfect for spring reading is the outrageous and wildly hilarious Let’s Pretend This Didn’t Happen, by Jennie Lawson. You’ll find yourself wondering if these can possibly be true stories from this woman’s life, yet by all accounts they really are, if perhaps a bit embellished. An early scene is so strange, featuring a real squirrel her father has misguidedly turned into a puppet to entertain the young Jennie and her sister that I felt as if I’d fallen into some sort of experimental Kafka-esque fiction, but it was a real scene from her childhood in Texas. There are other unusual encounters with animals, both alive and products of her father’s taxidermy business. Her truly awful sense of direction becomes entertaining text while also, like some of her other riffs on her own personality quirks and challenges, conveying a sense of vulnerability caused by her not really having typical skills to navigate what might be considered the “normal” world.

Lawson, nicknamed “The Bloggess,” says in her blog that “if you know me in real life you might not want to be here.” Yet one of the nicest things about this book is that although it’s full of mockery, the warmth of many of her personal relationships comes through. She remains close to her eccentric family, and a prominent character in the book is her husband, portrayed as her complete opposite. Their disagreements about just about everything can be heated to say the least (and peppered with the most colorful language!), but there is also a sense that they are partners and friends. Read this prepared to want to keep reading way longer than you have time for and to laugh so hard you might choke, and if it’s not enough Jennie Lawson for you, read her blog:

There are two books on the new fiction shelf dealing with 1960s and 70s commune life. Arcadia, by Lauren Groff (author of the wonderful 2008 The Monsters of Templeton), and Various Pets Dead and Alive, by Monica Lewycka, born in Germany to Ukranian parents and brought up in Britain. Very different in style and location, with one set in upstate New York and one in England, what these have in common are the effects communal life have on the offspring of parents who choose this life for themselves and, by default, their children. The next generation trying to determine a way to live in more traditional settings and how to make effective adult choices makes for good storytelling.

John Irving’s new book, In One Person, also explores the experiences of an outsider, in this case Billy, a bi-sexual who grows up having crushes on “the wrong people.” I haven’t read it yet, but it promises to be full of rich, complex characters and to convey empathy and humanity in ways similar to his other powerful novels.

And any time Julia Alvarez writes something new, it’s a must-read for me. Her newest book is very different than any of her other books, but equally moving. It is the story of the friendship she developed with Piti, a young Haitian she met when he came as a young man to work on her farm in the Dominican Republic. In an effort to cheer him up one night, she rather glibly promises to attend his wedding someday. When her phone in Vermont rings several years later, she can’t break her promise and heads off to Haiti for the wedding. She returns again after the horrific earthquake hit Haiti, this time to help Piti find his family. There are wonderful, personal photographs in the book that along with her intimate writing style bring the people in the story to life. I always love how Alvarez makes the Dominican Republic or Vermont so interesting and attractive and vibrant, like someplace I’d really want to visit. Now she has done this for Haiti, too.


April 19, 2012

I almost didn’t start reading Birds of Paradise, by Megan Mayhew Bergman, because it’s a book of short stories, and short stories often leave me disappointed, ending just when I was getting really involved. But this book had me hooked from the first page and I didn’t mind so much leaping from one plot and set of characters to another each time a new story began. That was mostly because there was always a character or situation I could relate to, so it didn’t feel so much like starting from emotional scratch at the start of each story.

Bergman writes about the really good stuff - being a parent and a daughter, dogs, being outdoors. Her characters are opinionated and outspoken. She writes sad and funny, often right next to each other. There’s a mom who aspires to move her son from the South to Connecticut, where he “has a better chance of escaping childhood obesity, God, and conservative political leanings,”  and a character with “a compulsive need to exhibit porcelain Christmas villages year-around.” The names of the many animals that fill the pages are priceless, but the quirkiest, most creative use of names has to be the rashes named after the Jackson Five - itchy skin named Tito, for example. But there is plenty of depth, too: sadness about aging or deceased parents, insecurity about relationships and always respectful and evocative writing about nature.  

It is still National Poetry Month for a couple more weeks and we have a new poetry collection by Wendell Berry. His poems are a perfect complement to Bergman’s stories. He, too, writes so beautifully about nature, and they both convey the South convincingly, although with very different perspectives. This book, New Collected Poems, is a compilation of hundreds of poems from previously published collections, giving many choices of gentle language to sink into.

Alexander McCall Smith has a new No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book, and he also has written a children’s book, The Great Cake Mystery, about Precious Ramotswe as a girl, already honing her sleuthing skills. Other new fiction titles include Calico Joe, by John Grisham, and new books by Lisa Scottoline and Joseph Wambaugh and the wonderful Anne Tyler. Highly recommended by both a library volunteer and a patron is At Last, by British writer Edward St. Aubyn.

In the non-fiction realm, Lilly Ledbetter, namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, has written a book with Lanier Scott Isom about her struggle for equal pay and civil treatment at Goodyear Tire. Goodyear’s systemic unfair and unethical approach to Ledbetter’s work assignments, promotions and evaluations is appalling, as is the harassment she dealt with from many of her co-workers. She consistently maintained her professionalism and literally never gave up her fight for fair treatment and pay. When she discovered from an anonymous tip that men with the same job were making thousands more than she was, she brought a case against Goodyear, a case which eventually went to the Supreme Court and inspired Obama’s first official piece of legislation. This is page-turner non-fiction, wrath-inducing at times, eye-opening and very inspiring.

Also recommended is Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection, by A. J. Jacobs. Jacobs, author of the highly entertaining The Year of Living Biblically, doesn’t do things halfway. When he decides to make a project of transforming his middle-aged body into the epitome of health (and chronicle it, fortunately), he doesn’t just improve his diet and exercise more. He researches and samples multiple exercise regimes, extreme diets and engages in some truly bizarre experiments to try to obtain perfect health. He’s hilarious about his experiences - sarcastic, self-mocking, and quite informative, too.    


April 5, 2012

April is National Poetry Month, and we have some new poetry books at the library and a poet coming to present a program. On Saturday April 14th at 2 pm, William Graham will read from his work and speak about writing poetry. Graham lives in Stowe, and his most recent book is A Good Place to Wake Up: Vermont Poems, which he describes as “an homage to and celebration of Vermont’s natural beauty and hard-working, friendly people.”  He has published several books for adults and children, and his program will be accessible to all ages.

Peggy Penn’s My Painted Warriors is filled with often bittersweet poems about love and family. Many of the poems are about aging and even death, but she also gets right inside of the heart of adolescent girls and their longing for connection, whether it’s to a father returning from war in 1945 or a boy their own age. The “warriors” are her son and grandsons and the sections about them express the joyful, visceral feeling that comes with being close to energetic, passionate young boys.

Hidden, by Helen Frost, is on the new DCF list, and is a strange story told in verse of two girls who meet at two different points in their lives. Their first contact results from the horrible circumstance of the father of one of the girls kidnapping the other girl (although by mistake). The girls meet again when they’re a little older, creating conflicting emotions and a chance for them both to move on from the past in ways they might not have been able to otherwise. The verses are in alternating points of view, which helps the reader understand the process each girl goes through as she realizes the identity of the other and tries to decide what to do with this information.

Anne Lamott is back with a sort of sequel to her truly wonderful 1993 book, Operating Instructions, which was about the first year of her son Sam’s life. Her newest book, Some Assembly Required, is written with Sam, and is about the first year of his son’s life, who was born when Sam was just nineteen.  I am so in love with Anne Lamott’s early writing that it’s a must to read every word I can find by her, but she seems to have gotten more and more self-absorbed over the years. Kind of like Woody Allen, she can make obsessive worry either hilarious or annoying. Her son seems to have inherited her introspection and anxiety, although it’s really hard to tell where his voice ends and hers begins, since many of his sections are transcribed phone interviews with him that sound an awful lot like her.

I feel for the mother of the baby, since to say Anne has a few control issues about raising the baby is a huge understatement. She really lost me when she whined about where the baby was going to be baptized, partly since her rhapsodies about her church community have always been hard for me to relate to, but also because she just sounded so immature and self-centered.  The book is worth reading for the occasional laugh out loud moments, though (the blind gynecologist part made me actually spew the coffee I was drinking while reading) and the moments when her wise perspective about staying balanced in the face of hectic daily life shines through poetically. Also, as she does in all of her fiction and non-fiction, she paints such a beautiful picture of extended family. This is inspiring, even while it makes me a little envious of her lifestyle. She seems to enjoy ample opportunities to refuel with a walk in the woods with a friend and the dogs or an afternoon lying around snacking and watching movies, while also tending to her multi-generational friendships with people she has known for years. Somewhere in there she finds time to write a bunch of books, and if we're lucky, the next one will be worthy of reading and re-reading, like her early books.

