SUMMER READING! It’s back--the best time of the year. Yet another summer for us to play, learn, and earn at the Library. Summer reading gets little improvements from year to year, but the major change is the theme. This year, the theme is ‘A Universe of Stories’--which is to say we’re celebrating outer space, science, and the vast diversity of books available in the world today. This summer is going to be stellar.
If you listened to NHPR’s ‘The Exchange’ on June 11th, you heard them discuss “Averting The Summer Slide: Schools Aim To Keep Students Learning Over Summer Vacation”. It’s available on their website and most podcast apps if you missed it. One of the most frequently cited methods for keeping the mind active during summer is to participate in library programming--Summer Reading most of all! We’ve got unbelieveable programs and jaw-dropping incentives this summer, making reading with the whole family more fun than ever. It’s all possible thanks to the support of the Friends of the Gilford Public Library, who sponsor the entire program, and the local businesses that donate incentives.
This year’s blast off party is on June 25th from 3:30-5pm for all ages. Yes, children, teens, adults, we’re all partying together with music, ice cream, books, food, and excitement. We’re going to get hyped for a summer full of reading and programming. We’ll look forward to performances like Hokuto Taiko Dojo Japanese Drumming, an ‘Out of this World’ escape room, the Hampstead Theater performance of ‘Jungle Book’, a full Planetarium experience from the McAuliffe Shepard Discovery Center right here in town, musical performances, lectures, and much more. Get all the information at the blast-off party, stop-in, or take a look at our online calendar to learn more.
Reading is mission critical. For all three Summer Reading Programs, children, teen, and adult, you earn rewards for reading. They are awesome incentives, but the real reward is the benefit of being a reader. Study after study has shown that summer reading reduces or eliminates the loss of school learning progress. It encourages a culture of life-long learning, which improves quality of life in all stages. That’s why this year we are introducing the Family Reading Challenge, which offers a special prize raffle for families that participate together.
The Summer Reading Program is all about sharing the benefits of reading with loved ones, library visitors, and the community as a whole. Let’s explore ‘A Universe of Stories’ together!
SPACE! We’re going to hear a lot about outer space and the science that goes with it this summer as it is central to the Summer Reading Program. More on that next week. Today, let’s talk about the Moon, getting there, and books on science. The Library is a place of learning after all, and science is the best way to produce information reliable enough to be worth learning.
Our first book is ‘First on the Moon: The Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Experience’ by Rod Pyle. It’s bewildering to realize that it’s been fifty years since the Apollo 11 mission, but here we are. Pyle went deep gathering images and first hand accounts from NASA to commemorate the event, and the result is a clean and informative summary.
Our second book is nothing like the first. ‘Eating the Sun: Small Musings on a Vast Universe’ by Ella Frances Sanders is a ruminating tour of fascinating facts about the universe. With smart, poetic writing, Sanders briefly describes what science tells us about topics like light, space (even in individual atoms), gravity, and energy. ‘Eating the Sun’ refers to the how energy flows from the sun as light and a tiny bit of it becomes edible plants. Simultaneously, it seems, we know so much and so little about us and everything, but there is so much we don’t know. Sanders points out in a positive tone--we have a lot to think about.
If you’re a social learner, why not come to next week’s book discussion of ‘Rise of the Rocket Girls’ by Nathalia Holt? The all-women team of extraordinary mathematicians were known as human computers. They crunched complex and variable calculations to revolutionize rocket design and satellite trajectories using only pencil, paper, and their own genius. The discussions are on Thursday, June 21st at 12:30pm or 6pm.
These are just a handful of books on my desk. Just imagine how many are in the library, or the universe! There is so much for us to discover, and so many discoveries that others have made for the rest of us to learn. Let’s take this summer to know a bit more about our world.
Increase access: It's a core tenant of libraries. We are here to provide services for the public as best we can. We want people to be able to use the resources regardless of wealth, demographics, or social position. As a community of librarians, we are always brainstorming ways to increase access to books and other media. There have been leaps forward with the advent of digital materials, the library of things, alternative media options like large print and audiobooks, library and school collaborations, and so much more.
The physical building is hard to move, though. It’s a wonderful building with a sturdy foundation, but it isn’t everywhere in town. Some libraries in the world have book-mobiles, vans/carts/buses stuffed with books to share with the public. We don’t have a bookmobile yet, but we do have two little free libraries at the Gilford Town Beach and Glendale Docks!
The little free libraries are exactly what they sound like. Tiny structures protecting a couple shelves of books that are free for the taking. They are not library books, but they might have been at one point. Most of them have been donated by the public to the Friends of the Gilford Public Library. Take a book, leave a book if you like (but you don’t have to), and check back as frequently as you like to see what ‘new’ books have arrived. They are all slightly used, but librarians know that books are not meant to be read only once!
A first thought for many people when hearing about little free library is about people abusing the service. We get asked all the time if the little free libraries get vandalized or if one person takes all the books. We explain that the most part, the little free libraries are respected. People seem to recognize that they are there for a public good. Besides, it's worth the risk to provide access to books wherever people gather. There are many, many more books in the Bookworm shop to keep the shelves full.
So next time you are at the beach or about to put the boat in for a day’s cruise only to realize that you left your book at home, grab one from the little free library!
Graduation season is on right now. I’m sure that you can feel the hope, fear, and excitement of transition. As people complete their studies and prepare to put them to use, their friends and loved ones try to give them the greatest advantage for the future. One way we try to help is by sharing stories, our own history, and general wisdom we’ve collected about what to expect and how to make the best life they can.
