Books to Cozy Up With This Winter

What, I ask you, is better that curling up inside with good book when it’s cold and blustery outside? So grab a blanket and a hot beverage, throw another log on the fire, and grab a couple of library books to cozy up with during the long winter nights ahead.

Here are ten to tempt you:

Beartown by Frederik Backman. People say Beartown is finished. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semifinals.

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. Five people, buffeted by life’s difficulties, come together at a rundown estate house in Northern Scotland during a revelatory Winter Solstice.

One Day in December by Josie Silver. Tells the story of Jack and Laurie, who meet at a bus stop and continue to circle each other’s lives seemingly fated to be together, except not actually managing it, for a ten years.
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The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. A childless couple working a farm in the brutal landscape of 1920 Alaska discover a little girl living in the wilderness, with a red fox as a companion, and begin to love the strange, almost-supernatural child as their own.
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The Snowman by Jo Nesbø. In Oslo, after the first snow of the season has fallen, a woman disappears, and a sinister snowman is left in her wake. Detective Harry Hole realizes that this is only one of multiple disappearances, he begins to think a serial killer may be at work.
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Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.
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Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg. Isaiah, the son of one of Smilla Jasperson’s neighbors, is found face-down in the snow outside her Copenhagen apartment building. Smilla quickly rejects the official verdict of accidental death when she observes the footprints the boy left in the snow, and starts investigating.
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Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva. After poor reviews about his latest book, writer Charles Dickens is given a one-month ultimatum by his publisher to write a successful, nostalgic Christmas book, a challenge that is complicated by self-doubt and the hardships of an impoverished young woman and her son.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The classic tale chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young ladies in nineteenth-century New England.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. In an alternative world in which every human being is accompanied by an animal familiar, the disappearance of several children prompts Lyra and her bear protector to undertake a journey to the frozen Arctic in pursuit of kidnappers.

 

CPL Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2019

As you might imagine, our library staff reads a lot of books! I recently asked CPL staffers what their favorite reads of the last year were, and the list was varied and long, a mix of fiction and nonfiction, older titles and new releases. If you’re looking for some “librarian-approved” reading, we’ve got quite a few suggestions for you!

Print Fiction:

Audiobook:

Graphic Novel:

Print Nonfiction:

Susan’s Best Reads of 2019

I don’t read as much as I wish I could; I just don’t have time at the moment. It doesn’t help that I wind up with sometimes 600 page books in my hands, and those take longer.  I never know what I’ll read next, and I read a bunch of good ones last year. Here are some of my favorites:

One of the two best books I read this year, I’ve already blogged about: Creativity, Inc, by Ed Catmull, was amazing. Not just a history of Pixar films, it’s also the best darned, most entertaining book on business and employee management you will read. Pixar is a 5-star company for a reason.

The second of my Best Reads this year is The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James.  From approximately 1898 to 1912, a serial killer traversed the US by train – coming through New Haven’s Union Station on the way – with an MO of bludgeoning his victims with the back of an axe. Because of communications at the time, few people were able to connect the murders. James painstakingly, with the utmost detail, traces the dozens of murders and examines them, deciding if they were likely by the same killer or not, and why. He traces the paths through the states and the seasons, chasing the trail to a man who was most likely the killer. By the time he’s done, you are convinced and amazed. I could not stop reading this book. I read it while waiting for the school bus. I read it while cooking. I would have read it in the shower if I could have. If you love a mystery, if you love history, if you love crime stories, this book is a must.

I’m only 30 years late in reading Neuromancer, the Hugo-winning cyberpunk novel by William Gibson. I can see why it is held as one of the greatest novels of our time. Gibson predicts and writes about today’s modern computers and internet and gaming – long before they existed. The scenarios he describes are both familiar and futuristic at the same time. While not only visionary, it’s written in  a flawless style and with realistic, interesting characters. If you loved Ready Player One or The Matrix (which has to have been influenced by this book), you will love Neuromancer.

