Staff Reads — Holiday Season 2020




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Debora H.

  • Liberation by Imogen Kealey: Big WOW. Nancy Wake was a real life spy in Nazi-occupied France for the Allies in WWII. This novel brings to life her dangerous experiences, always one step ahead of the Gestapo. Early on, her husband is arrested and held and she must escape to Britain, only to return to France to lead a resistance unit. A truly gripping story.
  • The Secret Wife of Aaron Burr by Susan Holloway Scott: The author creates a story around the relationship between Aaron Burr and one of the enslaved women in his household, Mary Emmons. There are few facts known about the real life Mary Emmons, but according to the author, Emmons did have children with Aaron Burr and she and Burr were secretly married at one point. From these two facts, Scott spins a tale that is both engrossing and sometimes hard to read. This book could have used a good editor – at 500 pages it feels like it’ll never end. 



  • Wayne (Prime): What a show. There is some bloody violence in a few scenes, but somehow it’s still pretty lighthearted, funny, and endearing. 
  • Fargo Season 4 (Hulu): This show can do no wrong. A murderous nurse, rival gangs, and Timothy Olyphant. This season definitely has the most diverse cast of this anthology series. 
  • The Undoing (HBO): Rich white people get mixed up in a murder. Sometimes Nicole Kidman’s character needs a good shake and some better sense, but overall it’s pretty good and has quite the twist. 
  • The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix): Orphaned girl turns chess champion during the 1960’s while struggling with her own demons. This show is just incredible: the costumes and style, the woman taking men down with skilled precision, the drama of it all…I will never look at chess the same way.
  • Happiest Season (Hulu): Not one for holiday movies, but found myself excited to watch this one the day it came out because of the specific point of view it offered. This story deals with women coming out and the complexities of balancing between wanting to live your truth while also struggling against your fear of rejection (more precisely, it’s from the POV of the character in a relationship with someone who has not yet come out to their family and what that experience is like). Dan Levy’s character has a short but powerful monologue about coming out that provided one of the most serious and important moments. I hope it’s heard by all who need to hear it. 
  • People Who Eat Darkness by  Richard Lloyd Parry: This is the tale of a British woman who went missing while living in Tokyo while working as a hostess. The author does a great job of introducing Japanese host/club culture, societal expectations, etc, before delving into the mystery of Lucie Blackman’s disappearance.  Parry wrote about the case for years and the book takes readers through the search, the trial, and the “after” for the family. 
  • One Life by Megan Rapinoe: This is an easy to get through memoir of  an Olympic gold medalist and two-time Women’s World Cup champion, and all-around awesome human being, Megan Rapinoe. I love her so much anyways, and this book only grew my love stronger. Megan discusses her childhood in a conservative town, her journey through professional sports and celebrity, as well as issues of race and equality. I recommend listening to the audiobook through Libby or on CD because Rapinoe reads it herself and she has a great style. 


  • My Heart Underwater by Laurel Flores Fantauzzo: Probably my favorite thing I read this month. Cory, a Filipino-American teenager falls for her female history teacher, begins an affair, and once discovered by her mother, she sent to visit relatives in Manila, a place she’s never even visited. The characters were well drawn out, and told with a lot of heart. 
  •  Horrid by Katrina Leno: Atmospheric and creepy.
  • The Fixed Stars by Molly Wizenberg: A memoir about a woman who realized she was gay after being married to a man for some years. It was somewhat interesting.
  • The Hollow Places by T Kingfisher: This one bordered a little more on the fantasy than horror side for me, although I felt anxiety almost the entire time reading it, so I’m willing to call that horror! A recently divorced young woman moves into the back room of her uncle’s “Wonder Museum”, which is full of old taxidermy and odd things. One day s hole opens up in a wall, leading to a strange and creepy place. Despite all the anxiety, I really enjoyed it. Kingfisher is great at writing characters, and I hope she continues to write more horror. 
  • How to Houseplant: A Beginners Guide to Making and Keeping Plant Friends by Heather Rodino: This book is not only full of useful information, but the sweetest illustrations as well. Perfect for someone who needs help with their houseplants. 
  • Jo: a Graphic Novel by Kathleen Gros: This was ok? Although if your looking for another graphic novel contemporary retelling, I enjoyed Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy more. 
  • Pepper’s Rules for Secret Sleuthing by Briana McDonald: This was a super cute middle grade novel about a kid who likes to solve mysteries, but there’s one she can’t quite solve by herself, what does it mean that she likes girls so much?
  • A Solitude of Wolverines by Alice Henderson: A somewhat interesting thriller about a biologist who takes an assignment looking for wolverines at an abandoned ski lodge, now conservation land. But someone doesn’t want her there. It’s quickly paced, but the supporting characters and villains weren’t that well developed. 
  • Happiest Season on Hulu: While I’ll watch anything Clea Duvall has a hand in making, I thought the trailer was very misleading. While at some points it definitely was a comedy, I wasn’t prepared for how the film was actually about how lying because of internalized homophobia affects everyone around you. But yay, lesbian holiday movie, and Kristen Stewart is ADORABLE.


  • Beach Read by Emily Henry: Refreshing romance! After inheriting a house from her philandering father, January, a writer of so-called woman’s fiction, finds herself next door to Gus, a fellow writer (of so-called “literary fiction”) and a former college acquaintance. I’m not doing this book justice with the description but suggested for anyone who enjoys meta fiction about the literary/publishing world and likes couples who have adult conversations about their relationships.
  • Class Act by Jerry Craft: Great follow up to the graphic novel, New Kid. This time, we learn more about Jordan’s friend, Drew and how he navigates school and his home life. This book focuses on a lot of issues including colorism, disparities in education, as well as what happens when our goals are different than our families and the people we love. Drew is a well drawn (so to speak) character and, as with New Kid all of the supporting characters are extremely well rounded and nuanced. Despite some serious subject matters, there is a lot of humor in this. I can’t recommend this series enough.
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett: Beautifully written and complex story about twins, Desiree and Stella, the latter of whom passes for white as an adult. Now that I’ve read this, I want to seek out Bennett’s earlier novel, The Mothers.
  • Yes No, Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed: Very sweet and thoughtful Teen Novel about Jamie and Maya, who become close while campaigning during a local senate race in Georgia. 
  • Tenements, Towers, and Trash: An Unconventional History of New York City by Julia Wertz: Part memoir, part history, all graphic novel, Wertz’s book (some of which contain drawings that were featured in The New Yorker) is a warts and all beautiful love letter to New York City. 
  • The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante: This was a recent book club read for the library. I really appreciated the writing and the strong sense of place in Naples. Still undecided how much I actually enjoyed it. (I had not read any of Ferrante’s previous novels.)
  • Front Desk by Kelly Yang, read by Sunny Lu: I was introduced to Yang via her novel, Parachutes and wanted to read her first book, for younger readers. Front Desk features a well realized protagonist in Mia whose parents become managers at a motel shortly after immigrating to the United States. Looking forward to the sequel.
  • A Promised Land by Barack Obama, read by the author: Glad I decided to experience this as an audiobook. The former President really goes into detail about what goes behind political campaigns and policy making as well as working (and becoming allies with) political rivals. 





  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty: Caroline Lee provides excellent narration for another great title by Liane Moriarty.  Madeline has a blended family and a teenaged daughter who seems to be gravitating more towards her new age, mellow stepmother.  Celeste is in a wealthy, seemingly perfect marriage; except that it’s not.  Jane is new to town; a single mother whose son is being bullied.  This book has some serious issues, but there is so much wit and charm and so many lovely friendships that it left me feeling entertained and glad to have spent time with these delightful characters.  
  • The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett  Wow!  Brit Bennett really knows how to tell a story.  Excellent narration is provided here by Shayna Small.  Desiree and Stella Vignes are twins raised in the 1940s in Mallard, Louisiana a fictional town where everyone is rather light skinned. The story here is that the twins’ great great great grandfather, who was freed by the father who owned him, set up Mallard to be a town for light skinned people like him.
    Stella chooses to live a life as a white person while Desiree keeps her identity as a black person.  We watch them grow up and see the choices that they make and why and are left thinking about the twins, their lives, their decisions, their children. Issues of racism, family ties, transgender people and the choices that we make in life are handled adeptly by Brit Bennett in this novel that spans the decades of the 1940s to the 1990s.  This novel is breathtakingly well written and I plan to read The Mothers and look forward to Brit Bennet’s next book.
  • The Saturday Wife by Naomi Ragen: I love this book by Naomi Ragen. The aptly named Delilah (think Samson and Delilah) Levy marries Chaim Levy, a rabbi who is not earning enough money to make her happy. She pushes and prods until he takes over a wealthy Connecticut congregation that no one else will touch with a ten foot pole. Chaos ensues. This book is rather hilarious in my opinion and, although you probably will not like Delilah, the hijinx and the characters are very funny.
  • Chains Around the Grass by Naomi Ragen: This novel is semi-autobiographical and is a great coming of age story. Ragen tells the story of an impoverished family trying to live the American Dream and the tragedies and blessings that they encounter along the way. This book is very touching and worth reading. The setting is New Jersey and New York in the 1950s and there are themes of poverty and hard work, dreams and dreams deferred as well as trying to balance one’s religion and integrating into society.
  • The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: Kristin Hannah knows how to tell a story and she does not fail us here. This novel includes beautiful descriptions of Alaska, a love story, vivid descriptions of survivalists, domestic abuse and huge portions of hope and redemption.
  • Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld: This is a modern version of Pride and Prejudice and it is funny, romantic, and compulsively readable. Sheer delight! Note: one does not have to have read Pride And Prejudice to enjoy this hilarious, delightful, charming novel.

