Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What I Read in 2014

Because December is a good time to think back on the year, I was just tidying up my reading journal to see what I read in 2014. What I read was lots of very light mysteries of the type called cozies, with a monthly foray into something a bit more literary for the library book group and the occasional detour into the quirky. I did not read much non-fiction this year, but I did follow up on mystery series that I enjoy,  re-read some classics and discovered some new authors.

Here are a few of my favorites:

Best Holiday Title: A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer (2013)
Best Rediscovered mystery series: The Riddle of the Third Mile, an Inspector Morse mystery by Colin Dexter (1997)
Best mystery on which a TV series is based: In a Dry Season, a DCI Banks mystery by Peter Robinson (1999)
Best Book Group Selection: The Round House by Louise Erdrich (2012)
Best Sherlock Holmes recreation: 'The Baker Street' series by Michael Robertson (2009 - 2014)
Best Mystery Series Debut: The Outsmarting of Criminals by Steven Riglosi (2014)
Best Books about Bookshops: Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley  (1917) and
The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin (2014)
Best Summer/Beach Read: The Vacationers by Emma Straub (2014) and Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter (2012)
Best Continuation of Classic Mystery: The Monogram Murders, the new Hercule Poirot mystery by Sophie Hannah (2014)
Best Re-read Classic: Dubliners by James Joyce (1917)
Best Self-Help: 10% Happier by Dan Harris (2014)
Best Foodie Book or book on which movie was based: The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard Marais (2010)
Best Fixing Up an Old House Memoir: Castles in the Air by Judy Corbett (2005)




My Year of Reading 2013, the first six months
My Year of Reading 2013, the second half
The Year in Books 2012

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Time of Year for Best Book List Roundups

While looking through the library blog, I came across this end of year post from six years ago. It made me realize that those end of  year look-backs are coming to tell us what happened in 2014. What happened to whom and where in the world it happened. For librarians, it's all about what we read and what we can recommend to our readers. So before I get to 2014, take a look at what we were reading not that long ago. If you missed these books, they  will no doubt be waiting on the shelves for you to check out. (Note: some of the links from 2008 no longer work - apologies.)

Best Books Lists 2008  (first posted on 12/26/2008)

Best books lists are typically compiled in November and December each year by various book reviewers. There are lists of best non-fiction, fiction, mystery, science fiction and other genres. There are high-brow lists and lists aimed at recreational readers. There are lengthy, subdivided lists and the punchy best five or best ten lists. The overall effect can be like listening to the weather report, at the end you still don't know what the weather will be like tomorrow. There is just too much information and the mind starts to tune it out. Well, mine does anyhow.

Some library patrons print out best books lists and carry them in their wallets all year, working their way systematically through them. Others produce rumpled scraps of paper with faded or illegibly scribbled titles of books recommended by friends, or heard about on the radio or television. Some people rely on their memory and others just browse the shelves when they get to the library. Some people put themselves on reserve for most bestsellers and others never read bestsellers. Some swear by Oprah picks and others find her taste very depressing.

Fortunately enough books are published each year so that there should be something for everyone. The trick is to figure out what it is. As I was browsing through the New Fiction shelves on Tuesday for myself in anticipation of two days off and optimistically thinking there would be time to read, a patron asked for a recommendation. Since I was stumped myself about what to read next, we looked together. My Director and I recommended the Inn at Lake Devine by one of my favorite authors, Laura Lipman and Kaaterskill Falls by Allegra Goodman because the patron seemed to like character-driven, psychological fiction like Jodi Picoult's and Sara Gruen's. I took home Bailey White's holiday stories as told on NPR, Nothing with Strings which was terrific, and Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders as the latest evidence of my 2008 addiction to the Grande Dame of Mysteries.

Take a look at these end of year lists to find what you plan to read in 2009 or come ask at the Reference Desk and we'll see if we can come up with a list made just for you.

NPR, the Complete Holiday Book Recommendations 2008

Amazon's Top 100 Editors Picks and the Top 100 Customer Favorites

Publishers Weekly Best Books of the Year

Louisa Ermelino writes in PW, "There were the authors we expected to deliver, and they did: Louise Erdrich with The Plague of Doves, Richard Price with Lush Life, Jhumpa Lahiri with Unaccustomed Earth, Lydia Millet with How the Dead Dream. A breakthrough surprise about cricket, Netherland by Joseph O'Neill, delighted us, while Tim Winton's Breath took ours away. We listened to our elders in How to Live: A Search for Wisdom from Old People; thought about our planet with The Soul of the Rhino; examined our history in The Hemingses of Monticello and Abraham Lincoln: A Life; and, thanks to Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw, we even considered Jesus for President."