Wisdom can be challenging to communicate. We might remember what it was like to graduate and go to work, or to move up to the next school, but we don’t know exactly what it's like to do that in 2019. We have to discover how much of our wisdom is timeless, and how to frame that wisdom in a way that a contemporary student of any age can understand. That might even mean calling wisdom something fun like ‘Protip’ or ‘Lifehack’. It’s not easy, but the benefit to the graduates in our lives might be worth the effort of thought. Besides, books can help!
Let’s start with some wisdom that has helped people for a very long time. ‘Aristotle’s Way: How Ancient Wisdom Can Change Your Life’ by Edith Hall goes into some of Aristotle’s key concepts and how they are relevant in the current age. It is not a in-depth Aristotelian analysis, but it is a summary of major bullet points that you or the graduates in your life might benefit from. Looking at more at the present, we picked up ‘21 Lessons for the 21st Century’ by Yuval N Harari. It’s one of those challenging-but-rewarding reads that forces us to think about how the world will soon look given the advance of modern technology and our use of it. After reading the book, you too will think that we need to proceed wisely.
Basil Hero wrote ‘The Mission of a Lifetime: Lessons From the Men Who Went to the Moon’ drawing on the words of astronauts. It’s a bit dry, but not lacking in intelligence. ‘Every Tool’s a Hammer: Life is What You Make It’ by Adam Savage on the other hand, has both! With wit and a healthy dose of self-awareness, Savage shares what he has learned over the years as a personality and experimenter. You’ll recognize the wit if you read ‘Wit’s End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It’ by James Geary. Clearly more niche than these other books of wisdom, but wit is an important aspect to the way we understand the world. The same sentiment is shared by some of the most experienced members of society in John Leland’s ‘Happiness is a Choice You Make: Lessons From a Year Among the Oldest Old’.
Wherever you look for wisdom, be sure to share what you’ve learned with those you love. Parents do it all the time when they read with their children. Right around the corner on Wednesday, June 5th from 10:30-11:30am we are having this year’s 1000 Books Before Kindergarten Graduation! We celebrate all the kids who finished reading 1000 books before they head to kindergarten. It’s a fun and spectacular ceremony for the kids and parents, both of whom should be so proud.
Happy Memorial Day. Well, it’s bittersweet, but ‘Bittersweet Memorial Day’ doesn’t sound right at all. We remember those who died in active military service and we rejoice in what they fought and sacrificed for. Many Americans knew the deceased, and we miss them. Those we didn’t personally know, we remember as best we can.
One way that we remember them is by learning and talking about their experiences.As returning veterans have often indicated, there is a disconnect between civilian expectation of military experience and what actually happens. We can bridge that gap by listening to what veterans say and by hearing accounts from the field.
We can start with broad strokes about the histories of wars, conflicts, and the soldier experience. We have a ‘Military’ subsection of the ‘History’ section that is brimming with resources. Books like ‘American Cipher: Bowe Bergdahl and the U.S. Tragedy in Afghanistan’ by Matt Farwell and Michael Ames and ‘Spearhead: An American Tank Gunner, His Enemy, and a Collision of Lives in World War II’ by Adam Makos. Kids and Teens love the Who/What Was Series, so they can read about major events in books like ‘What Was the Vietnam War’ by Jim O’Connor. It is an incredible abbreviation of what occured, but it serves as an introduction for more conversation with our youth.
Looking more closely at what individuals have gone through, we see books like ‘Fighters: Americans in Combat in Afghanistan and Iraq’ by C. J. Chivers. Chivers writes about six different combatants: a fighter pilot, a corpsman, a scout helicopter pilot, a grunt, an infantry officer, and a Special Forces sergeant. Each story is as vivid as the next, but they are just six individuals among the over 2.7 million Americans to have served in Afghanistan or Iraq since 2001 (as the book describes). Movies like ‘A Private War’ give us a glimpse into the lives of soldiers on many sides, including the deep psychological effects of exposure to traumatic circumstances, including PTSD, whether a combatant or not. You could also take a look in the ‘Military’ subsection of ‘Biographies’ and find books like ‘A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II’ about Virginia Hall and written by Sonia Purnell.
Matt Young’s ‘Eat the Apple’ may not describe every Marine’s experience, but he does candidly explain how life in the military shapes his perceptions and color his interactions with civilians. It serves to help readers understand what it’s like to return from deployment as a different person.
Reads like these can help us to remember those who sacrificed for America, and remember them well. The Library will be closed Saturday, May 25th, and Monday, May 27th, to celebrate this important day. We hope that you have an opportunity to remember those who died in active military service.
You can’t escape your body (not yet anyway). We all have medical issues to contend with. This means that we all should probably know at least a little bit about the care and keeping of our bodies. The more we know, the more we can avoid or treat medical conditions. There’s no substitute for a good doctor, but we can certainly learn from quality books and other media from the Library!
Now, there are many places where you can find medical facts, but the real interesting reads combine facts with entertainment. Reading about doctors, treatments, misguided medicine, and healthy eating is relevant to all of us, so these books are gold. One section that has grown recently is the Medical Biography section. The books you’ll find there, often memoirs, tell true stories of illness, recovery, perseverance, and death.
