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WPL Staff Favorites in 2021

In 2021, the staff of the Waltham Public Library enjoyed a lot of books, movies, television, music, and podcasts! Here is what we enjoyed this past year.

Books | Movies | TV Shows | Podcasts | Music

Favorite Books

Dana

Kelly

Amber

Claire

Ashley

Louise

Cathy

Tessa

Emily

Molly

Janet

Seana

Deb

Victoria

Aaron

Greg

Laura

Lauren Jo

 

Favorite Movies

Luke

Kelly

Amber

Claire

Ashley

  • Unpregnant

Louise

Cathy

Tessa

  • Dune (2021)

Molly

Janet

Seana

Victoria

Aaron

Greg

Laura

Lauren Jo

Favorite TV Shows

Dana

Luke

Kelly

Amber

Ashley

  • The Girl in the Woods
  • Midnight Mass
  • We’re Here
  • Mare of Easttown

Louise

Cathy

Tessa

Emily

Molly

Janet

Seana

  • Only Murders in the Building

Victoria

Aaron

  • Ted Lasso

Greg

Laura

Lauren Jo

 

Favorite Podcasts

Dana

Luke

Kelly

Amber

Ashley

Louise

Cathy

Tessa

Emily

Molly

Janet

Seana

Victoria

Aaron

Greg

Laura

Lauren Jo

 

Favorite Music

Search for music through our subscriptions to Freegal or Hoopla. Search Music CDs through the Minuteman Library Network catalog or app. 

Dana

  • Wild Dreams by Westlife
  • Spectrum by Westlife

Luke

  • Dry Cleaning
  • Do Nothings
  • Spirit of the Beehive

Kelly

  • Dua Lipa
  • A least favorite! The new Adele song

Amber

  • Olivia Rodrigo

Ashley

  • Pony and Show Pony by Orville Peck
  • Look Long by The Indigo Girls

Tessa

  • Ashlynn by Ashe

Molly

  • Leave the Bones by Lakou Mizik

Janet

  • Unknown Mortal Orchestra

Aaron

  • My toddler singing

Laura

  • Hadestown (Original Broadway Cast Recording)

Hoopla Movies Filmed in Massachusetts

Did you know we have hundreds of movies available for you to stream on your phone, computer, or smart TV? Here is a small sample of movies — all filmed in Massachusetts! To get started, visit hoopladigital.com and follow the prompts. Please note that this service is available to Waltham residents.

Christmas on Ice
Filmed in Shrewsbury and Worcester

Christmas a la Mode
Filmed in Sutton and Worcester

A Snow White Christmas
Filmed in Ayer, Bolton, Groton, Shirley, and Sudbury

Long Lost Daughter
Filmed in Ayer, Devens, and Groton

Beach House
Filmed in Truro and Wellfleet

The Spruces and the Pines
Filmed in Ayer, Bolton, Stow, and Townsend

How to Train Your Husband
Filmed in Boston and Quincy

The House Sitter
Filmed in Easton and Sharon

The March Sisters at Christmas
Filmed in Grafton and Worcester

The Man Who Killed Hitler and then the Bigfoot
Filmed in Gill, Greenfield, Lenox, Montague, and Sunderland

A Quiet Passion
Filmed in Amherst and Hadley

Annabelle Hooper and the Ghosts of Nantucket
Filmed in Nantucket

Chimera Strain
Filmed in Fitchburg and Gardner

The Spirit of Christmas
Filmed in Barre, Westwood, Worcester, and Wrentham

posted by Janet

Staff Reads November/December 2021

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Watch “We’ll Tell You What We’re Reading” every month on our Youtube Channel!

Debora

  • Without You There is No Us by Suki Kim: Curious about life in North Korea? This book’s for you. Journalist Suki Kim went undercover as an English teacher in North Korea to report on what life is like for people living in the super isolated country. Her observations are compelling and often odd: people routinely cut the grass using scissors; universities countrywide close down so that students can be used as construction workers; students are not allowed to be alone with their English teachers – or at all. Kim is isolated and lonely – and always watched.
  • The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon by Marcy McCreary: I don’t usually read mysteries, but I read this one because we hosted the author (see the YouTube livestream here: Disappearance of Trudy Solomon). The book is a page turner, with a complex plot and cast of characters to hold your interest. Susan Ford is a detective in the same small town police department where her dad worked in the 1970s. When skeletal remains are found near an old Catskills hotel, Susan begins investigating, with the help of her father. Waltham makes a cameo appearance when Susan and her father travel around to track down old witnesses.
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir: I loved this! It’s even better than Weir’s first book, The Martian. The main character, Ryland Grace, is basically the same guy we met in The Martian, but his dilemma is far more terrifying. He wakes up all alone in a space capsule, with no memory of how he got there. As his memory slowly returns, he realizes it’s his job to save Earth from extinction. The story takes an unexpected turn that keeps you reading. There is both a sweetness to the story and a terrifying metaphor around climate change. For science nerds and adventure readers alike.
  • The Winemaker’s Wife by Kristin Harmel: I love historical fiction set in two time periods and this one did not disappoint. Set in WWII, in the vineyards of France, the story centers around Ines, her husband Michel, and Celine, wife of the vineyard’s chef de cave. Nazi resistance, love triangles, and poor choices along the way make for a very human and realistic story. The present day story features Liv and her French grandmother. This part of the novel is slightly less enjoyable as the author strings along the reader in ways that just aren’t plausible. That said, the final resolution of the story is hugely enjoyable and compelling.

Louise

  • Milk Fed by Melissa Broder: “It didn’t matter where I lived-Mid-City, Mid-Wilshire, or Miracle Mile.  It didn’t matter where I worked; one Hollywood bull#&it factory was equal to any other.  All that mattered was what I ate, when I ate, and how I ate it.”  This is the first paragraph of this captivating novel by Melissa Broder.  The main character, Rachel, is focused on her food intake above all else.  Things change for her when she meets Miriam, who works at her favorite frozen yogurt shop.
    Miriam actually gives Rachel toppings that are not low fat and Rachel dares to eat them.  This book is about appetites; for food, for love, and for life.  The writing is beautiful (dare I say delicious), and I found this novel to be uplifting, witty and worth reading.  I am literally hungry to read more novels by Melissa Broder.
  • Thin Girls by Diana Clarke : Lily and Rose are twins.  They are so bonded that they can literally taste each other’s feelings.  They grow up in a rather neglectful home and rely on each other for comfort.  Their paths diverge when Rose decides to restrict her eating in the same way as the popular girl at school, Jemima does.  Lily begins to binge eat when Rose starts dieting.  Rose ends up in a facility for anorexic young women.  When she senses that her sister Lily is in big trouble, dating a married man who spells trouble, she gets out of the facility and works to save her sister.
    This is a beautifully written novel and Diana Clarke is an author to pay attention too.  Trigger warning:  This book goes into detail about eating disorders, there is also an abusive relationship.  If that is okay, please read this book.
  • The Party Upstairs by Lee Conell : Did you enjoy the PBS series Upstairs, Downstairs?  Do you enjoy novels about the rich versus the not so rich?  Do you like a dose of wit with your novels?  If you answered yes to these questions, this book is a very good bet for you. This novel is told through the point of view of Martin, the superintendent of an Upper West-Side Coop and his daughter, Ruby.
    Ruby has amassed a great deal of debt from her college education and needs to move back home in order to make ends meet.  This means living in the basement apartment that her father and mother live in.  Her friend, Caroline, lives upstairs.  Those who live upstairs are awash in money; trust funds, family wealth, and the like.  The contrast is quite something and this book shows us in a loving and humorous way Ruby and Martin’s struggle to come to terms with the arc of their lives.
  • Where Madness Lies by Sylvia True : You can watch the Waltham Public Library’s interview with Sylvia True here  This book is a gem that explores three generations of mental illness from Nazi Germany to Belmont in the 1980s.  The novel is based on a true story and I could not put this book down.  If you like strong women who are able to get through very difficult situations in your fiction, this is the book for you.
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia  : One of my colleagues recommended this book to me and I am so glad that he did.  This is perfect October reading.  (However, this is also perfect reading for anytime).  Moreno-Garcia weaves a tale that is gothic bordering on horror but it is actually fun to read.  Our main character’s cousin has married someone with whom she is not doing well and Noemi is sent to check on the situation.  Yikes!  She meets the creepiest family ever but Noemi is incredibly strong and feisty and, well, read this book to find out the details.
  • The Book of Form And Emptiness by Ruth Ozeki: This book is over five hundred pages long and I was still very sorry when it ended.  Ozeki is a master at creating a “novel” form of novel.  The main characters in this book are:  Annabelle, who has lost her husband Kenji in a freak accident; Benny, her son, and the book.  Yes, the book is a character in this story and it is telling Benny’s story.  After Kenji dies, Annabelle becomes a hoarder and Benny starts hearing voices.  First, he hears his father’s voice but later, he hears voices everywhere he turns.  Even objects seem to be speaking to him.
    Benny finds that things quiet down when he goes to the public library where books speak in hushed tones, respecting the decorum that the library demands.  This book is about the importance of connection for healing.  It is about grief.  I highly recommend this creative and enthralling book.
  • The Way She Feels: My Life on the Borderline in Pictures and Pieces by Courtney Cook: This is one of the many graphic novels that really tell a true and heartfelt story in a model that works perfectly.  Courtney Cook was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and this graphic novel tells about her journey towards wellness.  This is a quick and moving read, with some difficult moments, but also some humor.  Trigger Warning:  there is mention of self harm in this book.
  • Self Care by Leigh Stein: This parodic novel is a hoot.  It is taking a look at instagram influencers and websites such as Goop.  Devin and Marin have started a site called Richual that is devoted to self care.  Devin is the picture perfect image of who everyone wants to be.  She is “perfectly” toned, she wears all the right clothing.  She is the image of “self care”.  On the other hand, she suffers from orthorexia, a condition in which one is obsessed with only eating what is perfect.  She is independently wealthy.
    Marin has some serious college loans, drinks a little too much, and has a penchant for junk food.  She is trying to love herself just as she is.
    This book looks at the influencer culture, the “Self Care Industrial Complex”, the complications of capitalism and its influence on self care where products are being sold.  I loved this book.
  • Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead: This book takes place over three days.  Winn Van Meter is heading to his family’s summer home on the pristine island of Waskek in New England.  His daughter, Daphne, is getting married.  She is also heavily pregnant.  Winn is attracted to her friend, Agatha and is trying to squelch this feeling.  His other daughter, Livia, has been jilted by a boy and she had to have an abortion after becoming pregnant during their relationship.
    Shipstead is magnificent at  creating the lives of old money families, their trials and tribulations, their mores, their gin drinking, even their names….Oatsie, Bitsie, Winn Van Meter, Maude, you get the picture.
    This novel is very entertaining.  Shipstead knows her people and the novel is a fun read…I really enjoyed the scenes where Winn is cooking the lobster dinner for his guests…lots of vivid detail.