The PW Fiction list starts with Kate Atkinson's When Will There Be Good News? the third novel featuring PI Jackson Brodie which I just started and expect to be as good as the first two.

Library Journal's Best Books 2008

The New York Times 10 Best Books 2008

USA Today's list of 10 Books We Loved Reading in 2008 probably coincides most closely with my own tastes because it includes Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows which I enjoyed and which both appear on several other lists.

Sure Bets for Readers

What to Read: Sure Bets (originally posted March 27, 2013) 
or how does the librarian know what her patrons want to read next?

'Sure bets' according to librarian Joyce Saricks in her 'At Leisure' column in the December 1, 2012 Booklist are,
'titles and sometimes authors that appeal to a wide range of readers, that fly off displays, and that we turn to when our minds go blank and we can't think of anything to suggest to a waiting reader. These aren't current best-sellers but, rather, older titles we treasure.'


However you define it, every reference librarian likes to have certain books to recommend for each type of reader that will be available on the shelf. That's why bestsellers don't fit into this category very well. If a patron NEEDS a book to read RIGHT NOW, recommending a book with a weeks-long waiting list is probably not a helpful suggestion.

Of the books and authors Ms. Saricks recommends, I agree that for fun non-fiction, Mary Roach and Bill Bryson might work for readers who like science (Roach's 'Packing for Mars' is very funny and informative) and who like just plain laugh-out-loud writing (Bryson's 'A Walk in the Woods' has been very well-received by many patrons I have recommended it to.)

Here are some 'sure bets' I have recommended and heard back from readers who enjoyed them:

For readers who want an action/adventure type of mystery, Stuard Woods' Florida-based mysteries deliver a good page-turning experience with a tough-guy edge and a little sex but not too much gore.

For readers who like dark mysteries, try Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch police procedurals set in Los Angeles. Readers who liked the TV series 'The Wire' would be a good fit for this author.

For readers who want cozy, reassuring, character-based novels, our Library Director has had success recommending Mary Ann Shaffer's 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel pie Society'. Unfortunately the author died before the book was published so this is a stand-alone title. But if readers like this historical cozy, they might enjoy Adriana Trigiani's 'Big Stone Gap' series based in West Virginia.

Trigiani falls almost in the 'chic lit' category but without the shopping aspect. For more good writing in the chic lit genre, try anything by Jennifer Weiner.

Some readers are WWII fans, for them recommend 'Unbroken, a World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption' by Lauren Hillenbrand.

My favorite genre is cozy mystery, so if I find a fellow cozy fan who has not yet discovered Alexander McCall Smith's 'Number One Ladies Detective Agency' series, I can feel confident that reader is going to have a lot of good reading ahead of her.

Putting the right book in the right hands at the right time that suits the reader's mood just that that moment is a great feeling. What are some of your sure bets?




Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Thanksgiving Post

Every Thanksgiving for some years now, we have posted Thanksgiving cooking advice, jokes and a very long shaggy dog story, er shaggy turkey story? Here is the link to last years Thanksgiving post:
http://bhplnjbookgroup.blogspot.com/2013/11/which-side-of-turkey-has-most-feathers.html

In the interest of new blog content, here is an even newer bit to help our faithful blog readers and library patrons get in the holiday spirit: a Thankgiving poem from Granger's poetry database.

Poem: Thanksgiving Wishes
Author: Arthur Guiterman (1871–1943)



 I wish you all that pen and ink

—Could write, and then some more!
I hope you cannot even think
—Of half you're thankful for.
5
I hope your table holds a wealth
—Of prime Thanksgiving fare,
And Love and Peace and Joy and Health
—Will all be seated there.
I trust your guests will all be bright,
10
—But none of them too wise,
And each will bring an appetite
—For mince or pumpkin pies.
I hope the fowls will all be fat,
—The cider sweet to quaff,
15
And when you snap a Wishbone, that
—You'll win the larger half!

 MLA
Guiterman, Arthur. “Thanksgiving Wishes.” Columbia Granger's World of Poetry Online. 2014. Columbia University Press. 22 Nov. 2014.