‘The Perfect Predator: A scientist’s race to save her husband from a deadly superbug’ by Steffanie Strathdee, for example, reads like a Dan Brown novel. It is urgent, and the whole time you’re reading it you feel the race against time. ‘Sick’ by Porchisa Khakpour is a more pensieve account of a lifetime of sickness. Khakpour writes candidly about regular ER visits, prescription drug addiction, misdiagnosis, and not being able to remember ever being well. It’s a relatable read for anyone struggling with chronic pain or illness. ‘Cancerland’ by David Scadden stands out as a memoir of a doctor who has lived on the cutting edge of cancer treatment.
Books are only the beginning of health and medicine interest at the library. We also have a healthy number of programs, like CPR and babysitter training, and one-off interest presentations like the upcoming showing of the Netflix original documentary ‘My Beautiful Broken Brain’. It covered the true events of Lotje Sodderland’s rehabilitation and recovery from a traumatic hemorrhagic stroke. Ultimately, the documentary attempts to understand the question, “If the physical body - the brain, is damaged, does this extend to damage to the self?” It will be shown here at the Library on May 21st from 12-1:30pm and light lunch will be served. This program is free and open to the public!
So think of the library next time you want to learn about health and medicine. There is so much for us to learn and share.
Have you heard the birds outside? They are making a ruckus, apparently undeterred by the rain we’ve been enjoying. Depending on how rain and mud resistant you are, the hiking has been good! Plenty of blooming life and birds to see, and the trails are not yet crowded with summer folk. Amateurs, like myself, hear birds chattering away in nearby trees and we squint, clueless as to where the bird actually is. If we’re lucky enough to stumble upon it with our eyes, we don’t know it from a bat. If that’s true for you too, then there’s plenty for us to learn.
Steve Hale of Open World Explorers is coming to the Library to help us out. He’ll present ‘Birds of the White Mountains’ on Thursday, May 16th from 6:30-7:30pm. It will be like a virtual, guided tour of hiking in the White Mountains with vivid pictures of birds both common and uncommon. We’ll learn about how to recognize particular birds from lookalikes, their common stomping grounds, and even the birds that live at or near the high elevation tree line. Finally you’ll know where to look for those wild sounds, and even know which bird it is from the call alone. This is yet another program at our library that is educational, entertaining, and free for everyone.
Take it a step further with some of our books on birding and bird identification, or even take out the birding kit, which includes books and binoculars--everything you need to get out there (except hiking equipment… or food and water). We’ve just put all of our hiking books into its own section near the Classics Section. It’s right below the large Belknap range map, you can’t miss it!
Mark: It’s the 100th Anniversary of Children’s Book Week! For one week a year since 1919, libraries, publishers, booksellers, and authors have celebrated children’s books and literacy together. It has stood for improving the quality of children’s books, increasing access, and drawing attention to the importance of reading at young ages for development. Maria, how is the Children’s Room celebrating this 100th Children’s Book Week?
Maria: We are celebrating all week long by offering prizes for kids coming to the library dressed up as any book character, from Harry Potter to Pinkalicious to Elsa to Greg Heffley. I am also so excited that Ann Biese, a yoga and mindfulness professional and author, is coming to the Library on Thursday, May 2nd from 10:30-11:30am to read from her newest book, ‘Mindful Moon’, and run Music and Movement. It’s amazing to have a local author available to celebrate children’s book with us.
Mark: Sounds awesome. What kind of impact do events like Children’s Book Week have on children? Are they necessary?
Maria: At our library, we celebrate books and community everyday and in all of our dynamic programs. On a national level it brings awareness to how important children’s books and literacy really are. Kids coming to libraries dressed as book characters demonstrates that books have had an impact on their lives, feeding their imagination. Bringing in authors bridges the connection of words and pictures to the person who made them. It helps children to see that the books they love were written by people, and it inspires them to be creators and expands their horizons for what they want to do when they grow up.
Mark: A big aspect of Children’s Book Week is on increasing the quality of the books kids have access to. Why does the quality of children’s books matter? Why does access matter?
Maria: Quality matters because a high quality book will promote a high level of literacy, whether visually, with words, or with style. They’ll ensure exposure to the five tenets of literacy: Read, write, sing, play, talk. Libraries exist to provide access to all, no matter your socioeconomic status or level of education. We take out the guesswork for you by providing a curated collection of books, so you know that books from the library are worthwhile.
Mark: You are an expert, both on the reading of children’s books and the choosing of them. Coming to storytimes is a given, but do you have just a few authors you recommend for parents reading with their children?
Maria: It depends! It depends on children’s age, interest, and level of reading. For reluctant readers I highly suggest graphic novels, for example. Emergent readers cannot go wrong with Mo Willems, because he is funny, the illustrations are incredible, the parent will enjoy reading them too, and he makes great use of sight words and simple text. More serious readers will want food for thought from authors like Katherine Applegate and Sharon Creech. When in doubt, come in and speak with one of us for personal recommendations.
Mark: Anyone can celebrate the 100th anniversary of Children’s Book Week with us by bringing kids to the library, reading with kids you know, and supporting the organizations that create and distribute quality children’s books. Thanks to all who celebrate with us, including you Maria!
Few people are ‘good with money’ innately. The good news is that money smarts are learnable. MoneySmartWeek.org will tell you about how the week originated in Chicago and expanded by the American Library Association to help people of all demographics and wealth to manage their money better. It’s worth remembering that, despite what your credit score might suggest, it is never too late to learn how to better manage your money.
No matter how much money you do or don’t have, the sooner you improve your money choices, the sooner your money situation will improve. Money Smart Week is the perfect opportunity to learn how. MoneySmartWeek.org/learn is a place to start online. They have straightforward resources explaining personal finance concepts and suggesting best practices. The Library collection is another great place to look. We try to find accessible resources for a variety of experience and wealth levels, including extreme debt.