Ashley

Cathy

  • Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera : This novel is about a young girl named Makina who is sent across the border from Mexico to the U.S. to find her brother and deliver a message. The prose is sparse and lyrical – it sort of felt like I was reading a fable. Makina reminded me of Mattie Ross from True Grit – well respected for her toughness but far too young to bear so much of the weight of the world on her shoulders. Yuri Herrera has a beautiful way with words and certain passages, particularly the ones about recent migrants navigating their use of Spanish and English languages, will stay with me for a long time.
  • Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell : A fictionalized portrayal of the death of Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, and how it affected his family and possibly led to the writing of the play Hamlet. It took a while to get into it (found the writing a little flowery) but at about the halfway point, I couldn’t put it down until the end. However, it hasn’t really stayed with me since finishing it two weeks ago.
  • All’s Well by Mona Awad: I was excited to read this after really enjoying Mona Awad’s delightfully strange previous novel, Bunny. In this novel, we follow Miranda, a former actress who fell off the stage while performing and was forced to leave her career due to debilitating chronic pain. She now teaches college theatre, where she is disrespected and ignored as she tries to direct a production of All’s Well That Ends Well with a less than enthusiastic group of students and staff. We also follow her attempts to get healthcare, during which her pain is never believed. It’s bleak and hard to read at times, but then one day she meets three men at a bar and things begin to change (and get really, really weird). This book is full of dark and twisted humor, which I thought was fun, but it’s definitely not the kind of novel I’d recommend to everyone!
  • The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante: I picked this up immediately after finding out that Olivia Colman will be starring in a movie adaptation later this year. In this short novel, we are inside a woman’s mind as she takes a solo vacation on the Italian coast, shortly after her adult daughters have moved away to Canada to live with their father and she finds herself alone for the first time in many years. She thinks a lot about her challenging relationship with her daughters and her mother, and becomes extremely fixated on a young mother and her toddler who are vacationing there too. Not much happens plot-wise, but there’s a bit of an ominous undertone throughout – I kept expecting something bad to happen. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t blown away like I was by Ferrante’s wonderful Neapolitan novels.
  • Smile: The Story of a Face by Sarah Ruhl: I admit that I’m biased when I say I loved this book, both because I’m a big fan of Sarah Ruhl’s work as a playwright, and because this is a memoir about her experience with Bell’s Palsy, which I also had almost a decade ago. I related so much to the feelings she describes. This is a beautiful exploration of what it means to be a woman unsmiling in a society that expects the opposite, the slow and nonlinear journey so often found in chronic illness, and how hard it can be to feel joy if you can’t physically express it. Sarah Ruhl’s trademark whimsical style is present here, and there are lots of references to theatre, philosophy, etc. sprinkled throughout, which made me appreciate it even more.

Laura

  • Brat by Andrew McCarthy: Is it terrible that I wanted this actor’s memoir to be more juicy?
  • So Many Beginnings by Bethany C. Morrow: This re-mix of Little Women in which the March family are formerly enslaved living in Freedmen’s Colony on Roanoke Island in the waning days of the United States Civil War. To quote Bethany Morrow from an NPR interview in September, “Basically, Little Women is considered historical fiction, but as a Black woman, I have been excluded from that narrative. It seems like the kind of property that no matter how many times it’s revisited, it’s the same. It’s for white girls.” I’m ashamed to say that I knew next to nothing about the Freedmen’s Colony, prior to reading this book, and only had been taught about “The Lost Colony” in regards to Roanoke Island. Through the four sisters’ eyes, we see that being free of enslavement did not mean that life suddenly became easy. The Union is not so altruistic nor is the North a panacea (as Jo and Amy learn when the move to Boston in order for Amy to pursue dancing).
  • Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright: This graphic novel is the story of Maureen and Francine, who, at the start of sixth grade, are finding themselves drifting apart. This book really gets deep into the feelings of isolation as we realize that we’re drifting apart from our best friends, with the tension being added since the best friend in this case is your identical twin. What I appreciate about this book is the characterization and the realistic way the story is told. Even though we hear Maureen’s voice, Francine does not come off as the villain and is a very sympathetic character.
  • While We Were Dating by Jasmine Guillory: Another great entry from my favorite romance writer!
  • The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray: This is a dramatized account of the life of Belle da Costa Greene, or Belle Marion Greener, the personal librarian of J.P. Morgan who was Black and who, along with other members of her family, passed for white. It was interesting to learn about Belle, though I would like to read an actual biography.
  • Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi: There is no one word to describe this intriguing novel, which was the 2018 debut of the prolific Emezi. I really liked it and find myself still thinking about it several weeks later.
  • A Parade of Elephants by Kevin Henkes: This is adorable! The illustrations are so colorful.
  • A Big Stink by Edward H. Kafka-Gelbrecht and Sophie Vincent Guy: This silly book about a “meet cute” between a couple who met several decades ago while denying, um, who dealt it, may not be appreciated by everyone’s sense of humor but I was highly amused.
  • The Girl with Stars in Her Eyes by Xio Axelrod: If you like novels about the inner workings of the music industry and strong female friendships, with a bit of romance thrown in, this is the book for you. Technically this is a romance, but it takes a back seat to some of the other relationships, including the burgeoning friendships between protagonist, Toni, and her new bandmates. I really enjoyed this.
  • The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang: This is the third book set in the shared universe started in The Kiss Quotient. While the book does employ several romance tropes, there is also a lot going on here. Anna’s slow realization and acceptance of the fact that she’s on the autism spectrum (something her family doesn’t quite accept) and Quan’s gentle understanding are written in such a beautiful and relatable way.
  • No Land to Light On by Yara Zgheib: Set to be published in January, this is the story of Hadi and Sama.  When Hadi is returning to Boston from visiting with his parents in Syria, he’s not allowed to leave Logan Airport, and instead finds himself on a plane bound for Jordan. His wife, Sama, meanwhile, who is pregnant, is at the airport and ends up going into premature labor, still not knowing what’s happened to her husband. The book goes back and forth between Sama and Hadi’s first person points of view in the “present” day (that is early 2017) and third person points of view as they both start their residence in the United States. This descriptive book and its strong sense of time and place is exceptionally heartbreaking.
  • The Babysitters Club Season 2: This show continues to do a great job of adapting the thirty five year old book series to the modern era.
  • SuccessionWhat happens when you put Dallas and Game of Thrones in a blender? JR Ewing has nothing on the despicable members of the Roy family and I am here for it!
  • Ghostbusters: Afterlife: Die-hard fans of the original Ghostbusters (of which I’m one) are once again divided by an entry in the Ghostbusters franchise. I’m of the camp that really didn’t have an issue with the 2016 reboot and even found it entertaining. I really didn’t enjoy this new entry. It was well acted and I think the direction was decent. (Jason Reitman is a good director in his own right. Thank You for Smoking is a great movie.) It was also heartwarming, a sweet coming of age film, drama with funny moments, and, well, boring. Do you know what movie isn’t heartwarming, sweet,  or a drama (or boring, for that matter.)? The original Ghostbusters. The original movie was fun and silly and a surprise when it came out. Even the 2016 reboot which, in my opinion, has been the best of the three follow ups, didn’t have the same surprise element. As fans of, well, anything, I think we need to accept the fact that it’s okay for franchises to end.

Janet

Welcoming Week 2021

Selected Book List

Against The Loveless World:  A Novel by Susan Abulhawa:   2020 Palestine Book Awards Winner 2021 Aspen Words Literary Prize Finalist

Susan Abulhawa tells the story of Nahr, a Palestinian young woman who grows up in Kuwait, is forced to leave for political reasons, and endures many trials in her quest for a good life.  The difficult geopolitical situation of the Palestinian is beautifully told in this compelling novel.  

Americanah by Chimanandah Ngozie Adichie:  The story of Ifemelu and Obinze, who are each other’s childhood sweethearts in Nigeria, and their lives after leaving for America and London respectively.  This book explores questions of authenticity, love, race and identity.  This is a coming of Age Novel by an Orange Prize Winning author.

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez: The first adult novel in almost fifteen years by the internationally bestselling author of “In the Time of the Butterflies” and “How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents”.  This novel explores issues of sisterhood, aging, immigrant identity and mental illness.  

Create Dangerously:  The Immigrant Artist At Work by Edwidge Danticat: Edwidge Danticat’s Create Dangerously is an eloquent and moving expression of Danticat’s belief that immigrant artists are obliged to bear witness when their countries of origin are suffering from violence, oppression, poverty, and tragedy.

The Kitchen Without Borders:  Recipes And Stories From Refugee And Immigrant Chefs by Eat Offbeat Chefs: Eat Offbeat is a catering company in New York founded by a brother and sister who came to New York from the Middle East.  The company is staffed by immigrants and refugees who came to this country to have a good life.  This book is filled with stories and recipes from the chefs who come from different countries around the world.   

In The Country We Love:  My Family Divided by Diane Guerrero: The star of Orange Is The New Black has written a beautiful story of the life of her immigrant family in America.

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi: An Afghan American woman returns home to Kabul, the place where her family was slaughtered, to come to terms with her past.  

At The End Of The Century:  The Stories Of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala by Ruth Prawer: JhabvalaNew York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice   

Man Booker Prize winning author Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, writes beautifully about English and Indian culture, immigration, life, the blending of cultures. Each short story is self contained like a novel.

The Stationery Shop by Marian Kamali:   Political upheaval in Tehran separates a couple who were planning to marry.  Sixty years later, Roya, who has started a new life for herself in California, will meet Bahman, and hopefully find some answers to what happened on that fateful day.

The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya LalliRaina: Anand’s grandmother wants to play matchmaker but Raina is not liking this one bit.  Can she stop this parade of awful blind dates without hurting her grandmother’s feelings?

The Beekeeper Of Aleppo by Christy Leftero: Winner of The Aspen Worlds Literary Prize. 

A beekeeper and his wife are forced to leave their peaceful life in Aleppo in wartime.

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli: Winner of the Andrew Carnegie Medal For Excellence.  Longlisted for the Booker Prize.

A troubled family on a cross country journey from New York to Arizona; Apacheria, which the Apaches once called home.  They come across migrant children coming from Mexico.  This book contains a melding of inner and outer landscapes.

The Bad Muslim Discount by Syed M. Masood: Anwar Faris is fifteen years old in Pakistan in 1995.  Due to the rise of Fundamentalism, his parents decide to move to California.  Anwa will later meet Safwa, who is leaving war torn Baghdad.  The novel focuses on the tension between being devout and not, coming to America, and the relationship between Anwa and Safwa.

Behold The Dreamers:  A Novel by Imbolo Mbue: This is a novel about a young Cameroonian couple making a life in New York just as the Great Recession hits.

This Land Is Our Land:  An Immigrant’s Manifesto by Suketo Mehta: Mehta explains to us why the west is not being destroyed by immigrants but by the fear of immigrants.  He explains why immigrants are on the move these days; civil strife and climate change are the main reasons.

The Ungrateful Refugee:  What Immigrants Never Tell You by Dina Nayeri: A book that mixes the author’s experience leaving Iran with her family and eventually coming to America with that of other immigrants to the United States.  

A Woman Is No Man:  A Novel by Etaf Rum:  This novel takes us through three generations of Palestinian women; two born in Palestine, one born in the United States.  The author explores the changing values of the generations, and the hopes and dreams of the strong women portrayed in this novel.

The Cooking Gene:  A Journey Through African American Cooking In The Old South  byMichael Twitty: This book is written by a culinary historian who discusses genealogy, slavery , recipes, the meaning of food and so much more.  The melding of race, culture, tradition, and DNA are all part of this journey through the old south of today and yesterday.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong: Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for fiction. This book is a letter from a son to his mother who can not read.  The book explores the history of a family rooted in Vietnam and the journey to America.  Questions of identity, history and immigration are explored in this award winning book.

A Door In The Earth by Amy Waldman: This novel explores complicated truths within the United States’ war in Afghanistan.

Migrants by Issa Watanabe: This beautifully illustrated wordless book is good for all ages. The migrants within its pages are represented by animals who must cross the sea. All who read this book will feel for the plight of the migrants as they make their way to safety.

The Dispossessed:  A Story Of Asylum And The U.S. Border And Beyond by John Washington: One man’s saga of seeking asylum, his separation from his daughter.  This book explores the whys of migration and the fact that this is really a stateless world as we are all suffering from the effects of climate change and global injustice.