To find this and 103  other full-text poems with the word "Thanksgiving' in the title, Berkeley Heights patrons can search our 'Columbia Granger's World of Poetry database.' All BHPL databases are linked to our 'Databases and Articles' page. Have your library card barcode handy to authenticate yourself so you can use Granger's and dozens of our other online research resources.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Learn Something New from the Teaching Company at the Library

The Teaching Company makes instructional DVD's and CD sets called "Great Courses' which you can borrow from the Berkeley Heights Public Library. These sets cover a variety of historical and artistic topics with  lectures from well-known university professors. You can find them by typing 'Teaching Company' or 'Great Courses' into the library catalog. You can find and read Ellen's blog posts about the courses she listened to and watched by using the same keywords in the blog's search box. Here is a sample of three of Ellen's reviews with links to the full reviews:

Listen & Learn (first posted Thursday, July 3, 2008)
Do you ever carelessly say "gonna" instead of "going to"? That's the way language has been changing and making new words for millennia. The Indo-European root words for "go" and "carry" (words that sounded something like "bear" and "ink") ran together to become the English word "bring". There also used to be a word that meant "repeatedly" that's now just the suffix "le" in English; it's the difference between dab and dabble, drip and dribble.
I learned this from 'The Story of Human Language,' a Teaching Company course on CD which is a series of lectures by linguist John McWhorter. The Berkeley Heights Public Library has over 200 courses, on CD, DVD and audiocassette tapes by the Teaching Company and Recorded Book's Modern Scholar.
Posted by Ellen at 7/03/2008 10:31:00 AM

How to Listen and Understand Great Music (First posted Tuesday, December 13, 2011)
New Jersey's own Robert Greenberg is the entertaining lecturer of the music appreciation course with that name 'How to Listen and Understand Great Music,' which BHPL has in its nonfiction audiobook collection. Dr. Greenberg tells funny and illuminating stories about composers. You get to hear a little of each selection, which is a good way to figure out what you'd enjoy listening to on your own in full later. This audiobook course is located at BHPL at CD AUDIO 780.9 GRE - scan the walls for a pink flamingo to find the nonfiction audiobooks.
Posted by Ellen at 12/13/2011 11:28:00 AM

Museum Masterpieces: the Met  (First posted Thursday, December 1, 2011)
The library has a wonderful Teaching Company course on DVD that you can borrow called Museum Masterpieces: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. There are 24 half hour lectures.
My favorite part was learning about the historical connections between works of art in the Museum. An amazing engraved helmet, the "burgonet with falling buffe"  is on display in the Department of Arms and Armor. The helmet was given to the Medici court in Florence sometime in the 16th century. The helmet appears in a portrait of Cosimo II de Medici, which the Met web site says is not on display - another reason to check out the DVDs. The lectures will also give you a peek at famous prints, photographs and costumes usually not on display.
The period rooms you can wander around in (like the bedroom from the Sagredo Palace in Venice, above) have always been my favorite part of the Met. The DVDs showed me several rooms I had never come across before, including the Verplanck Room in the American Wing. The Verplanck Room's furniture is from the home Daniel Verplanck grew up in. Daniel's childhood portrait by John Singleton Copley is also at the Met, and the view in the background is that of his family's home in Fishkill-on-Hudson. The walls and cornice of the room were taken from another house in the Hudson River Valley, so the portrait's background gives you an idea of what the view through the room's windows may have been like.
Posted by Ellen at 12/01/2011 11:07:00 AM
Flamingo Signage

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Craft Books

Craft Fail, when homemade goes horribly wrong by Heather Mann (2014) is a laugh-out-loud collection of pieces from crafter and blogger, Heather Mann who has immortalized those moments when the nifty little craft you saw on Pinterest and attempted to reproduce just turns into a lumpy blob, making you join the legions of crafters who realize, "I'm no Martha Stewart!"
Ms. Mann tells us that failure is all part of the learning process, an important part and a pretty funny one too as the examples in her book Craft Fail clearly show.

For examples of funny fails, take a look at her blog 'Craft Fail, where crafters go to fail' http://craftfail.com/
and be sure to check out her book for more laughs.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Browsing the New Non-Fiction Shelf

Working in a library presents constant temptation when new books come in or when browsing through the stacks and happening upon books that look too good to pass up. Like everyone else though, librarians and library staff can't read everything even though we work surrounded by thousands of books. Here are some interesting finds from the new non-fiction shelf today. Check them out and let me know how you like them. Be sure to come in and browse the new books sections for more tempting titles.
'The Hungry Family Slow Cooker Cookbook' by Christina Dymock. Fall seems like a good time of year to dust of the old crock pot (now called a slow cooker) and create some yummy stews, soups and even desserts. 641.5884 DYM 

'The Mom Inventors Handbook, how to turn your great idea into the next big thing' by Tamara Monosoff. Do you wake up at night with nifty ideas that you just know would sell if you just knew how to market it, get the copyright and so on? This is the book for  you. 658.1 MON

'Treat Petites, tiny sweets and savory pleasures' by Fiona Pearce. Teeny, tiny desserts, so small they barely count calorie-wise, right? The pictures in this little cookbook will make you hungry enough to either run to a bakery or whip up a batch of cute little cupcakes or meringues. 641.86 PEA