Janet Z.


Staff Reads October 2020

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  • Superman Smashes the Klan by Gene Luen Yang, art by Gurihiru: I loved the writing and gorgeous artwork in this graphic novel, inspired by a radio serial from the 1940s.
  • The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates: Joe Morton’s narration on the audio book version really brings alive the description and characters of this historical novel with a magical realistic touch.
  • You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria:  This is a breezy and fun romance behind the scenes of bi-lingual comedy co-starring telenovela star, Ashton and soap opera star, Jasmine. I really enjoyed this!
  • Logan Likes Mary Anne (graphic novel) by Gale GalliganThe Babysitters Club is the series that keeps getting re-born in many forms, to the delight of this BSC fan. My least favorite book of the original series was probably Logan Likes Mary Anne but I was quite happy with the graphic novel version. Logan is a much more realized character, here, and his relationship with Mary Anne seems much more realistic, as well.
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones: This book was intense (in a good way). I thought Jones did a great job at addressing so many issues, including how the justice system treats Black men, how loved ones of prisoners handle the situation, and the  different makeup of families. The book is narrated by Roy, Celestial, and Andre and while a lesser writer could have made Celestial and Andre into unsympathetic characters given certain plot elements, Jones does a great job of getting us to understand everyone’s stance and situations.
  • Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson:  This is the story of ZJ (“Little Man” to his father) whose father is suffering from long term effects of the many concussions he received as a professional football player. Told in verse like so many of Woodson’s novels, this is a beautifully lyrically written book that is heart wrenching.
  • Devolution by Max Brooks: This “researched” book about a Sasquatch massacre in a Pacific Northwest planned community lends itself well to the audiobook format. NPR personalities playing themselves during segments of Fresh Air and Marketplace really fooled me into thinking I was listening to the radio in my car.
  • Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds: I mainly enjoyed this romance/time travel story about high school student Jack and his continued trips to the past to prevent the death of Kate, a college first year he meets at a party. Jack is very likable and the side characters are well developed. My only complaint is that I wish Kate had a bit more agency especially when it came to decisions about medical treatment.
  • Parachutes by Kelly Yang: This book made me very angry, which I believe was its purpose. Claire Wang, who lives in Shanghai, moves to LA to live with Danni De La Cruz and her mother in Los Angeles in order to attend a prestigious private school (which Danni also attends on a full scholarship). The alternating voices really give you a sense of what both Danni and Claire are dealing with at school. The book takes on a lot of heavy topics such as classism, xenophobia, sexism, and rape culture. Very powerful book, if a hard read.


  • Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman: The prequel to both Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic is as lush and gorgeous as I’d expect from Alice Hoffman. A perfect read for October.
  • This Coven Won’t Break by Isabel Sterling: The sequel to These Witches Don’t Burn. Set in present say Salem, it’s a perfect read for October.
  • The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson: This read more like a YA dystopia than the literary fiction it’s trying to be. A young woman living in religious colony, cut off from the rest of the world accidentally brings on a plague, in a place where witches are hunted and burned.
  • Watch Over Me by Nina Lacour: This has been called a follow up to We Are Okay, even though they do not share characters or setting. It’s another meditation on grief and loneliness, this time with a bit of magical realism, and I really liked it.
  • Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis: Teenager is sent to a creepy small town where her father filmed his most famous horror film. Are the monsters and legends real? This was a little creepy, even though I didn’t like the main character at all (she was really unobservant) I wanted to keep reading to see what happened.
  • We Are Okay by Nina Lacour: A well written reflection on loneliness, although I had trouble connecting with the main character for the first three quarters.
  • Untamed by Glennon Doyle: I think I’m in the minority of not connecting with this. I enjoyed only two of the essays. I guess motivational speakers just aren’t for me? Too many heavy handed metaphors and EVERYTHING Is sooooooooo IMPORTANT. It was kind of exhausting to be in her head.
  • The Companion by Katie Alender: This one was a little unnerving, and a fun take on the “orphan goes to stay at a big spooky house” trope.
  • The Haunting of Bly Manor on Netflix: I loved The Haunting of Hill House, and am enjoying this incredibly unsettling show too.
  • Teenage Bounty Hunters on Netflix: It’s much funnier and sweeter and nuanced than the trailer leads you to believe. I’m really enjoying it.


  • Bronte’s Mistress by Finola Austin: This was an engaging read. The story is based on the real life affair between 25 year old Branwell Bronte, the brother of the more famous Bronte sisters, and the fortysomething mistress of Thorp Green Hall, Lydia Robinson; making Lydia a real life Mrs. Robinson (remember The Graduate?). According to the author, the novel was meticulously researched and is as historically accurate as possible. Lydia is a mother in mourning, having lost both her young daughter and mother in the same year. When she meets Branwell, her son’s new tutor, she’s lonely and vulnerable. Their affair sparks a passion in her that she’s never experienced before and endangers both of their positions in the world.
  • Artemis by Andy Weir: This is the second book by the author of The Martian and it was just as fun to read. Set on the moon’s first colony, the lead character, Jasmine Bashara (Jazz), is an underemployed porter who smuggles on the side. She’s principled, but also has to make money, because living on the moon is expensive. She gets offered an obscene amount of money to pull off a high level crime and the book’s fast pace takes the reader through what happens next including murder, mob control, life threatening situations, and the possible destruction of the entire colony.


  • Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982, by Cho Nam-Joo: This book in translation follows the life of Kim Jiyoung, a young stay-at-home mother who is driven to psychosis. The book was a Korean best seller, and according to the New York Times, its examination of the everyday sexism and misogyny the characters experience inspired a feminist wave in South Korea. The book was really good, even though it was maddening to read.
  • Little Wonders, by Kate Rorick: When the perfect PTA president of her son’s exclusive preschool is caught on camera having a tantrum-like meltdown, it turns her whole world upside down. It also changes the life of the woman who filmed and inadvertently shared that moment with the whole internet. As the mom of a preschooler, I enjoyed reading about the misadventures of these fictional preschool moms, and felt especially grateful that I don’t have to navigate the cutthroat world of their fictional elite preschool in a well-to-do Boston suburb.
  • The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, by Issa Rae: I’ve been on a bit of an autobiographical-essay-collection kick lately. This one caught my eye as, like Issa Rae, I am also an awkward introvert, and it can be somewhat comforting to read about the awkward misadventures of others. I also like reading memoirs by authors who have different races/backgrounds/geographical locations/cultures than I do, so that I can learn a little about the experiences of others and broaden my understanding of the world. This book was the best of both worlds, plus it was funny and witty, which is always a bonus.
  • The Upside of Unrequited, by Becky Albertalli: I bought Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda on sale a few months ago, and I’ve been successfully pulled into the world of Creekwood/the Simonverse. I’m pretty sure I’m reading the series out of order, but it doesn’t feel like that matters too much. The Upside of Unrequited was ridiculously cute and happy.
  • The Last Flight, by Julie Clark: I’m finding that thriller/mystery stories are a welcome escape from real life right now! This page-turner is about two women, both trying to escape dangerous situations, who trade plane tickets at the airport to help each other and themselves. Their plan goes awry when one of their planes crashes, and one discovers that the other’s life isn’t at all what it seemed.
  • When the World Feels Like a Scary Place: Essential Conversations for Anxious Parents & Worried Kids, by Abigail Gewirtz: I mostly skimmed this one for parts that are relevant to the stage of parenting I’m in now. There were some good pointers for conversations with kids of various ages about topics like racism, climate change, Covid, etc. which I found helpful.
  • Larger Than Life: A History of Boy Bands from NKOTB to BTS, by Maria Sherman: I mean, I didn’t have high expectations going into this book, but when you all but ignore Westlife – one of the best selling musical acts both in the world and in history – I’m going to think your book is kind of trash. 
  • Wow, No Thank You: Essays, by Samantha Irby: Irby’s essays make me laugh so easily, especially as I reach an age where I can relate to her pieces about aging. It’s an enjoyable break from some of the other books with heavier topics I’m in currently in the middle of.
  • On the Basis of Sex: I watched this movie the weekend after Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg passed away. The movie tells the story of her early career, beginning with her first year of law school and culminating in an historic courtroom victory in 1972. I found it inspiring, and it made me love and mourn RBG even more.
  • Enola HolmesA fun (if a bit long) movie about the younger sister of Sherlock Holmes. Raised by her mother to be strong and independent, Enola is living her best life until her mother disappears. Her older brothers return and make arrangements to send their unladylike sister to a finishing school for girls, but Enola is determined to go to London to find her mother. There’s a bit of everything – clever dialogue, fight scenes, a potential love interest – but I think it would have been even better had it been shorter.
  • St. Elmo’s FireJust… wow. Neither my husband nor I had ever seen this movie, and decided on a recommendation from a podcast to watch it. The movie certainly has not aged well! I was so annoyed by so many of the characters that I left the room halfway through so I could read in peace.
  • Incredibles 2We recently introduced our son to Jack-Jack, and he can’t get enough of those scenes in this movie. It’s been on heavy rotation in our house, accompanied by the glorious sound of toddler belly-laughs.
  • Ackley BridgeMy mom recommended this show a while ago, and I’m in love with it. It takes place at a school in Yorkshire, a new venture that combines the two previously segregated schools in town. In addition to examining the sometimes rocky integration of the school’s Asian and white students, it also looks at the ups and downs of life in a depressed former mill town. Plus, the Yorkshire accents are heaven.
  • Silicon ValleyI started out half-watching this show – getting distracted from my reading while my husband watched it – and ended up maybe three-quarters-watching it. It’s entertaining and funny, but I found some of the characters annoying and the plot felt like it was repeating itself in later seasons.
  • Lovecraft Country (HBO): I’ve never read Lovecraft, nor do I know much about Lovecraftian things beyond Cthulhu, but the premise of this show intrigued me enough to watch: a young Black man fights Lovecraftian creatures as well as everything that came with Jim Crow-era America.
  • Ted Lasso (Apple TV): I love this show. Love. It. It’s about an American football coach who is hired to take over as manager of a bottom-of-the-table Premier League football/soccer club in London. The Ted Lasso character got his start in a commercial for NBC when they got the rights to show Premier League matches in the States (in which he takes the helm of the club I support – Tottenham Hotspur), but you don’t have to follow English football to like this show. The characters are great, and the show is often heart-warming. I usually watch it right after Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, so that I don’t feel quite as depressed about the state of the world.


  • Too Much And Never Enough by Mary Trump: This book provides a psychological view of the current president that is seen through the lens of the family dynamics.
  • Exodus by Deborah Feldman : For fans of Unorthodox, this is a very interesting follow up that shows us Deborah’s life after her ‘exodus’ from the ultra Orthodox community in which she was raised.
  • The Dutch House by Ann Patchett read by Tom Hanks: This audiobook was a double treat; a fabulous story by Ann Patchett, read by Tom Hanks.  This is a kind of modern day Cinderella story, complete with a wicked stepmother.  There are other elements, however, a mother who leaves her family, a brother and sister who both suffer at the hands of the stepmother, and the Dutch house itself.  This is Ann Patchett at her best and I recommend this book to anyone craving an absorbing novel that will keep you turning pages or listening to the narrator all the way through.
  • Mrs Everything by Jennifer Weiner : The story of two sisters growing up in 1950’s Detroit focuses on limits and expectations, changing societal mores and the choices that Jo and Bethie make as they grow.
  • The Cult of Trump by Steven Hassan: Steven Hassan once was a member of the Moonies, a cult that drew in lots of young Americans in its day.  He now works full time helping people to get out of cults and recover from their experience.  This book analyzes the Trump Presidency from the point of view of someone who knows about cults and how they work.  I recommend this to anyone who is interested in this subject.
  • Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout: Wow. Elizabeth Strout never lets me down.  She really knows how to create a small town,  characters who practically walk off the page and come to life, make us laugh, cry, wince and marvel by turns depending on which part of which story one is reading.  Fabulous!  Note: You may want to read My Name is Lucy Barton first as Lucy is referenced throughout the book.  This book can be read as a standalone as well, totally up to the reader.
  • Becoming by Michelle Obama: I listened to the audio version of this book which is read by Michelle Obama.  She has a great reading voice and is very inspiring.  I was left with questions about what was not in this memoir but that happens to me with pretty much every political/personal memoir that I ever read.  Worth reading.
  • An Unorthodox Match by Naomi Ragen: I love this book.  You will find yourself rooting for the love that wants to blossom between the two main characters in this book.  I love everything that Naomi Ragen writes and this book is no exception.
  • My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout: I have loved every book by Elizabeth Strout that I have ever read and this is no exception.  Lucy Barton had a tough childhood that included poverty and difficult parenting.  This novel is an exchange between mother and daughter when Lucy’s mother visits her in the hospital.  The two have not talked in years.  The book is bittersweet, believable, and beautiful.
  • Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate: This book alternates between Memphis Tennessee in 1939 and modern day Aiken, South Carolina.  Lisa Wingate was inspired to write this book because of a terrible chapter of Tennessee history in which children were actually taken from their parents and put up for adoption with wealthy families.  I highly recommend this novel; great story line, and it gives  us an insight into a chapter of history that actually occurred in Tennessee.
  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine  by Gail Honeyman: I loved this book.  Eleanor, who was raised by an incredibly abusive mother, is actually hilarious and unique.  She comes into her own in this novel and begins to make some connections for the first time in her life.  A story of love, connection and hope.  Great for fans of a Man Called Ove.
  • Giver Of Stars by Jojo Moyes: The audiobook version of this book is beautifully narrated.  I am one hundred percent sure that reading this in book form would also be a great experience.  Jojo Moyes based this novel on an actual program that was started by Eleanor Roosevelt as part of the WPA, the Packhorse Librarians Of Eastern Kentucky.  This book has a great story line, wonderful characters, and shows the great good that books can bring to society.
  • The Romance Reader by Pearl Abraham: Oh, how I loved this book.  Rachel is being raised in a hasidic family, but she loves to read ‘forbidden’ romances.  She has to struggle to be a lifeguard in her family because they do not approve of her wearing bathing suits.  She lets herself get talked into a marriage that makes her miserable.  Her mother is a hoot and you will love Rachel’s spunk.  I was very upset when the book was over.  I just wanted to keep hearing Rachel’s spunky voice and her mother’s unique perspective.  Great read.
  • Welcome To Me: California lottery winner Alice Klieg (played by SNL alum Kristen Wiig), has gone off her meds.  She decides to create a television show that is all about herself.  This movie is quirky, funny and delightful.  True fact:  I have watched this three times because I enjoyed it so much.
  • Going Clear:  Scientology and the Prison of Belief : A very interesting documentary about Scientology that I recommend to anyone who is interested in this subject.
  • Paradise Hills: Kind of like a newfangled Stepford Wives.  Very Creepy!
  • Small Apartments : This is a very quirky, darkly funny movie that includes Billy Crystal. 
  • Elsa And Fred : A sweet love story about two older people who need some connection.  A little bit saccharine but, Shirley Maclaine is always a treat at least for this movie watcher.
  • Trump My New President:  A Look At the Lives Of Trump Voters : I really appreciated this documentary because there was no commentary or opinion.  The filmmakers let the Trump supporters do the talking and explain why they support Donald Trump. 

Federal and Statewide Election 2020

Vote Button

There is an election on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Eligible voters will be voting for President, US Senator, US Representatives, State Senators and Representatives, and several other offices. This year, voters in Massachusetts will also have 2 ballot questions to consider.  Here is information that you need to know to participate in this important election.

Starting October 7 at 7:00 pm, view “How to Vote/Cómo Votar” on the Waltham Public Library Youtube Channel.

