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Library Love: February Staff Picks

posted: , by Elizabeth Hartsig
tags: Library Collections | Recommended Reads | Adults | Teens | Kids & Families | Seniors | Art & Culture

Youth Services

Carrie’s Pick

Love IS my favorite thing! Emma Chichester-Clark looks at love from a dog’s eye view and finds out that love is unconditional. No matter what Plum does he is still loved by his family. Today, and everyday, it is important to remember that love is the foundation. Love this book!

Rose Ann’s Pick

The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessy is my pick: it’s the story of a twelve year old boy, Shane, who was born a girl. He is now living with his mother in a new city, new school and new friends. His parents have divorced and not everyone knows his past. Shane has a best friend, there’s a girl he likes, and he’s the star pitcher for the baseball team. He wants to share his story, but there is fear there as well. He wants to be honest but stay true to himself.  “You might lose some of them” is a quote from the book that describes what might happen if and when if he tells others. When a slip about his old school is mentioned, where he attended as a girl and where his Dad still lives, Shane begins to be bullied. The Other Boy shares the emotional struggles and issues that Shane deals with and the search for the happiness and future he wants. It’s a story of devotion, understanding, acceptance and love: the love of a parent, child, friend and oneself. The book’s writing was lovely, and it made me think and touched my heart. You will find it on the shelves for middle school readers but I recommend it for adults as well.


Kerry’s Pick

Monsoon Wedding is the story of an Indian father named Lalit (Naseeruddin Shah) who is preparing for his daughter Aditi’s (Vasundhara Das) upcoming wedding. Aditi is still in love with her boss and does not want to go through with the arranged marriage to groom Hemant (Parvin Dabas), but feels she has no choice. As family members from all over the world come to celebrate the wedding conflicts begin to surface, including a painful secret from the past. The wedding planner P.K. Dubey (Vijay Raaz) also begins to fall in love with the family servant Alice (Neha Dubey). Monsoon Wedding is a beautiful film filled with love, betrayal, loyalty, and forgiveness.

Adult Fiction

Susanne’s Pick

Loving Frank is a ten-year-old novel by Nancy Horan. It explores the private life of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a story of a beautiful but complicated love story. Regardless of if it is true or not, it’s true in describing how complicated life, feelings and following your star might be. The story grabs you and you read on, wanting to know what happens next. The characters are not always likable, but always human. A good book to keep you company while you wait for spring to come.

Adult Nonfiction

Elizabeth’s Pick

Author bell hooks’ classic All About Love: New Visions continues to inspire. How to love? She observes: “To begin by always thinking of love as an action rather than a feeling is one way in which anyone using the word in this manner automatically assumes accountability and responsibility.” For hooks, love is a choice and a practice that involves awareness, openness, honesty, and work: “How different things might be if, rather than saying ‘I think I’m in love,’ we were saying ‘I’ve connected with someone in a way that makes me think I’m on the way to knowing love.’ Or if instead of saying ‘I am in love’ we say ‘I am loving’ or ‘I will love.’”  hooks also looks frankly and thoughtfully at challenges to love. Her visions expand beyond romantic love to speak to the practice of love in our country and our culture, describing and calling for a love ethic that could transform our communities and society: “Embracing love ethic means that we utilize all dimensions of love—’care, commitment, trust, responsibility, respect and knowledge’—in our everyday lives.”

Eileen’s Picks

It may sound simplistic, but I believe that food is love.  Planning it, making it, sharing it: love, love, love.

My mother soothed skinned knees, mended bruised feelings, celebrated special occasions and interrupted everyday monotony with hot cocoa and cinnamon toast, hot cocoa and chocolate chip cookies, hot cocoa and peanut butter sandwiches … you get the picture.   Hot cocoa, stirred on the stovetop, figured prominently in my experience of maternal love.