'I Just Graduated... Now What? Honest answers from those who have been there' by Kathrerine Schwarzenegger. 646.7 SCH For the perennial problem of what to do with a liberal arts degree as well as for any college graduate, celebrities offer stories from their own career experiences. I think parents should hand this kind of book to kids before they pick their major, but this advice may be better late than never.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

'Gone Girl' is back in demand at the library

In 2012 the library acquired many copies of Gillian Flynn's 2012 mega-bestseller 'Gone Girl' to keep up with demand. Topping the 'New York Times' bestseller list for months, in demand by bookgroups and readers of mysteries, we could barely keep up with the lengthy reserve lists for the book. Then demand quieted down for a year or so - until this week. The movie starring Ben Affleck will open tomorrow, the reviews are pretty good and the advertising and p.r. for the film are ubiquitous, so we brought the books up out of storage and put them on display. (Thanks to library staffer A-M S. for that idea:-) Library  patrons instantly checked out every single copy we own and the book is probably checked out at most public libraries and trending on book sales this week.
Our library book group read and discussed 'Gone Girl' a year ago in September and our imaginary blog correspondents, Marian the Librarian and Fleur the Frog wrote 'Gone Girl, the definitive review' in alternating parts to mimic the conflicting points of view of married couple Amy and Nick Dunne that Ms. Flynn uses in her book. In the review, Marian the Librarian presents a dark, obsessive point of view teetering into madness. Fleur the Frog presents a cheerful facade masking a dark side. Both Fleur and Marian frankly seem a bit unhinged, possibly from reading this book and possibly from identifying with the characters in the book a bit too much. To say that this book takes the idea of the unreliable narrator to extremes is an understatement. The twist at the end is worthy of Alfred Hitchcock and Patricia Highsmith. The creepiness of the characters turns off a lot of readers, but the page-turning suspense will probably make you want to finish the book anyway.
Did the book group like 'Gone Girl?' Well, yes and no. The verdict: it is readable, entertaining, clever, and original, but the main characters are so loathsome that most book group readers found it all a bit unsettling. Still, I would recommend this book to most readers of fiction and mysteries. Just wait a few weeks until the movie is gone, and then the copies will all be back on the library shelves.
The 'Gone Girl' review from last year follows: thanks again to 'special' correspondents Marian and Fleur. We hope they are reading happier books and are recovering from their 'Gone Girl' experience.

Gone Girl: the definitive review

MARIAN THE LIBRARIAN
THE DAY OF THE BOOK GROUP MEETING

When I think of my book group, I always think about how many people will come to the meeting, how many will have read the book, did they like the book, should I have questions ready to ask about the book? The book group starts in 45 minutes. Where to start? I finally read the mega-bestselling thriller/mystery Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012) and I did not go into the reading with an open mind. People either love this book or hate it. The opinions I heard from patrons at the library and from friends and family and the reviews I read had already made me dread reading it. I don't like to read bestsellers; they sell themselves; I like to read literary orphans. I don't like dark books with twisted characters; I like sunny distractions, the book equivalent of a situation comedy on television.

FLEUR THE FROG
AUGUST 26, 2013
JOURNAL ENTRY

Tra and la! I am a happy frog blogger reading the nifty bestseller for the library book group. I am so happy I finally got my book from the holds list so I can see what all the excitement is about this huge bestseller. I put the book in my perfect little froggy book bag and went home to make a cup of green tea and sat down with great anticipation to read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Even though she's not a frog, I hear she's a really good writer. My parents are the famous authors of the 'Fantastic Fleur the Frog' series about the perfect little frog who always does the right thing. They based the books on me because I'm perfect and always cheerful and also I like to make up puzzles just like Fantastic Fleur does.
1. Do I pretend to like this book even if I don't?
2. Do I just read reviews and get back to my fun books that I want to read.
3. Do I read the book, take notes, write a review and ask questions from a list at the book group meeting?
Answer: I think you know that Fantastic Fleur will do #3, don't you? Don't you? You don't? Oh, I might have to punish you, dear reader.

MARIAN THE LIBRARIAN
THE EVENING OF THE BOOK GROUP DISCUSSION OF GONE GIRL

The clock on my computer says 6:56 PM so I have to finish my review before the group meets. I have read the book. I'm not sure I liked the book. The book was compulsively readable, but nasty. Oh, I feel so dirty. It drew me in, and I ate it up, but I hated the characters and the plot was so contrived and unbelievable at the end, but I kept reading anyway. I felt like putting it down and reading something fun like Alexander McCall Smith, something light and sunny and uncomplicated, not dark and twisted like Amy and Nick Dunne's story. But that would be cheating. On the book, turning my back on the book group. So I read it. I couldn't help myself. I loved this book, but I hate it too, I just don't know how to tell the truth about this book.

