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Showing posts from 2017

The Heart's Invisible Furies by John Boyne

Much has been written about the importance of the opening sentence of a book. It's been described as the key, or the hook, to reel the reader in.  The purpose of the first sentence, frankly, is to get the reader to want to read the second sentence. Stephen King commented in a 2013 interview in The Atlantic that "an opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this."

I mention this because last week I read what will surely soon take its place on the list of the best opening lines ever in a novel. I checked out John Boyne's The Heart's Invisible Furies from the library at the end of my evening shift on Wednesday, and while I was waiting to leave for the night, I opened the book and started reading:

"Long before we discovered that he had fathered two children by two different women, one in Drimoloeague and one in Clonakilty, Father James Monroe stood on the altar of the Church of Our Lady…

The Fall Book Bonanza

"Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple." J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

If Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer, then Labor Day is its counterpoint, the unofficial end of summer and the start of fall. In Wallingford, the kids are already back in school, and the weather has felt autumnal for more than a week, so the transition between summer and fall feels as though it has already happened. As vacations end and the weather stays cool, the lazy, easy pace of summer goes away, and in its place is a sense of newness, energy and purpose. Autumn brings a new school year, a new season of theatre and concerts and TV shows, the start of the release of Oscar-worthy movies, and the big fall book season.

"Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."  F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Fall is the season when the mosthighlyanticipatedliteraryfictionreleases …

Read Anything Good Lately?

As summer winds down, the Library's director, Jane Fisher, reader and bike rider extraordinaire, and currently one of the four librarians stocking the Staff Picks display in the North Main Book Nook, shares some thoughts about her love of reading and how she gets her best ideas on what to read next:

Read anything good lately?

When it comes to reading, I'm pretty nosy. When I meet you for the first time, I'm likely to ask, "so what do you like to read?" When I visit your home, I'll meander over to check out what's on your bookshelves. It's not that I judge people by their reading interests -- I love a good page turner as much as anyone -- I've just always been curious about how people select their next book, or whether, as often happens to me, their next book selects them.

For many years I rode the NYC subway every day. Surreptitiously checking out what people are reading on the train is a favorite pastime of most librarians I know. We just can…

Less by Andrew Sean Greer

I can't remember how I found out about Andrew Sean Greer's new novel Less.  It was published in July, and the glowing reviews starting appearing shortly thereafter, but I had it on my to-read list before then. I've checked all my normal sources, and it doesn't appear on any of the "what to read next" lists that I usually rely on. It would be nice to know because Less is a gem of a book that might have slipped under my radar, and that would have been a shame.

Less is about Arthur Less, a mostly failed novelist who is about to turn 50. Arthur is "too old to be fresh and too young to be rediscovered, one who never sits next to anyone on a plane who has heard of his book." Arthur has received several invitations to mediocre literary events in countries around the world and has not responded to a single one when he discovers that his not-quite-boyfriend of 10 years is marrying someone else. Rather than go to the wedding, or decline to go without a valid …

A Sense of Place

Teresa Kristan remembers when the Wallingford Public Library was located down the block, where the Library Wine Bar and Bistro now holds pride of place at 60 North Main Street.  She remembers because she worked there and because her grandfather was a custodian for the library several decades ago. Teresa is an ardent baseball fan, so summer is an especially good time for her. She is both a Circulation Librarian and a Reference Librarian at the library, and she is one of the four library staff members currently stocking the Staff Picks display in the North Main Book Nook. Teresa's bio on the Staff Picks display includes this sentence: "If I could have read in the living womb, I would've, but the light was bad." She has a lot to say about books and reading, and she shares some thoughts below:

I was thinking about a different sense of place that I get when I read, not where the book or article is set, but where I am while I'm reading it.

There's a sweet children…

Vacation Reading

Broadly speaking, there are two types of vacation people. The first type do very little planning before they go on vacation. They pack at the last minute, make one hotel reservation, get a few restaurant recommendations, and pretty much wing it. They figure out what they want to do once they get there, and don't sweat the small stuff or the details.

I am not in that group.

The second type like to plan ahead -- each day's activities, each meal, each outfit. They pack far in advance, rethink, and then pack again. They research everything, make as many reservations as they can, talk to friends and relatives (and ask Facebook friends for tips), and leave as little to chance as possible.

I am more or less in that group.

For people in this second group, half the fun of going on vacation is all the pre-vacation planning. And for me personally, the best part of pre-vacation planning is deciding which books (and how many of them) to take with me.

Vacation reading is not like regular r…

North Main Book Nook -- Book Club Favorites

Once upon a time, the Wallingford Public Library had more than 20 "Book Club To Go" bags. These bags were big and blue and contained some of the core components of a book club gathering. Inside each bag were ten or so copies of a specific book, along with a reading group discussion guide about the book and about its author. Library patrons could check out a bag and have a ready-made book group. Just add readers!  The Book Club To Go bags sat on the shelves around the corner from the Circulation Desk, across from the entrance to the Children's Library.  They were wonderful.

But the big blue bags, while striking, hid the books from view, and even though the bags had large labels on them describing what was inside, many library patrons passed them by. And so we decided to take the books out of the bags and put them on display. Hence the "Book Club Favorites" display table in the North Main Book Nook.
The Book Club Favorites display was the first good idea we had …

The 2017 Man Booker Prize Long List

For a certain type of person, to-do lists are a big deal, and checking items off your list is an even bigger deal. There is a sense of accomplishment as you work your way through a list, and when everything is checked off, you can throw the list away, give yourself a pat on the back and move on.

