Café au Lit: Coffee and Book Pairings

It’s the most wonderful time of the year: hot drink season. When the weather turns cold, I stock my cabinet with dessert-flavored black teas and mocha mixes, and I chill sweet, chocolatey stouts and porters in my fridge. For many of us, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a favorite drink and a good book. (Or Netflix. No judgment.)

I’ve been doing my part to encourage this pastime with Books Over Coffee, a monthly book club where I tasked myself with pairing bags of ground coffee with whatever title we’re reading. It’s a little challenging and a whole lot of fun, and a coworker suggested I share the combinations I came up with. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed sampling the candidates.

Read: The Overstory by Richard Powers 

Drink: Birds & Beans Wood Thrush medium roast from Birds & Beans 

Bird-friendly coffee like Birds & Beans is grown under the shade of trees and doesn’t contribute to deforestation. It’s a fitting brew to sip while reading Richard Powers’ epic love letter to trees, which spans the lives of nine characters and about 23 hours of listening time for you fellow audiobook fans. Settle down, brew yourself a pot, and imagine you’re sitting at the base of your childhood tree as you start the narrative’s journey.

Read: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay 

Drink: Dark Magic dark roast from Green Mountain Coffee Roasters 

Dark Magic is a staple of Keurig machines everywhere – just like how demon possession is a long-running horror trope. And to horror nerds like me, there’s something magical about the meta-narrative on the genre that you’ll find within the pages of A Head Full of Ghosts. The story is creepy enough on its own, but the references to Shirley Jackson, H.P. Lovecraft, The Exorcist, and contemporary horror writers will raise your spirits like a strong, hot drink on a cold winter night. If you love darkness, you’ll enjoy this unholy matrimony of book and brew.

Read: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 

Drink: Black and Tan from Eight O’Clock Coffee Company 

Angels and demons, good and evil, stark prophecy and satiric comedy are blended together in Good Omens, a collaboration from two prominent fantasy authors. It’s only fitting to accompany it with the bold and mild blend of Black and Tan. The laugh-out-loud jokes are delightful dollops of cream and sugar – and when you’ve drunk the last drop, you can have a second helping by watching the Amazon Prime miniseries.

Read: Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay 

Drink: Veranda Blend blonde roast from Starbucks 

Like the aesthetics of those blonde, sun-kissed Californian twins in the Sweet Valley High books, books which Roxane Gay devoured as a teen and scrutinized with her cultural commentary as an adult author, I find light roasts bland, ubiquitous, and unsatisfying. (If I’m feeling especially contrarian, I might say the same about Starbucks as an institution.) My distaste for light roasts – and the marketing for this one nods to both unattainable beauty standards and classism! – makes it the perfect tag-along while Gay pokes holes in pop culture, politics, feminism, and other topics in this book of essays.

In all fairness to Veranda Blend, this month’s book club hasn’t met yet, so I haven’t tried it. The blend may throw me a major twist like the best thrillers, or offer me that cloying tannic quality euphemized as “fruitiness,” like a well-reviewed literary novel that falls short of expectations. What will you be sipping when you curl up with your next read? (Or Netflix. No judgment.)

Meet the New Head of Adult Services!

Lauren Gledhill is the new head of Reference and Adult Services at Cheshire Public Library, following the retirement of Bill Basel last July.  Many of you may already know Lauren from the children’s department, where she’s been CPL librarian for several years, keeping watch over much of the children’s media selections. If you haven’t met Lauren before, come on downstairs to the Reference Department and get to know her!

Lauren got her Library Degree from the Dominican University in Chicago, a big change from the rural Pennsylvania area she grew up in. Cheshire certainly falls between the two!

Children’s Librarian to Reference Librarian is a big change.  What does she prefer to read?  Lauren likes horror, graphic novels, and non-fiction science. Her favorite book as a child was Ferdinand the Bull. If you haven’t read it, Ferdinand is a sweet classic children’s story from 1936 about a bull who prefers to smell flowers rather than fight in the bullring – and not surprisingly was banned as subversive by both Hitler and Francisco Franco!  Today, Lauren’s favorite author is Barbara Kingsolver. Her favorite movie? She loves Spirited Away, the animated feature by noted Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki. Given the chance, she much prefers to listen to audiobooks over print. (Did you know that audiobooks alone make up almost 10% of Cheshire’s offerings?).