In the 1970’s, my father, always an enthusiastic consumer of whatever was served to him, nudged awake his own dormant penchant for cooking, along with a fondness for gadgets of the craft.  He bought a food dehydrator into which anything moist was loaded then desiccated and made into other things, most of them edible.   He bought 50 lb sacks of wheat berries and ground them in his electric stone grinding mill.  Coffee can sized tins of yeast made their way into our cupboard. Bread was baked in great quantities. “Great quantities “ is a phrase that we used often to describe his production, so it was no surprise, and a bit of a relief, when he found a volunteer gig cooking on weekends in an ecumenical retreat house near our home.  He could indulge his compulsion to cook lots of good food, enough to feed a few or dozens of people, without turning his wife and three daughters into dumpling-shaped gluttons.  He could spread his love of food and his need to nurture around.  His bounty and his sweet nature found a second home in the friary’s big kitchen, while still keeping his family hip deep in bread.  Everyone wins.

How lovely to feel loved by two such lovely people!  How could I not associate food with love?  Indeed, how could I not think that food is love made visible, made bite-size?  And how absolutely wonderful that food is necessary for life, not to be  denied lest we perish!  How sweet to prepare some dish or other for another and feel not only my own love but the love of those who have done the same for me over the years.  Generations of love, sustaining love, love without end.  On a plate.  Ready to share.

So, how about a cookbook or three?

Beard on Bread by James Beard.  Great recipes.  Try the pita bread.  Oh, yes, try the pita bread.

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison.  So many things to love in this one, but I’m pushing the Chard and Onion Omelet (Trouchia).  Bake some sweet potatoes, nothing added.  Really pretty.  Really delicious.

And finally, this one is especially for Dad, who would love that its execution requires a gadget.  Grab your ice cream freezer.

Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield.  Oh, my goodness, this is a collection that makes me very happy.  What is a meal without desert?  Well, it’s fine, of course, but how about some ice cream to round things out?  May I press you to make a batch of “Ben’s Chocolate?”  You will not be disappointed.

So love, love, love.  Sharing makes it better.

A Narwhal, Living Danishly, and Post-Brexit Lit: New Staff Picks

posted: , by Elizabeth Hartsig
tags: Library Collections | Adults | Kids & Families | Seniors | Art & Culture


Here be narwhals and jellyfish, the art of living lonely and of living joyously, other ways of seeing, being, and photographing, and a few exciting fiction titles, old and new. Our staff shares a variety of vibrant and world-expanding picks as we settle into winter.

Youth Services 

Carrie’s Pick

I’m very excited about the new graphic novel Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea! by Ben Clanton.

Narwhal and Jelly, who are in fact both real, become fast friends and form a podtastic pod of fellow sea creatures. What could be more fun? The Narwhal Song, of course, clap clap clap! Just wait until you see the Best Book Ever. With imagination, humor, friendship and fun, Ben Clanton has created a Narwhal, and a Graphic Novel, the whole family can love…clap clap clap!


Adult Nonfiction 

Sonya’s Picks

Denmark winters are long, cold and dark…much like Maine winters. How to keep thriving? Danes embrace “hygge” and a million candles to fight against the winter doldrums and are often cited as the happiest people in the world.  Hygge (pronounced: hooga) is a major factor in this.
Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Get comfy – have good pj’s on hand.
  • Turn off your phone and your TV.  Savour the moment.
  • Dim your home. Buy new candles.
  • Spend time with your tribe.
  • Always have cake on hand for unexpected guests. (Yes, I love cake!) Further, embrace coffee! Or better yet gløgg!

This is definitely a movement I can get behind! To help get me through Maine winter I plan to read the following (yes – all of them in comfy pj’s with gløgg AND cake !)

Ellen’s Pick

The Year of Living Danishly (the audiobook version!) by Helen Russell

My 30-something daughters – one living in France with her husband and two young sons and the other in Massachusetts with a 2-year-old special needs child – decided in May of 2016 to meet up in Cophenhagen to break the long hiatus since they had last been able to see each other. Their photographs and stories about the delights of that city and the contentment of the people made me long to go there for a visit. British writer Helen Russell spent a year there with her husband discovering the reason Denmark is called by some the “Happiest Country in the World.” Here’s a link to the audiobook version of her tale.