March 22, 2012

On Monday, April 2nd at 6:30, author Tovar Cerulli will come to the library to discuss his new book, The Mindful Carnivore: a Vegetarian’s Hunt for Sustenance. This book tells the story of the author’s evolving relationship with what he eats and how he procures it. It also analyzes larger questions of food ethics and historic and cultural elements of both hunting and vegetarianism. This book has had waiting lists for the print and electronic copies since it was published in February so I haven’t read it yet, but the question asked in the promotional materials, “can hunters and vegetarians be motivated by similar values and instincts?” is very intriguing, possibly especially for those of us more drawn to the mindful than the carnivore aspect of these issues.

A related book on the new shelf is Girl Hunter: Revolutionizing the Way We Eat, One Hunt at a Time, by Georgia Pelligrini. This is another story of the author’s unlikely path to hunting, this time from New York City foodie to woman with gun. She hunts a wide variety of game and includes recipes for what to do with the meat. The book is also filled with colorful human interest stories about the curious companions she meets. If the mindful part of Cerulli’s book caught my attention, definitely the “girl” part of this was the hook, and although I couldn’t help feel a bit squeamish about some of the meat details, the depiction of the cultural and gender juxtapositions she experienced made it worth it.

Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?, by Jeanette Winterson, was a must-read at first simply because of the funny but thought provoking title. The book quickly leaps into intense emotional  territory, as Winterson shares some truly messed up stories from growing up with her adoptive parents. It really is hard to put down this mix of personal memoir, history, feminism, and thoughts on of the challenges of adoption. Winterson is very funny even when she’s writing about  dark topics. Of all the descriptions of her adoptive mother, whom she calls Mrs. Winterson, the one that made me feel like I really “got” Mrs. W.  was the part about her favorite hymn, titled “God Has Blotted Them Out.” The intention of the song is to celebrate sins being blotted out, but Jeanette is certain her mother really loves it because she’s imagining blotting out anyone who has ever annoyed her. Humor aside, what’s most powerful about this book is Winterson’s optimism in spite of her upbringing and the challenges she faces. Her love of books and her description of her own writing as literally life-saving is inspiring.

In addition to sustainable carnivorous diets and difficult childhoods, popular fiction writers are well represented on the new shelf right now, too. We have new books by James Patterson, Jodi Picoult, Vince Flynn, Kristin Hannah and Elmore Leonard, to name a few. In the picture book area, Kate Hosford has a new book, Big Birthday. Annabelle, of Big Bouffant fame is back, celebrating her birthday this time, is a unique, colorfully illustrated, original way. The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine, is a terrific new middle grades book, the story of the friendship of two girls and their experiences during the integration of the Little Rock schools in 1958.

Story time has been joyful and energetic since Lisa started. It’s now at 10 on Mondays and is different each time, but may include music, oil pastels, or a cat turning the pages of the books.


March 8, 2012

Breaking and Entering, by Eileen Pollack, is the story of Richard and Louise Shapiro and the cultural, geographical and socio-economic conflicts they experience when they move with their daughter from California to rural Michigan in the 1990s. That they are some of the only Jewish people in the area challenges the locals' ability to accept them, and the Michigan militia-joining, gun-owning libertarians are also filled with negative stereotypes about Californians. Richard finds surprisingly satisfying work as a therapist at the local prison, while Louise gets a lesson in the values of many in the community when she begins to work at the local school. Throughout there is the fear that they have ruined their daughter's life by moving and that the responsible thing to do would be to whisk her back to California. The plot is a bit melodramatic at times - infidelity, guns and alcohol in uncomfortable proximity, and a fire started by a truly bizarre occurrence. But the characters are interesting people, if a bit stock (the liberal Unitarian minister from the Northeast who comes from old money but feels conflicted about it, for example).  There is definitely motivation to know how things will turn out with Richard and Louise' s family and there are a lot of accurate descriptions of the Midwest in the 1990s.  

An entertaining read published just in time for the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic is The Dressmaker, by Kate Alcott. Tess Collins is a talented seamstress frustrated because she is wasting her talents working as a maid. When she persuades Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to take her on as a maid for the Titanic voyage, her real hope is that this connection will help her gain entry into Lady Duff Gordon's world of high fashion and design. The heart of the story takes place after the sinking of the boat. Tess, plus an intrepid reporter from The New York  Times and Senator William Smith, leading the Senate investigation into the Titanic, are all eager to know what really happened.  

There is much speculation about why the boat holding Lady Duff Gordon had only twelve people on it, and Tess is forced to realize that the woman she hoped would be her mentor may have a very dark side. There's a romantic triangle, some depictions of feisty suffragists, workplace intrigue and enough suspense to hold attention. A guilty pleasure page turner.  

Make sure to check out our new Young Adult shelves in the corner of the main room of the library. Not only are the more mature children's books separated from the early chapter books now so that hopefully the right people will find them, but we also have expanded our YA collection considerably. There are a lot of books adults would enjoy on these shelves, too. Powerful "crossover" books include Hush, by Eishes Chayil and Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys. Hush is based on real events in the orthodox Chassidic community of New York's Borough Park. It is a disturbing, compelling story of horrific events and a community so in denial that the author originally published the book using a pseudonym for fear of reactions from the community she grew up in. Between Shades of Gray is World War II fiction with an unusual focus, the treatment of Lithuanians by the Nazis. For something lighter, both Libby Bray's Beauty Queens and Laura Goode's Sister Mischief are delightfully satirical, filled with social commentary expressed in a readable, irreverent way. And there is even a Young Adult bio of Steve Jobs for those who want to know something about him but don't want to commit to the 656 pages of the Isaacson bio.

February 23, 2012

The hiring of our new Children's Librarian, Lisa Italiano, is the perfect time to hear ideas from patrons about what they would like to see in the children's collection or programming or, if you’re not a patron, thoughts about what we could offer that would bring you into the library. So please share these ideas with us in person, by email, on Facebook or look for a library survey at Town Meeting and in the library.  

With all the talk of new things going on in the library, I also wanted to remind people of a slightly antiquated but still useful resource - books on tape. For anyone (like me) whose car could be considered of the vintage variety (i.e. still sports a cassette player), these are very handy for long trips and we still have a pretty good selection at the library. I recently became completely engrossed in Our Lady of the Forest, by David Guterson. Set in the 1990s, this is the story of a troubled, possibly mentally unstable, drug-addled, sincere (or all of the above) girl who experiences visions of the Virgin Mary in a Washington forest. The story unfolds slowly, and in a subtle way becomes suspenseful as we wonder what impact Ann's revelations will have on herself and others. Tension between loggers and environmentalists underlies the plight of several of the characters, sympathetically drawn no matter their class or politics. There is the ambivalent priest whose job is to craft the church’s response to Ann's claims, the throngs of people who arrive to meet the visionary, the savvy locals who seize the opportunity to take advantage of them, Ann herself, and one especially tragic character, Tom Cross, a former logger with a disabled son, struggling to find his way in a world that has changed drastically. The character I loved best was Ann's companion (we're never quite sure if she could be called a friend) Caroline- caustic, outspoken, conniving but with a good heart, too. Blair Brown reads the audio book and does a terrific job delineating the personalities without drawing away from the plot. We have the print version of this, too.   

A good pick on the new shelf right now is The Lost Saints of Tennessee, by Amy Franklin-Willis. This delves into the particular sadness of the rural South. Both Pat Conroy and Dorothy Allison are mentioned on the cover, and like their books, this book gets us right inside the minds and hearts of some very complex people coping with consequences from their actions and decisions. It is primarily the story of Zeke and his twin brother, who was disabled by a childhood fever. Love for his brother fuels Zeke's life even when he is at his darkest moments. Zeke feels his mother betrayed his brother and is unable to forgive her for this. But halfway through the book the narrator switches to Lillian, the mother, and her emotions and actions become a little more understandable, and her humanity and love of her family come through strongly. I always feel so moved when an author creates a character who initially seems so non-sympatico but then the realism of their behavior makes them understandable if not necessarily likeable. This is what Franklin-Willis does with both Zeke and Lillian.  

Finally, a reminder about upcoming programs at the library: On March 13th at 9:30 AM Paul Gambill, conductor of the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra, will preview their upcoming concerts. He will bring musical and video examples of the pieces on the program, including footage of some of the songs being created with professional songwriters and elementary school students. The music he will discuss is Mozart Overture to Don Giovanni, John Rutter Mass of the Children, Samuel Barber Knoxville: Summer of 1915 and the songs co-written by the students. Program attendees will be entered in a drawing for two free tickets to one of the upcoming concerts.  

On March 14th we will co-host the last of this year’s Vermont Humanities Council Reading and Discussion programs. This one is at the Warren Public Library at 9:30 AM and will be a discussion of Inventing the Feeble Mind, by James W. Trent, an analysis of society's perception and treatment of those deemed "mentally retarded" over the last 150 years. Books are available at the Joslin or Warren libraries and it is not necessary to have attended the previous discussions to attend this one.

