Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Most Popular e-books loaned in NJ Libraries in 2012

Hot off the presses from the NJ librarians email listserv: here is a list of the top 20 titles (across all formats) in 2012 with circulation data:

eLibraryNJ -    
Top 20 Titles of 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey
The Help
Explosive Eighteen
A Game of Thrones
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Fifty Shades Darker
The Confession
The Hunger Games
The Litigators
Gone Girl
Water for Elephants
Chasing Fire
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Dreams of Joy
I've Got Your Number
Fifty Shades Freed
The Paris Wife
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest
Catching Fire

To borrow e-books and e-audiobooks for your phone, e-reader (Kindle, Nook etc), tablet or computer, go to You will need your library barcode number to open a free account. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

What the Library Book Group Read 2012

The library's Tuesday night book group just finished discussing their last 'assignment' for 2012: Holy Cow, a memoir of Australian reporter Sarah Macdonald's two years in Delhi from about 1999 - 2001. At first the author is so overwhelmed by the crowds and noise and unfamiliar smells and food of her new home that she seems to collapse from a sensory overload. In fact, she contracts serious pneumonia for which she is hospitalized and traumatized by weight loss and subsequent hair loss. After this bad beginning though, the author begins to explore some of India's many religions and tries to learn Hindi. An atheist, she is skeptical about the spiritual benefits of going to a retreat for Vipassana meditation where she must maintain complete silence for ten days. After studying at various other ashrams, bathing in the Ganges, visiting the Buddhists at Dharamsala and the Christians in southern India at Velangani, she becomes more open to the idea that there can be "millions of paths to the divine." (319) Most readers enjoyed the book and felt that it gave a taste of the diversity of India.

What we read in 2012:

The Girl in the Garden by Kamala Nair
The Reservoir by John Milliken Thompson
Troubles by J.G. Farrell
Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
The Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood
The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James
Holy Cow, an Indian Adventure by Sarah Macdonald

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Littel-Lord Farmhouse Museum

Flyer for the Berkeley Heights Historical Society
Verso of the Berkeley Heights Historical Society flyer
The Littell-Lord Farmhouse Museum and Farmstead, Berkeley Heights, N.J., 31 Horseshoe Road, Berkeley Heights, NJ is listed in the New Jersey Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places. The old Berkeley Heights Historical Society brochure pictured above tells the story of the farmhouse, its acquisition in 1975 by the township of Berkeley Heights and restoration  by local volunteers which was completed by 1978. The Littell-Lord Museum opened to the public in 1980. In recent years, the farmhouse opens on the 'Four Centuries in a Weekend' Union County event. The brochure for the 2012 open house describes the Littel-Lord Farmhouse as
'A pastoral site that includes a 19th century Gothic cottage, stone springhouse, summer kitchen, Osage orange trees and a pond... The charming rural complex is a rare reminder of Union County's agricultural past. Built about 1760 by Andrew Littell, a farmer and weaver, the house was owned and lived in for more than 100 years by the Lord family, who purchased the site in 1867. The first floor features an Empire-Victorian parlor and a 19th century kitchen. A staircase leads to an enlarged second floor, once a small loft. Upstairs is a child's room containing antique toys and a Victorian bedroom with cottage furniture.'
The brochure goes on to state that the Farmhouse is open on the third Sunday of the month, April - December from 2 - 4 and is operated by the Historical Society of Berkeley Heights.

The phone number listed is (908) 219-4715 which is the number of Mr. Merrill Main of Berkeley Heights, President of the Historical Society of Berkeley Heights.

For more information, address mail to the Township Building

The Berkeley Heights Historical Society
c/o Town Hall
29 Park Avenue,
Berkeley Heights, NJ 07922

If you are interested in volunteering for the Historical Society of Berkeley Heights, call former Berkeley Heights mayor and co-president of the Historical Society, Dan Palladino, at (908) 771-8875

Wikipedia's Berkeley Heights article mentions the Littell-Lord Farmhouse Museum

Four Centuries in a Weekend 2012 brochure has a description of the Littel-Lord Farmhouse Museum and other historical properties in Union County, N.J.

Map to the museum

Union County, New Jersey Genealogy 

From the Passaiack to the Wach Unks, a history of the Township of 
Berkeley Heights, The Historical Society of Berkeley Heights, 1977, can be found at the Berkeley Heights Public Library in the N.J. Collection along with other local histories.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Popular Christian Fiction

Christian Fiction as a category is a relative newcomer in book review sources. It is an umbrella phrase which includes books that had previously been considered contemporary fiction, historical fiction, suspense, romance, westerns and science fiction.  “Gentle Reads” had been the previous description – no horrible violence, no descriptive sex, clearly defined good/bad characters, and mildly suspenseful.

