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!

What’s Happening at Cheshire Library in November

There’s so much going on at CPL this month: two concerts, special programs honoring our veterans, a new Homeschool meetup, the big Fall Book Sale, and so much more!  Check out our Event Calendar for the full roster, here are some highlights:

Play & Learn

Saturday, November 2, 2019, 10:00-11:00am

Our new drop-in play group for children and their caregivers! Explore interactive and sensory activities, encouraging the development of early literacy skills.  We will have lots of movement, songs, and a short storytime during the last 20 minutes of the program. Recommended for ages 2 to 5 years old.  Younger and older siblings are also welcome to attend. No registration required.

College Financial Aid Seminar

Saturday, November 2, 2019, 2:00 – 3:30pm

Jennifer Philips’ seminar, “Simplifying the Financial Aid Process, “ will provide parents and students with tips on securing the best possible financial aid package from the college of their choice. Jennifer will describe the best student loans, grants and scholarships available, explain the critical financial aid forms and deadlines and the various components of a financial aid offer. Registration is required.

United States Coast Guard Dixieland Jazz Band

Sunday, November 3, 2019, 2:00 – 4:00pm

Performing classic jazz, blues, and rags with a “New Orleans” flavor. The Dixieland Jazz Band has entertained audiences across America and around the world.  Please join us for a very special concert! No registration required.

Author Talk – Formation: A Woman’s Memoir of Stepping Out of Line

Monday, November 4, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Ryan Dostie never imagined herself on the front lines of a war halfway around the world. But then a conversation with an Army recruiter in her high-school cafeteria changes the course of her life. Hired as a linguist, she quickly has to find a space for herself in the testosterone-filled world of the Army barracks, and has been holding her own until the unthinkable happens: she is attacked by a fellow soldier. Join us as the author discusses her powerful book. Registration is required.

Veterans’ Writing Group

Tuesday, November 5, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Join us for a short film and a panel discussion with members of the Veterans’ Writing Group. The Russell Library Veterans’ Writing Group has been meeting and writing stories of their incredible experiences for several years, which will be published by En Route Publishing this year. Come get a sneak peak of this fascinating book, and listen to true stories from veterans from all branches of service. Registration is required.

Veterans Day Concert with the Cheshire Community Band

Sunday, November 10, 2019, 2:00 – 4:00pm

The Cheshire Community Band will perform a variety of selections including historical and patriotic numbers in celebration of Veterans Day. No registration required.

Veterans Day Movie: They Shall Not Grow Old 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 6:00 – 8:00pm

On the centenary of the end of the First World War, experience the Great War as never before. Using state-of-the-art technology and materials from the BBC and Imperial War Museum, Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson allows the story of World War I to be told by the men who were there. Life on the front is explored through the voices of the soldiers, who discuss their feelings about the conflict, the food they ate, the friends they made and their dreams of the future. Registration is required.

Homeschool Meetup (all ages)

Wednesday, November 3, 2019, 11:00am – 12:00pm

Meet other local families who are educating their children and teens at home while sharing tips, ideas, and educational materials. Toys and sensory play will be available for young children and crafts will be provided for older children and teens. Please register each child or teen separately.

Medicare Supplement and Advantage: Q & A

Thursday, November 14, 2019, 1:00 – 3:00pm

Staff from the Western Connecticut Area Agency on Aging will present this seminar and provide vital information about Medicare, Medicare Supplement and Medicare Advantage.  Their mission is to provide the information and assistance necessary for consumers to understand their rights, receive benefits to which they are entitled and make informed choices about health insurance concerns. Registration is required.

A Night with Georgia O’Keeffe ~ Craft night

Thursday, November 14, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Join us for a short film on the life of Georgia O’Keeffe and then create your own work of art in her style. All materials will be provided. Registration is required for this adult (18+)  program.

“Are You In Your Right Mind?” – A Joyce Saltman Workshop

Monday, November 18, 2019, 1:00 – 2:30pm

Interactive and fun, this lecture will explore individual differences through left-brain/right brain research, in an effort to understand and appreciate these differences in ourselves and others. Joyce Saltman is a professor Emeritus of Special Education at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven and a former Cheshire resident. Her experience in the areas of education, therapy, and comedy has provided an outstanding background for her research on The Therapeutic Value of Laughter. Registration is required.

Fall Book Sale!