Crying In H Mart:  A Memoir by Michelle Zauner: Please have a handkerchief ready in case you laugh so much that you cry or cry so much that you laugh when you read this memoir.  A beautiful story of the daughter of a Korean immigrant and an American, her struggle to find an identity, the importance of her mother and of food in her life.  The Korean recipes will make you hungry so be sure to have some snacks on hand.  Recommended for anyone who has ever had a mother and a father and anyone who feels that food is an important part of our life.

Staff Reads August/September 2021

Subscribe to Staff Reads and other book newsletters.

Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Watch “We’ll Tell You What We’re Reading” every month on our Youtube Channel!

Debora:

  • Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho: I’m on a bit of a mission to educate myself about systemic racism and my own white privilege. Acho’s book is super readable and I highly recommend it for anyone who wants to begin their own journey of confronting racism. He writes with clarity and compassion. Some examples of his points that really jumped out at me: we’re living in an America that necessitated the Black Lives Matter movement; racism is a pandemic; conversations are an important part of the cure; getting uncomfortable is the point; white privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard, but rather your skin color hasn’t contributed to the difficulties in your life. Acho also has a website Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man with short videos where he has conversations about racism with a variety of people, which I also recommend.
  • How to Be An Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi: Kendi takes on the system we live in with this book and invites each of us to do our part to tear it down. I really liked the way he weaves his personal history into the narrative and emphasizes that it isn’t enough to be not racist, but rather we all have to be actively anti-racist. More than once, my mind was blown by his analysis. For example, he explains that racism isn’t the result of ignorance or hate, but rather self-interest. Racist policies are put in place by white policymakers and then racism is used to justify those policies. Essentially, racism is a problem of power. It’s the kind of turning on its head concept that was so engaging throughout the book. That said, it’s not an easy to read book. It took time, concentration, and commitment to power through – and he also speaks to that when he says that being an anti-racist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination.
  • City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert: This novel was a wonderful example of how a skilled author transports readers through worldbuilding. Gilbert creates the character of Vivian, now 95 years old, as she tells her story of living in the 1940s New York City theater world with her Aunt Peg. Vivian’s voice is smart and often funny and completely unapologetic as she recounts her sexual adventures, late nights with her new showgirl friend, and the life-changing mistake that flattens her and sends her home to upstate New York. It did run long – almost 500 pages – but was worth it.
  • The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys: Wow. This was a truly amazing historic fiction read. Set in 1957 Madrid, during the dictatorship of General Franco, the main character is 18 year old Texan Daniel Matheson, who is visitng with his oil tycoon parents, just as Spain has reopened to American tourists. Daniel’s love – and skill – is photography and he learns quickly that he needs to be very careful about what he takes pictures of because the dreaded Guardia Civil soldiers are always watching. Daniel meets and falls in love with hotel employee Ana, who lives with her siblings in a one room shack on the outskirts of the city. The novel is interspersed with oral history reports and media excerpts documenting the horrors of living under Franco’s authoritarian rule. It’s a gripping story.

Kim

Deb

  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, narrated by the author: This memoir is very reminiscent of Educated and Hillbilly Elegy. This tells the story of a family with an alcoholic father and an eccentric artist mother, their children and their life on the move. The resilience of kids growing up in some seriously unstable conditions and circumstances is quite astounding.
  • Fly Away by Kristin Hannah: This is #2 in the Firefly Lane series. It’s the continuing story that picks up immediately after the ending of the first one. It leans toward chick-lit. It was fine. The first in the series was better, but it was enjoyable enough. If you like historical fiction, Kristin Hannah’s Nightingale or The Great Alone are fantastic!
  • Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas, narrated by Dion Graham: This is the prequel to teen fiction The Hate U Give, and describes the backstory before the characters in THUG are born. It follows Maverick Carter, a 17 year old guy flirting with gang life and responsibility.
  • Sea Wife by Amity Gaige, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Will Damron: This was a decent novel of a couple and their 2 kids who scrap land life in Connecticut for a year on a sailboat in the Caribbean. While less ominous, it does unfold mysteriously in a Gone Girl kinda way with dual narrators telling the story, each from their own perspective. It was a good story and it wraps up and then the actual ending is so random. It would have been cleaner if it ended 20 minutes sooner, in my opinion.
  • Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon, narrated by Elena Garnu: This is a novel of teen fiction that tells the story of a High-school aged Latina named Liliana who participates in the METCO program between Boston and “Westburg”. She tells of her trials and tribulations at a new school where she is a minority and talks about her parents’ struggles with immigration. Liliana is a likable and empathetic character and she gives great perspective throughout the story. Quite enjoyable.

Ashley

  • We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin: I love a gothic, atmospheric mystery, and I could not put this one down. I was completely surprised by the twist in the middle, even though I felt like I shouldn’t have been, and stayed up late reading to the end.
  • More Than Fluff by Valentine Madeline: This is the cutest little picture book about a duckling who is so fluffy everyone wants to hug, squeeze and pet it. We learn about consent in an adorable fashion.
  • Fierce Little Thing by Miranda Beverly Whittemore: Another gothic mystery, told in the present as well as flashbacks to our protagonist’s time with a cult in rural Maine as a child. She did something bad all those years ago, and it has come back to haunt her. What did she do? And why does someone care so much now?
  • What’s Done in Darkness by Laura McHugh: A young girl is kidnapped from her fundamentalist religious cult, and when she is let go, no one believes her. Now as an adult, other girls are missing, and an investigator asks for her help. THis was an excellent mystery with great characters.
  • The 2000s Made Me Gay: Essays on Pop Culture by Grace Perry: Unfortunately, I’m just enough older than the author that even though we’re both “Millenials” I was in college by the time she was in high school, so we don’t really have the same pop culture touchstones. Most of the shows she watched and referenced as being formative in her experiences growing up and coming out were popular with young teens when I was already an “adult’. I was looking forward to reading and reminiscing about pop culture from my youth, but I found myself not caring or engaging when most of the essays focused around shows I didn’t watch like Gossip Girl and The OC.
  • Unpregnant on HBO Max: I watched this on a flight from Seattle, and besides the fact the teenagers were played by actors in their mid twenties…. It was surprisingly good. It was cute with fun and quirky supporting characters and you could tell it was written by women.

Louise

  • The Very Best of the Best: 35 years Of The Year’s Best Science Fiction Edited by Gardner Dozois: Gardner Dozois won the Hugo Award for best professional editor fifteen times in seventeen years. This book really does contain the best of the best. Every story is a work of art and, although I have not quite finished the full collection, I have not encountered one story that I did not like, that I chose to skip over. This is a great book to read if you want some really beautifully executed short stories that will each leave you satisfied and glad that you had Gardner Dozois as your editor.
  • Blindsight by Peter Watts: This is a really rollicking ride with a very interesting space crew. There is a vampire in charge, a woman who has four distinct persons sharing her body, and a narrator whose brain has been altered so that he has some rather superhuman mental prowess but has lost some of his humanness as a result. Don’t get me started on the aliens. Yikes. I really enjoyed this novel and plan to read more by Peter Watts. I do not plan on going to outer space with a vampire at the helm, however.
  • Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge: This is such a beautiful novel. If you are looking for lyrical, well researched, historical fiction with a strong female main character, look no further. Kaitlyn Greenidge based Libertie and her mother on Susan Smith Mckinney Steward, the first black female doctor in New York State whose daughter married the son of an Episcopal bishop from Haiti. Libertie’s hometown is based on the real nineteenth century community of Weeksville, a town of free blacks in Brooklyn.
  • Migrants by Issa Watanabe: This is a wordless picture book that tells the story of migrants. They are portrayed as animals and the illustrations are gorgeous. This book is classified as a children’s book, but I think anybody will be the richer for experiencing its pages. The animals are sympathetic characters and they are risking their lives crossing the ocean just as migrants do every day. I think that this book is beautiful and healing and I recommend this to anybody who wants to be wowed by the power of illustration to tell a story.
  • Rx: A Graphic Memoir by Rachel Lindsay: This autobiographical memoir tells of Rachel Lindsay’s conundrum when she gets a corporate job to help pay her health insurance so that she can pay for her prescriptions. Rachel is diagnosed as bipolar and finds herself assigned to the Pristiq pharmaceutical account. This is a medication that she herself has taken. She feels very uncomfortable in this position. In her heart of hearts, she wants to be an illustrator. The discomfort builds and Rachel struggles to come to terms with her truth in this graphic novel. This is a quick read and a good one.
  • The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi: I came late to this classic graphic novel about Marjane’s life growing up in Iran. I can not say enough good things about this book. This is a novel of a lovely family and the difficulties that they face under the repressive regime in Iran. Marjane literally paints the picture for us and I basically could not put this book down. Wonderful drawings, compelling story and a lovable main character make for a fabulous read.
  • A Lot Like Christmas: An Expanded, Updated Edition of Connie Willis’ Miracle And Other Christmas Stories by Connie Willis: Anybody tired of all of the news lately? Need an escape? Some humor? Some magic? A few hilarious aliens? This is the book for you. I am not a huge fan of Christmas stories per se but this book is so much fun! Connie Willis is a science fiction writer but she is more like the science fiction of I Dream of Jeannie (remember that show?) because her stories are light, funny, and often, very romantic. This is like a bunch of little romcoms with a light sci-fi twist. Sheer delight!
  • Crying In H Mart by Michelle Zauner: Even the title of this memoir is beautiful. Michelle Zauner, lead singer of the band Japanese Breakfast, is an amazing writer. The book celebrates her mother, her Korean heritage, and the love that can sustain us in life. You will get hungry because Michelle describes food in great vivid detail and she also tells us about grief. Please note that this book does deal with illness and death and if this is not something that you want to read about, please see my Connie Willis recommendation above.

Laura

  • Beth and Amy by Virginia Kantra: I liked this modern retelling of Little Women about the two March sisters who, in my opinion, are given short shrift in terms of character development in the original novel. This was a pleasant surprise after I had mixed feelings about the first book, Meg and Jo.
  • Happy Endings by Thien Kim-Lam: This inclusive second chance romance is very sex positive and a lot of fun.
  • Edna Lewis: At the Table with an American Original edited by Sara Franklin: I became aware of Edna Lewis after reading Michael Twitty’s book, The Cooking Gene and I’m embarrassed that it took me that long. Lewis was born in Freetown, Virginia, which was founded by Black families freed from slavery and was instrumental in awareness of soul food as well as the food to table movement. This collection of essays really highlights a woman who should be as well known as Julia Child.
  • Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner: Beautiful and detailed memoir of Michelle and her complicated relationship with her mother, who is dying of cancer. This started out as a piece for The New Yorker which will give you an idea of the book as a whole.
  • Bridgerton Series by Julia Quinn: I finally finished the novels about the core family.
    • On the Way to the Wedding: The second youngest sibling, Gregory, finally gets his moment to shine as he romances Lucy. I was pleased that Katherine from my favorite book in the series, The Viscount Who Loved Me played a large role in this one. (And will be in the upcoming season of the show.) The second epilogue was a tad dark compared to the other epilogues, though it does have a happy ending.
    • The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After: This is mainly just a collection of the second epilogues that appear in later editions of the books so I was already familiar with most of them. However, it was great to finally hear/read the second epilogues of To Sir Phillip with Love and When He Was Wicked. Francesca, the heroine, of the latter, barely gets any time in the other novels so it was nice to have her front and center once again. Matriarch Violet Bridgerton also gets her own story in this collection.
  • Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley Ford: Compelling, sad, and hopeful, this memoir by a noted magazine is a quick but tough read. At the start of the book, Ford learns that her father who has been incarcerated most of her life, is getting released which serves a starting point for remembering her childhood and her relationships, most notably with her mother. I definitely recommend Ford’s interview on NPR for more context.
  • Black Widow: I mainly enjoyed this movie which gives a bit more backstory to Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff and am excited about the future of Florence Pugh’s Yelena. I just can’t help wishing that it came up before Avengers: Endgame
  • The Love Boat: This actually isn’t the first time that I’ve mentioned this show in this column, but I am binge watching it for the first time in 6-7 years. Believe me when I say that a lot of this hasn’t aged well though I was surprised that there were some (and I do mean some) story lines that were progressive for its time. The news being what it’s been, The Love Boat has been comfort food for my brain and I actually like the relationships between the core characters (at least in the first seven seasons.) Also this interview with the original cast on Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley’s Stars in the House, streamed only three months before Gavin Macleod passed away, is probably one of the sweetest reunion interviews I’ve ever seen. (And being the retro TV fan that I am, I watch a lot of those types of reunions.)