Looking for a current definition, I went to the website of The Christy Awards  (  This award is named for Catherine Marshall, author of many books including Christy and A Man Called Peter.   You may remember Christy as a tv series in the mid-90s.  I remember A Man Called Peter, the biography of Peter Marshall, Chaplain of the United States Senate, as the first book that made me cry.  The Christy Awards website offers the following working definition:

Christian fiction is a category of stories written by novelists whose Christian worldview is woven into the fabric of the plot and character development. Although this definition might seem either simplistic on the one hand or overly broad on the other, this grouping of novels is as comprehensive and as varied in age, interest,and spiritual depth as its readership ….

A subject search of BHPL’s catalog returns almost 850 entries for Christian Fiction.  Of course, this also contains audio and e-book versions as separate entries.  Since this is still a new search term, the majority of books were written after 2000.

You might be interested in trying the following popular authors:

Suzanne Woods Fischer

Shelley Shepard Gray

Karen Kingsbury

Beverly Lewis

Cindy Woodsmall

Kristin Billerbeck 

Posted by S. Bakos 
Related websites for further reading:
Other blog posts tagged 'Christian Fiction' review titles in this genre. 

Friday, November 30, 2012

Holiday Postcards Exhibit at the Library

Holiday Postcard Exhibit

Bill McKelvey exhibits his postcard collection
William J. (Capt. Bill) McKelvey's collection of holiday transportation-themed postcards will be on display in the Berkeley Heights Public Library's main foyer upstairs for the month of December. Open for viewing during regular library hours. For more information on the exhibit, take a look at
the Liberty Historic Railway website

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Old Photographs of Berkeley Heights, NJ

The old photographs of Berkeley Heights, NJ, are from the library's 'Old Houses and Sites' file. Most photographs have very little, if any, identifying information. If you know anything about these pictures, please comment.
Berkeley Heights Train Station, undated
According to Images of America, Berkeley Heights (94) this photo of a steam-powered  Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad locomotive was taken in 1920.
Berkeley Heights Train Station, undated

Falls near Route 78, undated, falls now filled in

The Grandmother House, 23 Horseshoe Road

 The Grandmother House is part of the Littel-Lord Farmhouse Museum in Berkeley Heights. The architectural style is Carpenter Gothic and the house was built by the Lord family after they purchased the Littel farm in 1867.
Bungalow with Horse and Buggy, undated
Work cited: Images of America Berkeley Heights by Virginia B. Troeger. 1996

Monday, November 12, 2012

Death Comes to Pemberley

The library's Tuesday night book group will discuss P.D. James' Death Comes to Pemberley tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. Contemporary novelist and mystery writer P.D. James imagines a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice after Elizabeth Bennett marries Mr. Darcy and is living at his estate, Pemberley. Fans of Ms. James and Ms. Austen will enjoy the refined pace, elegant dialogue and subtle wit of this historical murder mystery.
Some of the discussion questions from the Random House website follow

1.  Compare... James’s first sentence, “It was generally agreed by the female residents of Meryton that Mr. and Mrs. Bennet of Longbourn had been fortunate in the disposal in marriage of four of their five daughters” (3), to the first sentence of Pride and Prejudice: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

