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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 …

Serendipity

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…

North Main Book Nook -- Featured Author

And back to the North Main Book Nook we go!  Many blog posts ago, I wrote about the #Trending display.  If you visit the Book Nook, you'll notice that the #Trending display is housed in a tall, two-sided bookshelf set on an angle towards the back, near the Collaboratory.  On the other side of the #Trending shelves is a separate display, called Featured Author. Each month the shelves of the Featured Author display are filled with books written by one specific author.  In addition to the books, the top shelf of the display contains a brief biography of the featured author, along with a photo.

When North Main Book Nook opened, the featured author was Jane Smiley, who has written manybest selling and award winningnovels and also severalworks of non-fiction.
In May, the featured author was Agatha Christie. Wallingford Public Library ownssomanybooks by the famous mystery writer that we did not have room on the display for all of them!  June's featured author has been Frederick Fors…

The Heirs by Susan Rieger

Novelist Susan Rieger is a graduate of Columbia Law School. She served as Dean of one of Yale University's residential colleges and as Associate Provost at Columbia University.  Her 2014 debut novel, The Divorce Papers, about the progression of one woman's divorce and another woman's legal career, is told in a series of personal and professional snippets rather than in a more typical linear narrative format. It is clever, engaging, enjoyable and often very funny.

Rieger's new novel, The Heirsis different in tone and in theme from The Divorce Papers.  Instead of divorce, we have a 300-page upper class family saga.  Rupert Falkes, a British orphan who attends Cambridge University on a scholarship and comes to America in search of a new life, graduates from Yale Law School and becomes a highly-regarded lawyer at one of New York's most prestigious law firms. Rupert's wife Eleanor comes from "that class of New Yorker whose bloodlines were traced in the manner …

Thursday Night Book Club -- June, 2017

On June 15th, Wallingford Public Library's Thursday Night Book Club met to discuss Ann Patchett's award winning novel, Bel Canto.  Set in an unnamed third world country but inspired by the 1996 hostage crisis at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru, Bel Canto is the story of a group of dignitaries and businessmen, and one very famous opera singer, held hostage by a terrorist group known as La Familia de Martin Suarez. Over the course of what becomes a four-month hostage situation, the lines between the hostages and the terrorists begin to blur, and the connections that develop around music, chess, cooking, and soccer, and above all, around love, begin to obscure the reality of the situation. As one of the hostages notes, "Who knew that life could be so unexpected? I thought we would be dead by now, or if not dead than regularly begging for our lives, but instead I sit and I consider opera."

Our discussion began with a brief synopsis of Patchett's life and writing ca…

When is it OK to Stop Reading?

The librarians who volunteer to stock the Staff Picks display sign up for a three-month rotation.  The first rotation will end on June 30th, and so with two weeks to go until four new display stockers start up, we get to hear from the last of the four librarians currently in charge of the Staff Picks display.

Barbara Cangiano is the Head of Circulation at Wallingford Public Library.  Not only does she know more than any of us ever will about the ins and outs of the circulation system (and the reasons behind those annoying delays in getting books from other libraries), she is, bar none, the best person to ask when you can't find an item that our catalog says is available.  Barbara knows all the tricks to suss out hidden material, and she loves to be of help. Barbara also loves to read, but  in this blog post she shares an interesting and useful perspective on what happens when she doesn't love the book she is currently reading:

I have been the Circulation Department Supervisor…

North Main Book Nook -- Your Next Read

Does this ever happen to you:  You've finished a great book and are heading to the library to return it. You've got nothing else checked out, and no books on hold to pick up. Or you've got a huge pile of unread books at home, but nothing is calling out to you as the right next book. But maybe you need a new book to read, either because the weather is awful and you want to stay in, or you're on a reading high because of how much you liked the book you just read, or you need something to talk about with the book-obsessed friend you're meeting for dinner next week. So how do you figure out what to read next?

There are lots of ways to go about this.  You can get recommendations from family and friends who know you and your reading interests well. You can see whether the author of the book you just finished has published anything else.  You can stroll the stacks at the library and see if a title (or a cover) jumps out at you. You can ask any one of the Wallingford Publ…

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

Emma Russo-Savage works at Wallingford Public Library's Circulation Desk, runs the Game Night gatherings that take place in the Collaboratory twice a month, and is a great reader. Whenever I see her in the staff room on breaks, she is reading, and she is usually (but not always) happy to take a break from her book to tell me about it.  Emma has been stocking one quadrant of North Main Book Nook's Staff Picks display for the past two months, and she wrote the following review of a book she loves: 
"When we say 'the world has ended,' it's usually a lie, because the planet is just fine. But this is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. This is the way the world ends. For the last time." The Fifth Season (The Broken Early, Book #1), by N.K. Jemisin
Books that are written in the second person are few and far between - and books that manage to do this successfully are rarer still. Those particular fantasy books that require a glossary of terms j…

Book Expo 2017

What is Book Expo?  Good question!  Book Expo, also known as Book Expo America or BEA, is the largest annual book trade fair in the United States.  Most, if not all, of the major US book publishers, as well as several overseas publishers, have booths and exhibits at Book Expo. Publishers use the event to showcase upcoming titles, not only the anticipated "big" new releases but also debut novels and other new books that they are particularly excited about. Over the course of a few days, publishers offer Book Expo attendees galleys and advance reader copies of the new and forthcoming books and promote their special favorites. Many authors attend the event as well, hosting autograph sessions either in their publisher's booth or in a special autograph area. Book Expo 2017 took place at the Javits Center in New York City, and I spent a full day there on June 1st.

In the past, publishers hosting exhibits at Book Expo focused their promotional materials on book store owners an…

Summer Reading

"It was a quiet morning, the town covered over with darkness and at ease in bed. Summer gathered in the weather, the wind had the proper touch, the breathing of the world was long and warm and slow. You had only to rise, lean from your window, and know that this indeed was the first real time of freedom and living, this was the first morning of summer." Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine

Memorial Day, whether it be warm and sunny or (as it happened this year) chilly and rainy, traditionally heralds the start of the summer season.  With Memorial Day now behind us, summer is unofficially here. And with summer comes the annual parade of summer books and summer book reading lists.

"Summer was on the way; Jem and I awaited it with impatience. Summer was our best season; it was sleeping on the back screened porch in cots, or trying to sleep in the tree house; summer was everything good to eat; it was a thousand colors in a parched landscape; but most of all, summer was Dill."…