Thursday, November 21  – Sunday, November 24, 2019

Bargains galore at the big Fall Book Sale! Browse more than 15,000 books of every possible genre. Stock up on audiobooks and DVDs. You never know what treasures you’ll find. Book sale hours:

  • Wednesday, November 20, 6:30-8:00pm (Preview Night for Friends’ Members only)
  • Thursday, November 21, 9:00am – 8:00pm
  • Friday, November 22, 9:00am – 4:30pm
  • Saturday, November 23, 9:00am – 4:30pm
  • Sunday, November 24, 12:00 – 3:00pm

Mysteries of St. Peter’s Basilica

Tuesday, November 26, 2019, 6:30 – 8:00pm

Did you know that St. Peter’s church at the Vatican has hidden geometry pinpointing certain locations? Robert Kerson will discuss this fascinating mystery. Learn details of the current basilica few people are aware of. Registration is required.

Books Over Coffee

Wednesday, November 27, 2019, 12:00 – 1:30pm

On the last Wednesday of every month from 12-1:30p we’ll meet in the Loft to discuss the selected title. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is our November selection. Books are available in print,  audio, & ebook format. You bring your lunch, we’ll provide the coffee and tea. Registration is required.

 

Self-Help Books to Boost Positivity

Why wait for January’s New Year’s resolutions to be your best self? You can start any time during the calendar year. Small incremental changes work best, and this is where self-help books shine. Go at your own pace, ease in slowly, and you might find you don’t need a New Year’s resolution at all. This month’s Reader’s Depot focuses on self-help books to bring notes of gratitude and love into your daily life.

Almost Everything by Anne Lamott – Presents an inspirational guide to the role of hope in everyday life and explores essential truths about how to overcome burnout and suffering by deliberately choosing joy.

 

Outer Order, Inner Calm by Gretchen Rubin – Offers manageable steps for creating a more serene, orderly environment, which contributes to maintaining inner calm.

 

Let Love Have the Last Word by Common – Explores how love and mindfulness can guide people in living their lives and interacting with their communities, and calls upon readers to give and receive love in their lives.

 

Everything is F*cked by Mark Manson – A counterintuitive guide to hope looks at contemporary society’s relationships with religion, politics, money, entertainment, and the internet, and challenges people to be honest with themselves and connect with the world in ways they had not considered before.

 

Where the Light Enters by Jill Biden- The former second lady describes her marriage to Joe Biden and the role of politics in her life and teaching career, sharing intimate insights into the traditions, resilience, and love that have helped her family establish balance and endure tragedy.

 

Nanaville by Anna Quindlen – The author discusses her role as a grandmother and how she learned to support her grandson’s parents by stepping back and following their lead.

 

Brave, Not Perfect by Reshma Saujani – The founder of the Girls Who Code nonprofit shares insights into the toxic cultural standards affecting girls today, explaining how girls can transition from perfectionism to more courageous practices that understand the value of imperfection.

 

The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey – Offers a guide for identifying one’s purpose and creating a framework for a life that is both successful and meaningful, sharing inspirational quotes by some of today’s most influential cultural figures.

 

Gmorning, Gnight! by Lin-Manual Miranda and Jonny Sun – The creator and star of “Hamilton” presents an illustrated book of affirmations to provide inspiration at the beginning and end of each day.

 

On Being Human by Jennifer Pastiloff – An inspirational memoir based on the popular workshop of the same name reveals how the author’s years of waitressing and hearing impairment taught her to recognize unexpected beauty, relinquish shame, and find love in the face of imperfection.

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.

 

 

 

March is Women’s History Month

Today’s post comes to us from Bill, Head of Adult Services.
100 years ago, in 1919, women DID NOT have the Constitutional right to vote.  That’s right – your grandmothers or great-grandmothers were second class citizens!  The 19th Amendment to the Constitution – which granted women the right to vote, would not be passed until the following year – 1920.  Yet today there are 102 women serving in the House of Representatives, 25 serving in the Senate, and 3 seated on the Supreme Court.
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Read – listen – watch and learn the stories of the women of today – and yesterday – whose strong, influential, and groundbreaking actions impacted our country.  The lives of the famous and not so famous paint a picture of women’s experiences in America and how they helped build our nation.
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Explore more about the role of women in shaping our history with these books from our shelves:
And these titles available to Cheshire Library cardholders in multiple formats:
Learn more about women in history: https://www.biography.com/tag/womens-history
Learn more about Women’s History Month: https://womenshistorymonth.gov/about/