Tuesday, November 28, 2017

The Era Ends on Monday

With the library board's announcement that the library is closing at 9 p.m. on Monday, December 4, 2017, it's officially the end of an era.  The Free Public Library of Berkeley Heights has been located at 290 Plainfield Avenue ever since it first opened to the public on September 20, 1953. Parts of the library building go back even further, as it was originally built in 1925 as the first Mt. Carmel Hall. The township purchased it from the Mt. Carmel Society in 1952 for $10,000.

Getting back to 2017: library staff are preparing for a move to 110 Roosevelt Avenue, which was the rectory of the Church of the Little Flower, and before that, a convent.  The Library Board said in an announcement yesterday that "there is considerable work to be managed and completed in order to make the property at 110 Roosevelt Avenue suitable and safe for use as a public library building (construction, permits, approvals, moving library property, moving and reconstructing network and Wi-fi access, etc.)" 

However, 110 Roosevelt Avenue is just a waypoint on the library's itinerary. A new municipal complex is being planned for Park Avenue, with a new library located on the second floor, but it is still in planning stages.

Moving a collection that is in flux is not a simple thing.  Some things you need to know:

  • You may no longer place reserves (or "holds") or interlibrary loan requests.
  • The book drop will be available until Dec. 20. After that, you can return items to other local libraries.
  • If you return items by February 1, you won't be charged overdue fines, as long as the original due date was December. For items due before December, fines will not accumulate while the library is closed.
  • Please don't donate books to us. Please do come buy something from our book sale - $0.50 a book or $5 for a bag of books.
  • Electronic resources (databases, ebooks, etc.) will still be available. However, in late December when the network components are moved, ebook access may go down for a time.
  • Your Berkeley Heights Library card can be used at these local libraries. Please note, you will need to take your library card and driver's license with you. Please come in ASAP and pay any fines and renew your card if it's expired or expiring soon, if you plan to use other libraries. The expiration date can be found on a sticker on your library card.

The Free Public Library of Berkeley Heights' goal is to reopen as soon as possible.  Keep an eye on the Library's home page or Facebook page for a reopening announcement.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Eels, Lobsters and Turkey: “The American Plate” by Libby O’Connell

I’ve been taking “bites” from Libby O’Connell’s “The American Plate: the History of American Cuisine in 100 Bites” for a couple of years now. I first heard about the book over the radio when Leonard Lopate was interviewing Dr. O’Connell, chief historian at the History Channel.  When I tuned in, the author was telling Leonard Lopate how the Puritans enjoyed eating eels, and they used lobster, which they found bitter, as bait to catch the eels.

It’s hard to read “The American Plate” straight through, as it’s a combination encyclopedia-cookbook. But I have enjoyed reading an occasional chapter on my Kindle. Syllabub anyone?  The book goes from maize and squash up to sushi and super foods.

The chapters called “Turkey” and “the Rise of Thanksgiving” are so interesting. For example, although turkey is native to North America, its English name reflects the fact that Turkish traders were the first to bring turkeys to England. The Turks imported the turkeys from Spain, which got their birds from their American colonies.

I also had no idea that Thanksgiving used to be political. In the Northeast, where Thanksgiving was primarily celebrated at first, abolitionist speeches were made on Thanksgiving. So one Virginia governor (Henry Wise, 1856-1860) refused to let his state observe the holiday. Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, right after Union victories.

If you want to find out what was served at the first Thanksgiving feasts - not just in Plymouth but at earlier ones in St. Augustine and Virginia too - read “The American Plate”. Hint: it may not have been turkey. And no, not cranberry sauce either. (Although we don’t have this book at BHPL, we can borrow it for you from another library.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

BHPL's "Bestsellers"

Wondering what your neighbors are reading in Berkeley Heights? These "BHPL bestseller" lists are based on circulation statistics and current holds. 

Most Popular New Fiction at BHPL

Top Four Novels
1.   Don't Let Go by Harlan Coben
2.  Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
3.  Camino Island by John Grisham
4.  Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

Tied for Fifth Place
5.  The Breakdown by B.A. Paris
5. The Duchess by Danielle Steel
5. Secrets In Summer by Nancy Thayer
5. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
5. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

Tied for Tenth
10. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
10. Dangerous Minds : a Knight and Moon Novel by Janet Evanovich
10. The Store by James Patterson
10. The Rooster Bar by John Grisham
10. Origin by Dan Brown
10. The Midnight Line: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child
10. The People vs. Alex Cross by James Patterson

Most Popular New Nonfiction at BHPL

Top Nonfiction (books by and about Hillary Clinton and possibly what she's reading)
1. Shattered : Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen
2. Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
3.  Option B : Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg
3.  What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

The Next Three Nonfiction:
5.  Astrophysics For People In a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson
5.  Killing England by Bill O'Reilly
7.  The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down : How To Be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World by Hyemin