Voter Registration Information

  • The last day to register to vote for the November 3 election is October 24. Don’t be late! There are several ways you can register.
    • Online through the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s Office.  Online registration must be completed no later than 11:59 PM on October 24.
    • By Mail. You can print out a mail in registration form here or by calling 1-800-462-VOTE (8683). You can also pick up a mail in registration form at the Waltham Public Library at the holds pickup table on the ground floor. All mail in voter registration forms must be postmarked no later than October 24.
    • In Person: You can register in person through your town/city clerk. Waltham residents can currently visit the City Clerk’s office by appointment only. If you have questions about the City Clerk’s appointment system, contact City Clerk Robert Waddick ( or Assistant City Clerk Joseph Vizard ( You may also call 781-314-3123 or 781-314-3121. If you are not a Waltham resident, please check the website for your town/city clerk’s office about rules for visiting. According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth (page 12), all local election offices must offer in person voter registration on October 24 from 2 pm – 4 pm and 7 pm – 8 pm.
    • Automatic Motor Voter Registration: If you’re renewing your Massachusetts Drivers License or ID, you will be automatically registered to vote. (Always best to double check though. According to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, it can 2 to 3 weeks to get confirmation of the voter registration.)
  • Not sure if you are registered? Check your registration status through the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth. Waltham residents can also contact the Waltham City Clerk’s office at 781-314-3123 or 781-314-3121.
  • Don’t have a permanent address? Citizens, regardless of housing status, are allowed to register to vote. According to this site, shelters, street corners, and parks are acceptable to use as a registration address.
  • Massachusetts participates in the Address Confidentiality Program. If you are a citizen but are concerned about your safety being compromised by revealing your address by registering to vote, the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office can help with that. Contact 617-727-3261 or 1-866-SAFE-ADD for more information.
  • Are you registered to vote and your name isn’t on the voter list at your polling place? You have the right to request a provisional ballot. “Provisional ballots are sealed in an envelope and kept separately from other ballots until the voter’s eligibility can be determined. If a provisional voter is determined to be registered, their ballot is unsealed and counted” According to Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 54, Section 76C, “A provisional ballot cast by an individual whose voter information is verified before 5:00 p.m. on the third day after a presidential or state primary or the twelfth day after a state election shall be removed from its provisional ballot envelope, grouped with other ballots in a manner that allows for the secrecy of the ballot to the greatest extent possible, and counted as any other ballot.”

How and Where to Vote

  • In Person on Election Day (November 3): Between 7:00 AM and 8:00 PM at your polling place.
    • Find your polling place online with your address.
    • Waltham residents can call the City Clerk at 781-314-3123 or 781-314-3121.
    • If you know your ward and precinct number, you may refer to this list of Waltham polling places:
      Ward Precinct Polling Place
      1 1 PLYMPTON SCHOOL 20 Farnsworth Street
      1 2 WALTHAM HIGH SCHOOL 617 Lexington Street
      2 1 KENNEDY MIDDLE SCHOOL MUSIC ROOM  655 Lexington Street
      2 2 KENNEDY MIDDLE SCHOOL MUSIC ROOM  655 Lexington Street
      3 1 MACARTHUR ELEMENTARY SCHOOL 494 Lincoln and Lake Streets
      3 2 NORTHEAST ELEMENTARY SCHOOL 70 Putney Lane off Warwick Avenue
      4 1 FITZGERALD SCHOOL AT REAR 140 Beal Road at Candace Avenue
      4 2 FITZGERALD SCHOOL AT REAR 140 Beal Road at Candace Avenue
      5 1 BRIGHT SCHOOL GYMNASIUM/MALONE ARCHIVES RECORD CENTER 260 Grove Street – Corner of Clark & Bright Streets
      5 2 BRIGHT SCHOOL GYMNASIUM/MALONE ARCHIVES RECORD CENTER 260 Grove Street – Corner of Clark & Bright Streets
      6 1 CHARLES A. LAWLESS HOUSING 110 Pond Street
      6 2 CLARK GOVERNMENT CENTER 119 School St. Corner of School & Lexington St.
      7 1 NATHANIEL AT BANKS SQUARE 948 Main Street – Corner of Main & South Street
      7 2 NATHANIEL AT BANKS SQUARE 948 Main Street – Corner of Main & South Street
      8 1 WHALEN HOUSING 84 Orange Street
      8 2 SOUTH MIDDLE SCHOOL 510 Moody Street
      9 1 ARTHUR J. CLARK HOUSING 48 Pine Street
      9 2 CUTTER STREET POLLING BOOTH 8 Cutter Street
  • In Person Early Voting (October 17 – 30): All early voting in Waltham is held at the Malone Archives and Records Center/Bright School at 260 Grove Street. All Massachusetts residents can access early voting site information at the Secretary of the Commonwealth Early Voting page starting October 9.
  • By Mail
    • Request a Mail-in Ballot (no later than October 28)
      • Download a Vote by Mail Application from the Massachusetts Secretary of Commonwealth Voting by Mail Page
      • Call 1-800-462-VOTE (8683) to request a Vote by Mail Application.
      • Instead of an application, write a letter to your Town/City Clerk’s office to request a Mail-In Ballot. The letter must include your name, the address where you are registered to vote, the address where you want the ballot mailed, and your signature. Note: Electronic signatures are not accepted. Waltham residents can send the letter to City of Waltham City Clerk; 610 Main Street; City Hall Second Floor; Waltham, MA 02452
    • Return your Mail in Ballot (must be postmarked by November 3)
      • All 2020 Vote by Mail Ballots will include a pre-addressed, postage pre-paid return envelopes. The United States Postal Service recommends mailing your ballot back at least 7 days before Election Day.
      • Waltham Residents may also drop off ballots in the drop box labeled, “City Business Only” in the back of City Hall (610 Main Street).
      • You can “Track your Ballot” online after you return it to make sure it was received and accepted.

Important Dates

  • October 17 – 30: In Person Early Voting
  • October 24, 2020: Last day to register to vote for the 2020 General Election.
  • October 28, 2020: Last day for mail in voting applications to reach City Clerk’s office.
  • November 3, 2020: Last day for mail in ballots to be postmarked
  • November 3, 2020: In person voting for General Election (if you have not voted early or mailed in a ballot)
  • November 6, 2020: Latest day that mail in ballots need to reach City Clerk’s office.

Rides to the Polls

The Candidates

(List of all candidates running in Massachusetts on November 3, 2020. Candidates listed here are listed in order as they are listed on the ballot (alphabetical by last name). All of the web pages for candidates — including incumbents — are for their campaign websites unless one is unavailable)


United States Senator in Congress

Representative in Congress, Fifth District

Massachusetts Governor’s Councilor, Third District

Massachusetts Senator in General Court, Third Middlesex District

Massachusetts Representative in General Court, Ninth Middlesex District

Massachusetts Representative in General Court, Tenth Middlesex District

Register of Probate, Middlesex County

The Ballot Questions

  • Question 1, “Right to Repair”(From Ballotpedia): “Question 1 (2020) would require manufacturers that sell motor vehicles equipped with telematics systems to install a standardized open data platform beginning with model year 2022. The initiative defines telematics systems as “any system in a motor vehicle that collects information generated by the operation of the vehicle and transmits such information, in this chapter referred to as ‘telematics system data,’ utilizing wireless communications to a remote receiving point where it is stored.” Vehicle owners could then access telematics system data through a mobile device application and give consent for independent repair facilities to access that data and send commands to the system for repair, maintenance, and diagnostic testing. Question 1 (2020) would also require that manufacture authorization for mechanical data through the open data platform by owners and independent repair facilities be standardized across all makes and models and administered by an independent party. The Massachusetts Attorney General would also have to prepare notices that motor vehicle dealers present to prospective owners that explain the car’s telematics systems and the requirements under the new law. Denial of access to mechanical data by a manufacturer would result in treble damages or $10,000 in compensation to the vehicle owner.”
    (From Massachusetts Information for Voters 2020 Ballot Questions): “A YES vote would provide motor vehicle owners and independent repair facilities with expanded access to wirelessly transmitted mechanical data related to their vehicles’ maintenance and repair. A NO vote would make no change in the law governing access to vehicles’ wirelessly transmitted mechanical data.”
  • Question 2, Ranked-Choice Voting(From Ballotpedia): “Question 2 would enact ranked-choice voting (RCV) for primary and general elections for state executive officials, state legislators, federal congressional representatives, and certain county offices. RCV is a voting method in which voters rank candidates according to their preferences. If a candidate receives greater than 50% of all first-preference votes, the candidate is declared the winner and the tabulation ends. If no candidate receives a simple majority of first-preference votes, then the candidate receiving the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the eliminated candidate are eliminated, and the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots are tallied as their first-preference in the following round. The process is continued until a candidate wins a simple majority (50%+1) of the vote. If there is a tie for last place, the candidates’ support from earlier rounds would be compared to determine who should be eliminated. Currently, statewide elections in Massachusetts use a plurality voting system. In Amherst and Easthampton, ranked-choice voting has been adopted but not implemented. Cambridge has used RCV since 1941 to elect the nine-seat city council and the six-seat school board.”
    (From Massachusetts Information for Voters 2020 Ballot Questions): “A YES vote would create a system of ranked-choice voting in which voters would have the option to rank candidates in order of preference and votes would be counted in rounds, eliminating candidates with the lowest votes until one candidate has received a majority. A NO vote would make no change in the laws governing voting and how votes are counted.”