If you’re aware of social and racial issues, I strongly recommend Survival Math, by Mitchell S. Jackson. A professor of writing, in achingly beautiful prose worthy of Martin Luther King Jr., with the voice of a preacher without being preachy, Johnson breaks down the issues faced in his own family, examining how he came to where he is, how racism played into it without even being visible, and how despite all the odds, it’s possible to thrive. He covers harsh topics without flinching. The book is brilliant, spellbinding, and a superb read from a voice that soars with truth.

Far more than I expected, I loved Total Recall, an older door-stop of a biography on Arnold Schwarzenegger. From his birth in a tiny town in Austria (which still has only 2500 people) to his divorce from Maria Shriver, Arnold is witty and candid and down to Earth. No matter what you think of his politics or his movies or his personal life, this book may be older, but it was highly entertaining. His best friend just died in September of this year.

Not my favorite, but worth mentioning because of its local importance, is Frog Hollow  by Susan Campbell. Campbell, a former reporter with the Hartford Courant, digs into the history of the notorious Frog Hollow section of Hartford, and through tireless research shows the former glory of the neighborhood as not only an important area in Colonial times, but once a major manufacturing center (in 1898, Pope automotive made half the cars in the US). I was hoping for a deep sociologic dissection of the issues, but instead Campbell gives us an upbeat view from street level about the good aspects of Hartford and the people who live there, not just the doom and gloom of ad-selling news clips.

Last but not least, I’ll throw in a kid’s series you probably missed; with 18 years between my last two kids, I certainly did, but my youngest is so hooked on the British easy reader series Urgency Emergency! by Dosh Archer, I wound up buying most of them. The series is so witty and enjoyable you don’t mind reading them over and over again. Doctor Glenda, Nurse Percy, and the Pengamedics, in predictable melodrama, assist the maladies of Humpty Dumpty, The Big Bad Wolf, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, and many more. They are a delight. The library has several of the stories; be sure to read them all!

Why do we like to be scared? – the psychology of horror

As Halloween quickly approaches, I find myself dipping deeper into the pool of horror films, books and media that always seems to be present, any time of year you go looking for them. I didn’t come to love horror organically, as an over anxious child and teen I was somehow drawn to true crime documentaries, sneaking peeks at the coverage of the OJ Simpson trial, and staying up late to watch E! “Murders of Hollywood”. My first experience with horror movies was staying up in my friends living room, her German Shepard was half blocking my view of The Ring on VHS, which was particularly ironic. So why do we seek out things that scare us, instead of those that comfort us?

The easy answer is : We like to be safe. If we expose ourselves to things that scare us in a safe environment, it’s like going on a roller coaster. Your endorphins spike, your heart rate races, but in two minutes it’s over, you’re back on solid ground. I’d rather know how horrible the world can be so I can prepared for what actually goes bump in the night.

The Horror of It All is a memoir from the front lines of the industry that dissects the hugely popular genre of scary movies.

Horror movies and novels are much the same. People chose entertainment because they want to be affected. You choose a romance novel because you want to feel the giddy rush of love, you choose action because you want to feel excitement. Horror is another sensation driven genre. You want to experience the rush with none of the consequences of the situation, which lets you enjoy the sensation and adrenaline spike. Quoted from a 2004 paper in the Journal of Medical Psychology by Dr. Glen Walters “the three primary factors that make horror films alluring are tension (generated by suspense, mystery, terror, shock, and gore), relevance (that may relate to personal relevance, cultural meaningfulness, the fear of death, etc.), and (somewhat paradoxically given the second factor) unreal-ism.”(Walters, 2004)

So if you’re like me and looking for a thrill (while at the same time being wrapped up in a blanket fort for safety) then you’ve come to the right place for some recommendations. All of the things I recommend are available for checkout at the Cheshire Public Library, so let’s tuck in to my favorite genre:

hereditary_xlg.jpgHereditary  – When Ellen, the matriarch of the Graham family, passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry. The more they discover, the more they find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited. Making his feature debut, writer-director Ari Aster unleashes a nightmare vision of a domestic breakdown that exhibits the craft and precision of a nascent auteur, transforming a familial tragedy into something ominous and deeply disquieting, and pushing the horror movie into chilling new terrain with its shattering portrait of heritage gone to hell.