FLEUR THE FROG
AUGUST 29, 2013
JOURNAL ENTRY

I'm so fantastic. I finished the book in less than three days! Here's a quiz I made up about the book:
1. Do you hate Amy or Nick more?
2. Did you guess what the plot twist was?
3. Did you want to kill Amy more than Nick does?
4. Did you want to make as much money as that lawyer of Nicks?
Answer: all of the above!!! Duh.

MARIAN THE LIBRARIAN
ONE MONTH GONE SINCE I CHECKED OUT THIS BOOK

You can "Google" the title and find reviews and, as the vernacular saying goes, unless you've been living under a rock,  you know that this book is the story of a marriage, a failed marriage, between two really twisted people. On their fifth wedding anniversary Amy, the wife, disappears and soon after, Nick the husband is suspected of her murder. The book is told from the point of view of Nick alternating with Amy's journal entries chronicling the story of their marriage up until the day of her disappearance. The second part of the book, and here's the spoiler, is told from Amy in the present tense and continues with Nick's narration too.
Quiz:
1.Did you see the spoiler there?
2. Did you see it coming? I did.
3.Do you feel cheated, manipulated as a reader or
4. Do you just not care anymore.
Oh, wait, I'm Marian, not Fleur. Fleur's the character who makes up quizzes.  I think our characters are merging. Help I hate that frog, I love that frog, I am a frog.

Posted by Fleur: Fleur's other contributions to the blog
Posted by Marian the Librarian: Ms. Librarian's previous posts

Monday, September 15, 2014

Quality of Books Declining: not a new complaint

Whenever I hear that the quality of books is declining, I think of the essay by Washington Irving written over 200 years ago that posits that very complaint. It is not a new complaint at all. Is it even true?
Read excerpts of Irving's thoughts in this blog post 'The Mutability of Literature' from a year ago.
http://bhplnjbookgroup.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-mutability-of-literature.html

Take a look at the New York Times bestseller lists back to the 1950's on the Hawes Publications site, 

then take a look at this list of the Harvard Classics (which can all be downloaded free from this OpenCulture website.) The list of Harvard Classics volume by volume follows. (Courtesy of Wikipedia states the Open Culture website.) What do you think? Do the New York Times bestseller lists have anything to compare to the Harvard Classics?

