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The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

For those of us whose reading interests tend towards literary fiction, the disparity that often exists between book publication dates in the United States and in the United Kingdom can be a source of frustration. Some of you may remember, for example, that the first several Harry Potter books were published in the UK many months before they were released in the US. This caused significant consternation on our side of the pond, and the parents of middle grade and YA readers started to pay extra to get the UK version shipped over before the books were available at home. Needless to say, this displeased the series' US publisher, and the publication of the later books in the series took place at midnight on the same day in both countries.

But the disparity in publication dates remains for many other novels. Winter, the second novel in Ali Smith's planned seasonal quartet, was published in the UK in November, but its US publication date is today. The Dark Angel, the next installme…
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Traveling with Books

A new year brings many new things. We have to learn to write 2018 instead of 2017, for example. We may or may not be trying to live under a fresh set of resolutions. This year, we have a brand new set of tax laws to learn. And we have a fresh crop of staff members stocking the North Main Book Nook Staff Picks display. Each of the four people filling the display with his or her favorite books, movies and music will be writing one (or more) blog posts for North Main Book Notes. We kick off 2018 with a post from Sunnie Scarpa, the tireless, endlessly creative Head of Children's Services at the library:

Years ago, a friend asked me for book recommendations for a trip he was going on (when you are a Librarian, you are never NOT a Librarian). He was looking for something very specific -- works of narrative non fiction set in Colorado's Rocky Mountains, preferably by a local author. It took a little digging, but I did find him the perfect books, and he came back raving about how muc…

Thursday Night Book Club -- December, 2017

The library's Thursday Night Book Club always meets on the third Thursday of the month. In December of 2017, the third Thursday fell four days before Christmas, on the winter solstice. So it was on a very dark and cold first night of winter that the Thursday Night Book Club met to discuss Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O'Nan.

Last Night at the Lobster takes place on December 20th, 2005, at a Red Lobster located at the far side of the fictional Willow Brook Mall in New Britain, Connecticut. As the title suggests, this particular Red Lobster will close at the end of the evening, a fact that is a secret from its patrons but about which its employees are all too keenly aware. The restaurant's manager, Manny DeLeon, along with four members of his staff, will start work at a nearby Olive Garden once the restaurant closes, but the rest of the staff have been laid off. Over the course of a long day and evening, Manny contends with a shortage of workers for the lunch shift, a…

Best Books of 2017

It's December. Every year, in December, the annual parade of "best of" lists begins. These lists come in every category: best movies, best shows, best restaurants, best trends, best places to visit, best memes, you name it. Naturally, of particular interest to me and other book lovers out there are the annual "best books" lists.

I watch for these lists every year, and I read them for several reasons. First, I want to see how many of my favorite books of the year made the cut. Second, I check to see if there are books on the lists that I missed hearing about when the books were first released. Third, I'm curious to see if there are books that show up consistently (rarely is there a book that appears on every list). And of course, as I've mentioned in this space before, I really like book lists.

As of this writing, 2017 best book lists are available from Amazon, BookPage, the New York Times (which also offers up a more generous list of 100 notables), the…

Thursday Night Book Club -- November, 2017

After reading The Year of Magical Thinking, and after having a candid but painful and raw conversation about the book during our October meeting, I promised the Thursday Night Book Club that our November book would be an antidote to Joan Didon's award-winning memoir. On Thursday, November 16th, the book club met to discuss Helen Simonson's novel, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. Set in East Sussex, England, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand is the story of Major (retired) Ernest Pettigrew, who lives in the small village of Edgecombe St. Mary and, as the novel opens, has just learned that his brother has died. The news inadvertently causes Major Pettigrew to form a friendship with Mrs. Ali, the Pakistani owner of the village shop. As their friendship develops into something more, the Major and Mrs. Ali must contend with the disapproval of their families and the discomfort of their neighbors. The many charms of the novel lie in its optimism and in its faith in the transformativ…

The 2017 National Book Awards

Established in 1950, the National Book Award is an American literary prize administered by the National Book Foundation, a nonprofit organization that celebrates the best of American literature. Awards are given out each year in four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people's literature. In order to be eligible, a book must have been written by an American citizen and published by an American publishing house between December 1st of the prior year and November 30th of the current year.

In 2017, publishers submitted 1,529 books for consideration: 394 in fiction, 553 in nonfiction, 245 in poetry and 337 in young people's literature.  Over the summer, 20 different judges (5 per genre) read each book nominated in their respective categories. A long list of 10 books per category was announced in mid-September, and a short list of 5 books per category was announced in mid-October. 

The winners were announced on November 15th in a ceremony at Cipriani Wall Street in …

The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford

Now that we've turned the clocks back and the weather appears to have settled into something resembling autumn, I feel compelled to admit that this is my favorite time of the year. The leaves are past peak, but I think they are beautiful, and the colors of the overcast sky are rich and evocative. Snow does not feel that far away. The "fall back" of the clocks means that evening arrives suddenly, in the late afternoon, changing the tenor and tempo of the day. This is the calendar tilt towards the cold and the ushering in of the holiday season. By January, when it's been freezing for awhile and the holidays are long gone, winter will feel long and endless. But in early November, there is joy in the first fire, the extra blanket, the long-forgotten thick and cozy sweater. And there is the run up to Thanksgiving, a holiday I love.

Numerous novels use Thanksgiving, that quintessentially American holiday, as a focal point. There is, after all, rich material in the story o…