Welcoming Week at Waltham Public Library

Lee abajo en español

Waltham Public Library joins libraries across Massachusetts in celebrating Welcoming Week, part of nonprofit Welcoming America‘s nationwide call to “bring together neighbors of all backgrounds to build strong connections and affirm the importance of welcoming and inclusive places in achieving collective prosperity.” The annual celebration takes place this year from Friday, September 10 through Sunday, September 19.

Welcoming Week aligns with Waltham Public Library’s mission to “provide[s] the city’s multi-ethnic, economically diverse population with popular informational, recreational and educational library resources, and services” and to “make those resources accessible to all with friendliness and efficiency.”

In recognition of Welcoming Week, we will:

  • offer an outdoor program “Haitian Folk Dance for Everyone with Jean Appollon” on Wednesday, September 15 at 5:30PM
  • share a Welcoming Week booklist on our blog 
  • feature a display of titles that joyfully reflect our multicultural, multilingual Waltham community
  • provide citizenship and Know Your Rights materials in our Literacy Classroom
  • highlight our world languages collection and Library ELL programs
  • let patrons know about Library staff who speak or are learning languages other than English

Additionally, our Children’s Department will:

  • feature books of welcome and inclusion in our Picture Book section
  • promote our world languages collection, Launchpads, and Wonderbooks in other languages on social media
  • share Welcoming Week content on Instagram including a welcome song in multiple languages, “The More We Get Together” in Sign Language, and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” in Arabic and English
  • feature Welcoming Week themes in our virtual programs (PJ Storytime, Mother Goose on the Loose, and Baby Storytime)
  • offer a Welcoming Week challenge for Lego Club on September 15

Beyond programming, we rededicate ourselves this week to the ongoing responsibility of listening and learning from our whole community. American poet Langston Hughes once wrote about the power of readers and dreamers who help “make our world anew.” Whether you are new to the Library, or revisiting us with new perspective in this extraordinary time, Waltham Public Library invites you to share our work to make this a welcoming, safe, and vital space for everyone. Like Hughes, we “reach out our dreams to you.”

~Aaron Devine, Literacy Coordinator


La Semana de Bienvenida en la biblioteca pública de Waltham

La Biblioteca Pública de Waltham se une a las bibliotecas de Massachusetts para celebrar la Semana de Bienvenida, parte del llamado nacional de Welcoming America para <<reunir a vecinos de todos los orígenes para construir conexiones sólidas y afirmar la importancia de lugares acogedores e inclusivos para lograr la prosperidad colectiva>>. La celebración anual se lleva a cabo este año desde el viernes 10 de septiembre hasta el domingo 19 de septiembre.

La Semana de Bienvenida se alinea con la misión de la Biblioteca Pública de Waltham de <<proporcionar a la población multiétnica y económicamente diversa de la ciudad recursos y servicios bibliotecarios informativos, recreativos y educativos populares>> y <<hacer que esos recursos sean accesibles para todos con amabilidad y eficiencia.>>

En reconocimiento a la Semana de Bienvenida, planeamos:

  • ofrecer un programa al aire libre <<Danza folclórica haitiana para todos con Jean Appollon>> el miércoles 15 de septiembre a las 5:30 p.m.
  • compartir una lista de libros de la Semana de Bienvenida en nuestro blog
  • presentar una exhibición de títulos que reflejan alegremente Waltham multicultural y multilingüe
  • proporcionar materiales sobre ciudadanía y conocer sus derechos en nuestro Literacy Classroom
  • destacar nuestra colección de idiomas del mundo y los programas ELL de la biblioteca
  • informar a los usuarios sobre el personal de la biblioteca que habla o está aprendiendo otros idiomas además del inglés

Además, nuestro Departamento de Niños va a:

  • Presentar libros de bienvenida e inclusión en nuestra sección de Libros de imágenes.
  • Promocionar nuestra colección de idiomas del mundo, Launchpads y Wonderbooks en otros idiomas en las redes sociales.
  • compartir el contenido de la Semana de Bienvenida en Instagram, incluida una canción de bienvenida en varios idiomas, “Cuanto más nos juntamos” en lenguaje de señas y “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” en árabe e inglés.
  • incluir temas de la Semana de Bienvenida en nuestros programas virtuales (PJ Storytime, Mother Goose on the Loose y Baby Storytime)
  • ofrecer un desafío de la Semana de Bienvenida para Lego Club el 15 de septiembre

Más allá de la programación, esta semana nos dedicamos nuevamente a la responsabilidad continua de escuchar y aprender de toda nuestra comunidad. El poeta estadounidense Langston Hughes escribió una vez sobre el poder de los lectores y soñadores que ayudan a <<hacer nuestro mundo de nuevo>>. Ya sea que sea nuevo en la biblioteca o que vuelva a visitarnos con una nueva perspectiva en este momento extraordinario, la biblioteca pública de Waltham lo invita a compartir nuestro trabajo para hacer de este un espacio acogedor, seguro y vital para todos. Al igual que Hughes, <<les extendemos nuestros sueños>>.

~ Aaron Devine, Literacy Coordinator

Staff Reads July 2021

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Laura

  • People We Meet on Vacation by Emily Henry: I really enjoyed this follow up to Henry’s Beach Read. The characters in Henry’s books always seem like real people and it was fun to vicariously travel with the two main characters.
  • Our Team: The Epic Story of Four Men and the World Series that Changed Baseball by Luke Epplin: A simple summary of this book would just say it’s about the year 1948 and the last time Cleveland won the World Series. But, it’s so much more, including the story of Larry Doby, the first Black player to play in the American Leagues, who made his debut with Cleveland fewer than three months after Jackie Robinson made his debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. I highly recommend this interview with the author, conducted by the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.
  • Harriet the Spy, The Long Secretand Sport by Louise Fitzhugh: I re-read this series after reading the fascinating biography of Louise Fitzhugh. It was interesting using Fitzhugh’s life as a context for these books. Harriet the Spy held up really well, and so did The Long Secret (mainly). Sport didn’t really work for me. There was a potential for a great book in there, but it was no Harriet!
  • The Secret Bridesmaid by Katy Birchall: When I was in my mid-late 20s and noticed my closet filling up with bridesmaid dresses, I joked about starting a professional bridesmaid business. I even made gag business cards for a fake business, “Always a Bridesmaid” that I handed out at weddings. (The tag line: “Got no friends? Hate your siblings? Next time hire the attendants!”) A friend of mine remembered those days and sent me this book as a gift in which the main character does just that. The book is fun, if a little light, and I appreciate that the main relationship between is the friendship that blossoms between the main character and one of her “clients” and the romance with a minor character is secondary.
  • Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez: Compelling book that tells stories about two men in England a few decades apart: Norman, who emigrates from Jamaica, hoping to find a better life and Jesse, who has recently left the Jehovah’s Witnesses and coming to terms as an ex-Witness who is gay.
  • Color Me In by Natasha Diaz: I loved this coming of age story about Nevaeh Levitz, who has a white Jewish father and a Black mother who doesn’t feel as if she quite belongs in either world, especially after her parents separate. The supporting characters are also supporting in the literal sense as Nevaeh deals with her new reality.
  •  Loki: The characters and acting on this show are fun and intriguing but, so far, this hasn’t hooked me in quite the same way that Wandavision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier did.
  • Kim’s ConvenienceI love this sitcom about a family owning a convenience store in Toronto. I was very disappointed to discover that it’s been canceled.

Deb

  • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell: I really enjoyed this evolution of a young woman who grows up in a swamp and learns so much from the nature all around her.  This is tied in alongside the death of a prominent community member. It feels like part memoir and part murder mystery all rolled in to one novel.
  • Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir: This is my 2nd 5-star (Goodreads) review of 2021. This is the latest book by Andy Weir, author of The Martian, which was also made into a movie by the same title starring Matt Damon. (As movies made from books go, I think The Martian was really well done! A movie version of Project Hail Mary is also already in the works.) Project Hail Mary slowly unfolds to reveal a scientist on a desperate space mission to save the Earth. This has a LOT of similarities to The Martian in terms of the space setting, the constant crisis mode and problem-solving for the scientist and definitely the humor. I laughed out loud quite regularly at the trials and tribulations as well as some of the perspectives offered. There’s also an interesting linguistic study going on when the scientist finds himself needing to communicate with an unexpected cohort. As I did with The Martian, I found myself suggesting this title to anyone who appreciates space or science or technology & humor. I could not wait to pick it back up and find out what would happen next!
  • The Book of Lost Names by Kristin Harmel, audiobook narrated by Madeleine Maby: Inspired by a true story, I enjoyed this historical fiction that tells the story of a French Jewish woman forced to flee Paris in the early days of WWII and how she finds herself a resistance forger and the resulting journey she takes all because of a book.
  • Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah: After really enjoying The Nightingale and The Great Alone, this was the next Kristin Hannah book I picked up. I liked it. I would call it chick-lit; Some of my friends called it depressing. There are sad parts but I wouldn’t characterize it as depressing. It’s a story of two friends and all that happens to them together over the course of 30 years of school and boyfriends and careers, etc… I enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s not amazing, but it’s good enough that I’m reading the next book in the series: Fly Away.
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: I have a different opinion of this book than almost everyone I know: Eh. It was ok. Almost everything about this book seemed to be shallow in a Jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none sorta way. So many topics to cover: race/colorism, domestic violence, LGTBQ… it was all glossed over and one-note. I never really felt invested in what’s going to happen next. I always find myself annoyed with stories based on lies & secrets – just come clean! – but I guess if everyone was honest, there’d be no drama, so no book.
  • The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne: A biology professor gets himself stuck in the middle of a murder mystery… or did he? It’s a decent and creepy story that mystery fans with a nature or science interest will enjoy.
  • Saint X by Alexis Schaitkin, audiobook narrated by a whole cast of characters: This debut novel strikes me as a take on the 2005 disappearance of Natalee Holloway from her vacation in Aruba. The multiple narrators were interesting, but for the most part didn’t actually add anything to the story. I usually really like multi-narrators, but this just didn’t serve much of a purpose. The story is mostly told from the perspective of the murder victim’s younger sister. The scenery was cool. The ending is so-so. Overall, it was just fine, nothing great.