February 9, 2012  

I returned last week from the  the American Library Association conference inspired, filled with new ideas and with preview copies of books coming out later this year that will hopefully fit well into our collection. One of the highlights of the Midwinter conference is the youth media awards ceremony, when the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott and other awards are announced. Full of ritual and production values and dramatic gasps from the audience when something unexpected happens, it’s a kind of mini-Oscars for the bookish, and is awfully fun to see in person. I’m happy to say our collection already has many of the lauded books, and others will make good future additions.

The Newbery Award went to Jack Gantos, Dead End in Norvelt. The Caldecott went to a book about a dog (always a charming topic for a picture book), A Ball for Daisy, by Chris Raschka. Both of these are in our collection and have been circulating well. Many of the books selected for the feminist book list I was working on at the conference were also honored in other categories. A favorite of these is Me...Jane, by Patrick McDonnell, a Caldecott honor book, and one of our StoryWalk books last summer, when the pages were posted in the yard outside the library. It’s a delightful telling of the story of Jane Goodall’s life expressed in whimsical drawings. The Elephant Scientist, by Caitlin O’Connell, was an honor book for the Sibert Informational Book Award. The information about elephants and the amazing photos draw the reader in and the feminists among us can’t help but be thrilled by the portrayal of women scientists rocking the research world and wielding tools in Africa!

My trip back allowed me to take advantage of the Library’s downloadable eBooks holdings. Knowing I’d have a long plane ride, I put a couple books on hold, and one became available just when I needed it. I know people get frustrated over the amounts of holds on eBooks, but planning around the average hold time of 12 days makes it more palatable. A good work-around is to put multiple eBooks on hold so you have options and a rolling list of books that become available at different times. Some of the colleagues I worked with at the conference who come from much bigger libraries do not have this service at their libraries yet, so I was especially appreciative of this convenience and access.

We’re in the process of interviewing for a new children’s librarian. We are suspending story time during this transition time, but plan to come back with a newly energized story time once the new person is here. Stay tuned.

A reminder of our ongoing Vermont Humanities Council Reading and Discussion Series which we co-host with the Warren Public Library: There are still two more books and discussions, Women of the Asylum and Inventing the Feeble Mind, discussed on February 22 at the Joslin Library, and March 14th at the Warren Library respectively. Books are available at both libraries. The discussion leaders are very knowledgeable about the topics, and their thoughts as well as the insights shared by the attendees never disappoints, so please join us.


January 19, 2012

The Call, by Yannick Murphy, is the unusual, sometimes annoying but ultimately satisfying story of one year in the life of a veterinarian in rural New England. The title stems from the structure of the book. Each of the seasons of the year are divided into multiple short sections that each use a call for vet services (or the lack of calls) as a starting point for the narrator’s observations about events in his life. The pattern, for more than 200 pages, is call, action, result, what my wife said, thoughts on drive home, etc. I found this to be fairly disruptive to an otherwise engaging story full of realistic, conflicting emotions and quirky and endearing characters, more than one of whom keep large typically barn animals inside their homes like a dog.

Early in the story the narrator’s son is injured in a hunting accident, so much of the story and characterization has to do with how this affects the family: everyone’s grief, the father’s quest for vengeance, the boy’s medical state, the sisters reacting to his absence at home. There’s some mystery, a great sense of place (although the specifics of the location are never revealed) and terrific characterization of each family member. Even the house has a personality. I eventually got used to the format and it did make it fast to read, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking that it was a cop out on the author’s part to not write a more traditional narrative. The story and people make it well worth the read but it feels a little like Murphy is sharing her notes or sketches before she actually turned them into a book.

Keeping with the rural, northern theme, we have recently gotten three books by the state poet laureate, Sydney Lea. We are sponsoring a visit from him later this year and partly in preparation for that, we now have: Young of the Year, To the Bone and Pursuit of a Wound.  Outdoorsy and hearty,  Lea’s poems and his persona defy a lot of stereotypes about poets and poetry. He’s a hunter and a conservationist, has published in poetry anthologies and Sports Illustrated. His clear, descriptive and evocative language can turn ordinary details into powerful moments. An example of this is “Leonora’s Kitchen,” in which everyday items take on great poignancy when we realize Leonora has left them there seemingly for just a few minutes, planning to return to a quiet, uneventful evening, but this is not at all how it turns out. His poem “Horn,” about the emotional impact and expression of a relative of the instrument I’ve played most of my life perfectly captures the melancholy character of this darkest of wind instruments. It will be a great treat to hear him read his poetry live this summer.

A reminder to people with eReaders, your library card number gives you access to a large collection of eBooks, for no fee. Call the library for your number and instructions, and don’t be discouraged by the number of steps it entails. They each take just a few seconds, and accessing books this way instead of buying them will save you money and support your local library.


January 5, 2012

January is the month where thanks to the Friends of the Joslin Library I have the chance to go to the American Library Association Midwinter meeting. A lot of what I’ll be doing at the meeting is meeting with a group of 9 other librarians from all over the country to create this year’s Amelia Bloomer List of Recommended Feminist Books for ages 0-18. It’s a very intense experience of many hours spent in one room passionately discussing whether the 134 nominated books have the literary merit and are sufficiently feminist to be included on the list.  This year there are two books by Vermont authors on the nomination list, Beth Kanell’s The Secret Room and Erin Moultons’s Flutter.

I’ve spent the last few weeks engrossed in the nominated books, since to be able to fully participate, we need to have read each of the 134 books. A favorite nomination that also continues to be very popular at the library is Tina Fey’s autobiography, Bossypants. It’s no surprise that she’s hilarious and more than once I had to stop laughing long enough to read parts aloud to my family. Dissecting whether she’s a champion for women in general or an extremely ambitious, hard working woman who created a spot for herself individually (or both) is sure to be hotly debated, and is something she discusses in the book, mixing humor with pointed observations about the experience of being female in the comedy world.

A very serious contrast to this and one that like Bossypants definitely has appeal for adults is the remarkable, informative and often disturbing  Flesh and Bood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy, by Albert Marrin. A National Book Award finalist, this is not just the story of the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, but also a history of immigration to New York City and labor relations. Powerful photographs complement the writing. The Tina Fey book made me read things aloud, and this one we had to pry out of the hands of a holiday guest  because he became so captivated by it he abandoned his social responsibilities!

Two favorites for younger readers are Small Acts of Amazing Courage, by Gloria Whelan, and Addie on the Inside, by James Howe. Both of these authors are prolific and acclaimed, and these are great additions to their output. Whelan’s character Rosalind is a smart, independent British teenager living in India at the end of World War I. Seeing imperialism, class conflict, a rally where Ghandi speaks and Rosy’s first ever trip to England, which she has been brought up to think of as home even though she has lived in India her whole life, is truly a treat. Addie is another girl who makes up her own mind about things and her navigation through seventh grade, her first boyfriend and being a touch eccentric in conformist-heavy middle school are not new themes, but they’re well handled in this book. I knew I had to read this when the New York Times called Addie “a soul sister for future Elena Kagans,” and I wasn’t disappointed.

In case anyone is worried, there are also plenty of new books at the library that have nothing to do with this project or with young women trying to forge their identities. A few that are flying off the shelves are Tom Clancy Locked On, Michael Connelly The Drop and Patricia Cornwell’s latest, Red Mist. P.D. James’ new book Death Comes to Pemberley is here, as are the winners of the 2011 Man Booker Prize and the 2011 National Book Award, respectively Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending and Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones. Enjoy!


December 22, 2011

There are several biographies on the new materials shelf right now, with topics ranging from movie stars to world leaders, delivered in ways as diverse as confessional memoir and graphic novel format.

The title of Judy Collins’ memoir, Sweet Judy Blue Eyes My Life in Music, is a play on the famous Stephen Stills song written about her, Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, and the cover features her picture with, yes, very blue eyes. Early in the book she describes the first time he played the song for her. The spontaneous, surprising intimacy of that moment sets the tone for the rest of the book, in which she writes honestly about her struggles with alcohol, her relationships and, of course, her music. The pages are filled with stories of other musical icons of the 60s, too: Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, but not in an egregious way. She entwines anecdotes (which given the times are pretty colorful) with descriptions of musical partnerships and the artistic evolution of the individual musicians and also the folk music scene in general. This is a great companion to another recent autobiography that brings to life a different musical scene in the same era, Patti Smith’s Just Kids.   

Diane Keaton has also recently written a book, Then Again: a Memoir. This, too, has plenty of stories about other famous people, including her famous partners, Woody Allen, Warren Beatty and Al Pacino. She writes about her professional life, her Oscar nominations and win, her start on Broadway with Hair in 1968. But much of the material is more personal. She battled bulimia, grew up trying to please her father, isn’t as confident as one might expect such a successful woman to be. These things aren’t that different than what might be written by or about a lot of actresses. What is unique and most interesting is when Keaton writes about her mother. Her mother kept journals of both words and photographic collages through much of her life, including up until the end when she had Alzheimer’s so severely she was reduced to writing just one word at a time and eventually no words at all, just numbers. The journals at first intimidated Keaton, as they were such a powerful look into her mother’s life. But they gave her a chance to compare her life with her mother’s, to analyze “what’s lost in success contrasted with what’s gained in accepting an ordinary life.” Figuring that out is one of the reasons ordinary people are attracted to biographies of hugely successful and famous people, but it’s not that often the author acknowledges and participates in the process.