Jill Schlesinger’s new book ‘The Dumb Things Smart People Do With Their Money: Thirteen ways to right your financial wrongs’ talks about mistakes that people make throughout their life. Looking at the list, readers immediately see a few mistakes they’ve already made, but also a few they haven’t made yet. Books like hers help to both get you back on your feet and to avoid mishap in the future. Gaby Dunn’s ‘Bad With Money: The imperfect art of getting your financial sh*t together’ has similar advice, but it’s written in an entertaining and relatable way. Reading these books can be relieving, in that they don’t judge the reader for the position their in, but they offer real advice for making changes.
Addressing problems in bursts works for some people. If you are the kind of person who likes to go on diets, or exercise programs, or cleanses, then you might like the books that make the financial health analogy. ‘The Financial Diet: A total beginner’s guide to getting good with money’ by Chelsea Fagan self-describes as “...the personal finance book for people who don’t care about personal finance”. Unfortunately, those of us who don’t enjoy money management don’t have the luxury of ignoring it. ‘The Financial Diet’ can help get your finances organized and understood in terms that a lay person can use. Ashley Feinstein Gerstley’s ‘The 30-Day Money Cleanse: Take control of your finances, manage your spending, and de-stress your money for good’ plays on the fad-diet style of health, but the focus on mental health in regards to personal finance can be exactly what some readers are looking for.
Whichever resource you look to, it's never too late to learn about smart money practices. Start making changes today to make the rest of your life safer, stress less, and possibly even solvent.
Books improve our quality of life. I don’t just mean the the benefit of brain exercise and the content that provides entertainment, experience, food for thought, and language skills, I mean there are so many books written explicitly to help readers improve their quality of life. They aren’t esoteric or dated--so many are written clearly, with wit, and with modern experience. I’m talking about the books that focus on helping readers get better at almost anything: At life, or work, or love, or sport, or society, or politics, or cookery, or gustation, or craft, or thought, or all that at once. Nothing is guaranteed, and no one thing works for everyone, despite what some diets tell you, but sometimes little changes in our lives can make major differences in the way we live.
Let’s start with the brain. Kati Morton’s new book ‘Are u ok?: a guide to caring for your mental health’ has been hailed as a common language mental health asset to identify issues and get started on solutions. Whether related to mental health or not, we have to recognize our problems if we have any chance of addressing them.
Next we need some motivation. Jen Sincero empowers readers with the title, ‘You are a Badass Every Day: How to keep your motivation strong, your vibe high, and your quest for transformation unstoppable’. Leaning on meditation methods, Sincero demonstrates some daily practices to keep you focused on your goals. Shoukei Matsumoto’s book ‘A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind’ has a completely different tone. The reading of it and the drawings inside are motivational on their own. Buddhism has a reputation for goal-oriented life-styles, and this book helps to draw the line between how your living and work spaces and your daily practices impact your mind. If you want to be happy and productive, you might have to clean both house and mind.
Feel like your disorganization is causing you to lose control? Try Ryder Carroll’s ‘The Bullet Journal Method: Track the past, order the present, design the future’. Definitely not for everyone, ‘The Bullet Journal Method’ might be a silver bullet for people who have the willpower, but not the system, for getting a hand on things. If, on the other hand, you think your need for control is a detriment, take a look at ‘Calm the F*ck Down: how to control what you can and accept what you can’t so you can stop freaking out and get on with your life’ by Sarah Knight, the same author who wrote ‘The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck’. You probably know whether or not her book series is to your taste, but many people have found her simplified description of time, energy, and money management helpful. A more widely palatable and time-tested guide to a quality life comes from Aristotle. You could read his original ‘Nicomachean Ethics’, or you could read Edith Hall’s new book ‘Aristotle’s Way: How ancient wisdom can change your life’ to get the gist in the modern context.
Have something else about your life that you want to work on? Ask us! We can find the book that fits your need. It’s here, on the shelf, ready to help improve your life.
What are books for? Books are for learning from. Gleaning information from textbooks, histories, biographies, stories of cultures, and creative use of language. Books are for entertainment. They’re for reading on Sunday afternoons and in that hour before bed. Books are for expression. They’re creative outlets for authors, inventors, teachers, and students. Books are for sharing. Sharing a story as a family, or lending a book to a friend, or turning a book into a movie for the world to witness.
Sometimes people have an idea in their mind about what books are for, and they stick to that idea like the smell of smoke clings to old book pages. “Books are for quietly reading in corners” or ‘Books are only for reading inside and at least 15 feet from any source of water, sand, fire, or food” or “Books are only for when you’re bored”. Nah. We think books are for as many things as you can think of. They’re for reading on tire swings and on tablets. They’re for listening to and for reading out loud. They’re for talking about, for caring about, and for fighting about. Books are for empowerment, for having a voice and for finding other voices.
We’ve been celebrating National Library Week this week, and, among all of the wonderful things libraries provide, at the core, libraries provide access to books. Whatever you look for in books, you should be confident that you can find it at the library. That means that we work hard not to restrict access to information, only applying restrictions when a patron’s actions are harmful to others and their use of the library. It means that we strive to have a variety of book subjects, authors, and media to have books ready for most book uses and for any person coming through the doors. We don’t want wealth, interest, demographic, politics, or religion to get in the way of access to information. Frankly, librarians love to share information. Finding answers to questions is the second coolest part of the job--the first being finding books to read after the work day.