Debora

  • The Rose Code by Kate Quinn: I couldn’t put this book down. Literally. I brought it with me to appointments, read in between work and chores, and stayed up late to finish it. True to my WWII obsession, this was set in England at the super secret Bletchley Park, where a beehive of brains worked to crack the German military codes. The story follows three women – Osla, Mab, and Beth – and toggles between 1940 and 1947. And for fans of all things royal, the future Prince Philip makes the scene. Highly recommend.
  • Where Madness Lies by Sylvia True: We hosted author Sylvia True on Wednesday, July 14 at 7PM on YouTube: Where Madness Lies, so I wanted to read her book. Although it’s a novel, the author uses her own family’s experience to tell a compelling story. Set in two timelines, the story focuses on two family members who are experiencing mental illness; Rigmor in 1934 Germany and her great niece, Sabine, in 1984 Belmont, MA. The Nazi party has come into power as Rigmor, a Jew, seeks treatment for her symptoms in a high-end psychiatric clinic. The treatments are purported to be effective and humane, yet the novel uncovers a dark Nazi eugenics scheme. In 1984, Sabine checks herself into McLean for treatment of severe depression, only to learn that she will be separated from her infant during her stay. The link between both women is Rigmor’s sister, Inga, who is Sabine’s grandmother. Although I found the dialogue sometimes unrealistic and stilted, the story was compelling and thought provoking.
  • The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner: This debut novel has received a lot of buzz and for good reason – it’s fantastic. Another two-timeline book (clearly, they are a thing), the author successfully creates two worlds, that of late 1700s London and present day London. The story follows three women – Caroline, Nella, and Eliza. Caroline is a former history major who never followed her dream to pursue an advanced degree in Cambridge, England, but instead married her college sweetheart and settled for a different path. She travels to London in the wake of discovering her husband’s infidelity. Nella is a 1790s apothecary who dispenses poisons to women who want to kill a man who has wronged them; she meets 12 year old Eliza when Eliza is sent by her mistress to retrieve the poison needed to kill her master. The plot is riveting and has elements of tension in both timelines. Highly readable and engrossing.

Ashley

  • Being a Ballerina: The Power and Perfection of a Dancing Life by Gavin Larsen: This is a short, easy read, and I finished it in one day. If you’re looking for backstage drama, i’d choose Dancing on My Grave by Gelsey Kirkland. However, if you curious about what it’s like to be a dancer minus the drug fueled drama, i’d pick up this achingly beautiful read.
  • Turning Pointe: How a Generation of Dancers is Saving Ballet From Itself by Chloe Angyal: I feel like the author bit off a bigger piece than she was able to write about. While some aspects were thoroughly researched, some important topics were only glanced at. The author did a comprehensive job of explaining how the way men are treated in the ballet world has led to such rampant misogyny. (there aren’t a lot of them, so they’re treated very special from a young age). The author also spent a little time exploring what ballet is like for non white people, but didn’t go too far into that. However where the author failed, was addressing gender identity and sexuaity in ballet. Ballet is very heteronormative. Every story ballet is about a heterosexual relationship, every ballet features male/female partnering. Female dancers are afraid to come out as queer/bi/or lesbian, becuase they have no role models to follow and are afraid it will impact their careers and casting in ballets.We are finally starting to see ballet represent more than just straight people, and American Ballet Theater and Queer Women Dancers are at the forefront of this movement. Recently ABT has premiered three works featuring smae sex couples. This is a big deal, and hopefully just the beginning. I was disappointed that this was not mentioned in this book.
  • Long Lost by Jaqueline West: This was a sweet middle grade read about a girl who is forced to move to a small town in Massachusetts, where she discovers a book in her public library that seems to be telling a story that happened right in her new town. Is it real? What really happened?
  • Madam by Phoebe Wynne: While a pretty slow read, it was super atmospheric.
  • Home Before Dark season two on Apple TV: I feel like i’ve been waiting forever for season 2, and I’m so excited it’s back! A young girl reporter, solving mysteries on an island in Washington state.

Louise

  • Vita Nostra by Marina and Sergei Dyachenko: This science fiction novel is in the Ukranian genre known as fantasia.  Fantasia encompasses science fiction, fantasy, horror and folkloric traditions.  There is a school of magic but no, this is nothing like Harry Potter, nor is it quite like Lev Grossman’s The Magicians.  However, fans of both of these titles may enjoy this.  Also, I daresay, Donna Tartt readers may enjoy this as well.
    There is magic in this book but it is rather dark and extremely mysterious.  Our main character, Sasha Samokhina,  gets drawn into going to a school called The Institute of Special Technologies.  She has literally no choice here.  To turn this down means that harm will come to her family.  (A little bit of Sopranos here, except with dark magic and a lot of intellectual concepts).  Setting plays a role in this novel in a most intriguing way as well.
    At the start of the novel, Sasha is very excited to be going to the seashore in Crimea with her mother.  They stay in a hotel and have to share their lodgings with another couple.  They have a kitchen and a bath.  They can do their own cooking.  Every day, they go down to the seashore.  Sasha sometimes walks to the market to get some groceries for dinner.  Then she notices a man in dark glasses following her.  She is immediately alarmed.  Her mother does not seem to see any danger here.
    It turns out that this stranger is Farit Kozhenikov and he wants Sasha to get up at 4AM and go swimming in the nude from the shore to the buoy in the sea.  If she does not do this, something awful might happen, he tells her.  Sasha unhappily complies.  When she comes out of the water, she vomits up gold coins.  (Here are some of the folklore components).  When she oversleeps one day, there are consequences, but Farit tells her that they are not as bad as they will be if this happens again.
    This book had me magnetically drawn from start to finish.  Things get ‘curiouser and curiouser’ in this novel and I hope that you love it as much as I did.
  • The Affinities by Robert Charles Wilson :This is a very interesting novel about a young man who takes a test to see if he can fit into one of The Affinities.  Meier Klein is the creator of the affinities.  There are twenty two and they are all named after letters of the Phoenician alphabet.  One goes through psychosocial testing, brain mapping, blood testing, and genetic testing.  However, some people will not fit into any affinities.  Down the road, this will be a problem as those left out feel, well, left out.
    Our main character, Adam Fisk, successfully places in the Tau.  He loves his new affinity family who help him with everything; companionship, housing, career, sense of family.  He is very content.  Until he isn’t.  This is a great look at a utopian scheme that goes awry, the hunger for belonging, modern loneliness, and the search for meaning.
  • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makai: This beautifully written novel has great, well developed characters, beautiful writing and a very moving and timeless story.  Makai is focusing on the Aids crisis in the eighties in Chicago and also switches to the year 2015 to show how some of the survivors of this incredibly painful and tragic time are coping.  Set in Chicago and in France, this is a book to read if you love beautiful, award worthy, compelling and sophisticated fiction.
  • Philip K Dick A Comics Biography by Mauro Marchesi(illustrator) and Laurent Queyessi: This is an easy read and a fascinating introduction to the life of Philip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? (The film  Blade Runner was based on this novel), the short story Minority Report (The film Minority Report was based on this short story), and numerous other works.  Philip K. Dick was a preemie who had a twin sister who died at birth.  This was not an auspicious beginning.  His parents got divorced and he was raised by his mother who did not seem like a very sympathetic character in this graphic novel.
    Philip had five different marriages, a drug problem, some paranoia, and an incredible gift for writing.  He graduated from the same high school as fellow writer Ursula Leguin and they were friends.  Unfortunately, Philip would take methamphetamines to help himself produce more work.  I suppose he succeeded there as he was very prolific.  I don’t think that this helped his mental health or his relationships, unfortunately.  There were times when he felt he was leading parallel lives in different universes.  He questioned the nature of reality.  Who is to say what is real and what is not after all?

    I picked up this book after reading Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? which is dystopian, irreverent, and rather hilarious and brilliant all at the same time.  This is a great introduction to a brilliant but troubled author.  The illustrations work well and I think that the team who put this graphic novel together did a great job.

Staff Reads May 2021

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Looking for personalized reading suggestions?  Fill out this form and a staff member will select 3 titles just for you!

Watch “We’ll Tell You What We’re Reading” every month on our Youtube Channel!

Dana

  • In an Instant by Suzanne Redfearn: This book grabbed me early on and didn’t let go until it was over. The teenage narrator, Finn, is killed in a car crash almost right off the bat. She spends the rest of the book as an omnipresent but helpless observer as she follows her friends and family in the aftermath of the crash. Finn’s unique vantage point allows us to learn the depth of the other characters, even as her own character continues to develop in the afterlife.
  • Covid Chronicles: A Comics Anthology by Kendra Boileau: For many (myself included, I realized), it’s probably too early to be reflecting on life during Covid – you know, since it’s still going on – but this comics collection gives a fascinating look at how people’s lives changed, and how their varied experiences are expressed through their art.
  • We Ride Upon Sticks by Quan Barry: This was my book club’s pick for May. I liked that it is set locally (Danvers), that the main characters are a pretty diverse group, and that the story combines a high school field hockey team with the mischievous allure of witchcraft, but overall I didn’t love it. I feel like it had potential that it didn’t quite reach.
  • Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson: Lawson’s latest essay-collection-memoir focuses on her journey with depression and anxiety. Some essays were serious, like the one about her battles with her health insurance company that made me feel ragey, and others were so funny that my stomach hurt from laughing. I love Lawson’s sense of humor and writing style.
  • Kim’s Convenience (Netflix): My husband and I just started watching this series and we’re hooked. It’s hard to find a funny, entertaining show where the characters are actually likeable – especially one that has half-hour episodes – and this one goes above and beyond.
  • The Sunlandic Twins Of Montreal: I was feeling nostalgic for the weird music of my college days – enter Of Montreal. I was excited to see that Hoopla has most, if not all, of their discography!

Debora

  • The Trials of Nina McCall: Sex, Surveillance, and the Decades-Long Government Plan to Imprison “Promiscuous” Women by Scott W. Stern: I started this because we’re hosting the author on June 2 (“Promiscuous” Women); I kept reading it because the topic is frankly mind-boggling. For decades, thousands of women in America were routinely rounded up and detained for months, because they had or were suspected of having an STI. Men? Not so much. Stern tells the story of one woman, Nina McCall, as well as lays out the untold history of the program known as – wait for it – the American Plan. I kid you not. The roots of controlling women’s behaviour run deep in this country and learning about the American Plan sheds new light on government overreach.
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys: This is a story about the greatest maritime disaster in history. No, not the Titanic or the Lusitania, but the Wilhelm Gustloff. Set at the end of WWII, four intertwined characters tell their own stories as they escape German-occupied land in advance of the Russians. Over 9,000 people, including many children, died when the ship they escaped on was torpedoed by a Russian submarine. The writing is exquisite to read, with minor characters like the endearing shoe poet and darkly humorous Sorry Eva helping to fill out the story. Oh, and there’s a satisfying love story to boot. Highly recommend.
  • The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah: This historic fic tells the story of Elsa, a farmer’s wife devastated by the double whammy of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that has deadened the land. In order to save her young son, Elsa chooses to set out for California and enters a different kind of hell. The remarkable thing about this novel is that it captures the despair of the times. The agonizing part of this novel is that it captures the despair of the times. I loved Hannah’s exquisite writing, but ultimately found the plot too damn depressing.

Liz

  • The Last Days by Adam Nevill: When documentary filmmaker Kyle Freeman is paid an exorbitant sum to make a last minute documentary about 1970s cult known as “The Temple of the Last Days” he thinks his money problems are over. As he and his film partner, Dan, start interviewing survivors of the cult’s infamously cruel and violent leader, Sister Katharine, strange and terrifying occurrences begin piling up. This is a truly scary read that anyone who is a fan of true crime, cults or the supernatural will enjoy.