In complete contrast to confessional memoirs by artistic women is Mark Ribowsky’s Howard Cosell: the Man, the Myth, and the Transformation of American Sports. Cosell was flamboyant enough that even a non-sports fan who hardly watches TV like me is curious about him. This highly researched book tells Cosell’s life story and also the story of sports broadcasting, which, partly because of technological changes but also because of over-sized personalities like Cosell’s, found a new identity during his time.

Representing over-sized personalities on the world stage is Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero, by Chris Matthews. Based on interviews with people who knew Kennedy in different capacities, research of Kennedy’s school years, and influenced by Matthew’s lifelong admiration for Kennedy, this book practically overflows with details about Kennedy’s upbringing, his entry into politics and the ways that his views evolved. Good photographs for the enjoyment of Kennedy-philes, too.

Lastly, and most unusual, is Gandhi: a Manga Biography, by Kazuki Ebine. At 192 pages of mostly pictures (manga is the Japanese word for comics and books in this style often feature long and complex stories told using pictures), it is by no means an in-depth look at Gandhi’s life. But the pictures are very expressive, and many important aspects of Gandhi’s life and beliefs come through in a way that is accessible to many ages.  

Dec. 8, 2011  

The festive holiday decorations make it an especially fun time to come to the library. And inside is even more celebratory: last week we installed new computers at all the pubic computer stations. We’ve also added another computer so we can accommodate the needs of more patrons at one time. These are fast, easy to use, state of the art machines that will make checking email, internet surfing, researching, writing and all sorts of other things fun and efficient.

We also now have a Kindle available for use in the library. We have a Kindle subscription to the daily New York Times, so this will always be available. It’s exciting to be able to offer this great newspaper to patrons without taking up any of our precious, limited space. Patrons can also load library books or other material on it if they choose to by using their own Amazon account.

As in previous years, this winter we will co-sponsor a Vermont Humanities Council Reading and Discussion series with the Warren Pubic Library. The name of the series is “Outsiders: Those Who Fell Outside the Cultural Norm.” It features four books about marginalized populations in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including American Indians, disabled people and people considered genetically inferior by some at the time. Copies of all the books are available at the Joslin and Warren libraries. The first book, for the discussion January 18th, is Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, by David Wallace Adams. The topics are thought provoking and challenging and all of the books look intriguing. As always there will be a Humanities Council scholar to guide the discussions and add insight and context to the topics.

On a lighter note and just in time for holiday entertaining, is Natalie MacLean’s Unquenchable: a Tipsy Quest for the World’s Best Bargain Wines. MacLean is an award winning writer and sommelier. She has written for prestigious food and wine magazines, plus has an enormously popular free newsletter about wine. The book is full of suggestions about wine, such as “Field Notes from a Wine Cheapskate” at the end of each chapter, but it’s also an entertaining travelogue, since she describes travelling to eight wine producing regions. And not surprisingly, the people she encounters are wonderfully colorful. There are many hilarious moments in the book, which reduce the stuffiness and pretension that sometimes surrounds wine. This is a good read that makes wine accessible, financially and otherwise.   

And also on quite a light note and filled with plenty of hilarity, is Tim Dorsey’s When Elves Attack: a Joyous Christmas Greeting from the Criminal Nutbars of the Sunshine State. The nuttiest criminal is Serge Storms, a murderer with a unique set of ethics that dictate on whom he unleashes his psychopathic tendencies. But even psychopaths can feel holiday spirit, so Serge gets himself a place to live and, in his own demented way, begins to embrace the holiday season. Serge’s interaction with more typical traditions, such as going to the mall, provide a deliciously irreverent antidote to excessive holiday cheer.

November 23, 2011

It’s a great time to be immersed in books: the “best of 2011” lists are starting to come out which is a great way to learn about books that might have gone unnoticed, the National Book Awards were just announced, and a lot of interesting and popular authors have recently come out with new books.

Carson Morton’s Stealing Mona Lisa has earned a spot on Kirkus Review’s “Best Fiction of 2011” as well as Library Journal’s “Best Mysteries of 2011.” It should get recognition for best cover, too. The art, the golden color and the art deco font evoke such a feeling of early twentieth century Europe that you can’t look at it without wanting to delve into that world. The story is a suspenseful combination of real people and events with Morton’s fiction interspersed.

The National Book Award for nonfiction went to The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Goldblatt. It’s in our collection but usually checked out- remember you can place a book on hold by logging into your account, calling or emailing, and we’ll let you know when it’s your turn. Other new nonfiction in the collection include new books by Bill Clinton, Tom Brokaw, and The New, New Rules, by Bill Maher. This will make you laugh so hard you’ll cry, but will also make you think. Maher spares no one he deems stupid or unenlightened and it’s very enjoyable to read him taking down a variety of people and ideas. The prolific James Patterson and John Grisham have new books as well.

A terrific piece of new fiction to lose yourself in is The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar. It is the story of a family in Southern California, told from the perspective of their Mexican live-in maid. She struggles to make sense of their priorities while also trying to understand how she came to be a maid in California at all, after studying art in Mexico City as a young woman. Tobar conveys the concurrent realities of all of the characters: the man trying to hold the family finances together and be a good parent, the mom looking for identity and fulfillment through overspending and complex enriching activities with her kids. He especially captures what it is like to live with young boys, their attraction to electronic toys juxtaposed with their need for quiet affection and consistency. And when the maid Araceli thinks back on her life in Mexico City as she is inspired to when when she strokes the Mexican tile in the American kitchen where she now works, the way she remembers the city’s “unevenness, its asymmetry and its improvised spaces” both critically and with affection portray the contradictions of that sprawling city perfectly. Circumstances require Araceli to get to know the boys, Los Angeles and the legal system more intimately than she ever hoped to, and it’s both entertaining and educational to join her on those endeavors.

In the children’s room we have Inheritance, the last installment of the hugely popular Inheritance Cycle,  by Christopher Paolini, in print and audio versions. This is the conclusion of the story that started with Eragon, and although they each seem like impossibly long books for kids, the storytelling is great and kids don’t seem to be daunted by the hundreds of pages.

November 10, 2011

Saturday, November 19th at 2 pm children and young adult author Erin Dionne will present a program at the Library. Her most recent book, Notes from an Accidental Band Geek, has been chosen for the IndieBound Next Winter List, a national list of recommendations from independent booksellers. Her earlier books include The Total Tragedy of a Girl Named Hamlet and Models Don’t Eat Chocolate Cookies. Total Tragedy is the story of a girl finding her own path and dealing with family issues, one being the fact her parents are Shakespearean scholars who named her Hamlet, another being her genius little sister. Models tells the story of how Celeste responds to her aunt entering her in a beauty pageant for not-so-skinny girls. All three books show middle school friendships, the search for identity and family expectations in an honest, entertaining and insightful way. And all three are in our collection. It will be a treat to hear how these quirky characters came to be.

A favorite new addition to the adult fiction shelf is Boundaries, by Elizabeth Nunez. Much of the story has to do with Anna’s experience as a Caribbean immigrant. She experiences constant reminders that she’s not as assimilated to her New York life as she thought she was. Her parents are far away geographically and culturally, her work at a publishing house is threatened by accusations that she doesn’t understand the American audience. Nunez makes these experiences personal and accessible, but what makes the book even more engaging are Anna’s more universal experiences: struggles with ambitious, ruthless colleagues, aging parents and navigating a new romantic relationship after a divorce. It’s a quick, easy read with unexpected and long-lasting impact.

We have the new  Walter Isaacson biography of Steve Jobs in print and audio is ordered and on the way. It hasn’t stayed on the shelf for more than a few minutes since we got it so I haven’t read it but reports are that it’s a good read about this fascinating man’s personal and professional life. Also new in audio is Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, which has been very popular in print. The CD version is perfect for learning some history on a long road trip.

Our Civil War discussion series continues to flourish ( two more sessions November 16th and 30th at 7 pm). We have a new addition to the collection based on a recommendation by a participant: Upon the Altar of the Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War, by Harry Stout. Yale professor Stout analyzes the moral implications of a war in which both sides claimed to have God on their side. Critique of speeches, sermons and letters from the time show the climate of righteousness on both sides, with clear implications relevant to more contemporary conflicts in which motives are masked by religious passion and claims of moral superiority.

