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Summer Reading 2020

Summer has arrived in Connecticut with a vengeance. The summer solstice rolled around, and, as if on cue, hot and humid weather poured into the state and looks likely to stick around for a while. Summer is typically when we find ourselves slowing down, enjoying long days with few plans and even less energy, which is why summer has always seemed the perfect time to catch up on reading (not that I ever think there is a bad time for that kind of thing). What with canceled vacation plans and predicted extremely hot weather, this summer seems particular well-positioned for long, lazy days of reading. And because the pandemic forced delays in publication dates, there are an unusually large number of new books slated for release this summer across all genres, offering something for everyone. Here are some suggestions to get you going:

When library patrons ask me about new summer books, more often than not they are looking for the annual crop of novels set on and around the beach. And the fi…
Recent posts

Thursday Night Book Club -- June, 2020

After a few months where the schedule went by the wayside, the Thursday Night Book Club gathered virtually over Zoom on the usual third Thursday of the month to discuss The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. New widow Cora Seaborne, relieved by the death of her cruel husband ("I laugh when I shouldn't. I know I don't give what's expected of me...these last few weeks I've thought over and over that there was never a greater difference between what I ought to be, and what I am"), leaves London in 1893 for Essex, a county in southeast England, accompanied by her socialist companion Martha and her prescient and strange son Francis. While searching for fossils in the mud along the coast, Cora learns about the existence of the mythical Essex Serpent, which was first reported in 1669 and is rumored to have returned to terrorize the people who live along the water. Cora, who loves science for its own sake, is determined to find the serpent. She soon meets the local recto…

Virtual Book Festivals

This is a post about making lemonade. Among the thousands of gatherings that have been canceled this spring and summer are all the annual book fairs and festivals that typically take place this time of year as publishers start to promote their big upcoming fall titles.  Thanks to the determination and creativity of book lovers everywhere, several of the biggest book events of 2020 were reinvented in an online format. As a result, over the course of a week plus two weekends in May, I went to three different virtual book festivals, and while it was not the same as attending them in person (no autographed advance reader copies of new books, for example), it was fun, informative and, at times, surprisingly moving. Here is a summary of what happened:


My first virtual book festival was Book Expo. Book Expo is the publishing industry's leading trade event. Every year, booksellers, librarians and publishers come together for several days in late May in New York City to talk about the lat…

Classics Book Club -- June, 2020

Although it was a week later than originally scheduled, and although it was virtual instead of in the Collins Room, the members of the Classics Book Club gathered with gusto over Zoom on Monday, June 8th to discuss Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. Set predominantly in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s, Brideshead Revisited is the story of a middle class agnostic Englishman named Charles Ryder and his intense relationship with the aristocratic, eccentric, Anglo-Catholic Marchmain family, particularly with the flamboyant second son Sebastian, who Charles meets at Oxford University in 1923, and Sebastian's sister Julia, who, in the 1930s, becomes the great love of Charles' life. The story is told as a collection of memories triggered during World War II, while Charles' army unit is stationed at the family's grand country estate, called Brideshead, "a name that was so familiar to me, a conjuror's name of such magic power that, at its ancient sound, the phantoms…

10 Books on Race in America

I had a great blog post planned for this week, if I do say so myself, full of happy and geeky stories about the virtual book events I attended recently and the fascinating things that some of my favorite authors had to say. But while I was engrossed in the world of new and upcoming book releases, other things were happening beyond what I was watching on my computer screen, and over the weekend those things became, for me, a more significant story; in fact, they became the essential story.

It will not surprise you to learn that when there is something important happening that I don't understand, my knee-jerk reaction has always been to read up on the topic, and by that I don't mean looking up a few articles on the internet. You can well imagine, for example, the pile of books I bought when I was pregnant with my first daughter. Or the number of books I checked out of the library when I was asked to be the executor of my aunt's estate. Right now there is something extremely…

What Are You Reading?

Back in the glory days when the library was open, patrons used to sit across the Reference Desk from me to tell me about the books they were reading and to ask for recommendations. I loved those conversations. Listening to people explain what it was about a particular book that moved them or captivated them is really fun for me, and it helps me suggest other authors or titles they might like. When I am in a reading zone, which is to say when I have read a few books in a row that I adore, all I want to do is keep reading.  So helping people find books that they love is a particular pleasure for me.

In these times, patrons cannot sit across the desk from me to talk about books. Alas. But where there is a will, there is a way. Last week, the library hosted a "What Are You Reading" program over Zoom that encouraged people to come together virtually to talk about the books that have provided solace or escape during the last few challenging months. Library Director Jane Fisher an…

The Bookmark

If you assume that the librarians of the Wallingford Public Library have stopped coming up with creative new ideas since the library closed its doors in mid-March, think again. On May 7th, the library launched its first ever podcast. Called The Bookmark, the podcast is the brainchild of Allison Murphy, one of Wallingford's superb children's librarians. Several months ago, in those halcyon days when we could simply saunter across the library to chat with each other in person, Allison asked if I would be willing to partner with her to record a podcast for the library. I hesitated at first, because I barely even listen to podcasts, let alone know how to make one, but when she told me that we would get to sit together and talk about books for 20-30 minutes at a time, I enthusiastically agreed to give it a go.

Never one to let something like a pandemic stand in the way of a good idea, once the library closed Allison taught herself how to use the podcast program she found online an…