Laura

  • Malice by Heather Walter: This is a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty” with a little bit of “Cinderella” and others thrown in, for good measure. Alyce, the Dark Grace or Briar who can only perform curses, unlike her fellow “Graces” falls in love with Princess Aurora and the feeling is mutual. This descriptive novel is refreshing and original, despite the fact it was based on some well known fairy tales. The world building is especially impressive. The only issue is that the book ends rather abruptly with an obvious set up for a sequel. At the risk of giving away spoilers, I will add that if you were one of those people who were caught off guard by the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, this may not be the book for you.
  • Ichiro by Ryan Inzana: I really enjoyed this genre bending graphic novel which is a mix of fantasy, family fiction, coming of age story, history, and Shinto mythology. As with any good graphic novel, the illustrations enhance the story.
  • Chlorine Sky by Mahogony L. Browne: Coming of age novel, told in verse, about the complexities of high school friendship, set against a descriptive California backdrop. I recommend for those who like novels in verse, such as A Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, and novels by Elizabeth Acevedo.
  • Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri: This latest book by Jhumpa Lahiri, first written in Italian and then translated into English by the author, is a cross between a short story collection and a novel. The vignettes from a nameless narrator’s life range from melancholy to hopeful and are beautifully written.
  • The Degenerates by J. Albert Mann: Everyone who has Waltham connections should read this teen novel taking place at what was later to be called the Fernald School. London, Alice, Maxine, and Rose are living at what was then called “The Massachusetts School for the Feeble Minded”. As if the name itself isn’t horrific, the conditions and how the girls are treated is heartbreaking and upsetting. I drive by the Fernald property and I’m grateful to have books like this to give me a sense of the history. For more information about the Fernald School, contact the Massachusetts State Archives or check out The State Boys Rebellion by Michael D’Antonio.
  • Things We Lost to the Water by Eric Nguyen (audiobook read by Quyen Ngo): In 1978, Huong moves to New Orleans, LA from Vietnam with her sons, Binh (later “Ben”) and Tuan. She continues to write letters to her husband with no response as the years pass and readers are given glimpses into the lives of the three family members. This book is a thoughtful and moving family story. There is also a bit of foreshadowing concerning recent New Orleans history.
  • Why We Cook by Lindsay Gardner: Part cookbook, part essay collection, part vignettes, women from all walks of life who are part of all aspects of the food industry contribute to this collection about food, cooking, and advocacy. I’ve added so many travel destinations, cookbooks, and food blogs to my list as a result of this book!
  • Dial “A” for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto (audiobook read by Risa Mei): This dark comedy about a blind date gone wrong and a very meddling (but loving) Chinese/Indonesian-American family had me in stitches. You really need to suspend disbelief to get through this one, so this may not be for everyone, but I enjoyed it. Get it on audio if you can.
  • Star Wars: The Bad Batch on Disney Plus: What is happening to me? Am I actually starting to enjoy the prequel era of Star Wars? This is the second cartoon from that era I really liked. This animated sequel, of sorts, to the Clone Wars cartoon is an interesting look at the early days of the Galactic Empire, told through the eyes of Clone Force 99, aka “The Bad Batch”. Most of the Bad Batch members were resistant to the infamous Order 66 (ordered execution of The Jedi) and they are on the run as they navigate life post-Clone Wars. Remember the premise of The A-Team? Well, take that and add to the galaxy far far away and you should get a good idea of this show. I really liked what this animated universe has done not only with this era but with its continued characterization and questioned ethics of the clones.

Luke

Kelly

Kim

  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig: It’s an incredible book, and therapeutic for those who ruminate on the different lives you could have lived.
  • Trauma is Really Strange by Steve Haines: I “enjoyed” this quick little read about trauma and PTSD (a difficult topic). It’s a good primer for anyone who knows someone with PTSD, and a small hug to those who feel alone in coping after a trauma.
  • Mare of Easttown (HBO): A gritty and good drama/crime show. I enjoy most of the characters- they’re well shaped as full people with good traits and flaws. The story is engaging with some red herrings, but doesn’t go too far with anything that isn’t going to lead somewhere. As a note: I really would not recommend watching this if you recently lost someone to suicide as it is a strong theme in this show and there is a particularly graphic depiction of finding the suicide victim in a middle episode.
  • Shrill season 3 (Hulu): I loved the last season of the show. It’s so good, but it was so sad to say goodbye to these characters.
  • The Woman in the Window (Netflix): I mostly enjoyed this film. I didn’t see the killer coming, and I felt a lot of tension overall. Amy Adams is always great, especially when she’s an unreliable narrator as seen in this film. It felt somewhat campy at times, and perhaps over-acted by a few smaller characters here and there…but it also really harkened back to the style of Hitchcock in Vertigo or North by Northwest…though there are obvious comparisons to be made to Rear Window.

Louise

  • Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings: This graphic novel adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s Kindred is true to the original. The illustrations are beautifully done and one can understand why it won the Will Eisner Award in 2018 for best adaptation from another medium. This book is a must read if you want to see the literal kinship that exists between white slaveholders and the slaves whom they mistreated and abused for so many years. Both versions of this story are worthwhile and invaluable reading.
  • Parable of the Talents by Octavia Butler: This is the second volume after Parable of the Sower and it does not disappoint. Octavia Butler’s prescience and keen powers of observation are on display in this novel. Her imagination and world building are superb.
  • For Better and For Worse: Selected Shorts: A Celebration Of The Short Story: This fabulous audiobook is a collection of short stories that have the common thread of marriage. The stories are read by actors and are all compelling and beautifully written. This is a sheer delight. Sherman Alexie and other fabulous authors are featured. I highly recommend this if you enjoy well written fiction about couples. This collection is read in front of a live audience and was presented on National Public Radio.
  • Sister Outsider: Essays And Speeches by Audre Lorde: I have been curious about Audre Lorde’s work for a long time and this is an excellent introduction to her writing. She was a Black lesbian feminist poet who was clearly ahead of her time.
  • The Seep by Chana Porter: This is such a delightful piece of fiction! You will learn about the seep, a gift? From aliens who are helping people to be more peaceful and interdependent. The question is, are they paying too high a price? Nobody seems to be reading anymore and there is no room for the existential angst that has been a part of the human condition for so long. Read this book and see what you think.
  • Vessel by Lisa A Nichols: This is a very entertaining novel about a space journey that goes to a hitherto unvisited planet. Only one astronaut comes out of the trip alive. Everyone thought that the mission failed but the astronaut makes contact with NASA and gets home. The only problem is that she can not remember what happened. Read this book and find out everything. Great if you like some romance in your science fiction and strong women characters.
  • Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia E. Butler: More amazing, powerful short stories by one of the masters of the science fiction genre.
  • The Lights Go Out In Lychford by Paul Cornell: This book is delightful. We have good guys, bad guys, witches, magic and romance. The novel is well constructed and the characters are lovable. A fast and fun read that is part of a series. The magic is fun and feels believable in the context of the novel. Think of Agatha Raisin if she had magical powers and you will have some sense of this book; small town, vicar, quirky characters.
  • Unwelcome Bodies by Jennifer Pelland: Do you like Roald Dahl? The Twilight Zone? Jennifer Pelland is a master of the macabre and my only complaint is that I want to read more of her novels but I don’t see any in our catalog. This book is dark, weirdly funny at times, and reveals an author who has an amazing imagination.
  • Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick: This is a classic work of science fiction and I have been in love since the first sentence. This is set in a world where earth is kind of on its last legs. Many people have moved to other planets. And there are androids and electric sheep. It is funny, creative and keeps you reading from start to finish.
  • Plague Of Doves by Louise Erdrich: I have been intending to read Louise Erdrich for a long time and am so glad that I read this book. This novel was actually a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Louise Erdrich writes beautifully about the Ojibwe of North Dakota, a terrible incident from the past that haunts all of the narrators of this novel. She brilliantly shows the interconnections of the characters and, like in Butler’s novel, Kindred, the many threads good and bad that connect the Native Americans to all of the characters in this novel. There is humor, strong character development and poetic, gorgeous writing.

Janet

  • 100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism by Chavisa Woods: Chavisa Woods’s book is made up of 100 short, personal stories of sexism, harassment, discrimination, and assault. It is a devastating read, mainly because I either know people who have experienced similar indignities or have experienced some of them myself. Painful but necessary reading for all.
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson: This work of historical fiction is based on the real, blue-skinned people of Kentucky and the Depression-era fleet of librarians who brought books to remote locations by horse- and mule-back. While the book was definitely well-researched and full of interesting bits of history, I found the trajectory to be fairly predictable.
  • The Moth Presents: All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown edited by Catherine Burns: I have listened to and loved the Moth Radio Hour programs for years but had never “read” the stories before. I downloaded the collection onto my phone and really enjoyed reading these inspirational stories during my spare time. A nice alternative to scrolling through social media feeds!
  • Waging Change: This documentary exposes the many challenges faced by restaurant workers, not the least of which that the federal minimum wage for tipped workers is only $2.13. Have you ever eaten in a restaurant? Ordered take-out? Gotten a haircut? Had a salon manicure? If so, then you’ve probably patronized a business that employs tipped workers and this documentary is for you.
  • Floodlines (Podcast): I could not stop listening to this podcast about Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath and finished all 4.5 hours of it in two days. Incredible journalism, especially the interviews with Michael “Heckuva Job Brownie” Brown.

Staff Reads April 2021

 

 

 

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Laura

  • Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant: An aspiring romance writer, Tessa, suffers from writer’s block when she enrolls in a writing program at a specialty high school. Her best friend convinces her to live out a real life romantic comedy in order to get her inspiration back. This character driven teen novel turns romance tropes on its head and is a great love letter to the genre while also being critical. I really enjoyed this.
  • Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer DeLeon: This locally set novel is about Liliana who lives in Boston, but must attend high school in the fictional suburb of Westburg as part of the METCO program. This book tackles a lot of issues, including suddenly being one of the few people of color in school, undocummented immigration, realizing your parents don’t know everything, and general coming of age. Liliana is a great character and seems like a real teenager (something not always pulled off by adult writers of teen fiction). If you have a chance, please check out Jennifer DeLeon’s conversation with the WPL Real Talk Teen Leaders on our Youtube Channel!
  • Sometimes You Have to Lie: The Life and Times of Louise Fitzhugh, Renegade Author of Harriet the Spy by Leslie Brody: Interesting biography of the author of Harriet the Spy. I loved Harriet the Spy (and had a very brief stint of carrying a notebook around recess in fourth grade) but never thought much about the woman behind Harriet. This brings a lot more context to that book and the others set in the same universe. 
  • There Once Was a Show from Nantucket: A Complete Guide to the TV Sitcom Wings by Bob LesczakWings is a better show than Cheers (set in the same universe). Yeah, I’m from Boston and yeah, I just said that something is better than Cheers. I dare you to watch this scene and not laugh. I had a lot of fun revisiting the show with this oversized book.
  • Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn: Continuing my journey with the original eight books:
    • When He Was Wicked: This was a re-read for me but I really appreciated it this time around. It focuses on Bridgerton sibling, Francesca, who was all but forgotten in the show (thus far) and barely registers in previous novels. She’s a great character. This is also the steamiest book of the series.
    • It’s In His KissHyacinth, the youngest sibling stars in the second to last novel, who strikes up a friendship and later romance with Gareth St. Clair when she translates the diary of his deceased Italian grandmother. Lady Danbury, who is Gareth’s other grandmother, has a large role in this and she’s always fun. I will warn you that, because of the title, “The Shoop Shoop Song” was in my head on a loop. Luckily, I’m a fan but it did get to be a bit much. 
  • The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz: If you put Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event, Peyton Place, and Winesburg, Ohio in a blender and throw in a dash of Olive Kitteridge, you’ll get The Daughters of Erietown. 
  • The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty: Twitty is a food historian who runs the food blog, Afroculininaria that talks about the history of African-American food including some of its roots in slavery. As he became more interested in what we think of as traditional Southern food, Twitty started what he called the “Southern Discomfort Tour” which included, among other things, preparing food in the authentic way that an enslaved person would have prepared it as part of plantation tours. He also embarks on genealogical research, including doing a DNA analysis on Ancestry and 23 and me. The research is often difficult as a lot of resources are very Western European Centric, really exposing issues with genealogy, in general. Twitty, who is Jewish, discusses his journey with Judaism as well, including comparing the history of the importance of food to either culture as well as how he’s been perceived by some of his students (and families) in the Hebrew and Religious school classes he’s taught at various synagogues. I recommend this book for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the food they’re eating, a deeper look into Slavery and Racism in the United States, as well as the importance of identity. Michael W. Twitty is also a good social media follow. You can follow him @koshersoul
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier: I really enjoyed this Marvel show! It does right by its two main characters, Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, who were not as well developed in the films. It does have its bumps (the handling of Sharon Carter) but they’re minor. I look forward to seeing more of this story, hopefully on the big screen.
  • SuperstoreI adored this show which, sadly, came to an end last month. A comedic (and sometimes heartbreaking) look at life in retail. I recommend checking this out, if you haven’t done so, yet.
  • All AmericanI’ve been watching the show since it debuted about Spencer James, who lives in South Crenshaw (Los Angeles) and chooses to play football at a high school in Beverly Hills, under the direction of a South Crenshaw graduate, and old friend of his parents. This was a great character study of a teenager caught between two worlds and the surrounding cast does a great job as well. I’m still enjoying it but it seems to have delved into being more of a soap opera than it was, originally. (So many love triangles!) I do have to accept the fact, however, that I’m probably slightly older than the target audience, however! 
  • Say I DoDo you know what I dislike more than plain reality shows? Reality shows about weddings. Please keep them away from me! And yet, I can’t help but adore this very sweet show about couples planning their weddings with the help of professional experts, Jeremiah Brent, Thai Nguyen, and Gabriele Bertaccini. The couples all seem to have very healthy and loving relationships and the hosts are there to help with the wedding but not try to fix their lives. As these types of shows go, this one is pretty refreshing. 