October 27, 2011


Reading Charles Shields’ well-researched biography of Harper Lee, Mockingbird, adds greatly to the already rich and rewarding experience of immersing oneself in To Kill a Mockingbird, as many of us in the area have been doing this month. Lee did not participate in the writing of this biography and in fact resisted Shields’ efforts to learn more about her and even to fact check, but the author nonetheless managed to interview hundreds of people who knew Lee. He also delved into Truman Capote’s archives and studied the interviews Lee gave in the early 1960s before she stopped granting interviews. The result is a readable book full of facts and anecdotes that gives the reader a strong sense of what Lee’s life was like. There is a temptation when reading this to begin thinking of To Kill a Mockingbird as possibly more autobiographical than it really is, and to see Scout as a fictionalized version of Lee. This is easier to avoid in the sections about her adult life, which end up being as fascinating as the parts about her childhood that seem more directly related to the influential story that has impacted so many people over the last fifty years. You can find Mockingbird on the new biography shelf at the library.

When She Woke, by Hillary Jordan, is a futuristic take on The Scarlet Letter, powerful because it is not that hard to imagine our society reaching the extremes portrayed in the book. Rigid laws inspired in part by the political power of Evangelical Christians require coloring the skin of accused criminals so the accused are immediately recognizable and their transgression visually and publicly represented. The main character, Hannah Payne, is turned red for having an abortion after a passionate relationship with a public figure. Hannah courageously navigates the horrific system, refusing to name the father, forging friendships with other ostracized women, and learning to think independently of the conformist, narrow-minded culture surrounding her. She is a complex, and fierce feminist protagonist who somewhat inadvertently becomes a rebellious leader in this captivating and thought provoking page-turner. 


Upcoming programs at the Library are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th installments of our Civil War Discussions. The first one was very interesting and educational and the next ones promise to be even better as we cover topics more specifically and hear from multiple participants. These are Wednesday evenings at 7, November 2nd, 16th and 30th.


For people of any age who love to wear costumes, get spooky, eat candy, hear stories about bats, spiders and such, we’re having a Halloween party Saturday, October 29th at 2 pm. 


And on Saturday, November 19th at 2, author Erin Dionne will present a program on her newest young adult book, Notes from and Accidental Band Geek. Anyone who ever played in band, had friends in band, or watched their kids go through a band program will be able to relate to this story of a high school girl who finds her “tribe” by playing in the band. Plans are coming together for some appropriately themed live music to enhance the festivities, and in a related note, people planning to attend the program can purchase copies of the book ahead of time at a reduced rate at Tempest Book Shop (especially if they promise to check that Rick’s been practicing).


October 13, 2011

Sharing a title with a collection of talks given by Rudolf Steiner, the guru of Waldorf education, Rebecca Coleman’s novel, The Kingdom of Childhood, shows both the idealism of Waldorf schools and the pressure to adhere to its strict standards. in this context, the main character, Judy McFarland spirals from midlife, middle classed angst to madness in a story that is hard to put down. Judy has been a teacher for years at the Waldorf school her own kids attended. For the most part she is a true believer in the Waldorf approach to education and culture, particularly for young children, in part because it echoes powerful memories she has of her own childhood in Germany. These memories are interspersed with the contemporary story and provide an almost ominous background that help prepare the way for Judy’s increased instability.

Judy’s family life is starting to come undone: her distant husband has been struggling to finish an advanced degree for what seems like ages, ignoring Judy and reacting more and more erratically to the pressure because of what turns out to be drug addiction. Her oldest daughter has gone to college and rejected her progressive upbringing, questioning what she learned in her Waldorf days and coming out on what her Vietnam War-protesting parents think is decidedly the wrong side of political issues. Her son Scott is derisive of the sheltered Waldorf world and seems to just want to be a “normal” teenager, and not a particularly likable one. Into this mix comes Scott’s friend Zack, new to town, lonely, attractive and assigned to work with Judy on a school project. Sexual obsession on both their parts develops pretty quickly and the complications of their relationship fill the rest of the book. The point of view switches from Zack to Judy and as more details from Judy’s past get gradually revealed, it begins to appear that Zack will be okay, but Judy’s slide into irreversible darkness comes off as believable and almost inevitable.

New on the non-fiction shelf is a book and CD collection, Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations of Life with John F. Kennedy. These are recordings and transcripts of conversations Jackie Kennedy had with historian Arthur Schlesinger in 1964. After they were made the recordings were kept private until their release this fall in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Kennedy’s inauguration. Introduced and annotated by Michael Beschloss, these promise to show new insight into Kennedy’s outlook on the world and world leaders of his time at the same time they offer a glimpse into him as a person from this fascinating, sophisticated and intelligent  First Lady.

A reminder that the first of our Civil War discussions will take place Wednesday, October 19th, at 7 pm. In this first meeting we will determine topics of most interest to participants so we can focus our guided study to learn more about this dynamic period of American history. There are many resources already in the Library collection to support Civil War research and exploration, and local Civil War enthusiast Alice Evans will augment our collection with some of her own materials collected over years of study.  

September 29, 2011

There’s a lot going on in the library world this fall. October is busy with the Vermont Humanities Council Vermont Reads programs we are doing in collaboration with the other Valley libraries, the Mad River Valley Senior Citizens, Inc., the Waitsfield United Church of Christ, the Warren United Church, and the Big Picture Theatre's Tuesday Night Movie Club. The book is To Kill a Mockingbird, one of those rare books that merits rereading multiple times. It will be a pleasure to hear it analysed and discussed and to know people all over the state are experiencing this powerful story. Another rare thing is a movie of a book that is as compelling as the book, and seeing Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is always a treat. The first event, a community potluck and introduction to the book, takes place October 6th at 6 pm in the Warren Town Hall. Information about all of the events is available from the libraries. We also have multiple copies of the book, so please come get one.

Also in October we will begin a four part series of discussions in honor of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Local Civil War scholar Alice Evans will lend her expertise as well as many of her resources to this guided study of each year of the war. Each participant will have access to a wealth of materials related to a specific aspect of the Civil War, and then share information they have learned with the rest of the group. This will give each person the benefit of research about a wide range of topics, such as specific battles, soldiers from Waitsfield, the role of photography, POW treatment, life in the camps, and more. The sessions will be on Wednesday evenings at 7 pm., and the first one will be October 19th.

There are two new technology related treats: it is now possible to download library eBooks onto a Kindle.This means you can read books on your Kindle for free!! There is a link on our website that will show you what’s available. Library patrons now also have access to Universal Class, which provides over 500 free online courses about almost everything you can think of.

Archer Mayor’s new book is here, as are new books by Clive Cussler, James Patterson and Louise Penny. Former Vermont Reads author Julie Otsuka (When the Emperor Was Divine) has a beautiful new book, Buddha in the Attic. It is the story of Japanese brides brought over from Japan to the United States to become wives to men they had never met. Otsuka brings poetry to the harshness of their lives and their disappointments. From short but expressive sentences, we learn about how Americans treated these women, the husbands who are nothing like what the women had anticipated on the boat ride from Japan, the work they do inside wealthy homes or on farms. A strong sense of individual women comes through at the same time a feeling of what happened collectively to Japanese women of that era fills the book with melancholy.

Highlights in the children’s room include a new collection from Shel Silverstein, a new book by Maurice Sendak, and the gorgeous Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick, in which the stories of two characters pursuing paths that ultimately intersect are told partly in words and partly in drawings.


September 15, 2011

The post-Irene clean- up in the Mad River Valley reminds me (once again) what a wonderful community this is. As a librarian the way I experience this most often is through one of the very most delightful parts of my job, interacting with the patrons and hearing about what they’re reading and what they’d like to see on our shelves. It seems like a good time to highlight some of those books in celebration of the intelligent, compassionate and eclectic people that live in the area. 

I spent the last week alternately relating to and being infuriated by a book a couple years old but recently donated to the Library by a regular patron, To Hell with All That, Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife, by Caitlin Flanagan. This is a sweeping analysis of women, particularly mothers, from Flanagan’s generation and her mother’s, touching on many more topics than housewifery with insight and humor. She writes of working mothers and stay- at-home mothers in an unusually balanced way, and she makes thoughtful comparisons between the lives of contemporary, well-educated women with plenty of money and the more matter-of-fact approach to their responsibilities favored by previous generations. The occasional infuriated feeling stemmed from her tendency to frame her analysis around the feelings of “All Women,” as well as a kind of snarkiness about other women. (Then again it could be that I just don’t have an Inner Housewife.) At any rate, I love reading books like this even when the content rankles, and I am so grateful it was brought to my attention and that we now have it in our collection. 

Due to the difficulty I had finding a catalog record for this, I can almost guarantee we are the only Vermont library with a copy in our collection of Axton Landing, by Tony Holtzman. This was a patron request and given that it’s historical fiction that’s practically local (it’s the first of a trilogy about loggers in the Adirondacks), it seems as if it will have a wide audience once people know about it. I haven’t read it but reading reviews of it and paging through it suggest it’s the best kind of historical fiction, combining story and interesting characters with a sense of the historical and cultural context, which in this case is the pre-Civil War climate of the mid-19th century, loggers, unions and women’s rights. Again, a book a lot of people will have access to now because of the unique taste of one of our patrons, and with two more installments to anticipate if this one satisfies. 