More Information

Staff Reads September 2020

Book Projector Treble Clef

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Deb F.

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas: This was SOOO well-done. By complete coincidence, I started listening to this on audiobook right after finishing So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo and narrated by Bahni Turpin. Turns out, Bahni also narrates The Hate U Give, a great young adult fiction story that really walked the walk of the principles in So You Want To Talk About Race. It was a terrific pairing, albeit accidental!
  • The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes: Some books can provide “windows” to view another’s reality; books that reflect a reader’s own life are considered “mirrors”. For me, this book was both: a mirror because it was about Librarians, but a window because the characters worked in Depression-era Kentucky & delivered books on horseback! I listened on audio and it was so good that I was really anxious to get back in the car & hear what would happen next and had to sit in my driveway to finish it because I knew I was only a few minutes from the end!


  • Godshot:  A Novel by Chelsea Bieker: Lacy Mae, the fourteen year old narrator of this beautifully written novel, has a difficult story to tell. She is living in an impoverished town near the Napa Valley that is suffering a terrible relentless drought.  The raisins that were the lifeblood of the community are no longer growing successfully.  Her grandfather commits suicide in despair.
    A preacher comes to town and, seemingly miraculously, there is a long rain.  Lacy’s family become regular church members.  When the drought resumes, more is asked of the church members.  Unfortunately, the desperate residents comply rather than question their prophet.  Lacy has to grow up fast and to make some very difficult decisions about her path.
    I loved this book and heartily recommend it with a caveat; there is sexual abuse in this novel.
    I would classify this as a beautiful pro feminist piece of fiction that explores mother daughter relationships, coming of age and false prophets.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston: Zora Neale Hurston was a brilliant African-American writer and anthropologist during the Harlem Renaissance.  This love story takes place in the American South and our heroine, Janie, is a woman ahead of her time.  She is not satisfied to just live in a docile and obedient fashion with any man, but follows her heart instead.  This is an uplifting story about a strong, resilient, spunky young woman who is able to break free of others’ expectations and be who she is meant to be.  I plan to read more by Zora Neale Hurston and I regret that she did not get the appreciation for this novel during her lifetime that she gets today.  
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (audiobook): I had been meaning to read something by Celeste Ng for a long time, and I am so glad that I listened to this book.  It is the 1970s and the Lee family’s middle daughter, Lydia has disappeared.  The Lees have to come to terms with a lost daughter, lost hopes and difficult family dynamics.  A beautiful novel about families, prejudice, fears and hopes that is highly relatable and very sad. Do not read this if you are wanting light reading but do read this if you want a beautiful novel about family dynamics, American society, the sexism that women are subject to, and the prejudice that people have when facing others who are different from themselves.
  • All This Could Be Yours by Jami Attenberg (audiobook): The death of a rather criminal patriarch shakes up his entire family who must come to terms with the emotional scars that he has left behind.  I really enjoyed this book as it had some humor, some pathos, and some healing all in one.  
  • Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett (audiobook): This is a one of a kind novel about taxidermy, suicide, family pain, and redemption.  Beautifully written with believable and well developed characters.  Warning:  a lot of graphic taxidermy details that might not be palatable to all readers.
    I heard about this novel in the library’s Tell Us What You’re Reading book club and I am so glad to have listened to this book.  I plan to read more by this author.
  • Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld (audiobook): Just started this audiobook and I am already thoroughly engrossed and can hardly wait to hear more.  Sittenfeld writes about Hilary Rodham Clinton and posits a situation where Hilary and Bill date, are seriously considering marriage, but decide to part due to Bill’s ‘problem’ with cheating.  Great narration, too!
  • Mama Day by Gloria Naylor: I recommend this book to anyone who likes a great story, a talented author, a bit of mysticism and magic, and strong female characters.  Gloria Naylor apparently based this novel on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  The narration of this novel is very interesting because we are hearing from people both living and dead and it gives the book a poetic and mystical feeling that I really enjoyed.
    I plan to read other works by Ms. Naylor because I know that I will be in good hands!
  • The Miseducation Of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth: Beautifully written coming of age novel about a teenage  girl who loses her parents in a tragic car accident. Her Aunt comes to live with her and, unfortunately, Aunt Ruth is a born again Christian who sends Cameron to a place that tries to degay teenagers. And, unfortunately, there are still misguided Aunt Ruths who believe in sending their children to these sorts of places. Cameron is an athletic, intelligent, spunky heroine and I was rooting for her from the very first page of this enticing and thoughtful novel.
  • Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng: This book begins with a fire and a general suspicion about who set the fire.  Two families intersect in this novel about norms and outliers; the Richardson family and a single mother and her daughter; Mia and Pearl.  Mia is an itinerant artist who has moved herself and her daughter many times.  The Richardsons are an upper middle class family in Shaker Heights, Ohio.  One of their children, Izzy, is more impulsive and true to herself vs. social norms than the rest of the family.  She calls things like she sees them and is deemed ‘crazy’ by various Richardsons.  Her mother is hardest of all on Izzy.
    Pearl spends much time with the Richardsons and Pearl and Mia grow more and more intertwined; until a dispute about a baby happens.  Everything changes then.  A great read with a very interesting plot.
  • Dirty Dancing: I watched this movie twice in a row.  The dancing, the music, the Catskills, the joy, Jerry Orbach as a dad.  This movie is such an uplifting, funny (schlocky in the best sense of the word) delight.
  • Gloria Bell: Okay, this is my third time watching this film where Julianne Moore falls into a very unfortunate romance.  Great movie about divorce, blended families and keeping one’s spirit going during difficult circumstances.
  • Mystic Pizza: This is the movie that put Julia Roberts on the map.  This is great when you want to see a coming of age novel about friendship, maturation from teenager to young adult, Mystic Connecticut and a secret recipe for the greatest pizza in town.
  • The Miseducation Of Cameron Post: Some changes from the beautiful novel but this movie keeps the spirit of the book and I loved the acting and would watch this again. The acting is very believable and the scenery is gorgeous.  I do recommend seeing the film and reading the novel because both are beautiful in their own way.  This is a coming of age novel about a young teen who loses her parents in a tragic car accident.  Her Aunt Ruth, a born again Chrisitian, is horrified about Cameron’s sexuality and sends her to a place that attempts to encourage teens to pray away the gay.
    Luckily for all of us, Cameron is a strong and spirited young woman who works to find her way to herself during a very difficult situation.  She befriends a couple of her fellow inmates and they support each other through the trials and tribulations of this experience.  This movie is very timely as there are still many in the world who believe that this is an appropriate way to ‘help’ those who are gay.
  • In The Aisles: A lovely film (German film with English subtitles) about a group of people working in a big box store.  We learn about their lives, their tragedies, their romances and we grow to love them.
  • The Party: A great little dark comedy about a woman who is celebrating a promotion; except the celebration turns dark rather quickly. You will not see the ending coming until…the very end!
    Don’t fast forward now that I said that.  Hilarious in a dark sort of way.  Great acting!
  • The Wedding Plan: This is not exactly the same as Muriel’s Wedding, a film that I adored, but if you liked that one, you will love this one.  Our heroine, a very observant Jewish woman, is having problems finding a match.  She decides to plan her wedding party anyway and to have total faith that a groom will appear.  Delightful, lovely, charming, and funny. 
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God: I really enjoyed this movie with Halle Berry playing Janie and excellent casting in all roles including the wonderful Teacake (her true love).  I felt that it was very true to the book and enjoyed every minute.  This is a romantic and, ultimately, feminist story of a woman truly following her heart and coming into her own.