This movie is fantastic, Ari Aster is a master of portraying agony in a way I haven’t seen in any other movie thus far. His characters experience the broadest range of emotion, and each scene is raw and beautifully acted. It’s really a treat to watch, both for the performances, and the scares. Prepare to have expectations subverted with this movie, Ari Aster is one to watch as a newcomer to the horror genre, and A24 is producing some outstanding content as well. If you haven’t seen it yet, treat yourself to Hereditary, as well as his newest film, Midsommar.

The Stand – The Stand takes place in a post-apocalyptic world triggered by the breakdown of society following the release of a biological weapon. The weapon is a virulent strain of influenza that decimates the population. It follows a few key characters across the United States, attempting to survive and make peace with the people they’ve become after the world has ended. It has elements of horror, elements of suspense, and in my opinion it’s one of the best post apocalyptic fiction novels ever written. Above all else though, it’s a thoughtful, well paced book. (One can’t have a list of horror titles and not mention King at least once, if not multiple times – The Tommyknockers, Salem’s Lot, The Shining…) The characters feel real and well flushed out, and the antagonist is ominous without becoming comic. It’s my go-to summer read, and I keep a paperback copy in my car at all times, so I can dip back in whenever the mood strikes, which is often.

I saw Gone Girl  before I had read the book (I know, the cardinal sin) and I had no context going into it. Gone girl? Sounds like a witty comedy about a girl who’s traveling cross country! I was very wrong. I had no idea about the twists (which I will keep to myself) and I had no idea what a treat I’d be in for when I read the book. They both play off each-other beautifully, and the book is written with punch and one liners that stick with you. The cool girl speech (look it up) is worth the price of the paperback alone. You should definitely treat yourself to this book, as well as Gillian Flynn’s two other titles Dark Places and Sharp Objects.

If you’re looking for something with real world ties, look no further than the masterpiece that is I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by the late Michelle McNamara. McNamara devoted a larger part of her life to sitting up in her daughters old playroom, surrounded by stuffed animals and tracking who would be come to known as the Golden State Killer. Sure she had a day job, but she also somehow convinced retired detectives from the case to send over boxes of case files. She went over phone records, emails, connected leads to perps, and made some of the most important headway the case had seen since it’s beginning in 1976. The case had been unsolved for ten years, and just recently closed with the arrest of a 73 year old Joseph Deangelo, a retired policeman. The book is well written, well researched, and fascinating if you want to know more about detective work, but never had the stomach to do it yourself. You feel yourself dissecting the facts along with Michelle, and the fact that she died before the case was solved makes the ending all the more poignant. It’s definitely worth the read, especially if you’re a fan of true crime and cases being solved.

Dipping into horror as a person with a chronically small comfort zone is more than just a little ironic. It’s taken me twenty five years to accept that strange part of myself, as a small portion of a largely complex whole. As an artist, a writer, and a creative, I find the darkness just as interesting as the light. Luckily, there are plenty of people who agree with me, and the horror genre is booming. Last summer, horror films accounted for 10% of cinema visits by moviegoers under 30-years-old. I’ll support any genre that encourages its artists and producers to push boundaries and visuals, and luckily, horror is doing just that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Your Brain on Podcasts – a new kind of on-the-go storytelling

PodcastingPodcasting is rapidly becoming the newest and most easily consumable form of storytelling. As of June 2018, iTunes features more than 500,000 active podcasts, including content in more than 100 languages and over 18.5 million episodes. Now if you’re new to podcasts, this number can be overwhelming, how are you supposed to sift through a sea of seemingly endless possibilities to find the hosts, and topic, that keep you listening? To be fair, a lot of listening is trial and error. Maybe you don’t like the hosts tone, or their voice, or maybe the topic just doesn’t grab your attention, but stay vigilant, there are enough podcasts in the world for everyone, there must be one for you! I’ve compiled a list of podcasts that are easy to get into for beginners, based on (of course) your favorite books, all of which can be found at the Cheshire Public Library!