4. Colonel Fitzwilliam, Darcy’s cousin, wants to marry Darcy’s sister, Georgiana. But Georgiana seems to be in love with the young lawyer, Henry Alveston, whom Elizabeth calls “a paradigm of a young man” (35). Why doesn’t Elizabeth trust the colonel? What details or events raise doubts about his character, which had been so dependable in Pride and Prejudice?
5. What do you think of James’s re-creation of Austen’s characters, particularly Elizabeth and Darcy? How are they changed, and how are they similar to the originals?
6. Darcy thinks often of the burden of responsibility to his estate and the family name. From boyhood he had sympathized with his great-grandfather, who gave up his title and went to live in the woodland cottage with his dog (63). How does Darcy’s great-grandfather’s rejection of his social position resonate in Death Comes to Pemberley? Do Darcy’s feelings about George Wickham suggest that he feels somewhat guilty about the privileges he has inherited (64, 199-200)?
7. The extensive woodland on Darcy’s estate, with its “torn and hanging twigs,” its “tangled bushes,” and its confusion, presents a strong contrast to the order and rationality of the household and the cultivated grounds (67). What might P. D. James be suggesting about Elizabeth and Darcy’s world by giving the woodland such a strong presence in the novel?
8. Elizabeth is embarrassed by the fact that she once found Wickham so attractive that “she had been...close to falling in love with him” (90). Does what we see of Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage indicate that Elizabeth has become a less teasing, witty, and playful person than she was in Pride and Prejudice? If so, why might this be?
9. When Alveston speaks up on behalf of Georgiana’s ability to be present during the investigation, he mentions Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, and most famously the author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, an eighteenth-century feminist treatise (125). What kinds of ideas does Alveston represent? Would his marriage to Georgiana be a more “modern” one than that of Darcy and Elizabeth?
10. How do the investigation and the prosecution shown in the novel differ from what we see in the modern police procedurals that P. D. James usually writes? Does Wickham receive a fair trial? Why or why not? Consider, too, the reference to the young man who was executed after being found poaching on the estate (42). Why does James include this detail in the story?
11. The scene in which Bidwell is polishing the silver for the ball introduces the reader to the servants’ private lives and their difficulties (41-45). What do you think of the way the secrets of the Bidwell family are eventually revealed? Does Wickham’s affair with Louisa come as a surprise? Does anyone among the servant families seem to be capable of the violent blows that killed Captain Denny?
12. How do you judge the character of Wickham, given the further development provided by P. D. James? Is he sympathetic? Is he careless and narcissistic? Do you agree with the Reverend Cornbinder that he is capable of remaking himself in America (257-58, 261-62)?
13. Wickham is about to be condemned to death when two surprising things happen: Mrs. Younge rushes from the courtroom and is crushed under the wheels of a coach, and a letter of confession arrives from William Bidwell (235, 238). What do you think of these sudden plot twists?
14. Darcy is deeply affected by the murder on his estate. Why does it shake his sense of identity and his earldom (109)? How does the story Wickham tells about his romance with Louisa, and the motivations surrounding it, make the troubled relationship between Darcy and Wickham more clear? Why is Lydia entirely absent from the story that Wickham tells (265-74)?

Related websites:
New York Times review of Death Comes to Pemberley
Washington Post review of Death Comes to Pemberley
Huffington Post review of Death Comes to Pemberley

Selections for 2013 Library Book Group

Here is the list of possible book selections for the Berkeley Heights Public Library Tuesday Book Group 2013. The annotations  have been copied and pasted from Amazon reviews.

Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks  (2012) (read by Friday book group) Bethia Mayfield is a restless and curious young woman growing up in Martha's vineyard in the 1660s amid a small band of pioneering English Puritans. At age twelve, she meets Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a secret bond that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's father is a Calvinist minister who seeks to convert the native Wampanoag, and Caleb becomes a prize in the contest between old ways and new, eventually becoming the first Native American graduate of Harvard College. Inspired by a true story 

Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery (2008) Renee is the concierge of a grand Parisian apartment building, home to members of the great and the good. Over the years she has maintained her carefully constructed persona as someone reliable but totally uncultivated, in keeping, she feels, with society's expectations of what a concierge should be. But beneath this facade lies the real Renee: passionate about culture and the arts, and more knowledgeable in many ways than her employers with their outwardly successful but emotionally void lives. Down in her lodge, apart from weekly visits by her one friend Manuela, Renee lives resigned to her lonely lot with only her cat for company. Meanwhile, several floors up, twelve-year-old Paloma Josse is determined to avoid the pampered and vacuous future laid out for her, and decides to end her life on her thirteenth birthday. But unknown to them both, the sudden death of one of their privileged neighbours will dramatically alter their lives forever. By turn moving and hilarious, this unusual novel became the top-selling book in France in 2007

How it all Began by Penelope Lively (2012) A chance encounter between a retired schoolteacher and a petty thief sets off an unexpected chain of events. A marriage is undone by a misdirected cell phone call revealing an affair, for instance, while an old-timey historian gets an idea for a snappy miniseries. The moral-life always has other plans for us-should be beautifully conveyed by Man Booker Award winner Lively. Especially nice for book groups.

Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom (2010) When a white servant girl violates the order of plantation society, she unleashes a tragedy that exposes the worst and best in the people she has come to call her family. Orphaned while onboard ship from Ireland, seven-year-old Lavinia arrives on the steps of a tobacco plantation where she is to live and work with the slaves of the kitchen house. Under the care of Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, Lavinia becomes deeply bonded to her adopted family, though she is set apart from them by her white skin. Eventually, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, where the master is absent and the mistress battles opium addiction. Lavinia finds herself perilously straddling two very different worlds. When she is forced to make a choice, loyalties are brought into question, dangerous truths are laid bare, and lives are put at risk.

