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Showing posts from 2019

Amy Stewart Visits Wallingford

In the January 2019 issue of WORDS, the library's monthly newsletter, the library announced the return of One Book, One Wallingford for 2019. Weekly teaser clues as to the identity of the book and its author were released on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as on the library's website and (in an old-school nod) on a white board near the Circulation Desk. And then on February 6th, a large crowd gathered in the library for the reveal of our 2019 One Book, One Wallingford selection, Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart.

Since then, there has been a lot going on. The Record-Journal ran a nice article about the program and the reveal of the book. Groups met to learn about the development of the female detective in fiction and about the role of women in early 20th-century America. There were discussions about handwriting analysis and about the care and training of homing pigeons. Jim Tierney, who created the cover of the book and won an award for his efforts, came to Wallingf…

A Few Good Reads

I spent much of March and April in something of a reading slump, and I am here to tell you that it was no fun. Books that I thought would be great were only good or just ok. Books that sounded interesting weren't. Books that started really well petered out or shifted into something derivative and dull. In short, I was in a rut, and I did not like it.

But then, mirabile dictu, I read three books over the course of a week that I absolutely loved. I more or less inhaled two of them, reading them in great big gulps the way a really thirsty person drinks water (which is a little bit how it felt). I read the third one more slowly, a chapter or two at a time, to make it linger. All three were so good that I cannot resist sharing them with you:


First, Henry, Himselfby Stewart O'Nan. O'Nan is the author of 18 novels, including Last Night at the Lobster, which was the Thursday Night Book Club book in December of 2017. Two of O'Nan's novels center around the Maxwell family i…

Thursday Night Book Club -- April, 2019

Immediately before the start of the Easter holiday weekend, the Thursday Night Book Club met to discuss The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Set on the fictional Alice Island, located somewhere in the vicinity of Nantucket, Zevin's bestselling novel is about an independent bookstore called Island Books and its cranky and disaffected owner A.J. Fikry. A widower at 35, Fikry is lonely, angry and something of an old-fashioned literary snob.  As the book begins, Fikry's priceless copy of a rare book of poems by Edgar Allen Poe is stolen and a 2-year-old girl named Maya is left in the bookstore. Fikry's decision to adopt Maya reinvigorates both his store and his life. "A.J. watches Maya in her pink party dress and he feels a vaguely familiar, slightly intolerable bubbling inside of him. He wants to laugh out loud or punch a wall. He feels drunk or at least carbonated. Insane. At first he thinks this is happiness, but then he determines it's love." A…

E.L. James' Party Favors

Do not even try to pretend that you don't know who E.L. James is. The author of the (in)famous Fifty Shadestrilogy has become something of a household name. Fifty Shades of Grey, an erotic romance about billionaire Christian Grey and the innocent but determined Anastasia Steele, began as fan fiction in the wake of the success of the Twilight series, before James decided to publish the novel with a small Australian publishing house in 2011, thinking it might sell a few thousand copies. Since then, the book (which got scooped up by Vintage in a bidding war in 2012) and its sequels Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed, along with two companion novels Grey and Darker, have sold over 150 million copies in more than 50 languages. I've read all five books, and I suspect you have too or you at least know someone who has. The original trilogy has been turned into a three-movie series that has grossed over $1 billion. Fifty Shades of Grey even earned a spot on The Great American …

The Masters

I received such a positive response to the blog post I wrote a few weeks ago about March Madness that I decided to take the sports-and-books theme one step further. One of the MANY reasons why I adore the NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament is that, from time to time during the (numerous) commercial breaks, CBS runs teaser ads for The Masters, one of the most prestigious annual events in professional golf. And I love The Masters almost as much as I love March Madness.

I can almost hear the incredulity in your voice: Really, Cindy? Golf? Football, sure. Basketball, I get. Baseball too, because it's the national pastime. Even ice hockey I could understand, assuming you can explain to me how to see the puck. But golf???? I know, I know, it's a little weird, but I love watching professional golfers play, especially on some of the most beautiful and majestic golf courses in the country. The sport is about warm weather (most of the time) and sunshine (most of the time). Th…

The Best Books You Have Never Read

It's been some time since we had a guest blogger on this site, but April 1st seems the perfect date for one. Chris Ciemniewski is the library's Publicity and Public Services Librarian. Among other things, Chris is responsible for the monthly newsletter. He curates content for the library's social media pages and creates library flyers and handouts. Because Chris is more interested in classic literature than in contemporary literature, making reading suggestions is not necessarily his strong suit, which is why he decided to create an infallible list of books we guarantee you've never read...

Library patrons are always asking us which books they should read next. The trouble is that avid readers have already read many of our suggestions! So, we created this list of the best books that we guarantee you have not read! Ask at the Information Desk to place them on hold. It would make our day!