So don’t be afraid to ask questions at the Library. People push the boundaries of what books are for constantly, so be encouraged to read outside the norm. The Friends of the Library are hosting a Books and Breakfast event this Friday, April 12th from 9-9:45am for adults and 10-10:30am for the Children’s Room to marry the twin joys of finding a read and eating. It’ll be the perfect opportunity to hear from others what they think books are for. It’s also Volunteer Appreciation Week, so please thank any of the dozens of volunteers helping to make books available to you. We hope to see you there!
National Library Week is almost here again! It happens next week from April 7th-13th. We celebrate so many special days, weeks, and months throughout the year, but National Library Week is specifically for the Library! Nothing says celebration to a librarian like the smell of new books and a week packed with programs. Like, so packed. The calendar is a wall of green--packed. It’s as packed as your library bag after a visit this week. Let’s talk about it.
In addition to the weekly wellness, crafting, gaming, making, and educational programs, there’ll be a prize wheel for adults to spin all week! Its one spin per person per day with an assortment of fun prizes. All you have to do is check out a couple of items to qualify. We’re excited to host another new Escape Room for teens and adults. People can sign up for a time slot on Tuesday from 12-5pm when they’ll race the clock to find the antidote to Dr. Johnson’s zombification virus and save humanity. The story is fictional, but the thrill of solving puzzles is not. If you prefer something real, see the short documentary ‘Mother’s Day’ on Thursday from 6:30-7:30pm. It covers a charity bus service in California that takes children to visit their mothers in prison. It offers a perspective on how mass incarceration can affect youth in America. It will be followed by a short discussion and light refreshments. On Friday, the Friends of the Gilford Public Library are sponsoring a Books and Breakfast celebration from 9-9:45am. Come by that morning and enjoy some breakfast and conversation as you check out the collection!
Books and Breakfast is offered for the Children’s Room from 10-10:30am on Friday as well, also sponsored by the Friends. Every weekday during National Library Week, the Children’s room has a Touch-a-Truck Storytime from 10:30-11:30am. Touch-a-Truck Storytime is a hit each year because fire trucks, street sweepers and loaders, police cars, school buses, and dump trucks are, at least to preschoolers, so cool. Thanks to all the town organizations lending their time to share that joy with our children! Those in elementary school get to explore outside to see what the natural world is up to now that the snow and ice is gone. From 1:30-2:30pm during early release on Wednesday, K-4th can go for a nature walk to find traces of animals, plants, and insects.
During the same early release, from 12:30-1:30pm, 5th-12th graders are invited to make pizza and chat about diverse media. Experiencing a new way of thinking or experiencing the world is one of the best things about what we read, watch, and play, so let’s talk about it! Anytime during the week, teens can write a book review and share it with a librarian to get a gift certificate to the Village Store. It’s rewarding sharing what you enjoy with others.
So come share with the library during National Library Week. There’s books, knowledge, and so much more ready to be shared with you.
Local author Scott Hutchison’s second book of poetry ‘Moonshine Narratives’ came out on February 19th of this year, and it is a thoughtful, authentic, and vivid picture of a life of maturation. With a distinctively rural feel, Scott describes familiar scenes from our collective experiences without any watering down. The result is at times heart-warming, heart-wrenching, and raw. It's a kind of narrative poetry that makes you think about the author’s voice, which is why you won’t want to miss his live reading of it at the Gilford Public Library on April 2nd from 7-8pm!
Many of us locals know Scott as the high school Literary Arts teacher. He has been teaching there since 1987, and in that time he has helped thousands of young writers grow in confidence, skill, and accolades. He and his students have been nominated for and won several writing competitions. The special projects he’s been involved with at the school, like the Unified Writing Class and Obsessive Image Literary and Artistic Magazine, have been celebrated at the national level.
Scott and I shared a couple of emails and he explained how he forms his poetry and who his audience is. Here’s how he put it: “As for the writing: many people enjoy lyrical poetry; they like short, clean, punchy lines that demonstrate economy and deliver a precise feeling and theme. I don't know if those readers would like my work or not, but I hope they'd give it a read. As you can see by the very title of my second book, I want to be clear: I'm a narrative poet. I love telling a story, but I also love framing the pieces in poetry. It's a delicate balancing act--how to tell a story and honor poetry conventions without slipping into prose writing. It's a meatier kind of poem with more moving parts, but hopefully they all add up to something that stays with you for a while after reading the piece.” Being a narrative kind of poetry, it is approachable for readers and listeners not versed in ‘poetry conventions’. Anyone can come listen and take something from it.
Scott went on, “As for my audience: I try to create earthy characters and situations with the poetry. People are flawed, people are always figuring things out about life and living; sometimes they fail, sometimes it's a draw, and sometimes people are wonderfully heroic in their choices and actions. When I write poetry, I don't want to tell you how to feel about what's been presented to you--I want readers to hear and imagine the scene and the people, and I want the reader to be an active participant in determining what the content of the narratives adds up to. I feel that's a richer experience for the reader.” His focus on the reader is telling. You could be that reader this coming Tuesday night!
Women have lived and done momentous things longer and more frequently than history has recorded them. Yet, as society is becoming increasingly aware, women in history haven’t been nearly as represented in books and other media as men. It’s past time for that to change. We shouldn’t need a Women’s History Month, but until general history accurately portrays women, we’ll celebrate books on women to compensate.