Molokai by Alan Brennert (2004) (read by Friday book group) This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai'i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place---and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit. Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end---but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.
Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (2011) The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night. But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance. 
Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (2011) The Sense of an Ending has the psychological and emotional depth and sophistication of Henry James at his best, and is a stunning new chapter in Julian Barnes's oeuvre. This intense novel follows Tony Webster, a middle-aged man, as he contends with a past he never thought much about—until his closest childhood friends return with a vengeance: one of them from the grave, another maddeningly present. Tony thought he left this all behind as he built a life for himself, and his career has provided him with a secure retirement and an amicable relationship with his ex-wife and daughter, who now has a family of her own. But when he is presented with a mysterious legacy, he is forced to revise his estimation of his own nature and place in the world.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (2004) (read by Friday book group) Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

Some Kind of Different as Me A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together by Ron Hall (2008 non-fiction) A dangerous, homeless drifter who grew up picking cotton in virtual slavery. An upscale art dealer accustomed to the world of Armani and Chanel. A gutsy woman with a stubborn dream. A story so incredible no novelist would dare dream it. It begins outside a burning plantation hut in Louisiana . . . and an East Texas honky-tonk . . . and, without a doubt, in the heart of God. It unfolds in a Hollywood hacienda . . . an upscale New York gallery . . . a downtown dumpster . . . a Texas ranch. Gritty with pain and betrayal and brutality, this true story also shines with an unexpected, life-changing love.

The Bone Garden by Tess Gerritsen  (2008) Present day: Julia Hamill has made a horrifying discovery on the grounds of her new home in rural Massachusetts: a skull buried in the rocky soil–human, female, and, according to the trained eye of Boston medical examiner Maura Isles, scarred with the unmistakable marks of murder. But whoever this nameless woman was, and whatever befell her, is knowledge lost to another time. . . .
Boston, 1830: In order to pay for his education, Norris Marshall, a talented but penniless student at Boston Medical College, has joined the ranks of local “resurrectionists”–those who plunder graveyards and harvest the dead for sale on the black market. Yet even this ghoulish commerce pales beside the shocking murder of a nurse found mutilated on the university hospital grounds. And when a distinguished doctor meets the same grisly fate, Norris finds that trafficking in the illicit cadaver trade has made him a prime suspect.

The Light of Day by Graham Swift (2003) A single, dazzling day in the life of George Webb - ex-policeman turned private investigator - illuminates his checkered past, his now all-consuming relationship with a former client and the catastrophic events which involved them both two years ago. Ordinary lives are transformed through extraordinary storytelling as Swift combines a powerful love story and a narrative of intense suspense into a brilliant and tender novel about what drives people to extremes of emotion.

The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich (2002) Having survived the killing fields of World War I, Fidelis Waldvogel returns home to his quiet German village and marries the pregnant widow of his best friend who was killed in action." "With a suitcase full of sausages and a master butcher's precious set of knives, Fidelis sets out for America, getting as far as Argus, North Dakota, where he settles. Over the years he works hard, building a business, a home for his family - which now includes Eva and four sons - and a singing club consisting of the best voices in town. "What happens when the Old World meets the New - in the person of Delphine Watzka, a daughter of Argus whose origins are a mystery even to her - turns out to be one of the great adventures of Fidelis's life. Delphine meets Eva and is enchanted; she meets Fidelis, and the ground trembles. These momentous encounters will determine the course of Delphine's life, and the trajectory of this novel by Louise Erdrich."

The Orchard, a memoir by Theresa Weir (non-fiction) (2011) The story of a street-smart city girl who must adapt to a new life on an apple farm after she falls in love with Adrian Curtis, the golden boy of a prominent local family whose lives and orchards seem to be cursed. Married after only three months, young Theresa finds life with Adrian on the farm far more difficult and dangerous than she expected. Rejected by her husband's family as an outsider, she slowly learns for herself about the isolated world of farming, pesticides, environmental destruction, and death, even as she falls more deeply in love with her husband, a man she at first hardly knew and the land that has been in his family for generations. She becomes a reluctant player in their attempt to keep the codling moth from destroying the orchard, but she and Adrian eventually come to know that their efforts will not only fail but will ultimately take an irreparable toll.

The Woods by Harlan Coben (2012) Paul Copeland, a New Jersey county prosecutor, is still grieving the loss of his sister twenty years ago-the night she walked into the woods, never to be seen again. But now, a homicide victim is found with evidence linking him to the disappearance. The victim could be the boy who vanished along with Paul's sister. And, as hope rises that his sister could still be alive, dangerous secrets from his family's past threaten to tear apart everything Paul has been trying to hold together...