Lastly, shortly after it was published, a patron requested There Are Things I Want You to Know About Stieg Larsson and Me, by his longtime partner, Eva Gabrielsson. With a cover design imitating Larsson’s wildly popular books, this is the story of their lives together, which began when they were just eighteen. Gabrielsson writes of their political passion and activism and how it affected his characters and plots. She also writes of the legal battles over his legacy, felt painfully by her since they were not legally married, and so she has no inheritance rights. This is sad, bitter writing offering a look into the conjunction of his writing and his personal life from the person who knew him best. Amidst the grief and legal strife is a veritable love story to coffee that is sort of redeeming in a strange way and definitely evocative of the prodigious coffee-swilling of Larsson’s fictional characters.  

August 18, 2011

For a parent of a son who loves technology and uses it glibly and enthusiastically, This Beautiful Life, by Helen Schulman, is a cautionary tale. It is also a well-told sad, realistic story filled with humanity and flawed but likeable characters. The Bergamots are a family of four, recently moved to New York City after years of what sounds like a rather idyllic life in Ithaca. Their new lives are not unlike the lives of plenty of other characters in contemporary fictional families: dad with an all-consuming, lucrative job, frustrated mom who drinks probably a bit too much and wonders why she spends so much time driving the kids to their activities even though she has a PhD, smart, good-looking kids who attend a fancy school and have active social lives with sophisticated peers that secretly intimidate them.

Things get dark in a frightening, contemporary way when Jake, the fifteen year old son, receives an explicit video from an eighth grade girl. Filled with mixed emotions, chief of which is confusion, he forwards it to a friend. It happens quickly, without him really thinking about the consequences, and the result is awful.  As a reader I already didn’t completely trust the friend and also already liked Jake. Jake seems  like basically a good guy who is overwhelmed by his new life, his new body (at one point he’s appalled by his hairy body, reminding us he’s not that far from childhood) who has no point of reference for how to handle this situation. Of course the video goes viral, and the aftermath affects Jake’s whole family. Similar plots have shown up in novels and real life, but what makes this impossible to put down is that each character elicits empathy: Jake, his parents, the poor girl who made the video in the first place, even Jake’s little sister. I ended up feeling protective of all of them and very invested in how their lives would turn out.

On the new non- fiction shelf, a highlight is Charles C. Mann’s new book, 1493. This is the sequel to his earlier book, 1491, which described the Americas before Columbus arrived. 1493 discusses the ecological and agricultural impact of the arrival of the Europeans, and how this influenced the direction of history. The book is full of information and analysis, but also, like 1491, accessible and engaging.

Maybe a little related, is Weeds, a new book by Richard Mabey. It’s sort of a biography of weeds, their history, how they’re viewed in different cultures.  He manages to give these often-maligned plants unique personalities, even making the annoying ones purposeful and intriguing. Next time I’m combing burdock from my dog’s fur I’ll be sure to remember that it is responsible for the invention of Velcro.  

On a lighter note, Vermont author/illustrator Harry Bliss has a delightful new picture book out, Bailey. Bailey is an adorable dog who goes to school, experiencing many of the same pleasures and struggles as young humans do. He has some unique challenges, too, such as a tendency to eat his homework and become quite distracted by squirrels and trash in the cafeteria. Good back-to-school inspiration and filled with tail-wagging moments. According to Amazon, this book is for ages 4-8, but that really places inappropriate and maybe even a little cruel limitations on people older than eight.   


August 4, 2011

At the library we’re getting more and more excited about Waitsfield resident Rob Williams coming to the library August 8th at 2 pm to share facts, pictures and anecdotes about his experiences as a yak farmer. Yaks are intriguing animals on many levels. There is obviously the practical appeal which makes it possible for us to host someone who raises yaks for food and fiber, but yaks also have an undeniable place in our imaginations. Books featuring heroic yaks, books with heroic children working with yaks, and anthropomorphized yaks all figure into children’s books we have at the library. Then there is the fact that the part of the world most famous for yaks, the Himalayas and Tibet, is gorgeous and fascinating, making for good story telling and stunning photography and illustrations. And they wouldn’t enjoy their prominent place in children’s books if it weren’t for two more facts about yaks: they look really, really cool and yak is a fun word which lends itself especially well to inventive and whimsical rhyming. Some titles to enjoy before next Monday’s program: Go Track a Yak, by Tony Johnston,  The Lucky Yak, by Annetta Lawson, Pemba Sherpa, by Olga Cossi, and Kami and the Yaks, by Andrea Stryer. These happen to be children’s books, but the program promises to appeal to all ages.

The new books shelf is brimming with summer reads for a variety of reading tastes. The preternaturally prolific but ever entertaining James Patterson has a new book, Now You See Her. (Patterson also contributed to kids’ literature this summer with Middle School, the Worst Years of My Life, on the new shelf in the children’s room.) Eric Van Lustbader adds to the thriller genre with Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Dominion as does John Hart, with Iron House. For the more gently-inclined, Anne Rivers Siddons’ new book, Burnt Mountain, is an engaging story with very human characters who are easy to relate to. Jennifer Weiner delves into the powerful emotional implications of modern fertility technology in her newest novel which is partly inspired by an article Weiner read about real people dealing with gestational surrogacy.

For anyone in need of something completely different from the political craziness of Washington D.C. the past few weeks, Bernie Sanders donated a published copy of his famous filibuster speech to libraries all over the state. Other craziness in the news is the stranger-than-fiction story of “Clark Rockefeller,” really Christian Gerhartsreiter.The story of his many false identities and the trickery and deceit he managed to pull off amongst otherwise savvy circles is told in Mark Seal’s The Man in the Rockefeller Suit: The Astonishing Rise and Spectacular Fall of a Serial Imposter. To say this reads like a very suspenseful novel is an understatement. As one reviewer wrote, “Forget fiction. Pop this jaw-dropper in your beach bag.”

July 21, 2011

I recently returned from the annual conference of the American Library Association in New Orleans. It was a whirlwind educational and fun trip made possible by the generous Friends of the Joslin Library.

The highlight was participating as a host for the Amelia Bloomer Breakfast. This event is held every two years and celebrates the Amelia Bloomer List of Recommended Feminist Books for ages 0-18. After spending months looking for and reading and reviewing possible titles, this breakfast is the time our committee shares our list and celebrates with other librarians. We hosted three authors and one illustrator whose work is on our list and it was inspiring and illuminating to hear how they turned their research and ideas into good literature for youth. Their books, Pemba Sherpa, Summer Birds, The Firefly Letters and She Sang Promise, are at the library.

On a sillier note, Scholastic threw a great party for Dav Pilkey of Captain Underpants fame. He was there signing copies of his new book and spoke in a surprisingly serious way about his childhood and how he came to write his hilarious irreverent books that are such hits with young boys (and a bunch of librarians). His newest book, Super Diaper Baby 2, is also in our collection, as are many of his others.

Another very rewarding event was the celebration of the Pura Belpre Award, the ALA award for Latino literature for youth. The award turned fifteen this year, and the presentation of this year’s awards was given in the style of a quinceanera party, the party some Latina girls have when they turn fifteen. Once again the award -winning authors spoke eloquently about their writing craft, their backgrounds and how excited they are to have their cultures recognized through this award. There were complimentary copies of the award books, and these will add some diversity to our collection, with some especially good picture books to augment the options for storytime.

All in all, a great experience. And now it’s good to be back home at the library buzzing with summer activity. The summer reading program has begun and the first session, on origami, was a big hit. The following weeks promise to be entertaining and educational, too. The programs are each Thursday in July at 3.

On August 8th we may become the first library ever to host a program about yaks! Rob Williams from the Vermont Yak Company will present a program about these eclectic animals: slides, photos, stories about yaks and working with them. Yaks are famously pack animals, but are also useful for their hide, their hair and allegedly are quite tasty to eat. Come learn more August 8th at 2 pm at the library.

For a good summer fiction read, try J. Courtney Sullivan’s new novel, Maine. You’ll love some characters, be infuriated by others, feel like they’re based on someone you know, get caught up in what’s going to happen to all of them, and be sorry when the book is over.

New on the non-fiction shelf is Deborah Valenze’s Milk: a Local and Global History. This examines the story of how and why milk came to be a staple in many cultures. A mix of history, nutrition and anthropology, this book is an accessible and fascinating look at a topic with local relevance. There are some great photos, too, my favorite being the female band playing in the dairy barn at the University of Wisconsin. 

June  30, 2011

I remember when it seemed as all of my friends were passing around copies of Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River so I was very excited when Hegi’s newest book, Children and Fire, came out this spring. Set once again in 1930s Germany and with some characters from Stones from the River in cameo roles, Children and Fire isn’t the powerful and thought provoking journey into ethics and complex personalities the earlier book is, but it does offer insight into a fascinating period in German history.

