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Thursday Night Book Club -- February, 2020

A record-breaking 37 people filled the Collins Room almost to capacity on Thursday, February 20th to discuss Chaim Potok's beloved novel The Chosen. Set in Brooklyn in the latter half of the 1940s, The Chosen is the story of the friendship between two young men, Reuven Malter and Danny Saunders, who grow up five blocks from each other in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn but who meet for the first time in the summer of 1944 when they are both 15. Reuven is an Orthodox Jew whose father teaches at the high school Reuven attends in Crown Heights. Danny is the son and heir to the revered leader of a prominent Hasidic sect and goes to a school run by his father. The boys meet during a baseball game that encapsulates the differences between their religious upbringings: "Standing on the field and watching the boy at the plate swing at a high ball and miss, I felt myself suddenly very angry, and it was at that point that for me the game stopped being merely a game and became a wa…
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Reading on an Airplane

Back in the day (don't ask me how far back), there were only a few things to do during a flight. You could watch the movie that played on the screen that came down from the ceiling at the front of each cabin. You could sleep. You could play cards. Or you could read. Of course now, when most planes offer individual screens at each seat and when passengers can download favorite shows and podcasts to their devices before they fly, or use the wifi available on board, there are almost as many things to do during a flight as there are to do on land. But I still do what I've always done when I fly. I read.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that I am fairly deliberate in my reading choices when I go on vacation. And the same holds true when I am choosing books to take in my carry-on bag for a flight. Paperbacks are better than hardcovers, for obvious reasons. Nothing too serious, nothing requiring deep concentration, but also nothing so light that it fails to ca…

Classics Book Club - February, 2020

The Classics Books Club is the newest of the library's five book clubs, and it met for the second time on Monday, February 3rd to discuss Edith Wharton's novel The Age of Innocence. Published in 1920 and set primarily in New York City in the early 1870s, The Age of Innocence is the story of Newland Archer, a wealthy, confident and complacent young man who is engaged to marry the lovely and suitable May Welland. When May's cousin Ellen Olenska returns to New York after leaving her husband, a Polish count, Newland finds himself drawn to her and intrigued by her unconventional views. As his attraction to Ellen grows, Newland becomes disillusioned with May, and he starts to see her as a product of her upbringing: polite, innocent and lacking in imagination. "As she sat thus, the lamplight full on her clear brow, he said to himself with a secret dismay that he would always know the thoughts behind it, that never, in all the years to come, would she surprise him by an unex…

American Dirt

Over the course of the almost three years that I have been responsible for the posts that appear on North Main Book Notes, I have rarely touched on controversial matters, at least not deliberately. I made an exception after the 2019 Booker Prize winners were announced, when my righteous indignation got the better of me. But apart from that considered rant, I have tried to stay away from contentious topics, and, to be honest, that hasn't been too hard to do, because in the book world, or at least in my version of it, things don't get heated very often.

But in the past few weeks, a debate has erupted over a book and its publisher's approach to publicity that has spilled out from the narrow book world into the broader mainstream, and I have been asked about the issues so often that to ignore them feels like a material omission. The book in question is called American Dirt, and it was written by Jeanine Cummins. American Dirt tells the story of a Mexican bookstore owner named…

The 2020 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction

You might think that there would be a lull in blog posts about book awards at the start of a new year, but think again. The Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were established in 2012 to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction for adult readers published in the United States during the previous year. They are the first single-book awards for adult books given by the American Library Association and are made possible, in part, by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation, in recognition of Andrew Carnegie's deep belief in the power of books and learning to change the world. Previous medal winners include The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Canada by Richard Ford and The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright.

Each September the Selection Committee for the Andrew Carnegie Medals releases a longlist, and be…

Thursday Night Book Club -- January, 2020

Although the members of the Thursday Night Book Club tend to enjoy novels by Irish authors, it has been two and a half years since the group read a book written by an Irish writer and set in Ireland, so we decided to start off the New Year with The Gathering by Anne Enright. The 'gathering' of the title is for the funeral of Liam Hegarty, who has committed suicide. The novel is narrated by Liam's sister Veronica, who, of all the surviving nine Hegarty siblings, was closest to Liam. Driven almost mad with grief for her favorite brother, as her mother and eight remaining siblings begin to gather together in Dublin, Veronica thinks back on her childhood and her family history in order to try to understand what would cause Liam to end his life. She recreates the lives of her grandmother and her mother, unveiling in the process a series of uncomfortable memories, including a grossly immoral and horrible incident that happened when she and Liam stayed at their grandmother's…

One Book, One Wallingford 2020

The goal of a One Book, One Town event is to bring members of a community together by encouraging everyone to read a specific book and then to gather to discuss both the book and various topics related to its themes. The annual festivities culminate in a visit to town by the author of the book, who speaks about the book and the writing process, answers questions and signs copies of the book. Wallingford hosted its first-ever One Book, One Wallingford event in 2018 with Matthew Quick's The Reason You're Alive and followed that in 2019 with Amy Stewart's Girl Waits with Gun. Each One Book, One Wallingford event has been so well received that we are back once again with another One Book, One Wallingford extravaganza to welcome in the New Year.
The library kicked off One Book, One Wallingford 2020 by releasing a series of clues as to the identity of this year's book and author. Those clues appeared on the library's website, on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and on a…