It’s good news for women’s history that the two most requested books at our library right now are ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama and ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover’. Both memoirs share stories of overcoming people’s expectations, breaking barriers, and generally making dreams a reality. Memoirs have been accompanied by high profile books recognizing the role women have played in technology booms (something that they frequently point out should have been more widely acknowledged from the start). Books like ‘Broad Band: the Untold Story of the Girls Who Made the Internet’ by Claire Evans, ‘Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History’ by Keith O’Brien, ‘Sharp: the Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion’ by Michelle Dean, and, of course, the high profile books from a couple of years ago: ‘Code Girls’ by Liza Mundy and ‘Hidden Figures’ by Margot Lee Shetterly. There are other, more general collections like ‘Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World’ by Andrea Barnet, and some that focus on women where they are often overlooked like ‘The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II’ by Svetlana Aleksievich, and even books about the darker deeds of women like ‘Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History’ by Tori Telfer.
If true stories aren’t your thing, another way to celebrate Women’s History Month is to read about authentically written female characters in fiction. Lisa See’s new novel ‘The Island of Sea Women’ is a perfect example of this. On the Korean island of Jeju, two young women are best friends who defy death daily by diving to support their people. The story spans decades and multiple wars and the two change, conflict, depend on one another, and get torn apart. It’s an achingly realistic story that invests you in tragic characters. It’s also a story about the resilience and fortitude of women when depended on. Other novels include ‘Daisy Jones and the Six’ by Taylor Jenkins Read, ‘Ginger Bread’ by Helen Oyeyemi, ‘American Spy’ by Lauren Wilkinson, ‘The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls’ by Anissa Gray, and ‘We Must Be Brave’ by Frances Liardet.
There are countless others too, just waiting to be found. Give us a shout at the Library and we can help find a read that’s perfect for you. #Women #History #Hype.
Mark: Hey Nancy. We are so excited for your new T’ai Chi Chih program at the library! What is T’ai Chi Chih?
Nancy: T’ai Chi Chih is a set of 19 movements and a pose focused on the development of an intrinsic energy we call Chi. It is a meditative practice of ‘joy through movement’. I like to call it ‘mindfulness in motion’, if that doesn’t sound too corny. All the movements are slow and gentle, making them do-able by just about anyone, regardless of age, weight, and physical ability.
Mark: Neat, but why do you do Tai Chi Chih, and how did you learn?
Nancy: Simply, it makes me feel good. It helps me focus on the present moment. I learned from a Roman Catholic Nun in Texas when a friend gave me a gift of classes during a particularly trying time in my life. Even for people starting out, it’s possible to feel the benefits immediately and you can learn the whole thing in 8-weeks. Medical studies have shown that practicing Tai Chi Chih can dramatically reduce stress, increase energy, improve balance, concentration, and focus.
Mark: It sounds like it has worked for you, certainly. Who can participate in this program?
Nancy: Anyone. It is simple, meditative, gentle movements. Tai Chi Chih allows for adaptive methods, like doing movements seated, so that people with physical limitations can participate as well. There’s no special clothing or equipment required, and it is quick to learn. Once you learn the 19 movements and 1 pose and practice regularly, you’re there!
Mark: Brilliant. I’m sure that people would love to get started. Where and when is this program taking place?
Nancy: We’re hosting the class here at the Library in the meeting room. Starting April 1st we’re meeting on Monday’s from 9:45-11am. Both TaiChiChihNewHampshire on Facebook and TaiChiChih.org are places people can go to learn more about the program. I’m here at the library a lot too, so say ‘Hi’ if you see me!
We get asked all the time how we decide which books to add to our Classics section. There is no one shining resource that definitively declares which books are classic enough to be part of the Classics section--so we started with some well known lists and then added to it using judgement based on the Library’s collection. It’s not perfect; but it doesn’t need to be. The section is meant to be a spot for people to easily find books that have proven themselves to be extraordinary. We think that classics have a written quality that withstands the test of time. Classics have had an impact on culture, offer timeless food for thought, and are relevant no matter the age in which they are read. High standards, but so many magnificent books have been written that shelf space quickly fills up.
It may seem like classics are only for history buffs and AP Literature students, but modern entertainment, news, and ethics suggests otherwise. Hit film and TV adaptations of classic books like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle have recently added to the history of classics made visual. Children’s books have been made and remade into movies and reprints. Stories like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, Peter Rabbit, and more were turned into films this past year alone.
The Handmaid’s Tale was the most popular classic book at our Library over the last year, no doubt driven by the success of the Netflix series. 1984 by George Orwell was second most popular--which at least a couple of reader’s have attributed to a feeling of increasing concern about surveillance technologies and policy. Both dystopian novels have cautionary elements, warning against futures that impinge on the values they suggest. Although it's been decades since they were written, the stories they describe maintain their relevance in today’s culture for many readers.
Millions of readers and viewers might not be wrong. Next time you’re looking through the new section and failing to find something that catches your interest, consider branching out and trying a classic. Better yet, get started with the Classics Book Discussion here at the Library. The next discussion is at 6:30pm on Tuesday, March 26, when they’ll discuss Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It’s a comfortable, thought-provoking environment to think about great stories, and plenty of copies are available at the front desk to borrow. We hope to see you there!
Family & Relationships is the new Parenting section in the Children’s Room. The old parenting section down in the Children’s Room was full of books on parenting strategies: ‘Simple’ things like toilet training, healthy recipes kids will eat, managing behaviors, education and experience, raising extraordinary children, difficult topics like death, bereavement, and divorce, and so much more. The problem we found was that all of these different topics related to parenting were organized by the utterly unintuitive Dewey Decimal system. Browsing the shelf felt clumsy with unrelated topics right next to one another. The new Family & Relations section has verbal subsections for each of the categories mentioned above, and a few more. It's a whole new look! Be sure to swing by it to see. It's by the toy table and sofas, right where a parent’s wandering eyes will land.