Thekla, the main character, is a fourth grade teacher in 1934, and  she is deeply committed to teaching and her students. She struggles to find a path for herself and them, however, after coming into her teaching position in a questionable way and facing the changes in German society as Hitler becomes more powerful. Accepting the teaching position is only one of many compromises Thekla makes, compromises that seem small and justifiable to her as she is making them, but which clearly weaken her and affect her relationships with others. In spite of this, Thekla is often a likable and sympathetic protagonist, and the biggest strength of the book is the way Hegi shows how it was possible for a well-meaning person like Thekla to gradually succumb to the pressures of the time almost without even realizing it. The personalities of several of the students come through strongly, adding to the sadness of the book, since so many of them are headed toward awful futures. The story of Thekla’s parents years earlier is mixed in with the events of 1934. This offers an interesting backstory that impacts the more modern story in a somewhat predictable but formative way. Ultimately, the characters and time period are fascinating enough that although this probably isn’t a book that will still provoke strong reactions years later like Hegi’s earlier book, it’s still very much worth reading.

On a lighter, more summery note, Sonya Sones’ Hunchback of Neiman Marcus is a quick, unusual book that’s actually not as light as it seems like it will be at first. It is written in verse - not structured verse, but more like stream of consciousness thoughts expressed in short sentences and spread out on the page. This makes it delightfully easy to grasp huge chunks of words and ideas at one time, leaving the reader flitting through the pages laughing, crying, nodding in recognition. The main character and narrator, Holly, is a writer unable to meet the deadline for her next book, a mother whose daughter is about to leave for college, a wife with doubts about her marriage, and the daughter of an ailing, aging mother. She’s a bit obsessive and paranoid but the scenarios and expression of her feelings jump around so much that the mood changes before her neuroses can have a chance to get annoying. Her feelings about her family, her career and her body come off as honest and realistic. There are some poignant moments about her daughter leaving and her worries about her mother, but the best part is the way Sones throws in just the right amount of Anne Lamott-like self-deprecating humor. Periodically throughout the book Holly’s daughter, Sam, discerns that the emotional climate calls for brownies and the recipe for Sam’s brownies is included at the end of the book. It’s a pretty entertaining read itself, for a recipe, and the brownies are quite delicious.

The Waitsfield Elementary School Library has once again generously lent us all of their DCF books for the summer, so we have the full complement of books from the current list, and multiple copies of several titles. And for other reading for kids (of all ages), we have the  Me...Jane StoryWalk installation in the library lawn for another week, followed by I Took My Frog to the Library in the same location for the following two weeks. Please come take a pretty walk and enjoy some good stories and pictures!


May 26, 2011

Being a librarian plus a parent who reads aloud to my kids for hours at a time (often books my mother read aloud to me so clearly this is genetic), it was a given that I had to read Alice Ozma’s book, The Reading Promise. It was probably also a given that parts of it would make me cry and that I would be interested personally and professionally in what books she wrote about. But I’m happy to say that even with those expectations, I love this book even more than I thought I would.

The Reading Promise is the story of Alice and her father and the books they read together from the time she was a young child until her first day at college, literally every single night for almost nine years. If she was away from home, he read aloud over the phone; before going to prom, she carefully perched in her prom regalia while he read to her before she left with her date since she wouldn’t be back until after midnight.

Any two people who embarked on a journey like this would have to have a strong and unusual relationship, and the book is as much about their relationship as it is about their reading project. Ozma writes tenderly about her father without being sentimental, portraying him as a real person. She also writes honestly about how eccentric this pursuit was and how there were times it made her uncomfortable, like when he showed up at a late night play practice, book in hand, anxious to get the reading in before the midnight deadline. Jim is a single dad to a girl who seems just about as quirky as he is, but she needs girl-specific parental guidance sometimes just like any girl would. An especially entertaining scene is one in which he has carefully censored a book with mature themes and language to the point where there are so few words left for him to read aloud that she knows he’s up to something. She gently pokes of fun of him at times, but it is always clear she not only loves him but also has enormous respect for him.

Because they continued reading together for so long, the span of books they read is large and diverse, from classic children’s books like Beezus and Ramona to Shakespeare, with a wide variety of realistic fiction, fantasy, adventure, old and contemporary books mixed in. She includes a partial list of what they read at the end of the book, and also starts each chapter with a quotation from a book that gives perspective on the events or life lessons in that chapter. This is very cleverly done and serves well to integrate the books into the personal story.

The end of the “streak,” as they call the project, looms as college for Alice approaches. As with the rest of the emotions in this book, she writes about the bittersweet feelings without overstating, allowing the reader to feel a miniature version of what they must have felt during the transition. The end of the book describes their lives after “the streak,” still making use of the pertinent quotations at the start of each chapter, assuring us that Alice and her father continue to rely on books for guidance, wisdom and enjoyment.

We’re gearing up at the library for a summer we hope will be filled with people coming in to satisfy their warm (?) weather reading needs. We will do the summer reading program for kids each Thursday afternoon in July. And we will start off the summer with a visit from author Kate Hosford, who grew up in Waitsfield and has written the delightful Big Bouffant. Big Bouffant tells of Annabelle, a whimsical and likeable young girl full of unique ideas. An afternoon with her creator promises to be entertaining and may even result in new hairstyles all around! Kate’s program will be at the Joslin Library Wednesday, June 22nd, at 3 PM.


May 9, 2011

Every spring a new Master List of nominees for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award (Vermont’s Children’s Book Award) comes out, giving kids lots of new ideas about what to read and libraries new ideas of what books must be on the shelves as summer approaches. There are thirty books on the list and as usual the books are of high quality and diverse enough to offer choices for various ages, reading styles and genders. And it includes one that I found so captivating that I actually found myself tiptoeing into my son’s room to sneak it off his bedside table so I could read ahead while he slept.

 Half Brother, by Kenneth Oppel, is the story of Ben, a thirteen year old who has just moved to Victoria from Toronto, and his family. Ben’s family consists of his scientist parents and a new addition, a baby chimpanzee who his parents have decided to raise like a human child, teaching him sign language, clothing him, feeding him at the dinner table. This is a lot for Ben to deal with at the same time he’s also adjusting to a new town and school, his first crush, his father’s expectations and sometimes clinical approach to family life, and just in general being thirteen.  Maybe a bit predictably but still told in a convincing way, Ben warms to Zan, his “brother,” and eventually develops a rapport with him that many of the more detached researchers around him don’t share.  Different perspectives on the treatment of animals in research settings are presented in balanced ways as Ben’s experiences and opinions widen.  Difficult decisions must be made as the chimpanzee grows and Ben’s father deals with pressures from the scientific world and more specifically the university funding the project .Some of the choices made are a little farfetched, but the occasional plot missteps are more than made up for by the realistic and compassionate character development. Ben’s relationships with his parents, his friends, and Zan feel so authentic and his feelings are so understandable that it’s easy to relate to him and to want him to succeed. And in the midst of so many Young Adult books with vampires, wizards, dystopias and life and death battles, it’s so refreshing to read a coming of age story about a real human boy who matures because he’s confronted with emotions about the real living beings in his daily life.

Continuing with inspiration gleaned from family members’ nightstands, another new addition to the library collection is Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath. This one was on my husband’s side of the bed, a side typically stacked with books filled with business- speak, stories of innovators and entrepreneurs, the occasional computer magazine and, frankly, not a stack that has ever inspired me to sneakily raid after he’s gone to sleep.  But when I read that subtitle one night after a long week of Koha transition at the circulation desk, I realized this might be just the book for our collection right now. The authors of this book studied people making changes, their emotional vs. intellectual reactions to changes and why sometimes change is embraced and successful yet other times approached with fear and negativity. This is not the page-turner Half Brother is, but it does have lots of inspiring anecdotes as well as practical advice about how to approach change in a positive, effective way. Understanding the psychology behind people’s reactions to change is a huge part of coping with the big changes we’ve made in the library recently so I’m especially happy to see that this book is currently checked out!


April 28, 2011

Even though it’s snowing a bit outside as I write this, technically it’s spring, and what better time to focus on Ron Krupp’s ideas and books? On Wednesday, May 4th, the Joslin and Warren Libraries will host a program featuring Krupp discussing his book, Lifting the Yoke: Local Solutions to America’s Farm and Food Crisis. The book discusses the pitfalls of the globalization of food production in terms of the environment, society and our own bodies. Individual decisions about what food to consume and how to obtain it impact a wide range of areas, from the plight of small farmers to America’s challenge with obesity. Hearing these issues discussed by someone who has been involved with them since long before they became popular promises to be educational and engaging, especially since Krupp will be joined by American Flatbread’s George Schenk and Robin McDermott of Mad River Localvore Project to make it even more locally relevant. The program is at 6:30 at the Warren Public Library.