Note : The podcast’s listed here may be explicit, or contain explicit language. 

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood- The most chilling part of the world that          Atwood has created is that it has a strong basis in history, a history that is doomed to repeat itself. If you love history, and the dark origins behind common folklore, you’ll love Lore. Aaron Mahnke, the host and author himself, draws you into the rich history that paints our modern day nightmares. Tune in to learn the humble origins of the werewolf, how fairies terrified and mystified pilgrims, and how Krampus, the Christmas demon, still receives tribute every year in a tiny town in Germany. It’ll make you wish all history classes were this interesting. Released every two weeks on Mondays, Lore is an award-winning podcast that will soon be produced into a television series on Amazon. With 6-million monthly listeners, it has been awarded as iTunes’ “Best of 2015” and “Best of 2016” podcast.

Want to check out more of Mahnke’s writing? Check out his novel list here.

Do you comb the stacks looking for self help books, that lay forgotten about because, really, who has time? Don’t feel alone in this pursuit, it’s hard to read someone else’s proA1J-Xl6I7CLmises of a better life. After all, who really has all the answers? One book I found refreshingly honest is Jenny Lawson’s Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things . Lawson, an American journalist, author, and blogger, is known for her hysterically skewed outlook on life, and her candor about her struggles with depression and mental illness. If you’re looking for a podcast that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and focuses on the bright side of life, look no further than Wonderful! , a podcast for joyful and enthusiastic peopwonderful cover art final_57le that like hearing about the passions, big and small, of other people. Each week Rachel and Griffin McElroy will talk about things they love and invite listeners to write in with their treasured items of enthusiasm. Topics may include movies, television, sports, books, drinks, eats, animals, methods of transportation, cooking implements, types of clothing, places in the world, imaginary places, fictional characters, and fonts, to name a few. It’s a delightfully sweet and genuine series, and a quick break from a world full of negatives.

Now if you’re a true crime lover like me, I’m always searching for a new case to dissect, and foJacketr a new podcast or book that leads me through the facts of the case. That’s exactly why I was drawn to Adnan’s Story : The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial . A full-length account of the story investigated by the award-winning Serial podcast draws on some 170 documents and letters to trace the experiences of Adnan Syed, who in 2000 was sentenced to life for the murder of his ex-girlfriend and who the author and other supporters are certain is innocent. Ifserial-itunes-logo you want to listen to the podcast that brought the case to light in the first place, check out Serial season one. I’d compare it to a classic radio drama, the pacing and tone is incredible and keeps you on the edge of your seat, and the journalistic research that goes into every episode is admirable. It’s a great place to start if you’re just getting into true crime podcasts, or need something to listen to after binging the first and second season of Making a Murderer on Netflix.

Lastly, if you’re looking for a podcast that brings the book club to your home (without having people over to your actual home), look no further than Overdueoverdue-podcast-642x336. Overdue is a podcast about the books you’ve been meaning to read. Join Andrew and Craig each week as they tackle a new title from their backlog. Classic literature, obscure plays, goofy murder mysteries: they’ll read it all, one overdue book at a time. While not actively encouraging you to return your books late (insert finger wagging from behind the return’s desk) this podcast encourages the over zealous reader in all of us to take the time to head back into the stacks for the book you might not have otherwise checked out.

If you’re having trouble accessing podcasts or don’t know how to start, check out this easy to use guide provided by  Gimlet : How to start listening. It’ll take you step by step on how to both download, and enjoy the hundreds of podcasts iTunes has to offer.