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Philip Roth

At roughly 2:30 am on Wednesday, May 23rd, New Haven County was hit with a stupendous thunder and lightning storm that woke up my dog and then woke me. As he and I waited for the thunder and pouring rain to end, I pulled out my phone to see what time it was and saw a BBC news alert that Philip Roth had died. For a brief moment, everything, including the torrential downpour, stopped. When I heard the news last week that Tom Wolfe had died, I felt a brief pang. This was more like a brick falling on my head.
Like many people, my first Philip Roth novel was Portnoy's Complaint. I thought it was hysterical, outrageous and really not far removed from my own experiences of the young men I knew in high school. A college boyfriend (not Jewish) sent me a letter while he was traveling with friends to let me know that he was reading Portnoy's Complaint and, he thought, starting to understand me better, a statement that I am still, decades later, trying to parse. I followed Portnoy with G…
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Thursday Night Book Club -- May, 2018

It is an unwritten rule of the Thursday Night Book Club to try not to read a book by an author whose work we have previously read and discussed. So when I realized that the group had never read a book written by Ian McEwan, I made sure to add one of his wonderful novels to our 2018 reading list. On Thursday, May 17th the Thursday Night Book Club met to discuss McEwan's 2014 novel The Children Act.

At the center of The Children Act is Fiona Maye, a highly-regarded Family Court judge. While most of Fiona's career has been spent adjudicating conflicts between divorcing spouses, she has also had to rule on much more painful cases, including a recent one involving conjoined twins whose separation is the only way to save one of them. Fiona finds herself unexpectedly troubled by this case and has been struggling with her conscience and rehashing her decision for almost two months. Late on a Sunday evening, Fiona receives a call to schedule an emergency hearing for permission to trea…

American by Day by Derek Miller

When I write a blog post about a book I've read recently, my goal is to try to explain why I liked the book and to encourage you to give it a try, if it sounds like the sort of thing you might like. And while that's certainly true of this post, I confess to an ulterior motive. I'm making an educated guess that you've never heard of Derek Miller, the author of American by Day and two other excellent novels. And that needs to change, because I've read all three of Miller's books, and he's really, really good.

Not only does Derek Miller's bio NOT read like that of a fiction writer, but it's not clear to me how he has time to write his novels. Miller was born in Boston and raised in Wellesley, Massachusetts. He earned a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in National Security from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. Miller received his Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Geneva.  He has held positions with o…

A Facebook Week of Favorite Books

A few weeks ago, I got an email letting me know that a friend of mine had tagged me in a Facebook post. This is a sufficiently rare occurrence that I stopped what I was doing and logged into my Facebook account to read the post. This is what it said: "Day 2 of sharing a favorite book with no explanation and tagging a friend in the hopes that they'll do the same for 7 days. Cynthia Mann Haiken, lawyer-turned-library-scientist, you're on!"

I had seen these kinds of Facebook posts before. Pick a theme of some kind, post a photo each day for a specified period that satisfies the theme and tag someone else to do the same. It's like a chain letter (remember those?), but of the social media variety. For a while, there was a steady stream of black and white photos in my Facebook feed that, without context, represented something in the life of the person who posted them. More recently, there were posts of record covers (remember those?) that are still on the playlist of …

An Audiobook Review of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Alyssa Johnson is a children's librarian at the Wallingford Public Library. She started working at the library as a college intern in 2011, and she fell in love with the children's library and its programs and services. After she graduated from college, she went on to get her master's degree in Library and Information Science with a focus on children's librarianship so that she could come back and work at the library full time. She reads almost all genres: children's, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, contemporary, classics, mystery, biography, you name it, but historical fiction is her mainstay. The breadth of  her reading interests is on full display in the North Main Book Nook this spring, because Alyssa is one of the four staff members stocking the Staff Picks display through June. She recently finished listening to the audiobook of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, a book that was first published in May of last year and will be released in paperback on May 22nd. …

Thursday Night Book Club -- April, 2018

The Thursday Night Book Club has been reading some serious, weighty, dark and occasionally depressing novels lately. So it was with genuine glee and something approaching relief that we gathered on Thursday, April 19th to discuss Jonas Jonasson's worldwide bestselling novel The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared. Allan Karlsson, the hero of The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, climbs out the window of his nursing home bedroom on the day of his 100th birthday and embarks on an unplanned, unexpected and frequently hilarious journey involving, among other surprises, a suitcase filled with cash, some unpleasant criminals, a friendly and well-educated hot-dog stand operator and an elephant named Sonya. For most people, this would be the adventure of a lifetime. But it turns out that Allan has already had an extraordinary life. Not only has he witnessed some of the most important events of the 20th century, he has played a role in mo…

The Right Book at the Right Time

April means many things. It means the start of baseball season. It means spring: spring gardening, spring cleaning, spring hay fever. It means warmer temperatures (or at least it's supposed to) and more light. In the Wallingford Public Library, it also means a changing of the guard on the Staff Picks Display in the North Main Book Nook. Effective April 1, we have four new staffers filling the display with their favorites books, movies and CDs. One of the librarians stocking the display this spring is Amy Humphries, the library's Assistant Director. Amy is a library institution and a treasure. She has worked at the library since she graduated from college. She started as a page, then moved to the Circulation Desk before becoming first a Reference Librarian in the library's Yalesville Branch and then Assistant Director. Amy says that libraries have always made sense to her because she likes order in her life. She also says that she evaluates a book the same way she drinks w…