Coincidentally, a new book at the library features the themes of organic and subsistence farming. This Life is in Your Hands, by Melissa Coleman, manages to be both sad and optimistic. It also reads sometimes like a memoir, sometimes like a novel, although it is the story of Coleman’s actual experiences. Her parents moved to a remote area of Maine in 1968, a place with challenging farmland potential, but one that became famous in some circles because it was the home of Helen and Scott Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life. Eliot and Sue Coleman, like many others of their generation, found this back-to the-land “bible” at their local health food store and were inspired by it to live more simply, grow their own food and live outside of consumerist culture.

The optimism of the book comes from the optimism of this couple, especially Eliot, as they make impressive progress toward living with very little outside help. Eliot Coleman zealously experiments with organic gardening until he finds things that work better, learning about the way the land works as he tries new (or old but abandoned) techniques. The zealous part is a challenge for his growing family, however, which is where part of the sadness comes in. He comes across as a fairly obsessive workaholic - a visionary to be sure, but a difficult personality, almost crazed in his commitment to improving their farm and living independently. Sue’s mental health varies with the seasons, her hormones and her marital insecurities as the area begins to attract new people, often younger women, some of whom consider clothing an impediment to the natural life. And overshadowing the whole book is a family tragedy the reader knows from the very start is looming over their heads.

Part of what blurs fact and fiction in this book is the way Coleman gets inside the minds of her parents and their friends. She quotes her mother’s journal sometimes, but other times she describes things they thought and felt that she can’t possibly have known or understood as a young child, and even if she did, it’s doubtful she could remember them with such detail years later. It’s also hard to imagine contemporary discussions with her parents revealing that degree of introspection and honesty. I found this a little distracting, wondering what she was projecting or making up and what Eliot and Sue and their contemporaries really experienced. At the same time, their feelings and interactions are some of the most readable parts of the book. These are definitely intriguing people who made me care about them and want to know what would happen with them. The book also works as a snapshot of a colorful and often inspiring period in American culture, the subjectivity of the author ultimately becoming part of its strength.

April 14, 2011

Wingshooters, by Nina Revoyr, is almost painful to read. Filled with sad events and themes -abandonment, bigotry, abuse – and a sense of dread throughout the book that things are only going to get worse, it is also so well written and such a good story, that you can’t help feeling sad approaching the end because then it will be over.

It is the story of Michelle, or Mike, as her grandfather calls her, a young girl abandoned by her Japanese mother and American father and sent to live with her paternal grandparents in rural Wisconsin. It is the 1970s, a time of racial and cultural upheaval and war protests in American cities, but most people in Deerhorn, Wisconsin maintain the same attitudes and lifestyles they have had for generations. Accepting a mixed race child is impossible for many of them and Mike suffers from the racism of teachers, other kids and even the town priest.  In a moving and original characterization twist, Mike’s macho, narrow- minded grandfather goes way beyond stereotypes to love and create a bond with her that comes close to making up for her loneliness and sense of abandonment. They play ball, hunt, bond over their love of dogs and he teaches her important lessons about standing up for herself against bullies, even while he himself still struggles to accept people who are different than he is.

Michele’s “otherness” fades into the background when the town’s attitudes are challenged even more by the arrival of a Black couple, the Garretts. And not only do they move to town, but they work as a teacher and a nurse, bringing them in contact with people, especially children, in a way that threatens most of the town leaders beyond what they can handle. Harassment, outrage and eventually tragedy ensue, all seen through the eyes of Mike who must analyze her own feelings toward the Garretts at the same time she strives to understand the complexities of her beloved grandfather. Truly a beautiful book that I already want to go back and reread.

Part of the continuing effort to increase the Young Adult offerings at the Joslin Library, another new book is Threads and Flames, by Esther Friesner. Friesner’s main character, Raisa, moves by herself from her Polish shtetl to New York City hoping to find work and her sister, who emigrated a few years earlier. The story of how she meets new people, learns English and new skills is well told and an intriguing look at immigrant life in the early twentieth century. When she begins work at the Triangle Shirt Factory thinking she’s lucky, a sense of foreboding begins to permeate the book, especially when there are references to working conditions that contributed to the horrific fire the reader knows is going to happen.  Raisa’s optimistic and resourceful personality shines through in spite of this, making her story a personal and engaging way to remember that event one hundred years later.  


March 31, 2011

On Wednesday evening, April 6th at 7 pm, the Joslin Memorial Library will host Vermont author Joe Sherman and photographer Martina Tesarova. Sherman is the author of several books about many aspects of Vermont, including Fast Lane on a Dirt Road and The House at Shelburne Farms. His work has also appeared in Vermont Life and Vermont Magazine.

This program will focus on his most recent book, Young Vermonters: Not an Endangered Species, published in 2010. The book explores and challenges the often- stated idea that it is impossible for young adults to live and thrive in Vermont. Comprised of a series of interviews with 20 Vermonters between the ages of 21 and 38, the book touches on economics and job opportunities, diversity, social life, religion and more,  told in the interviewees own words as they answer Sherman’s questions. The book features hugely varied backgrounds and professions: tattoo artist,  lawyer, construction worker, writer, waitress, educator, ski tech. Different regions of Vermont are featured as well, including Waitsfield (Grace Potter), Burlington, Cabot, Swanton, Brattleboro and Barre.

What makes this book really fascinating is the way it captures the unique perspective of each of these people. They come alive as individuals and this makes the reader care about their opinions and why they’ve made the decisions they have about where and how to live. Their personalities and choices defy stereotypes, including the ones about people from their generation choosing to leave Vermont and not come back once they reach adulthood.

We are especially fortunate that the author is able to bring not only the photographer for the book with him, but at least one and probably more than one of the people interviewed. It will be exciting to connect real people with the stories in the book, ask questions and to see what they are like in person.

Keeping with the Vermont theme, our “New” shelf features Twin, a memoir by composer, writer and Bennington College professor, Allen Shawn. Shawn’s twin sister, Mary, suffered from autism in a time when awareness and education about autism was a fraction of what it is today. She was institutionalized when she and Allen were just eight years old. Twin describes the effects this had on the rest of this colorful and complex family in a non- sentimental and personal way.

We also have a ski- themed murder mystery, Fade to White, by another Vermont author, Wendy Clinch. This is a fun, quick read, not extremely suspenseful as mysteries go, but with a nice dose of romance and familiar snowy setting- sort of a “Murder She Wrote”- style entertaining read for late winter.


March 3, 2011

Dogs and snow: two of the most wonderful things nature gives us, the topic of many great books, and also the topic of an upcoming program at the Joslin Memorial Library. In a moment of scheduling synchronicity, Saturday, March 5th is the opening of the Iditarod. Also on March 5th at 2 pm local dog sledder, educator and library patron Gail Breslauer will be at the library presenting a program about dog sledding. She will talk about the sport, show slides and participants will even get a chance to meet the dogs.  All ages are welcome.

In honor of this upcoming program I have been enjoying some of the many fiction and nonfiction books in our collection that feature this intriguing sport. The first author to consider is Gary Paulsen, who writes wonderful biographical material and adventure stories for a wide range of ages. Winterdance is a great read about Paulsen participating in the Iditarod. It’s at times entertaining, inspiring and harrowing - the perfect mix of emotions that makes a memoir really worth reading. Puppies, Dogs and Blue Northers is more of a love letter to his dogs, although there is plenty of action in it as well. The chapter on puppies captures exactly how delightful it is to be around puppies, with added interest because these dogs will become workers and part of the pack that teaches them from an early age. The quantity of puppies and his somewhat deranged idea that they should come inside his house make for some very colorful scenes. Dogsong, a Newbery Honor Book that is practically a classic for boy readers who say they don’t like to read, is a story of a boy finding himself through adventure, physical hardship and, of course, his relationship with dogs.

Any of Jean Craighead George’s books about Julie, an Eskimo girl who lives among wolves, are a treat for readers of any age or gender if they enjoy good characterization, animals and a good story. And one of last year’s DCF books, Diamond Willow, by Helen Frost, is beautifully written in diamond shaped verse that tells the story of a modern girl coming to terms with her heritage and her inner resources as she faces the challenges of a solo dog sled experience.

Picture books are a perfect match for this topic because the dogs and the world they live in are so gorgeous.  There are several books about Balto, the famous dog/wolf who brought medicine to Nome, Alaska during a diphtheria epidemic. Iditarod Dream, by Ted Wood is about the Junior Iditarod and is filled with amazing photos and fun facts.

And this list would not be complete without Call of the Wild. It’s hardly possible to read this classic too many times, and for the extra curious, we even have a new biography of Jack London, Wolf, by James Haley.

One of the exciting things about having Gail present a program is the chance to hear firsthand about this topic so beloved by authors and movie makers. Her knowledge and experience are sure to bring a welcome perspective. And did I mention the dogs will be here?