Debora H:

  • They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery: This was a fascinating look at the protest movements born out of the many police killings of Black people in cities across America, starting with the response to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. The movements have evolved over time: from believing change could come from within the system, to knowing that the entire system had to change; from making sure the public knows about police killings to doing political organizing. Protesters like Martese Johnson learned that, even though he was a college student serving on the University of Virgnia’s Honor Committee, he wasn’t safe from police harassment. And even when protesters succeeded in getting the president of the University of Missouri to resign for failure to address racist incidents on campus, they soon realized that nothing had changed with regard to the culture on campus. One incident Lowery writes about is when protester Bree Newsome literally climbed the flagpole outside the South Carolina state house to take down the Confederate flag. Although the flag was put back up 45 minutes later and Newsome was arrested, two weeks later, state legislators debated the issue and ultimately voted to take the flag down for good. The protesters make savvy use of social media to get their message out. One trending hashtag, #iftheygunmedown, encouraged Black youth to post photos of themselves with family, or at graduation, or in their service uniforms, or reading to children side by side with photos that showed them doing something less positive like partying. The goal was to combat the media tendency to post negative photos of the victims of police shootings, often to perpetuate the myth that the young person was a thug. Bad mouthing the victims of police shootings, rather than the shooters themselves, often leads to the impossible dilemma of trying to defend the honor of the victims. Lowery notes, “the protest chants were never meant to assert the innocence of every slain Black man and woman.” He adds, “Who is the perfect victim? Michael Brown? Kajieme Powell? Eric Garner? Sandra Bland? Freddie Gray? Young activists reframed the question: Does it matter?” Does it matter? I think not. These are human lives lost because of an entrenched system of racism that won’t die unless we all take active steps to change it. The book ends just before the 2016 election and there is an especially poignant quote from a young activist: “The protests will continue…Regardless of who is elected, we’re going to work to continue this level of engagement with the next administration; there’s just too much at stake.” The protests have continued, yes.
  • Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta: Boy, was this a disappointment. I read it because I had loved The Leftovers, but this book doesn’t measure up. It’s just plain stupid. The main character, Eve Fletcher, is likeable enough, but she’s poorly imagined and acts more like her teenage son than a fortysomething mother. Even the one moment when there is an impending crisis of Eve’s son walking in on his mother’s threesome simply disappears after the build up. It has a happy, but not very believable ending.


  • Normal People by Sally Rooney: This novel that follows the on-again, off-again relationship between two young Dubliners made nearly every best-of list in 2019 has been made into a critically acclaimed tv show on Hulu.
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid: Longlisted for the 2020 Man Booker Prize, this is a relevant and timely novel about race and privilege.
  • Drinking French by David Lebovitz: Go from day (cafe drinks) to night (aperitifs and cocktails) in this gorgeous book about French culture. Santé!
  • That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life by Marissa Mullen: I love, love, love cheese boards and I love, love, love this book. Step-by-step instructions are accompanied by pretty pictures and illustrations that focus on simple ingredients to make fun themed boards.
  • Perry Mason: This series shows us how Perry Mason became Perry Mason and is one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Great writing, great acting, great score, this show is worth the price of a monthly HBO subscription on its own.
  • My Life is Murder: I must confess that I did not watch Xena: Princess Warrior so I had no idea how utterly charming Lucy Lawless is until now! This Australia series set in Melbourne, features Lawless as a retired police detective that gets pulled back in to help with hard-to-solve cases.
  • Dublin Murders: Based on Into the Woods and The Likeness by best-selling author Tana French, this series is set in Dublin and focuses on a present day crime that seems to be connected to the disappearance of two local children in the 80s. A second plotline arises about halfway through this eight-episode season.
  • Nice White Parents: A new podcast from the makers of Serial about equality in public schools. Although this series focuses on public schools in New York City, the issues at hand are surely occurring in some variation in every single public school in this country.




  • The Cactus by Sarah Haywood: A fun, light beach read with quirky but likeable characters.
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren: A funny, silly rom-com, literally set on the beach. I kept thinking this would be a cute movie. The plot’s a little out there, but very enjoyable overall.
  • Maybe You Should Talk to Someone : a Therapist, Her therapist, and Our Lives Revealed  by Lori Gottlieb: I loved this true story about one therapist’s journey through therapy. I found the idea of therapy through the eyes of a practicing therapist fascinating. Her story, and that of her patients, was equally amusing and moving; I laughed and I cried. Gottlieb is a great writer.
  • The Body: a Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson: What a fabulous book. Bryson is an incredible writer and it makes tough science read easy. I was shocked by how little I know about the body and some of the “healthy” habits I had that Bryson debunks. I have recommended this book to many people and everyone has thanked me. A highlight for me is that you can skip around chapters (I jumped around and read what was most interesting to me first).


  • The Old Guard: Based on the comic of the same name, this featured Charlize Theron kicking butt as an ancient warrior.
  • The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix: This was amazing, adorable, and exceeded my expectations.
  • The Gymnast: Ever loved a movie so much you want everyone to see it? But you are also too scared to introduce anyone to it because you’re scared they won’t love it? This low budget indie blew me away when it came out in 2006. It’s rare to have actual dancers play dancers in film, and this, while it has a few flaws, is really beautiful. Just don’t tell me if you watch it and don’t love it.
  • The Aerialist: The sequel to The Gymnast I’ve been waiting for for 14 years! Dreya Weber, the star of both The Gymnast and The Aerialist, is an incredible performer who brings such talent and depth to this film about our bodies and how they betray us. Shot in 10 days, with almost no budget, this film is as mesmerizing as its predecessor.
  • These Woods are Haunted on Travel channel: I’ve always loved creepy stories, especially the ones told by the people who experienced them. You might enjoy this if you like the podcast, Spooked. Let’s just say I’ve lost all desire to go camping after binging both seasons. But it was fun!
  • In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby: While this adorable middle grade novel is about a present day young teen figuring herself out through her love of old soapoperas, it was a nostalgia filled journey fir me, back to 2000, and the first lesbian character on daytime tv. This was a sweet middle grade novel.
  • You Don’t Live Here by Robyn Schneider
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia: This was a disappointment. I was excited because I love gothic spooky house stories. But I didn’t really care for the protagonist, and well, I saw almost every “plot twist” coming. It just wasn’t actually that creepy or scary.
  • Malorie by Josh Malerman: This sequel to the exciting Bird Box was ok, it was a little too slow and introspective for me.


  • Shuri by Nic Stone: I enjoyed this coming of age novel about Shuri, best known as the younger sister of T’Challa, aka “Black Panther”. It does help to have some knowledge of either the comics or film universe of Black Panther but I don’t think anyone needs an excuse to read something by Nic Stone. Chadwick Boseman’s (T’Challa from the film) untimely death do make me remember this book, with bittersweetness.
  • Darius the Great Deserves Better by Adib Khorram: Sequel to Darius the Great is Not Okay which I loved. Fresh off a trip to Iran to visit his mother’s family, Darius is navigating a lot of relationships in his life, including his family, first boyfriend, and burgeoning friendship with Chip. Another great character driven novel. I hope there’s a third entry!
  • Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall: Recently, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which, theoretically, gave women the right to vote but, in reality, not all women, especially Black and Indigenous Women, and other women of color. This book highlights how it’s important to remember all women when fighting for women’s rights, not just straight cis white women, and how to make the movement more intersectional.
  • The Unlikely Thru-Hiker by Derick Lugo: You do not need to be a serious hiker in order to enjoy this memoir of an Appalachian Trail Through Hiker. In fact, you can be a complete poseur and wannabe hiker like me! Lugo’s prose is witty and thoughtful as he details his six month journey as well as the fact that he was one of the few through hikers of color.
  • The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins, read by Santino Fontana: I’m so done with prequels. After seeing The Phantom Menace on opening night in 1999, I really need to stop watching/reading prequels. I really didn’t need to read (or listen, in my case) to one for The Hunger Games trilogy. (It probably doesn’t help that I’m not as into The Hunger Games as  once was.) That being said, it was fast paced book and Fontana’s narration did add to the novel, in a good way.
  • Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell: Did I say that I was not that into The Hunger Games anymore? I meant to say, that I’m really not into Harry Potter, anymore! (JK Rowling’s transphobic comments and attitude about transgender women certainly has not endeared me to her works, either). Oddly, my fall of enthusiasm for the Harry Potter franchise is exactly why I’ve been enjoying this gentle parody by Rainbow Rowell so much. Wayward Son is the sequel to Carry On, which was actually the fan fiction of the fictional Simon Snow series written by the fictional Cath in Rowell’s novel, Fangirl.  (Everyone get that?) On its surface, this world may just seem like an ersatz Harry Potter but they stand up so much on their own, and (in my opinion) correct a lot of the issues that I have with the Potter books.
  • Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory: My favorite romance writer does it again! Olivia, sister to Alexa from The Wedding Date who has just moved to LA to start her own law firm, has a meet cute with Max, a US Congressman as they bond over dessert. I continue to love how Guillory’s characters always seem real and that the relationships are realistic and healthy.
  • Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi: This re-working of Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi takes events from America history that most of us were taught in school and presents them through a different lens. There is so much that we (at least my generation) were not taught.
  • BambiThis was my third time seeing this movie, and first time since I was a child.Still traumatizing.
  • Bambi IIAs direct to video Disney sequels go (or midquels, in this case), this wasn’t too bad. Patrick Stewart as Bambi’s father made me chuckle. I kept waiting for him to tell Bambi, “engage”
  • The SimpsonsI am definitely part of the Simpsons generation. I remember when they were shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show and I owned a Bart Simpson, “Don’t Have a Cow, Man” t-shirt. That being said, I haven’t watched a new episode in at least 15 years (possibly even 20). I’ve started to go back and binge watch the early seasons. In a lot of ways, the early episodes still hold up and are, in some cases, more relevant now than they were in the 1990s. However, there is a lot that has not aged well, including, but not limited to, white actors, such as Hank Azaria, voicing characters of color, such as Apu. It took the show much too long to make amends regarding that.
  • The Problem with Apu: Documentary produced by comedian, Hari Kondabolu and his complicated relationship with The Simpsons. Although he was a fan of the show, he realized the problems that arose from Hank Azaria’s portrayal of Apu, the show’s South Asian convenience store owner. Great and thoughtful documentary.