The greatest parenting resources are the space itself and the staff ready to help. The Children’s Room is a place for children to play, socialize with others, find books on any topic, and explore for themselves. Meanwhile, parents can help them, connect with other parents, learn from literacy programs, and browse both the Family & Relations section and the curated display of books from the regular collection. The storytime is frequently bustling with the latest activity, whether it be one of the storytime programs, Spanish Camp, a passive craft, or any of the other programs happening weekly. The librarians know the collection as if they’ve been reading the books for years--because they have been. Looking for realistic fiction to inspire your reluctant 2nd grade grandson? They can help.
An example of a relatively new question that parents and guardians have been asking us for are books on how to help children learn from and use modern technology without becoming addicted or dependant. Recently, we have picked up books like ‘Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World’ by Mike Brooks and Jon Lasser and ‘The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life’ by Anya Kamentz. Both of these resources found in the Family & Relations Parenting section can help to describe the experiences that families have with modern technology, without advocating extreme solutions. Parents have said that Anya’s mantra, ‘Enjoy screens. Not too much, Mostly with others’, is helpful.
Whatever your family question is, try to find it in the Family & Relations section or ask a librarian. It’s what we’re here for.
We all like a good show. It seems like more and more content is being produced, plenty of which is of a quality worth checking out. Most of us don’t channel surf TV anymore, favoring instead browsing the commercial free library shelves or flipping through streaming menus. One of the first things people say when they visit the library for a first time is ‘Whoa, that’s a lot of DVDs’, and they’re right. We have thousands of DVDs, a good chunk of which are video series. We don’t call them TV series, because some are Netflix specials or others that skipped airing on cable. Another thing they say is ‘I didn’t know libraries have streaming services!’ Of course we do! Hoopla has an immense video collection and it’s free to all library card holders.
The collection is so big because it’s in demand. Hang out by the front desk for awhile and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll notice a steady stream of traffic to the new DVD stand. DVDs get put up as frequently as they are taken down in a carousel of movement. Often times there are more new DVDs on the reserve shelf than on display, and far more than that are checked out at any given time, being watched in homes around town. To really get a sense of what new DVDs we’ve picked up, take a look at the catalog. While you’re there you can put the series you want to watch on reserve.
If you’ve just finished a series and are looking for something new, try one of the newly released series we have on DVD. The first season of Frankie Drake Mysteries has been a hit in town. Set in 1920s Toronto, Frankie Drake runs an all-women detective agency that is willing to bend the law for clients in need. With wit, charm, and bright visuals, it's a great series to enjoy detective work. Another new on DVD series is Genius, the first season of which features the eccentric Albert Einstein. Some other season one’s we have are Animal Kingdom, Killing Eve, Succession, Yellowstone, S.W.A.T., and Stranger Things. We’re always interested in which new series people are looking for, so feel free to ask for a new series at the desk!
Of course, we continue to keep up new seasons of favorite shows as they come out. Hit shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, Vikings, Poldark, Longmire, Blue Bloods, Chicago Fire, and Empire among others, have all had new seasons come out in the last few months, and they are here for your use. Historic series like Doctor Blake Mysteries, the Crown, and The Durrells in Corfu continue to be popular It can be confusing, but try not to get Doctor Blake Mysteries, Frankie Drake Mysteries, and Grace and Frankie mixed up, as they as completely distinct shows. Science Fiction fans may enjoy catching up on the newest season of Mr. Robot. Horror fans can try out The Sinner. Realistic Fiction fans can find out what the hubbub with This Is Us is. Crime fiction fans can try out Janet King.
If none of these fit your interests, just ask at the desk and we can find something for you, pick up a copy of what you’re looking for, or borrow it from another library. Entertainment is more accessible than ever, so explore!
Love. Romance. Sex. There are books about every aspect of human experience from flirty rom-coms to erotica. The paperback section boasts ‘cozy’ romances that are heavy on the morals and werewolf romances that are less so. Us librarians are happy to make recommendations on all genres including romances, so don’t be afraid to ask for a new read.
Nicholas Sparks, for example, has a reputation for writing love stories that rend your heart strings into a satisfied mess of fibers. Those who have experienced love often have a hard time describing it, but Sparks doesn’t. You’ll forget you’re breathing when his newest book, ‘Every Breath’, sparks somethings in your heart.
If you like your romance with a dollop of remembrance, try Julia Kelly’s new ‘The Light Over London’ or ‘Becoming Mrs. Lewis’ by Patti Callahan Henry. ‘The Light Over London’ zips back and forth between time periods driven by the stories found in relatively common artifacts. Cara Hargraves finds a fetching photograph that draws her into a gripping story of a woman in WWII whose suitor and love interest both went to war. She chooses to become a ‘Gunner Girl’, and the rest, well, all of it, is history. So is the story of Mrs. Lewis. Joy Davidman was an outspoken women, skilled author, thinker, atheist, and the woman the world thought was the least likely match for C.S. Lewis, until she proved them wrong in that too.
If you can’t decide whether you want a book set in the future, present, or past, try ‘Hazards of Time Travel’ by Joyce Carol Oates. In a dystopian future, a 17-year-old speaks out against an oppressive regime only to be exiled 80 years into the past for ‘reeducation’. Now in 1959 Wisconsin, she balances survival with new found love. Yes, it is that cool.