Vol. 1: FRANKLIN, WOOLMAN, PENN
His Autobiography, by Benjamin Franklin
The Journal of John Woolman, by John Woolman (1774 and subsequent editions)
Fruits of Solitude, by William Penn
VoTexts in the Harvard Classics collection (courtesy of Wikipedia):
l. 2. PLATO, EPICTETUS, MARCUS AURELIUS
The Apology, Phaedo, and Crito, by Plato
The Golden Sayings, by Epictetus
The Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius
Vol. 3. BACON, MILTON’S PROSE, THOS. BROWNE
Essays, Civil and Moral, and New Atlantis, by Francis Bacon
Areopagitica and Tractate of Education, by John Milton
Religio Medici, by Sir Thomas Browne
Vol. 4. COMPLETE POEMS IN ENGLISH, MILTON
Complete poems written in English, by John Milton
Vol. 5. ESSAYS AND ENGLISH TRAITS, EMERSON
Essays and English Traits, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Vol. 6. POEMS AND SONGS, BURNS
Poems and songs, by Robert Burns
Vol. 7. CONFESSIONS OF ST. AUGUSTINE, IMITATIONS OF CHRIST
The Confessions, by Saint Augustine
The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas á Kempis
Vol. 8. NINE GREEK DRAMAS
Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers, The Furies, and Prometheus Bound, by Aeschylus
Oedipus the King and Antigone, by Sophocles
Hippolytus and The Bacchae, by Euripides
The Frogs, by Aristophanes
Vol. 9. LETTERS AND TREATISES OF CICERO AND PLINY
On Friendship, On Old Age, and letters, by Cicero
Letters, by Pliny the Younger
Vol. 10. WEALTH OF NATIONS, ADAM SMITH
The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith
Vol. 11. ORIGIN OF SPECIES, DARWIN
The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
Vol. 12. PLUTARCH’S LIVES
Lives, by Plutarch
Vol. 13. AENEID, VIRGIL
Aeneid, by Virgil
Vol. 14. DON QUIXOTE, PART 1, CERVANTES
Don Quixote, part 1, by Cervantes
Vol. 15. PILGRIM’S PROGRESS, DONNE & HERBERT, BUNYAN, WALTON
The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
The Lives of Donne and Herbert, by Izaak Walton
Vol. 16. THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS
Stories from the Thousand and One Nights
Vol. 17. FOLKLORE AND FABLE, AESOP, GRIMM, ANDERSON
Fables, by Aesop
Children’s and Household Tales, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Tales, by Hans Christian Andersen
Vol. 18. MODERN ENGLISH DRAMA
All for Love, by John Dryden
The School for Scandal, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
She Stoops to Conquer, by Oliver Goldsmith
The Cenci, by Percy Bysshe Shelley
A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon, by Robert Browning
Manfred, by Lord Byron
Vol. 19. FAUST, EGMONT, ETC. DOCTOR FAUSTUS, GOETHE, MARLOWE
Faust, part 1, Egmont, and Hermann and Dorothea, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe
Vol. 20. THE DIVINE COMEDY, DANTE
The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri
Vol. 21. I PROMESSI SPOSI, MANZONI
I Promessi Sposi, by Alessandro Manzoni
Vol. 22. THE ODYSSEY, HOMER
The Odyssey, by Homer
Vol. 23. TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST, DANA
Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
Vol. 24. ON THE SUBLIME, FRENCH REVOLUTION, ETC., BURKE
On Taste, On the Sublime and Beautiful, Reflections on the French Revolution, and A Letter to a Noble Lord, by Edmund Burke
Vol. 25. AUTOBIOGRAPHY, ETC., ESSAYS AND ADDRESSES, J.S. MILL, T. CARLYLE
Autobiography and On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill
Characteristics, Inaugural Address at Edinburgh, and Sir Walter Scott, by Thomas Carlyle
Vol. 26. CONTINENTAL DRAMA
Life is a Dream, by Pedro Calderón de la Barca
Polyeucte, by Pierre Corneille
Phèdre, by Jean Racine
Tartuffe, by Molière
Minna von Barnhelm, by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
William Tell, by Friedrich von Schiller
Vol. 27. ENGLISH ESSAYS: SIDNEY TO MACAULAY
Vol. 28. ESSAYS: ENGLISH AND AMERICAN
Vol. 29. VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE, DARWIN
The Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin
Vol. 30. FARADAY, HELMHOLTZ, KELVIN, NEWCOMB, ETC
The Forces of Matter and The Chemical History of a Candle, by Michael Faraday
On the Conservation of Force and Ice and Glaciers, by Hermann von Helmholtz
The Wave Theory of Light and The Tides, by Lord Kelvin
The Extent of the Universe, by Simon Newcomb
Geographical Evolution, by Sir Archibald Geikie
Vol. 31. AUTOBIOGRAPHY, BENVENUTO CELLINI
The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
Vol. 32. LITERARY AND PHILOSOPHICAL ESSAYS
Essays, by Michel Eyquem de Montaigne
Montaigne and What is a Classic?, by Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
The Poetry of the Celtic Races, by Ernest Renan
The Education of the Human Race, by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Letters upon the Aesthetic Education of Man, by Friedrich von Schiller
Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals, by Immanuel Kant
Byron and Goethe, by Giuseppe Mazzini
Vol. 33. VOYAGES AND TRAVELS
An account of Egypt from The Histories, by Herodotus
Germany, by Tacitus
Sir Francis Drake Revived, by Philip Nichols
Sir Francis Drake’s Famous Voyage Round the World, by Francis Pretty
Drake’s Great Armada, by Captain Walter Bigges
Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s Voyage to Newfoundland, by Edward Haies
The Discovery of Guiana, by Sir Walter Raleigh
Vol. 34. FRENCH AND ENGLISH PHILOSOPHERS, DESCARTES, VOLTAIRE, ROUSSEAU, HOBBES
Discourse on Method, by René Descartes
Letters on the English, by Voltaire
On the Inequality among Mankind and Profession of Faith of a Savoyard Vicar, by Jean Jacques Rousseau
Of Man, Being the First Part of Leviathan, by Thomas Hobbes
Vol. 35. CHRONICLE AND ROMANCE, FROISSART, MALORY, HOLINSHEAD
Chronicles, by Jean Froissart
The Holy Grail, by Sir Thomas Malory
A Description of Elizabethan England, by William Harrison
Vol. 36. MACHIAVELLI, MORE, LUTHER
The Prince, by Niccolò Machiavelli
The Life of Sir Thomas More, by William Roper
Utopia, by Sir Thomas More
The Ninety-Five Theses, To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, and On the Freedom of a Christian, by Martin Luther
Vol. 37. LOCKE, BERKELEY, HUME
Some Thoughts Concerning Education, by John Locke
Three Dialogues Between Hylas and Philonous in Opposition to Sceptics and Atheists, by George Berkeley
An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, by David Hume
Vol. 38. HARVEY, JENNER, LISTER, PASTEUR
The Oath of Hippocrates
Journeys in Diverse Places, by Ambroise Paré
On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals, by William Harvey
The Three Original Publications on Vaccination Against Smallpox, by Edward Jenner
The Contagiousness of Puerperal Fever, by Oliver Wendell Holmes
On the Antiseptic Principle of the Practice of Surgery, by Joseph Lister
Scientific papers, by Louis Pasteur
Scientific papers, by Charles Lyell
Vol. 39. FAMOUS PREFACES
Vol. 40. ENGLISH POETRY 1: CHAUCER TO GRAY
Vol. 41. ENGLISH POETRY 2: COLLINS TO FITZGERALD
Vol. 42. ENGLISH POETRY 3: TENNYSON TO WHITMAN
Vol. 43. AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS
Vol. 44. SACRED WRITINGS 1
Confucian: The sayings of Confucius
Hebrew: Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes
Christian I: Luke and Acts
Vol. 45. SACRED WRITINGS 2
Christian II: Corinthians I and II and hymns
Buddhist: Writings
Hindu: The Bhagavad-Gita
Mohammedan: Chapters from the Koran
Vol. 46. ELIZABETHAN DRAMA 1
Edward the Second, by Christopher Marlowe
Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
Vol. 47. ELIZABETHAN DRAMA 2
The Shoemaker’s Holiday, by Thomas Dekker
The Alchemist, by Ben Jonson
Philaster, by Beaumont and Fletcher
The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster
A New Way to Pay Old Debts, by Philip Massinger
Vol. 48. THOUGHTS AND MINOR WORKS, PASCAL
Thoughts, letters, and minor works, by Blaise Pascal
Vol. 49. EPIC AND SAGA
Beowulf
The Song of Roland
The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel
The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs
Vol. 50. INTRODUCTION, READER’S GUIDE, INDEXES
Vol. 51. LECTURES
The last volume contains sixty lectures introducing and summarizing the covered fields: history, poetry, natural science, philosophy, biography, prose fiction, criticism and the essay, education, political science, drama, travelogues, and religion.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Group Recommendations