For book lovers, book lists can be a source of particularly great pleasure. A book list comes out: if it is a book list I follow, I check to see how many of the books on it I have already read, and then I decide which books on it that I haven't read to put on my "to-read" list. If it is a book list I particularly trust, I usually give it the benefit of the doubt and make sure to read all the books on the list.

Book lists come in all kinds of categories: Best books of the month, the year, the decade, the century; seasonal book lists; best books to give as gifts; Oprah's book lists, Bill Gates' book lists, Emily Watson's book lists; lists of best books for men, for wom…

Thursday Night Book Club -- July, 2017

Last week was the warmest week of the summer of 2017 (so far), and Thursday July 20th was the hottest day of the week, so it seems particularly fitting that the Thursday Night Book Club gathered on the evening of the 20th to discuss Maggie O'Farrell's Instructions for a Heatwave. In the late spring and summer of 1976, the United Kingdom experienced a record-breaking heatwave. For four months, the temperature was over 90 degrees each day, and there was virtually no rain. O'Farrell's novel is set during that heatwave, opening on the morning of Thursday July 15th, 1976: 

"The heat, the heat. It wakes Gretta just after dawn, propelling her from the bed and down the stairs. It inhabits the house like a guest who has outstayed his welcome: it lies along corridors, it circles around curtains, it lolls heavily on sofas and chairs. The air in the kitchen is like a solid entity filling the space, pushing Gretta down into the floor, against the side of the table."

A few m…

The Dreaded Reading Slump

Those of us who work at the library talk about books we are reading a lot. Shocking, I know. We read during our breaks and when we are eating lunch or dinner, and we share our opinions as we read. We look at the carts of new books when they arrive and discuss which ones we want to read first. We study each others' displays, brainstorming other books to add. We are readers. So if one of us gets into a reading slump, it's sort of a big deal, and as Programming Librarian Julie Rio writes below, it isn't always so easy to get out of a reading slump once you get into one:

For an avid reader, one of the most horrible feelings in the world is being in a reading slump. I should know. I'm just coming out of a wretched, six-month-long reading slump.

For those who may be unaware of the term, a "reading slump" is the unfortunate occurrence when a reader can't find ANY book to hold their attention. A reading slump can happen for many reasons.

Maybe you just finished …


On July 1, the calendar shifted to the second half of 2017, and here at the library, a new set of librarians started stocking the Staff Picks display in the North Main Book Nook. Along with a fresh collection of favorite books to choose from, we have four new voices to hear from. Today's blog post comes from one of the librarians who will be displaying her favorite books through the end of September. Janet Flewelling is Wallingford Public Library's Head of Emerging and Creative Technologies, which Janet says means she's the person who manages all of the computers in the library. In other words, she's really important!  Janet reads widely, across genres, and because she has a 45-minute drive to work (on a good day) and another 45-minute drive home from work (ditto), she often reads by listening to audio books in her car. Here are her thoughts on a recent read:

According to Merriam-Webster, serendipity is the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things…

The Still Point of the Turning World

Sometimes, there is an article that is so eye-catching, so interesting, so about what you're about at that moment, that it's almost a blog post in itself. I came across one such article in the middle of June, when I saw the cover of the Travel section of the Sunday edition of The New York Times (never mind that it was delivered on Saturday -- that's an old gripe). A single photo took up the entire above the fold page, a magnificent picture of the reading room of the Biblioteca Angelica in Rome. Actually, it wasn't even clear that the photo was of the reading room, because all you could see above the fold were stacks and stacks of beautiful old books, along with the curved tops of reading lamps and the bent head of a person. Nor was it clear what the article that accompanied the photo was about, because both the rest of the photo (showing the elegant tables and chairs of the reading room, the rest of the lamps and the rest of the reader), along with the headline and de…

My First Audio Book

I am very old-fashioned when it comes to reading.  I read books, the physical kind, the ones that you hold in your hands, with pages that turn, with that particularly bookish smell.  I have absolutely nothing against ebooks as a general concept, and I think reading is reading, no matter how you choose to do it. But for me, it's always been about the printed words on the page, and not about reading on a screen.

Similarly, until last week, I had never listened to an audio book. I have friends who walk everywhere, and they love to listen to a book while they are out strolling with the dog or running errands.  I have other friends with long car commutes, and they say listening to books while driving is practically the only quality reading time they have. One friend lived in Connecticut when his children were growing up and owns a summer home in Maine. The drive between the two houses took nine hours each way. He, his wife, their three daughters and their dog read allsevenHarryPotterb…

Colm Toibin

Colm Toibin is an award-winning novelist known for his lyrical, carefully rendered stories of strained family relations in coastal Ireland.  He was born in the Irish town of Enniscorthy in 1955, attended University College, Dublin and spent three years after graduation in Barcelona.  Drawing on his experiences abroad, his first novel is about an Irish woman creating a new life for herself in Spain. The Southwas shortlisted for the Whitbread First Novel Award and won the Irish Times First Fiction Award. After returning to Ireland he worked for several years as a journalist before turning full time to writing.  His other novels include: The Heather Blazing (winner of the Encore Award), The Story of the NightThe Blackwater Lightship (shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the Dublin IMPAC Prize), The Master, an homage to Henry James (winner of the Dublin IMPAC Prize and the Prix du Meilleur Livre, named the LA Times Novel of the Year and shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize), Brook…