September is Happy Cat Month!

How does your cat make you happy? How do you keep your cat happy?

Post a picture of your happy cat to @walthamlibrary on twitter, instagram or facebook with the hashtag #happycatmonth!

Title details for A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen - Wait list
Title details for I Am Pusheen the Cat by Claire Belton - Wait list

What’s Your Library Superhero Pose?

Having a library card makes you feel like a superhero with all the amazing things it gives you access to, including technology, media resources and educational programs. This Library Card Sign-up Month, show us your best superhero pose for a chance to win a $100 gift card, courtesy of the American Library Association. Help spread the word by striking a library superhero stance, holding your physical library card or your device with your e-card. Post it to Instagram (@walthamlibrary), Twitter (@walthamlibrary), or Facebook (@walthamlibrary) using the hashtag #LibraryCardHero. Don’t forget to cover up any personally identifiable information on your library card, and please tag @walthamlibrary .

Don’t have a physical card? You can register for an ecard by simply clicking this link.

The promotion ends Tuesday, September 22, at 1:00 pm. All library lovers are encouraged to participate.

The #LibraryCardHero promotion is open to residents of the United States, Washington, D.C., and U.S. Territories. Employees of the American Library Association are not eligible to participate.

Free English Learning Activities Online

With many free activities to learn or practice English online, where do you start? Here are a few helpful resources and ideas for how to use them.

Remember: learning a language is like building a house. You need a variety of tools–not just one. Make regular time to practice listening, reading, writing, and speaking.

Also like building a house, it helps to share the work with other people. There’s an expression: “Many hands make light work.”

Our English Language Learning (ELL) program at Waltham Public Library helps you practice English skills and connect with other learners.

Visit our calendar to learn about free online classes and programs this fall.

If you recommend other free online resources for learning English, please leave a comment on this post. Let’s have a conversation to help each other.

Language brings us together.

~Aaron Devine, Literacy Coordinator at Waltham Public Library

Contact me: (email) or 781-314-3442 (phone)

Basic Vocabulary for Beginners

Use free with your Waltham Library card (Need one? Start with an ecard today). This app offers English language instruction in your first language with notes about grammar and culture as you learn. Practice speaking out loud; review each chapter with a friend.

Click on pictures and listen to learn the ABCs, as well as words for food, clothing, the body, nature, places, and more. Repeat the words; search for examples in your home, work, and neighborhood. Say their names out loud.

Games to practice vocabulary, spelling, phrases, and description. Write down new words in a journal. Practice correct spelling and word order.

Pronunciation and Listening

This website lists every sound in American English with pronunciation guides and examples. Make a list of sounds that are difficult for you. (Notice also how many you already know!) Read the “How to pronounce” guide and then practice. Ask a friend to listen.

This website has pronunciation guides (step-by-step) and animation to show how each sound is formed in the mouth. Review challenging sounds. Then find a fun tongue twister to practice.

Listen to short dialogues with comprehension questions. Choose from easy, intermediate, and difficult. After you listen, try to continue the dialogue: in writing by yourself, or in conversation with a friend.

Structure (Grammar and Writing)

This website offers grammar lessons and quizzes organized by topic. Practice a lesson by writing in your journal. Look for examples of the lesson when you read.

From grammar-maven Betty Azar’s website: free worksheets and activities created by teachers. Also, Suzanne Woodward’s Fun with Grammar in PDF. Practice a couple of song lessons from the site. Then choose your favorite singer/band and try to make your own grammar lesson with their lyrics.

Reading and Listening Comprehension

Listen and read current events articles. Review vocabulary and comprehension questions at the end. Read an article out loud twice, taking turns with a friend. Then talk about it: try to summarize the information first; share your opinions after.

Learn about a variety of topics from experts. Use the subtitles, transcripts, and translations to build your language skills. has internationally popular social media accounts. Follow or like one and join the conversation.

Songs, Stories, and Fun with English

Music is joyful and linked to memory. On this website, you can enjoy popular music and listen for missing words in the lyrics. Try the easier choice mode first and then try write mode (which involves spelling) for a harder challenge.

This website (and phone app) helps real people record interviews and stories about their lives. Some are animated so that you can listen and follow the images to build understanding. Add closed captions (cc) to read the text, too. If you enjoy this site, consider recording your own interview with a family member, neighbor, or friend. StoryCorps has lists of questions ready for you.

Ok, ok, dictionaries are not usually fun. However, the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary contains a picture quiz called “Name that Thing,” a word-of-the-day email, and Ask the Editor with questions and answers about the English language.

*Join Aaron for “Mango and More,” an introduction to some of these resources, streaming live on the Waltham Public Library YouTube channel, Friday, September 11 from 12-1PM. The program repeats in Spanish on Friday, September 25 from 12-1PM. In case you miss the livestream, both videos will remain available for viewing on our YouTube channel.

Tell Us What You’re Reading July 2020

In July, we held more meetings for “Tell Us What You’re Reading”. Everyone who participated shared titles of books that they’re reading as well as some shows and movies that they’ve been watching.  We had a wonderful conversation and all of us came away with some more titles for our “To Be Read” lists.  Below are the titles that attendees shared.

Join us for future meetings for “Tell Us What You’re Reading: Monday, August 17 at 7:00 pm and Monday, September 21 at 7:00 pm.  E-mail Laura ( for the Zoom links.

Watch the library staff on Youtube, starting Tuesday, August 25 at 2:30 pm and Wednesday, September 30 at 2:30 pm as “We Tell You What We’re Reading”.



  • The Babysitters Club (Netflix series)
  • Clue
  • Dark
  • Hamilton
  • In the Long Run
  • Knives Out
  • Last Tango in Halifax
  • Marcella
  • Murder by Death
  • Timeless