Recommended Titles for Book Groups
with links to our reviews
Young Girl Reading by Fragonard (NGA)



The Aviator's Wife by Melanie Benjamin - historical fiction about Ann Morrow Lindbergh's life with Charles Lindbergh
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie - life during the Cultural Revolution in China for two wealthy boys being 're-educated' in the country.
Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter
The Bastard of Istanbul by Elif Shafak (fiction)
Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet  - memoir of a savant with synesthesia and Aspergers syndrome (non-fiction/memoir)
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn - man accused of missing wife's murder, a psychological thriller (fiction)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer (fiction/epistolary novel)
The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (fiction)
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (non-fiction)
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd (fiction)
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (fiction)

The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman (fiction)
Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson (fiction)
Me Before You by JoJo Moyes (fiction)
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (fiction/fantasy)
Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo (fiction)
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson (non-fiction)
Someone by Alice McDermott (fiction)

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis (fiction)
Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (fiction)

The painting of a 'Young Girl Reading' by Jean-Honore Fragonard can be found at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC or on their website










Friday, August 29, 2014

Nike Missile Site in Berkeley Heights

One of our most popular blog posts and a recurring local history reference question concerns the Nike missile site in nearby Watchung Reservation. Ellen wrote about it here:

'Nike Missile Site

One of the library's perennial reference requests is information on the former Nike missile test site and air base in Watchung Reservation. "With its radar and command on the Berkeley Heights-Summit border and its launching pad in Mountainside, the station was one of 19 Nike AJAX missile bases that ringed New York City, standing ready to blast invading planes out of the sky", according to a Star-Ledger article from 5-28-2000. The Nike air base was in operation from 1958 to 1963 (according to this website).'

For the rest of the post, click here
or copy and paste this URL into your browser
http://bhplnjbookgroup.blogspot.com/2011/05/nike-missile-site.html

Friday, August 22, 2014

Revisiting the 'Merry Hall' trilogy by Beverley Nichols

This review of the first book in the Merry Hall Trilogy was first posted on this blog over four years ago on July 30, 2010.  Since then I have enjoyed the entire trilogy which the library now owns. The second title is 'Laughter on the Stairs' followed by 'Sunlight on the Lawn.'