Concerning the Black Holes by Jack Torrance -- This under-appreciated classic follo…

Thursday Night Book Club -- March, 2019

Because the Thursday Night Book Club spends 11 out of the 12 months of the year immersed in the reading of fiction, the annual discussion of the group's sole non-fiction title always has the potential to be a thing apart. The club's gathering on Thursday, March 21st to talk about The Shallows by Nicholas Carr was no exception. Subtitled "What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains," The Shallows posits that the Internet is a medium based on interruption, and that the distractions inherent in our use of the Web are changing the way we read, think and process information. As Carr writes: "I used to find it easy to immerse myself in a book...My mind would get caught up in the twists of the narrative...and I'd spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That's rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration starts to drift after a page or two. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do." Carr describes the way the &quo…

March Madness

I am a painfully (and sometimes quite amusingly) uncoordinated person, slow and graceless in practically any sporting endeavor I undertake. Despite (or perhaps because of) this lack of athletic prowess, I have always been a huge sports fan and am an avid watcher of a wide range of sporting events, from The Olympics to football, basketball, baseball, golf and, more recently, the World and European Cup. And I can say without hesitation that my favorite sporting event of the entire year is the annual NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament known as March Madness.

In case you are not a fan of college basketball, here is a brief overview: for the next three weeks, the 68 best men's college basketball teams of the 2018-2019 season will face off in a single elimination tournament, fondly called The Big Dance. Teams are organized into four regions and seeded from 1-16 in a bracket that is announced each year on the Sunday before the tournament begins (known as Selection Sunday). The startin…

The Women's Prize 2019 Longlist

The Women's Prize for Fiction celebrates the best fiction written by women over the course of a given year.  It is open to any full-length novel written in English by a woman of any nationality, so long as the novel was published in the United Kingdom between April 1st of the year before the prize is awarded and March 31st of the year in which the prize is awarded. The key criteria for the prize are accessibility, originality and excellence in writing. Although the Women's Prize for Fiction does not have the heft or import of the Booker Prize or the National Book Award, it has become a significant literary prize and a wonderful way to highlight the work of female authors.

There are five women who judge The Women's Prize for Fiction each year, one of whom is appointed Chair. This year, the judging panel is chaired by Professor Kate Williams, an historian and professor of history who has written nine works of fiction and non fiction. She is joined by Arifa Akbar (a journali…

The Booker Prize Turns the Page

The release of the 2019 Man Booker Prize for Fiction longlist is, alas, several months away, which makes the fact that the prize has been in the news this past week all the more unusual. It was in the news in January as well, because on the 27th of January, the Man Booker Prize issued a press release to announce that the association between the prize and Man Group, the hedge fund that had sponsored the prize since 2002, was ending after 18 years. Man Group stated that it was "focusing its resources on its newly-established 'Paving the Way' campaign, which aims to enhance diversity in their industry, and to expand the firm's global charitable initiatives, focused on literary and numeracy." The partnership between the prize and the hedge fund had generated controversy over the years, including some displeasure about the very existence of corporate sponsorship of such an esteemed literary prize, and some righteous indignation over the decision in 2014 to include no…

Thursday Night Book Club -- February, 2019

When the Thursday Night Book Club gathers each month in the Collins Room, we sit in a circle to discuss the book we've collectively read. When we met last Thursday to talk about the February, 2019 selection They May Not Mean To, But They Do, Cathleen Schine's wonderful novel whose title is taken from the famous Philip Larkin poem This Be The Verse, the circle devolved into something of a distorted and elongated oval as we added more and more chairs to accommodate the number of people who wanted to join the conversation about the book. They May Not Mean To, But They Do features the Bergman family: "They were like a cult, one that did not accept disciples or converts...The Bergmans were a clan, tight knit and suspicious of strangers. They were tribal and closed, bound by blood. They were one, the world the other." Joy, the 86-year-old matriarch, has been married for all of her adult life to Aaron, a man who had wanted to be a classical singer but instead had gone into…

What I'm Reading

I don't know if this happens to you, but people often ask me what I'm reading, or what books I've read recently that I particularly liked, or what I'm planning to read next. As occupational hazards go, this is a pretty good one. At breakfast in the Staff Room this past Saturday morning, Wallingford's librarians went around the table sharing the books we're reading (or the Netflix series we're binge watching), and the variety of reading interests on display was commendable! Graeme Greene! Thomas Pynchon! Kristin Higgins! Delia Owens! And, of course, Amy Stewart (One Book, One Wallingford extends to the staff as well)!
It's a tremendous compliment to be asked about my reading preferences and habits, and one that I take very seriously. But it should be said that my motivations in choosing some of the books I read may be different from yours. Sometimes I read a book because it's getting talked about so much in the book publishing press that I feel like…