Staff Reads July 2020

Book Projector Treble Clef

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



  • Autopsy of a Boring Wife by Marie Lavoie: This book is a fun and light read, perfect for those of us who are having a hard time concentrating.  I picture Diane Keaton in the main role; the housewife whose husband has left her for a younger woman.  The novel takes place in Quebec  and our main character is anything but boring.
  • Cut Me Loose by Leah Vincent: This memoir is very moving and, I must warn you, there are some upsetting scenes.  Leah can not bear the shackles of being a traditional ultra Orthodox female who is not allowed to go to college and who is expected to serve her husband and produce children as her primary role.  The lack of support that she gets from her family when she is unable to live such a circumscribed life causes Leah alot of pain.  This book documents her struggle to find an identity that is comfortable and that makes sense for her.  Recommended for fans of Unorthodox:  The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman.
  • Fiction Ruined My Family by Jeanne Darst: This eccentric story tells about Jeanne Darst’s life growing up with an alcoholic mother and a self absorbed writer father who can not always attend to his family’s needs.  Jeanne herself becomes an artist and an alcoholic who has to come to terms with her family, her own alcoholism, and her identity.  I loved this book and I felt for the family and for Jeanne on her journey to selfhood.  Recommended for fans of The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls and Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.
  • The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt: Donna Tartt is such an amazing writer that I simply don’t have the words. This novel is a Pulitzer Prize winner.  The goldfinch refers to a painting by Carel Fabritius that currently hangs in the Hague.  The goldfinch has a chain attached to its foot which is an apt metaphor for some of the chains that the main character, Theo has to bear in his difficult life.  Theo has and loses a wonderful, art loving mother.  His father is less loving; an alcoholic actor who deserts the family.  We meet all sorts of interesting and flawed characters and see Theo’s destiny so closely entwined with the painting.  I don’t want to spoil the plot and tell you what happens with the painting.
  • New Kid by Jerry Craft: This Newbery Award winning graphic novel is an easy and edifying read.  The main character, Jordan, is a young man who is transferring to an upscale, mostly white school.  He is the new kid and he has to come to terms with a whole different universe.  He has a lovely family, two parents who want the best for him, but who don’t always see things the way he does.  Jordan wants to go to art school, but his mother wants him to go the prestigious school.  He has to take public transportation to get there and he has to find his place as the new kid in the new school and as a kid who has left his neighborhood school behind.  Heartwarming and witty, this is recommended to anyone who ever wondered how to fit in.  Illustrations are all done by the author and the illustrations that are supposedly Jordan’s own originals are delightful.
  • Afterlife by Julia Alvarez: This novel is so compulsively readable that I finished it practically before I started.  Our main character, Antonia, has lost her husband Sam, and is still dealing with her grief.  In the meantime, her three sisters are having their own issues as one of the sisters, Izzy, seems to have gone off the deep end.  Antonia lives in Vermont and has some serious worries about some illegal workers and their struggles.  The relationships of the sisters feel so universal to me as they quibble and argue and love each other as best as they can.  The sisters’ family came from the Dominican Republic, and yet, they are firmly ensconced in the United States unlike the migrant workers in Antonia’s neighborhood.  Antonia has a strong literary bent as she is a writer and a former teacher and her literary references throughout the novel are delightful to read.  Two of her sisters are therapists and so, have a more ‘therapy’ oriented view which one who studies great literature might question.  What would a therapist say about Hamlet or King Lear or Desdemona in the current era?  Antonia ponders these sorts of questions and more in this heartwarming book that deals with the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows of family life.



  • Just Mercy the film: Based on the book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. This is an origin story that’s hard to watch and incredibly important to see. It’s a dramatization of the founding of the Equal Justice Initiative by attorney Bryan Stevenson. If you’re not familiar with their work, take a look at their website: In the film, Stevenson is a newly minted, Harvard-trained Black lawyer who moves to Montgomery, Alabama with funding to provide free legal services to those who have been wrongfully convicted or sentenced, including men on death row. The main story is about Johnny D McMillian, a Black man who was illegally convicted of killing a white woman and placed on death row. The entire case against him rested on the convoluted and implausible testimony of a white felon who said he saw McMillian standing over the victim. Attorney Stevenson eventually uncovers the truth, which is that the white felon was temporarily placed on death row in the cell next to the kill room as a way of pressuring him to pin the crime on a man he’d never seen, for a murder he knew nothing about. Stevenson doggedly pursues justice, eventually winning freedom for McMillian. The film doesn’t shy away from the stark realities of death row: the preparation of an inmate for the electric chair, the way cells are organized so that inmates can’t see each other while talking, the random and inhumane exertion of power imposed by the guards. The film’s message is clear: we live in a racist society, built on a racist legacy. EJI’s fight is against a well-oiled system of oppression. This film will haunt you and make you see what he – and we – are up against.


  • Once You Go This Far by Kristen Lepionka: The 4th book featuring PI Roxan Weary. I really liked this one! Although i had a suspicion of the guilty person as soon as we were introduced to them, the entire story kept me guessing.
  • Home Before Dark by Riley Sager: Another twisty mystery/thriller/horror novel from this author. Maggie Holt returns to a home her family fled when she was a child because it was haunted. Her father even wrote a best selling book about the experience, and her life has never been the same because of that book. She doesn’t remember her time in the house as a kid, and doesn’t think a word of the book is true, but after her father dies, she goes back to find out if it’s really haunted.
  • The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar
  • The Power by Naomi Alderman: You can tell that Naomi who is a mentee of Margaret Atwood is very influenced by the author. This book read very similarly to Atwood. Sometimes it was interesting, sometimes it was a little too heavy handed.
  • The Last One by Alexandra Oliva: An interesting book to pick up during a pandemic. Our main character (i’m not sure we ever learn her real name) enters a reality competition out in the wilderness, somewhat like survivor, but less intense. What she doesn’t realize is that while she is alone in the wilderness, a pandemic is wiping out the world’s population. Even when she stumbles upon recently abandoned towns, she assumes it is just part of the game. I definitely wanted to find out how it ended!
  • The Half of It on Netflix: This is an adorable movie about a young gay woman, centering on her relationship with her father and a straight boy at her high shcool who she happens to share a crush with. It’s gentle, and sweet, and all about friendship.
  • The Bold Type Season 4B
  • Love, Victor on Hulu: A spin off of Love, Simon, originally planned for Disney+ but moved to Hulu. I have to say, i don’t like Victor very much. Just because you are confused about your sexuality/coming out does not give you a free pass to be a jerk to the people who are kind to you. If i’m to continue watching, i want a kid who is less of a jerk.



  • Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany: A strange yet very hopeful look at language, about how it can divide us, and how it can be a bridge of empathy between us. I’ll have to reread it again.
  • Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff: Set in 1950s America, this story revolves around a black family fighting against everyday racism and supernatural horrors, all during the Jim Crow era. Terrifying and surprisingly heartfelt, I highly recommend it.
  • Devolution by Max Brooks: A bunch of rich tech-savvy hipsters set up a suburban neighborhood in the American Northwest wilderness. When a natural disaster separates them from the rest of the world, they discover Bigfoot is real, there is more than one of them, and they are not friendly. A fascinating, well researched drama about what is admittedly a very ridiculous topic.




Janet Z.


  • Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof by Alisa Solomon: Gives a lot of context to the classic show as well as the Sholem Aleichem stories.
  • Shakespeare for Squirrels by Christopher Moore: Great riff on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  First book by Moore I’ve read since Lamb, which I loved.
  • Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga: Beautiful, thoughtful, and descriptive.
  • Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead: Great follow up to The Underground Railroad.  Elwood’s story after heading to a reformatory is one that sadly still rings true today.
  • Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo: Heart wrenching and descriptive tale told in two verse about two sisters, one living in New York and the other living in the Dominican Republic, who only learn of each other’s identity after a tragedy.
  • Pet by Akwaeke Emezi: A fantasy novel that is incredibly grounded allowing the reader to think about who is considered a monster.  Though the tone is different, this could serve as a readalike to Sweep by Jonathan Auxier, which is another look at monsters in literature.  I love the fact that Jam, the main character, happens to be a transgender female but it’s just a part of and not her entire identity.  It also contains my new favorite line in a book, “‘If you really want to know,’ one of the teachers added, taking pity on Jam’s frustrated curiosity, ‘there’s always the library.'”
  • The Turner House by Angela Flournoy: Riveting, descriptive look at the Turner family, living in Detroit from the 1940’s to 2008 with a dash of magic realism thrown in.
  • The Girl Who Reads on the Metro by Christine Féret-Fleury: A quiet novel about a woman, Juliette, who loves watching people read on the Metro in Paris and finds herself in a position to match the perfect books with the perfect people.
  • Lovebirds (movie): I loved the chemistry between Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani as a couple caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
  • The Great Mouse Detective (movie): I think I was just a shade too old when this was released and just caught this for the first time.  I think it would have scared the daylights out of me as a kid!
  • The Babysitters Club (Netflix): I had loved these books when I was in middle school but acknowledge they’ve since become dated.  The new show is perfect, updating the stories and main characters for 2020 (even the part about Claudia having her own phone line).  I love all of the changes, and daresay that I enjoy this more than the original books.  (I’m trying to ignore the fact that the parents are my age)

Tell Us What You’re Reading June 2020


On Monday, June 15, we held another “Tell Us What You’re Reading” meeting of the  Waltham Public Library Virtual Book Club.  Everyone who participated shared titles of books that they’re reading as well as some shows and movies that they’ve been watching.  We had a wonderful conversation and all of us came away with some more titles for our “To Be Read” lists.  Below are the titles that attendees shared.
Join us on Monday, July 13 at 7:00 pm or Thursday, July 16 at 2:30 pm (or both!)  to share any titles that you’re reading!  E-mail Laura ( for the meeting link.



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