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols

A few weeks ago, Nancy Pearl, a librarian famous for her ability to recommend the right book for the right person and also for being the model for the librarian action figure with real shushing action, tweeted that gardening/readers who like P.G. Wodehouse's books and E.F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia series might enjoy Beverley Nichols gardening trilogy starting with Merry Hall. In any case, I retweeted her tweet admitting that I fit that trifecta of reader interests. What this all leads to is that BHPL staff member, Mme. P.,  who follows our Twittering, offered to loan me Merry Hall, because the library does not own this 1951 memoir of British journalist Beverley Nichols.
Mr. Nichols' book tells the story of restoring the gardens of an old country house outside London just after World War II. His passion for gardens, bordering on obsession, crossing the border actually, is told with dry wit and some withering accounts of local ladies with whom he has gardening disputes. The book combines British wit with the memoir genre, gardening trivia, eccentric characters and rambling country house dreams.
A sample: "I wanted a house. And I wanted a Georgian house. And I wanted a garden of at least five acres. A garden which, for preference, should be wrecked and lost and despairing...I was in a rescuing mood..." (p. 20)
The author finds a house and it's the spectacular lilies that seal the deal. He must have those lilies. His friend tells him it's "lunacy" to buy the house, but his manservant Gaskin rises to the challenge of taking care of the mansion single-handedly. The gardener Oldfield conveys with the house along with his stubborn methods and gardening opinions and oddly inpenetrable accent, as is the stereotype for gardeners in English books. The neighbors are nosy and opinionated, especially Miss Emily and "Our Miss Rose" whose rivalry regarding decorating the church results in a comical confrontation during the Harvest Festival about whose flowers should adorn the altar.
These scenes of English village life recall Bertie Wooster's visits to his aunts' houses in the country, or Lord Blandings dithering about the pigsty whilst admiring the porcine Empress of Blandings.  I'm pretty sure the church decorating rivalry popped up in the Mapp and Lucia books, or if not, it's a familiar theme. So, Nancy Pearl was right: this is a good book for fans of those authors or for gardeners. Although nothing touches the Master, P.G. Wodehouse, in my pantheon of authors, for he truly loves his characters and never condescends. Nichols' humor is arch and a bit mean at times, so be forwarned. Since "snarky" is in style now, perhaps he is due for a revival.

Related links:
Read Mapp and Lucia online here http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks05/0501131h.html
The Wodehouse Society website for fellow Plum fans http://www.wodehouse.org/
A list of gardening memoirs from GoodReads http://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/gardening-memoirs

8/22/14 In memory of Mme. P.; many thanks for the book recommendations.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

A Very Unusual Visitor: Mother Mary Comes for One Week

This review was first posted on this blog on Friday, May 16, 2008

Our Lady of the Lost and Found

Last night my local book group discussed Our Lady of the Lost and Found: a novel of Mary, Faith and Friendship by Diane Schoemperlen. This was a book that I never would have read, maybe never even have heard of on my own. This shows that bookgroups can push you beyond your literary comfort zone, which, aside from the social aspects, is probably why they are so popular. Our Lady... took me into unfamiliar territory and really made me think, but it is a book that probably has narrow appeal.
The narrator is an author who wakes up one day to find a woman in a blue trenchcoat, sneakers, and a veil, carrying a large brown purse and pulling a small wheelie suitcase who introduces herself as Mary, you know, Mother of God, the BVM, Blessed of All Women etc etc, she explains rather slyly. She asks to stay for a week to rest up for the coming month of May. May is Mary's month and she is usually really busy then. The narrator of course says 'OK;' what else could she do? So this is the humorous premise. The book goes on to alternate the story of the developing friendship between the host and her very unusual 2000 year old house guest with chapters that Mary tells about some of the thousands of her miracles and apparitions over the centuries. Schoemperlen also weaves in rather difficult to understand musings about quantum physics, the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, theories of History and ideas about Faith versus Reason, the "thin places" between our real world and the spiritual world.
Anyway, the book was weird and thought provoking, sometimes frustratingly abstruse and I really would like to ask the author a few questions about how does quantum physics relate to Mary and religion etc? Some readers just don't like flashbacks, long digressions and historical narrations in books, so this would not be a good choice for them. But if you like a big dose of philosophy and rambling digressions, try this book, but don't expect it to be just a funny story of what if the Virgin Mary came to visit.
This is what Ms. Schoemperlen says about her book,
"The structure of Our Lady of the Lost and Found was determined by the material I wanted to include. At first I intended to write a simple novel about a woman who is visited by the Virgin Mary. But then I began to do the research and the more I learned about the historical apparitions of Mary, the more I realized that I had to find a way to include some of this material in the book. After many unsuccessful attempts, I settled on alternating chapters as it now stands: one chapter telling the story of this woman and Mary, the next giving some history of Mary and also delving into the other topics that arose, such as the Uncertainty Principle, the nature of recorded history, the thin places between fact and fiction, and so on. " from the author interview on the publishers website -
Publisher's website
Interview with the author
The Mary Page at the University of Dayton
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/nov/10/what-is-heisenbergs-uncertainty-principle

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Display: dystopia

Check out a book with dystopian themes this month. Popular with teens these days, stories of scary, dysfunctional worlds is not a new literary theme. We have selected new books like the 'Hunger Games' series and classics like 'Animal Farm.'