A collage of images from “Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History,1843 to the Present”

Mary’s Pick

Who Shot Sports: A Photographic History, 1843 to the Present by Gail Buckland

I was perusing some best books lists for 2016 and checking library holdings for some of them when I came upon this title.  This is a terrific anthology of sports photographs accompanied by a text that explores the images and the photographers.  This is not a book full of iconic photos – many of the athletes and venues are little-known.  But it is a fascinating look at history through the work of these photographers – and not just sports history.  The commentary being made through the photographs speaks volumes.  Sports photographers are not well known, although some of their images have lived long in our minds.  This title brings together photos and some biographical info and critical comment on the photographers that makes for a captivating read.

Hazel’s Pick

Barely forty pages in to Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City, I am already excited to sing its praises–and equally, albeit prematurely, un-excited for it to be over. As the title suggests, it’s a book about loneliness, specifically the kind that characterizes urban life, when we are (paradoxically) least alone. The book centers on depictions of loneliness by visual artists native to New York City whose lives and/or work were saturated with the “accretive, extending, and perpetuating” feeling. Interspersed with philosophical and psychological observations, the author’s own experiences as a lonely city dweller, and the occasional musing from Virginia Woolf, The Lonely City is elegant, sharp, and honest.

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Nate’s Pick

“What any true painting touches is an absence – an absence of which without the painting, we might be unaware. And that would be our loss.”-John Berger

What I am excited about this month is reacquainting myself with some of the works of John Berger.  Though tragically inspired due to his passing earlier this month, I have experienced delight while perusing the pages of Ways of Seeing, Berger’s accompaniment to the popular BBC television show he hosted in 1972.  Ways of Seeing excites me for a number of reasons.  For one, it provides accessible and thoughtful analysis of art processes and pieces.  Furthermore, Berger’s ability to assess and disseminate social and political influences and their effects on art over the course of history is truly unique.  During difficult times, be they because of cold and dark winter days or the result of various social and political forces, I find it helpful to be reminded of John Berger’s ability to understand and explain the world.

Adult Fiction


Sarah S’s picks

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.” -Flannery O’Connor

I’ve had a thing for Flannery O’Connor ever since I read her short story “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” during my freshman year of college. Then I picked up a copy of O’Connor’s The Complete Stories and discovered so much raw beauty through her grotesque lens that I was left yearning for more.

Ottessa Moshfegh is an emerging writer who is being heralded as the Flannery O’Connor of our time. Her new collection of short stories, Homesick for Another World, will be released later this month. I am second in line on the hold list and can’t wait to get my hands on it! Winter is the perfect time to read short stories, and I am especially looking forward to a fresh perspective and an eerie exploration of the human condition.

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Elizabeth’s Picks

This year I’ll be glad to spend time with books by writing heroes, whether I’m re-reading poetry and prose from favorites—Elizabeth Alexander, Claudia Rankine, Adrienne Rich, Ruth Ozeki—or exploring new territory. January’s begun with several particularly lyrical and potent offerings from the last year: Jacqueline Woodson’s Another Brooklyn, Banana Yoshimoto’s Moshi MoshiKrista Tippett’s Becoming Wise, and Max Porter’s Grief is the Thing With Feathers.

Two new novels I’m excited to read this winter are yet to be published: February will bring Scottish writer Ali Smith’s Autumn. The first offering in a seasonal quartet, Autumn is set in Brexit-era Britain but spans decades of cultural time and space.  Smith’s fictional passage about the feeling in Great Britain after last year’s historical vote speaks volumes: “All across the country, people felt it was the wrong thing. All across the country, people felt it was the right thing. All across the country, people felt they’d really lost. All across the country, people felt they’d really won. All across the country, people felt they’d done the right thing and other people had done the wrong thing. All across the country, people looked up Google: what is EU? All across the country, people looked up Google: move to Scotland. All across the country, people looked up Google: Irish Passport Applications…”

I’m also deeply looking forward to the March publication of Mohsin Hamid’s new novel Exit West, described as an electric story of two refugees and their love and courage in a rapidly changing world.

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As always, thanks for reading.

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