Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What to Read: Sure Bets

'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?

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Two Quirky Books

Are you looking for a funny, quirky book with interesting characters and unusual situations to read on these dreary grey days?  These two titles were quick to read last week when I had a bad cold and could not watch another moment of television. Add several gallons of tea and call it a cure for the too-long winter blues. As a bonus, readers might learn a little bit about this, that and the other odd thing from these books.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (2012) An out-of-work young graphic designer in San Francisco stumbles into a job as a clerk at a very unusual bookstore. Very few books are for sale and the back stacks have books written in code that are checked out to a small select group of patrons. Old knowledge meets the electronic age in the city of Googlers. If our hero can't figure out the code, the bookstore will disappear forever. I liked the inside look at the inner workings of Google and its denizens.

The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (2012) On his 100th birthday, a nursing home resident makes a break for it, finding adventure on his travels and reflecting back on his long and surprisingly well-travelled life. Like Forrest Gump, Allan Karlsson turns up at the right moment and place in 20th century history often enough to alter the course of history. The easy-going bumpkin as historic catalyst, Karlsson influences the Cold War and more.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Scottish Mystery Trilogy

Mystery fans who like Tartan Noir Scottish mysteries might enjoy A.D. Scott's three mysteries set in a small highland town in the 1950's.

A Small Death in the Great Glen (2010)
A Double Death on the Black Isle (2011)
Beneath the Abbey Wall (2012)

Not quite dark and brooding enough to be considered 'Tartan Noir' and definitely not as dark as Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus mysteries, these books will appeal to fans of Val McDermid or Kate Atkinson. I just finished the third in Scott's series.

Beneath the Abbey Wall finds the staff of the weekly 'Highland Gazette' shocked by the brutal murder of their business manager Mrs. Smart. The assistant editor is charged with the crime while the rest of the newspaper staff try to clear his name. Set in a fictional town in the Highlands of Scotland in 1957, the weather described several times as dreich (dreary, dark, damp etc) sets a somber tone for this mystery, but the appeal of the characters is the bright spot in this series. From the mysterious Jenny McPhee, matriarch of the travelers, or tinkers, to the crusty news editor to the local gentry and the young people enthralled by the new American import, rock 'n' roll, the books evoke a time and place not long after World War II that will appeal to the many Scotophiles (is there such a word?) in the United States.The Canadian visitor who helps out at the newspaper describes his and perhaps many colonial's attitude about Scotland,
"I believed all those tales about Highland hospitality, about everyone looking out for everyone, about the mountains and glens being so bonnie they broke your heart..." (241 - 242) What he finds out about his past is not so bonnie, his pilgrimage to his mother's homeland uncovers some secrets that are difficult to reconcile with the Scotland of his imagination. For all those Americans who can trace their roots to the Highland Clearances, so often mentioned in the book, if we go back, do we find what we are looking for?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Berkeley Heights Train Station

Berkeley Heights NJ Train Station ca 1920's

Painting of the Berkeley Heights Train Station

The Berkeley Heights, New Jersey, train station was built in 1888. The photograph at top was taken sometime in the 1920's according to the local history book, From the Passaiack to the Wach Unks (130). *
Last week, Sharon Perine came into the library and donated the framed watercolor of the Berkeley Heights train station seen above. The information on the back of the frame says:
'Watercolour (sic) by Jan Dee [or Gee?]
1971 "Berkeley Heights Train Station"

Ms. Perine said the painting hung in the home of her parents, Joseph and Michelina Pecca of Berkeley Heights for nearly 40 years. It's a lovely painting and we thank our donor for this addition to our local history collection. If anyone knows anything about the painting or the painter or has any comments at all, please click on 'comment' below this post and tell us about it. Or email the Reference Department

*Files of local history clippings and binders of photographs and newspaper clippings can be found in the Reference Department. Ask at the desk.