Tied for Eighth Place: Food and Wine Books
8. Cork Dork : a Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste by Bianca Bosker
8. Christopher Kimball's Milk Street : the New Home Cooking by Christopher Kimball
8. Dinner in an Instant: 75 Modern Recipes for Your Slow Cooker, Pressure Cooker and Instapot by Melissa Clark
8. Food: What the Heck Should I Eat? by Mark Hyman
8. The Mother-in-Law Cure : Learning to Live and Eat in an Italian Family by Katherine Wilson
8. Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman

More Nonfiction Books Tied for Eighth Place (Geez):
8. Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken
8. If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face? by Alan Alda
8. Confessions of a Wall Street Insider by Michael Kimelman
8. Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson
8. Sisters First:Stories from Our Wild and Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush
8. Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Cruising through France with Nina George's The Little Paris Bookshop

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is the subject of this week's evening book group discussion.  If you can't attend the book group meeting, try out the Book Apothecary, which was inspired by the Literary Apothecary and like him, prescribes books for every mood. Or travel by armchair to warmer French climes with beautiful slideshows of the book market of Cuisery, Bonnieux, and Sanary-sur-Mer.

The publisher's discussion questions are available at ReadingGroupGuides and here are some of my own:

1.  This book was originally published in German with the title "Das Lavendelzimmer" (The Lavender Room). Do you think The Little Paris Bookshop is a good title? Why/why not?

2. If this book were to be made into a movie, who would you choose to play Jean Perdu, Manon, or one of the other characters?

3. Which part of the book was your favorite or your least favorite and why?

4. Has a book ever healed you or changed your life in some way? If so, which book?

5. We read the English translation by Simon Pare. Did you ever feel like you were reading a translation at times?

6. Would you read Nina George's next novel, The Little French Bistro?

7. Does this novel compare favorably with other literary journeys/ travel fiction that you have read?

8.  I found myself wanting to underline certain phrases and lines. Did you make a note of any passages that you particularly liked? 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Voting for Books

I told my preschooler that it was Election Day so I was going to go vote today.  This was the response: "We're having a pretend election at school too. You stick your head in a box with a tablecloth on top. And you make a red x if you are a red pepper, and a green x if you are a green pepper."  There's another election coming up here at the library, not for how ripe you like your bell peppers, but for next years' book group selections.  And unlike most elections, the voters will have a lot of say about on what's on the ballot.

Here are some titles that seem discussable and interesting to me, and hopefully borrowable in quantity for our book group. I'm looking forward to seeing what other members of the book groups recommend. Book group members, let me know which titles you'd like to add to this list.

Miss Hazel and the Rosa Parks League by Jonathan Odell.  A Great Group Read of 2015 by Reading Group Choices. In 1950s Mississippi two mothers, one black, one white, who don't get along, find themselves thrown together by circumstance.

A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold.  Also a Great Group Read by Reading Group Choices and a book I heard discussed on What Should I Read Next?  Klebold is the mother of one of the Columbine shooters, and all profits from her memoir are going to mental health charities.

Isaac's Storm by Erik Larson. This is a nonfiction but reads-like-fiction account of the hurricane that hit Galveston in 1900. Alice who works at the library recommended it to me and it's of particular interest after this season's similarly record-setting hurricanes.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. This was an Amazon best book of the month and follows a future celebrity chef through the stages of her life. Voted an Indies Choice best debut novel by the American Booksellers Assocation. 

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. This novel is set in 1862 in a cemetery on the night after Abraham Lincoln's 11 year old son was buried, and it's peopled by ghosts. An Amazon best book of the month that got a lot of attention.

Moonglow by Michael Chabon. The fictional memoir of Chabon's grandfather, complete with a deathbed confession and a family secret, tells the story of an entire era. I'm hoping it will be as great as Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. A New York Times Notable selection.

Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong. A heart-warming account of a thirty-something year old daughter's year with her father, a history professor who has Alzheimer's. 

The Refugees is a collection of short stories about Vietnamese refugees written over the past twenty years by Viet Thanh Nguyen. It's a New York Times Notable pick, and Nguyen won a Pulitzer Prize for an earlier novel. 

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. Some years the book group reads a classic, so I thought of this 1932 comic novel which "parodies the romanticised, sometimes doom-laden accounts of rural life popular at the time" (Wikipedia). Recommended by my sister, who also suggested the forgotten classics Fanny Fern's Ruth Hall and Dorothy Whipple's Greenbanks to me. I'll never be able to get enough copies of those for the book group, so Cold Comfort Farm it is.

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart. This based-on-a-true-story novel is about one of America's first female deputy sheriffs, and it's set right here in New Jersey in 1914. NPR's Morning Edition has the story.