Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Borrow DVDs from Your Public Library

Borrowing DVDs at Your Public Library - our new ratings system

Can  you believe it? A new year is just hours away with all the hope and anticipation new beginnings promise. At Berkeley Heights Public Library, we are starting 2015 with a few changes that will make borrowing DVDs easier for our library users.  DVD boxes will now have visible rating stickers to help distinguish G, PG, PG-13 and R films.  We are making these changes to assist parents and caregivers in choosing appropriate viewing materials, but remember that these ratings are subjective and not intended to endorse, limit or restrict use.  Many animated PG films will be moved to the row of children’s DVDs - who knew so many animated films geared to family viewing have PG ratings?  In deciding which films to move, I have been reading reviews and ratings on several websites.  The following have been most helpful:  Kids-in-mind movie ratings; Common Sense Media; Dove; Parent Previews; and Is This Movie Suitable.  I check so many reviews because of the range of opinions and the variety of criteria used to rate movies.
The staff is also changing the loan period of TV series which have multiple discs.  These titles will circulate for 14 days, up from 7 days.  Now it will be easier to watch an entire season of Downton Abbey or Longmire without binge viewing.  Please be patient, this transition will be gradual until we capture every series/season. 
To all our library patrons:  Enjoy a Happy and Healthy New Year filled with interesting films - borrowed for free from your local library, of course!
The Berkeley Heights Public Library

- S. Bakos

Friday, December 19, 2014

Our blog's December holiday posts over the years:

The one in which Ellen listens to Dylan Thomas' 'A Child's Christmas in Wales' and tells us the Berkeley Heights connection with the author.

The one in which Anne tracks Santa Claus using the NORAD website. I am sure there is an app now, right?

The one listing a few of the library's MANY holiday craft books. 
It is probably too late to make crafts for gifts now, but you could start for next year or just enjoy looking at the pictures and then enjoy shopping online on Etsy letting someone else do the hard work of crafting.

Favorite Holiday Books gives you a small reading list for the season.

And feast your eyes on 'The Best Christmas Board' on Pinterest
and Hanukkah Card Ideas on Pinterest

Holiday Displays at BHPL

Book Displays in the Children's Room
Miss Laura's Poinsettias Look Real...
If it's December, it must be holiday book display month. The librarians found inspiration on Pinterest and Facebook to make a tree out of donated books (below). If you want to buy the book at the bottom of the pile, it will be like pick-up-sticks to get it without upsetting the apple cart. Or better yet, just wait until the New Year when we take down the display.
 Follow Our Pinterest board about library displays

Tree Made out of Donated Books

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:

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.
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,
—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,
And when you snap a Wishbone, that
—You'll win the larger half!

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'
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


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.

AUGUST 26, 2013

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.


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.

AUGUST 29, 2013

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.


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.
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.

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?

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):
The Apology, Phaedo, and Crito, by Plato
The Golden Sayings, by Epictetus
The Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius
Essays, Civil and Moral, and New Atlantis, by Francis Bacon
Areopagitica and Tractate of Education, by John Milton
Religio Medici, by Sir Thomas Browne
Complete poems written in English, by John Milton
Essays and English Traits, by Ralph Waldo Emerson
Poems and songs, by Robert Burns
The Confessions, by Saint Augustine
The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas á Kempis
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
On Friendship, On Old Age, and letters, by Cicero
Letters, by Pliny the Younger
The Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith
The Origin of Species, by Charles Darwin
Lives, by Plutarch
Aeneid, by Virgil
Don Quixote, part 1, by Cervantes
The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan
The Lives of Donne and Herbert, by Izaak Walton
Stories from the Thousand and One Nights
Fables, by Aesop
Children’s and Household Tales, by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm
Tales, by Hans Christian Andersen
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
Faust, part 1, Egmont, and Hermann and Dorothea, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe
The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri
I Promessi Sposi, by Alessandro Manzoni
The Odyssey, by Homer
Two Years Before the Mast, by Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
On Taste, On the Sublime and Beautiful, Reflections on the French Revolution, and A Letter to a Noble Lord, by Edmund Burke
Autobiography and On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill
Characteristics, Inaugural Address at Edinburgh, and Sir Walter Scott, by Thomas Carlyle
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
The Voyage of the Beagle, by Charles Darwin
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
The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
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
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
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
Chronicles, by Jean Froissart
The Holy Grail, by Sir Thomas Malory
A Description of Elizabethan England, by William Harrison
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
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
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
Confucian: The sayings of Confucius
Hebrew: Job, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes
Christian I: Luke and Acts
Christian II: Corinthians I and II and hymns
Buddhist: Writings
Hindu: The Bhagavad-Gita
Mohammedan: Chapters from the Koran
Edward the Second, by Christopher Marlowe
Hamlet, King Lear, Macbeth, and The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
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
Thoughts, letters, and minor works, by Blaise Pascal
The Song of Roland
The Destruction of Dá Derga’s Hostel
The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs
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 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
The Wodehouse Society website for fellow Plum fans
A list of gardening memoirs from GoodReads

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

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.'

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Day at the Reference Desk

Q: Does the library own a well-known university's alumni directory.
A: We do not own any alumni directories, but we can search the 'Reference USA' database for people in the U.S. and Canada and we can teach patrons how to access that database from their home computer or by using library computers. Go to our 'Databases and Articles' page, find 'Reference USA', type in your library barcode number when directed.