Debora

  • The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue: Loved this novel about three women in Ireland, set during the 1918 pandemic. Like the author’s book, Room, the story takes place mostly in one room of a hospital – the tiny flu ward for maternity patients. Nurse Julia works hard to make her patients comfortable in an era when there was little to offer but hot lemonade. Dr. Kathleen Lynn is the covering physician whose back story both intrigues and shocks Julia and volunteer Bridie Sweeney opens Julia’s eyes to the dark underbelly of institutionalized care for children. While limited to the regimented hospital ward, Julia’s eyes and heart are opened in multiple ways that show readers the resilience of women living in very dark times. 
  • The Lost Family: How DNA Testing is Upending Who We Are by Libby Copeland: This was a fascinating read. The author uses the story of one so-called DNA seeker to shine a light on the exploding consumer DNA industry. Companies like Ancestry and 23andMe encourage individuals to share their spit to discover their ancestry and, in the case of 23andMe, their genetic disease markers. Copeland follows the winding story of Alice Collins, a proud Irish American, who ultimately learns that her heritage is anything but Irish. Watch our April program, DNA Secrets, with this author on our Youtube Channel!
  • The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline: I simply could not put this book down. Baker Kline tells the story of two women sentenced to transport to Australia for their crimes and one real life Aboriginal girl. Evangeline is a governess, impregnated by her employer’s son who is convicted of stealing a ring that he gave her; Hazel, also sentenced for theft, meets Evangeline on the ship to Australia; and Mathinna is an Aboriginal girl taken in – and later discarded – by the Governor of Van Dieman’s Land (present day Tasmania). Through their stories we learn the horrific history of both the women sent to the Australian penal colony and the Aboriginal people exiled from their own land. Beautifully written. 

Liz

  • The Lost Village by Camilla Sten: This horror novel about a documentary crew that sets out to unravel the mystery of an abandoned Swedish village is an absolute page turner. Great for fans of Limetown, Silent Hill or urban exploration.
  • Walking the Cape and Islands by David Weintraub: This book of 72 different walks/hikes of Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard is great for folks who want to get out and explore the beauty of the Cape beyond its beaches. With hikes for beginners all the way to experts, this book is full of absolute gems. My personal recommendation is the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp trail in Wellfleet and the Beech Forest trail in Provincetown.
     

Lisa

  • I have recently been reading the entire Bridgerton collection, including the prequel series. I have really enjoyed them and can’t wait to see the television show. I have had multiple laugh out loud moments reading these books. The series features strong relationships between family members, romance and appealing supporting characters.
     

Dana

  • Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline: I was eagerly awaiting this book, the sequel to Ready Player One. Almost immediately after starting though, I was disappointed. Maybe the first book was too tough an act to follow, maybe there was too much pressure for the sequel, but it felt forced to me. I felt like I was getting constantly hit over the head with name drops and throwbacks to the 1980s, like Cline was trying to see how much nostalgia he could cram into one story just for the sake of it. However, I stuck with it and by the end I was quite enjoying it, so I’m not really sure how to put into words how I feel about this book. Confused and lukewarm, I suppose?
  • This is Not the Jess Show by Anna Carey: This is a YA thriller that came out last summer, and it totally hooked me. Jess Flynn is a pretty typical teenager in the 90s… but then weird things start happening. Half of her hometown suddenly gets struck down by the flu, she starts hearing strange faraway chanting, her pet dog suddenly looks just a bit different, and a mysterious device with an Apple logo falls out of her friend’s backpack. Both family and friends are quick to dismiss her concerns. Is she losing her mind, or is she being gaslit as something bigger is going on? I thought the plot was a little predictable, and bits of it felt like the Divergent series, but it was still an incredibly entertaining read and I really liked it. 
  • The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins: I’d heard good things about this modern take on Jane Eyre, and I wasn’t disappointed. Jane works as a dog walker in a posh neighborhood. A chance encounter with Eddie, a handsome neighborhood widower, leads to a whirlwind romance, but both Jane and Eddie have secrets that threaten to ruin everything. Admitting that I am a bad former English major, I have never read Jane Eyre, so I can’t attest to how the plots line up. I did see some shades of Rebecca, and I was pulled in and hooked by the mysteries and twists, so at least it’s safe to say I enjoyed it!
  • Jesus and John Wayne: How White Evangelicals Corrupted a Faith and Fractured a Nation, by Kristen Kobes DuMez: As a former evangelical who is white, I’ve been especially fascinated by this book. I’m only about halfway done so I can’t give a full review, but learning about the history of the evangelical movement has been eye-opening, to say the least. Du Mez is a history professor at a Christian university, and the book is incredibly well researched, if a little dry at times. I’m definitely interested to see what awaits in the second half of the book.
  • The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (Disney+): I’m not a Bucky fan, but have been enjoying this series so far. Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan play off each other so well, and honestly, I admit that the new Captain America, John Walker, is annoying me into becoming a Bucky stan. It’s a confusing feeling.

Ashley

  • Alison Roman’s Home Movies on YouTube: It’s like the anti cooking show. Sometimes she can’t find ingredients, or forgets things, just like all of us at home in our kitchens, rather than a polished over produced cooking show. Did I mention she’s really really funny? I could do without the anchovies though.
  • The Burning Girls by CJ Tudor: A vicar and her daughter move to a remote country village in England, that just happens to be full of secrets. It was an excellent mystery that kept me guessing and engage until the end. 
  • One Last Stop by Casey Mcquiston: I guess straight up romances aren’t really my thing? I also found it a little too cutesy, but I think it would make an adorable movie. 
  • The Oregon Trail on Apple Arcade: I’ve been waiting FOREVER for a good Oregon Trail game for IOS. Not only is the artwork gorgeous, but they specifically worked with Native Americans to make a more diverse, truthful experience. Now if only my settlers would stop walking so close to the wagon and getting run over. 
  • Top Chef Season 18: This show is so addictive.

Casey

Deb

  • Every Waking Hour by Joanna Schaffhausen: This is the fourth in the Ellery Hathaway series that begins with Vanishing Season. I liked this mystery book written by a Waltham native about kidnapping.  I read this in time for the author to present virtually for the library on March 17th.  See our YouTube Channel to watch now!  After some bumps in her career, Ellery has a new police partner/mentor/babysitter and I like her. There are several cases intertwined in this story and more loose ends are tied up than you bargained for!
  • Grandma Raised the Roof by Ethel Walbridge McCully: I like to travel in the Caribbean and read about places I’ve been. This book was published in 1954 and is the author’s memoir of being on her way to the British Virgin Islands when she decided, sort of on a whim, to jump off the boat she was on and build a house on the US Virgin Island of St. John instead. She’s a shrewd and spry grandmother whose family was back in New York, but had some learning to do about island ways. Trials and tribulations ensue.
  • Black Coral by Andrew Mayne: This is Underwater Investigation Unit book #2 which begins with The Girl Beneath the Sea. The characters are likable. The SCUBA diving is a fun focus. The ending seemed a little rushed, but I’ll read the next one due out next March.
  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and narrated by Bahni Turpin: Fascinating and devastating pre-Civil War historical fiction about Cora, an enslaved woman who breaks away from the cotton plantation in Georgia where she was born. She encounters many different friends and foes along the way. I found it heartbreaking, inspiring and thought-provoking.
  • Mozart and the Whale; An Asperger’s Love Story by Jerry and Mary Newport: This is an intriguing memoir of two people living with autism who experience a lot of trauma growing up, meet, fall in love, have things go sideways, end up on TV and grow a lot along the way.  It is a fascinating perspective into the minds of people wired very differently from me and how they cope with the world around them.
  • Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk: It took me FOREVER to finish this book. I felt compelled because it’s on every “Caribbean must-read” list. Usually I am content to bail on a book if it’s not working for me.  There are way more books in the world than I will ever have time to read so I don’t waste my time on things that aren’t floating my boat. But I persevered in this case. And now it’s time to move on. The scenery was evocative of places I’ve visited and enjoyed. The trials and tribulations of island life logistics regarding shipping, construction and cisterns are real and often a comedy or errors. The misogyny, homophobia and portrayal of West Indian people were very 1965. It was 400 pages of so-so with all the drama happening in the last 20 pages.  There are many other books of island life, comedy and culture that I would suggest before this one.
  • One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia and narrated by Sisi Aisha Johnson: This title is aimed at middle-school-aged teens. I picked this up on the advice of the Teens at Real Talk Presents: Jennifer de Leon.  It’s the story of three young sisters, the oldest of whom is 11, who live with their dad and grandmother in Brooklyn. The girls fly out to Oakland, California to meet their mom in the summer of 1968, during the early days of the Black Panther Party. I love the adventure and development of these girls! I was thoroughly annoyed with the mom, which means the author did a good job of making me invested in the story. I am angry that the racial issues of 1968 still exist today. 

Janet

  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris: I needed a laugh-out-loud read and David Sedaris, as always, delivered.
  • Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise (Kanopy and DVD): I have read all seven of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies and still learned so much from this documentary. I especially enjoyed seeing footage from her career as a dancer, actress, and singer, her poetry reading at Bill Clinton’s inauguration, and her appearance on Sesame Street!  
  • Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders (audiobook on Overdrive): I could not stop listening to the first half of the book and really appreciated that it was narrated by the gravelly-voiced author. While it touches upon Sanders’s early life and career, the book is largely devoted to the sometimes wonky, but surprisingly gripping, details of his campaign to win the 2016 Democratic Party nomination for president of the United States. I was less enamored with the second half of the book, which, for some reason, was narrated by Mark Rufffalo. He’s a great actor, but no Bernie Sanders! 