How are you at suspension of disbelief? If you can’t do it, then skip down to the next paragraph. If you can, try ‘The Dinner List’ by Rebecca Serle. Sabrina has imagined what five people she would most like to have dinner with. She didn’t imagine that she would get that chance, but there she is at her thirtieth birthday dinner with her father, her philosophy professor, her bestie, her on and off again lover, and Audrey Hepburn. She suspends her own disbelief to enjoy the strangest, most romantic, and most enlightening meal she’s ever had.
‘Not Quite Over You’ by Susan Mallery is a light read with clear signals. ‘Dark Sentinel’ by Christine Feehan is a similarly overt romance, but the supernatural setting could not be more different. Lisa Gabriele’s ‘The Winters’, on the other hand, is a romance driven by the allure of secrets, passions, and family history. After quickly falling for an ambitious and recently widowed father, a young woman finds herself caught between his dangerous hunger for power, his maniacal daughter, and the memory of his deceased wife.
Whatever your taste in romance, there is a book to match. Swing by the library to see for yourself, or browse online!
“What is a ‘diverse’ book?” We get asked about diverse books so frequently that I think it’s time to talk about it here. People ask because they hear about diverse books from places like Amazon, NPR (and NHPR), the digital library collections, and national organizations like ‘We Need Diverse Books’. ‘Read a Diverse Book’ is also a frequent line in the Library’s reading challenges and summer reading programs. So, what is it?
We need to start by talking about diversity available from book vendors and on library shelves. Diversity on the shelves means having a wide range of topics, perspectives, settings, author culture and heritage, writing styles, mediums, and all kinds of characters. To have a diverse shelf you need to easily find books set in places across the world (even on other worlds! Go Sci-Fi). A diverse set of books will have characters of all races, cultures, languages, beliefs, socioeconomics, genders, and abilities portrayed authentically. Any writer knows that it is difficult to authentically portray a diverse character without lived experience, which is why it is so important that publishers and libraries seek out authors from many cultures and heritages.
Diversity on the shelves serves two purposes. Firstly, readers, kids most of all, want to see themselves in the characters of stories. More than that, they want to see themselves in the star characters, well portrayed, not just as side roles, or worse, as a caricature. By having a diverse collection of books we can guarantee that all readers find at least a few books that speak to their experiences. It helps to affirm what they feel and what they believe, while also offering language to describe their experience.
Secondly, diversity on the shelves means that readers can find stories that expand on their own experiences. Reading a good story driven by a character unlike you or in a setting or culture that is different from your own experience can open your eyes to the ways in which other people live and how they see the world. It can be fascinating. It’s almost always fun. Learning about other cultures and experiences helps to grow empathy, compassion, and understanding.
Having diverse books on the shelves is the best kind of win-win. All readers, even those who have a hard time seeing themselves in a majority of books on the shelves, can find enough books that speak to their experiences and puts someone like them in the star role. Once satiated by the craving for self-recognition in a story, readers can find books about experiences unlike theirs on the same shelf to learn about how others have encountered the world.
When we put ‘Read a Diverse Book’ on a challenge, we are challenging you to read a book by an author with lived experience that is different from your own. We are hoping that you will engage with a character, setting, and/or culture different from your own. Books are extraordinary in their ability to convey emotion and experience without actually living it. On our shelves are many stories than any one of us literally cannot imagine, until we read them. Let’s get to it.
For weeks we’ve been talking about cozy reads, resting, hygge, and generally taking time to relax and collect oneself. Well, we’ve done that, so now it’s time to get up and do something! Let’s get moving. It’s a brand new year and we’ve got goals--let’s make them happen.
But, where do we start? Say you’ve decided to run a 5k in March, or you want to learn how to cook, or you’ve decided to go to back to school. In all cases the first thing you need is information. See where this is going? We have books and digital resources to help you get started on your new goals. If you are serious about reaching your goals, these books can help you set out a plan to learn efficiently. ‘Teaching yourself’ can work, but it tends to be inefficient. Take less time away from the rest of your busy life by learnly intelligently. Instead of just running, learn how to adjust your diet, lifestyle, and running technique to enable your running to improve quickly. Don’t just look up a dish and try following the recipe, get a book on a cooking style, read about how it works and then practice it. Research different course programs, what schools are looking for in their applications, and then cater your application to their expectations. In all these cases there is good and bad information out there. We can help you sort through it all to quickly get the best information available.
‘Happy Runner’ by Meghan Roche is the type of resource we’re talking about. It neither describes a one-size-fits-all method for running nor addresses only a niche demographic. It offers advice on how to thrive at running based on how you think, and to maximize the aspects of running that are most enjoyable. If you’re determined to run a 5k, might as well love it!
‘Real Life Dinners’ is exactly the type of cookbook title that a learner might look for too. Rachel Hollis, the author, is not for everyone, but if she speaks to you then her cookbook will too. A learner who is more into chemical processes instead of emotional ties might look to ‘Food Lab’ instead.
Mix these passions together and try ‘Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow’ by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. Their first cookbook was a hit, but this one focuses on quick dishes for those who do anything else besides cooking. The food is healthy, delicious, and possible. There is even motivation for athleticism and nutrition.
For those thinking about higher education in the New Year, we have current resources on standardized tests, college comparisons, choosing programs and majors, and straightforward books like ‘Paying For College’. It’s all here ready for you to utilize.
So, whatever new thing you are looking to try this year, come learn about it at the Library. We look forward to learning with you!