Q: Can we find an obituary in a local newspaper?
A:We will be glad to look through online databases of 'The Star Ledger' and 'The Independent Press' and other resources that we have at the library, or we can teach patrons how to access these databases so they can search them. See above for how to get to our 'Databases and Articles' webpage.

Q: Can you help me download an ebook to my device?
A:Yes, we can help you do that. The best way is to stop by with your tablet or smartphone, and be sure to have all your usernames and passwords handy. We will help you download ebooks or e-audiobooks to your iPad, Kindle, Nook or other portable electronic device. Go our our 'All Things E' webpage for a list of library ebook providers.

Q: Can you tell me the resale value of a certain car?
A:Yes, we have the so-called 'blue books' which are really orange and called the 'NADA Official Used Car Guide.'  Ask at the Reference Desk where we keep them or we can look up a car for you if you know the model and make and year.

Q:Where do wildfires occur the most, what is the cost of wildfires and who has lost the most from wildfires.
A:The National Interagency Fire Center has a page of statistics that we found helpful to answer these and other wildfire-related questions.

Q: How can I find which cookbook has the recipe I want?
A: We recommend the app 'Eat Your Books' which has indexed millions of recipes. You can even enter the ingredients you have and it will find recipes to match. You can enter the cookbooks you own and it will find the recipes in those cookbooks.

Q: If BHPL does not own the book I want, can you find it for me?
A: Yes, we can tell you which local library owns it by looking in their online catalog and/or we can request it on interlibrary loan.

Q: Do we have downloadable travel books?
A: Yes, we have some travel books available from and we also have a database called 'A- Z the USA' and 'A - Z World Travel' which has information for travelers.

Q: What are the latest audiobooks you have gotten at the library?
A: If you look on our Wowbrary list, you can find what audiobooks were acquired by the library in the last week and then click back week by week to see what was acquired in past weeks. You can also subscribe to to get a weekly email of new library materials.
Dave Coverly cartoon          

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards

The library book group read Kristopher Jansma's The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards this month. The storyline simplified might be described as poor boy meets rich boy and his best rich gal pal and they all become best friends in their college years in a not-quite love triangle, but the friendship eventually breaks up and they all go their separate ways in soul-searching global journeys, only to meet again later, older and wiser. Or are they? Can leopards change their spots?
But this book does not have a simple plot, in fact, this book is a book within a book within a novella as told by the unreliable - (and unnamed) narrator-to-beat-all-unreliable narrators. The book is filled with literary allusions and coincidences and rewrites of the basic story. The whole effect is very entertaining, but a bit hard to keep track of for those readers who prefer a linear narrative with no flashbacks or changes of perspective. If you like to play 'what's that literary allusion,' whether the author meant it or not, you will have a field day. I almost think some kind of parlor or drinking game could be made out of literary allusions in The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards. I'll get to that later.
The cast of characters: Julian/Jeffrey, the hard-drinking, neurotic, wealthy best friend of the narrator becomes a best-selling author despite his dissolute habits. Evelyn, the beautiful actress, best prep-school friend of Julian, becomes the narrator's love interest and obsession; she marries, but is not faithful. The unnamed narrator, of the changeable identities and dubious veracity, tries to be a serious and successful author, but keeps losing his manuscripts and struggling to turn out anything as good as Julian does.
Here are some links to reviewers who do a good job summarizing a complicated book:
Heller McAlpin of NPR writes, Can This Hypercomplex 'Leopard' Change its Spots?
which explains the plot and style succinctly (thank you, Heller), but I disagree that the 'meta' novel will mostly appeal to writers. I think it will have broader appeal than that.
Corinna Lothar writes a nicely detailed review in the Washington Times. which notes that while the plot is confusing, there is much to enjoy in this novel. Ms. Lothar seems to have taken good notes while reading or to have a great memory or to not be as distractible as this reader. I felt that I should turn right around and reread the novel upon completion. Our book group readers also found that flipping back and forth and rereading the 'Author's Note' (introduction) was helpful.
Each and every review unearths more literary allusions in the novel. I tweeted to the author one of my favorite Holden Caulfield quotes and he answered:
It's fun to be able to talk to an author and ask him questions by Twitter, or by any other means, and even better when they offer to answer questions, as Mr. Jansma did. So I  twitter-questioned him and he answered each tweet. One of the first literary allusions that came to my mind is that the start of the novel takes the form of a coming of age novel and the narrator seems to be a lot like Holden Caulfield in that he doesn't tell the truth and freely admits it. I had a lot of fun seeing bits of Nick Carraway from the Great Gatsby and also the Talented Mr. Ripley in the narrator.  I pictured bits of Sebastian from Brideshead Revisited in Julian. Evelyn had the careless morals of Daisy in the Great Gatsby. I got so involved in enjoying the literary guessing game, that I did get a bit lost in the plot, but the various reviewers assure me that's ok and more importantly, the author answered my befuddlement this way:

Recommended for book groups that enjoy quirky books that provoke discussions.
Read-alikes: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, The 100-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson, Life after Life by Kate Atkinson.