Aaron

Louise

  • Crosstalk by Connie Willis: This book is such a delight!  Brittey works at Commspan, a telecommunications company. She has snagged Commspan’s most eligible bachelor, Trent, and they have gone to eat at Iridium which is the place for a romantic dinner and a proposal.  And, she is scheduled to get an EED. An EED is a “minor” operation done on the brain in which couples who are truly connected get even more emotionally connected and all of the it people are having it done.
    C.B., the nerd of the office, begs Britty not to do this.  He tells her that something could go horribly wrong.  Brittey shrugs this off.  I will not tell you anymore because I don’t want to provide any spoilers but this book takes you on a hilarious roller coaster that is filled with romance, missed connections, a very over involved family and gossipy office, a smart niece, a beautiful scene in a library (hurrah!) and more.
    This is a rom com of a book that will leave you blissfully entertained. Read this book!
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler: Dana and her husband Kevin are celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday when she literally disappears and meets Rufus for the first time.  Rufus is Dana’s ancestor and she is apparently being called to save his life so that she can be born.  He is the white son of a plantation owner.  As we know, plantation owners often used their slaves as sex partners whether they consented or not and Rufus will not be an exception to the rule. Dana, who is a contemporary black woman writer,  is called back in time more than once. At one point, her white husband, Kevin, also goes to the plantation with her.  Dana essentially works as a slave during a lot of her time travels and Kevin ends up working to free slaves during a time when they get separated from each other.  Both Dana and her husband are changed forever after the time travel finally stops.  This is an amazing book with very good world building and character development.  Like all of the Octavia Butler novels that I have read to date, it will leave you breathless and asking questions about the human condition and the history of racism in our country.  Further, Octavia Butler presents strong female characters who are admirable and who question traditional societal roles.
  • Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler: This is the trilogy by Octavia Butler that begins with Dawn which I discussed in the last staff reads.  This is a brilliant trilogy that will leave you breathless.  Worldbuilding is so powerful.  I was transported to another place and time. 
    This series will leave you questioning so many things about the history of oppression and the destructive tendencies of the human race.  At the same time, like many great novels, it will leave you with hope and all the richer for having read this. 
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler: I listened to this amazing novel as an audiobook and I have to give a shoutout to the narration of Lynne Thigpen.  The United States has become very dystopian with division and looting, climate change and classism.  Once again we have a strong female character who fights her way towards a better future.  You will be intrigued and engrossed and you will route for the “good guys” in their quest for a better life.  A must read.
  • Bridge 108 by Anne Charnock: This is a novel of a dystopian version of Europe in the not so far future where climate change and classism have wreaked havoc.  Our main character, Caleb, is only twelve years old when he gets separated from his mother and has to make his way in a very difficult world. Beautiful worldbuilding, great character development, a compelling story and a strong main character to root for combine to make this a worthwhile read. I really liked this novel by Anne Charnock.
  • Changing Planes by Ursula K. Leguin: This book is hilarious and light although it has some great lessons in the way of fables.  The premise of this book is that some people in airports with their stale air and lines, their mediocre food and uncomfortable chairs, discover that they can literally change planes.  The tales in this novel are of the different ‘planes’ where different beings and histories reside.  Fans of Greek myths, the Canterbury Tales, Gulliver’s Travels and the original Leonard Nemoy William Shatner Star Trek will love this entertaining collection of stories.  
    Shucks.  When I go to airports, I usually just sit in the uncomfortable seats and eat the mediocre food.  I have yet to change planes!

Seana

  • In Five Years by Rebecca Serle: I loved this book! My daughter and I read it at the same time and would call each other to talk about it. I highly recommend reading it at the same time as a friend or for a book group, as there is so much you want to talk about.
  • A  Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman: I always picked this book up and put it back down. I was afraid it was going to be too sad, but instead it was warm, endearing, and hopeful. I listened to it, so I found out Ove is surprisingly pronounced “Oohvah”
  • The Woman in the Window by A.J Finn: This book is a dark, twisting psychological thriller. I couldn’t put it down. I am looking forward to watching the movie.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama: I listened to this book and I am so glad I did. Michelle Obama is the narrator and I felt like I was hanging out with her every day on my way to and from work!
  • When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed: Middle Grade Graphic Novel for everyone
    I don’t typically read graphic novels except to be able to recommend them to middle schoolers. However, this book is incredible. It is based on the real life experiences of Omar and his brother Hassan as they grow up orphans in a refugee camp. It is an incredibly touching account of how these two boys navigate the day-today life in a refugee camp, and make their own family unit while they wait for an opportunity for a brighter future. This book is not just for middle schoolers. Readers of all ages will be moved and inspired by Omar and Hassan and their journey. 

National Poetry Month!

The following are original poems that were submitted to the Waltham Public Library for National Poetry Month! They are all very beautiful and we hope that you will enjoy them.

The Place of Unknowing

How do you stay balanced in that place
between knowing and unknowing?
How do you find peace
when uncertainty surrounds you at every turn?
Every Bible character that I look at goes on this journey.
It’s not for the faint of heart,
but as I see it, it’s the only journey there is.
There is really only One Journey,
and that is our journey back home to the light;
to Eternal Love.
All else are pit stops;
road markers along the way.
Some are filled with joy
and others filled with sadness.
This is the human experience of duality
that so many try to escape from.
The pain of unknowing and uncertainty
can be too great to bear.

In the dark times in my own life,
as I look back,
I can see this question continually popping up:
What is emerging?
What is emerging in me?
Something old is passing away,
and in its place something new is seeking to be born.
While I am in the midst of it,
I can’t name it.
But that newness tastes like:
Deeper Peace,
Unshakable Joy,
Unconditional Love.

Most people see God as an external being
who Judges, rewards, and punishes.
But what if the divine is Peace itself,
beyond our intellectual understanding;
What if the Holy is Bliss,
in the form of complete joy?
What if the Sacred
is the Love we feel within and without,
because love is simply all there is?

On my best days, when I’m awake,
I can see the forest through the trees.
Other days, I feel lost,
searching, groping for guidance.
On those days, I look to the spiritual giants-
to the saints, the mystics, and seers of all religious traditions
who have reminded me of one thing-
don’t look only to the things that can be seen.

If my peace is dependent on externals,
then I will never be peaceful.
If my joy is possible only under special circumstances,
then it will remain elusive.
Instead, they remind me,
look to what cannot be seen-
to what is invisible yet eternal;
To what you can feel
but not touch.
This is what is most real.
This is what that question of emergence points to.
What is falling away,
and what is being born?
And so every day, my prayer is,
Lord, take all of me;
Take my memory,
my understanding,
my entire will.
They are yours.
My family, my community,
they are yours.
Nothing will stay the same because life is transient;
all things are impermanent.
In this ever-shifting world,
let us always have on the forefront of our minds
what does not change:
Love, peace, joy-
these are all simply words that point to Infinity,
which is the surest foundation we can build for our life,
our family, our communities, our world.

by Matthew Carriker
This original poem is by Matthew Carriker, Protestant Chaplain at Brandeis University

Life
Sometimes the heart is full
Other moments the heart is full of 
    wholes
Changes are delayed and time stands 
still
The pendulum will move
When the will of the mind begins to
bend

Given the darkness of the full moon
And the darkness of the moonlit sky
Brace for the chains to break
The storm will blow away
The sun will shine again

Life is waiting for the new moment to begin

Sheryl Jean Arico
copyright 2008 Sheryl Jean Arico

Kentuckiana Postcards
 KENTUCKIANA POSTCARDS by Jennifer Rose
to Josh Bloom
1
Hello from Nowhere in Particular,
and yet another town I fell in love with.
It's the usual: the Washeteria, Hubcaps Galore,
Little Chef Diner, not to mention Faith
Liquors. I'm so predictable. All the downtown
buildings need to do is raise their painted eyebrows
slightly or flash old-fashioned neon and I'm gone
(like making wedding plans on the first date). I browse
or next year's calendar ("they're in!") though it's July
and get my shoe size checked ("it changes year to year").
I must find out if they serve Jell-O
here (or it could never work). The theater
is closed, of course, though you can buy appliances
and furniture ("tent sale today!") and the jeweler's
still open. (But where can I get the fiancée
to buy them for?) Am I a fool or
what, to think love and towns like this should last
forever? One more walk by the river
and I know I must go, like the ghosts unkissed
in the balcony while the screen below flickers with lovers.
 
 2
Yup, another place whose curlicues and neon
and blank marquee seduced me. (If I paid dues
at every Odd Fellows' I've photographed. . .)
But I worried that the waitress hated Jews
it took so long to get my order
(and she had tattoos) till I saw she was just
nervous. (Turns out she's very new here.)
One by one, the other diners confessed
to me how far away they've been from Indiana-
Boston, Seattle, thirteen years in New York-
in an ironic contest one trucker supplied
mileage for. Then each explained why he'd come back,
as if I'd somehow disapprove of that.
I, in turn, pretended I was from somewhere,
though after twenty years I still get called a "breezer."
I couldn't say, "I want to be a regular
in every town like this-each street seems so
evocative of all the lives I could have led-"
like the one where I run the public library,
the one in which my mother hadn't died,
and one in the last century, when I was
(can you imagine it?) the haberdasher's bride.
The life where I have children, the one
in which I'll never go abroad, and read
the Bible daily. The life where I work
at Little Chef and serve my other self the tea
(the four-refill limit would not apply to me),
the one in which instead of go, I'd stay.
 Jennifer Rose

from Hometown for an Hour, Ohio University Press (2006)Here are poems recommended by Waltham Public Library Staff and community members.  

 
 This poem is written by my father in his native language bengali. This is a translation by my friend, Kakoli Ray:
  
 Tomar shonge Dekha Hole (If I met you)
 By Sunil Gangopadhyay, translated by Kakoli Ray:
  
 If I met you.
 If I met you, I would have asked
 You have no love for humanity, yet why do you love the nation?
 What can the nation give you?
 Or, is the nation something God-like for you?
 If I met you, I would have asked
 If you were to martyr yourself what will it leave the nation?
 Is the nation the land of your birth, or the barbed boundary of the nation-state?
 Those that you hauled off the bus and murdered
 Should one suppose they have no nation?
 If I met you, I would have asked
 How did you infer that I am your enemy?
 And without even responding to my questions will you
 just point the gun at me?
 Such are the loveless who proclaim patriotism!
  
  Submitted by Shouvik Gangopadhyay
   
The following are poems by well known authors that were submitted by Waltham Public Library Staff and community members.

Undersong by Audre Lord

The Soul Of Rumi: A New Collection Of Ecstatic Poems

The Sonnets And Narrative Poems by William Shakespeare

Jimmy’s Blues And Other Poems by James Baldwin

Separation by W.S. Merwin

Your absence has gone through me

Like thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color. 

W. S. Merwin, “Separation” from The Second Four Books of Poems (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by W. S. Merwin. Reprinted with the permission of The Wylie Agency, Inc.Source: The Second Four Books of Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1993) https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poems/28891/separation-56d21285b2140

Collected Poems by Jane Kenyon

On The Way Out, Turn Off The Light: Poems by Marge Piercy

Poems April 2004

The well or the cup

by Kay Ryan

How can
you tell
at the start
what you
can give away
and what
you must hold
to your heart.
What is
the well


and what is
a cup. Some
people get
drunk up.

The New Criterion

Vol. 39, No. 8 / April 2021

Antonio Machado

“A Meditation”

Already the moon rises
over orange groves.
Venus shines in the sky
like a little glass bird.

Amber and beryl light
behind distant mountains
and over the oceans
a purple porcelain sky.

Night in the garden,
water in its fixtures—
the scent of jasmine,
nightingale of perfumes.

How it seems as if
the war were asleep
while Valencia’s flowers
drink the Guadalaviar.

Valencia of thin towers
and sweet nights. Valencia,
I will be with you even
when I cannot see you,
the fields grown in sand,
the seas receding to violet.

The Complete Collected Poems Of Maya Angelou

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