Librarians often get the chance to meet world-famous authors at book expos and conventions. Two authors Lauren would love to meet are Neil Gaiman, the multi-award winning author of tales such as Sandman and Coraline, as well as Hugo-award winning author Ursula Vernon, who also writes under the pen name T. Kingfisher. (I hate to mention it, Lauren, but Neil was a guest at Noreast Con 4 the year I went. If I remember right, he emceed the Costume Call.)

Lauren promises to bring new and exciting ideas to the Adult Services Department, so stay tuned and keep checking back to see what’s up!

The Best Audiobooks of 2017 (a subjective list)

The editors of AudioFile Magazine have released their selections for Best Audiobooks of 2017. AudioFile is a publication that reviews and recommends audiobooks, taking into account all the things that make an audiobook enjoyable: a great story, of course, but also the skillful pacing, structure, and narration that make them worth listening to.  (Full disclosure: I am a reviewer for AudioFile, mainly for romance books, and I have received free audiobooks from them to provide honest reviews). I have perused the dozens of audiobooks selected as “best”, and winnowed them down to three favorites in six categories, click on the titles to read more about each one. Consider this a jumping off point, audiophiles!


  • Beartown by Frederik Backman, read by Marin Ireland.
  • Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, read by Kelvin Harrison, Jr., Rutina Wesley, Chris Chalk.
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, read by Nick Offerman, David Sedaris and George Saunders, with a full cast that includes Carrie Brownstein, Don Cheadle, Kat Dennings, Lena Dunham, Bill Hader, Miranda July, Mary Karr, Keegan-Michael Key, Julianne Moore, Megan Mullally, Mike O’Brien, Susan Sarandon, Ben Stiller, Jeffrey Tambor, Jeff Tweedy, Bradley Whitford, Patrick Wilson, and Rainn Wilson.






The Sleeper and the Spindle

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman is a unique twist on the Sleeping Beauty story.  Sleeping Beauty and the people in her castle have been asleep for years. However, this sleeping sickness seems to be spreading. First, the nearby villages fall asleep, then the villages near them, and so on. Soon, the entire kingdom is asleep, and it’s up to three dwarfs and the queen of the neighboring kingdom to figure out how to put an end to the curse.

This story has an ingenious blend of fairy tales. For instance, the queen is a character from another story. I’ll just say that she is someone who has also been asleep for a long time and let you figure out who she is. There are also additional elements to the story that help flesh it out. Those who are asleep do more than sleep, an old woman who is trapped inside the castle and immune to the curse, and the more one delves into the story, the more it becomes apparent that the details of the Sleeping Beauty that appear in each retelling are not what they seem. Not to mention that the ending will leave you thinking, “Wait, what? What just happened?” Overall, this is a quick read that goes more in-depth than one would think the amount of pages would allow.

Genre: Fantasy

Setting: A fairy tale land in an unspecified historical era.

Number of pages: 66

Objectionable content? A small amount of violence, one death, an occasional corpse, and unsettling factors (i.e. the sleepers)

Can children read this? Yes, as long as they are not easily upset by unsettling elements in stories. However, this book is best for teenagers and adults.

Who would enjoy this? Anyone who enjoys Neil Gaiman’s other works, and anyone who enjoys fairy tale remakes.

Themes: Beauty, power, loss, choices, strong women, and the need to control other’s emotions vs. the strength of only feeling your emotions.

Rating: Five stars

Happy Birthday to Neil Gaiman! (November 10)

gaimanhimselfAs of November 10, 2015 Neil Gaiman is 55 years old. He is a supporter of libraries, the arts, and is everything that this librarian could want in an author. Neil is the author of books from a wide range of genre’s, and for every age group. His body of work is extensive, and includes many groundbreaking volumes. He is also the father of three children from his first marriage, now grown adults, and a new baby just born on September 16 with his wife Amanda Palmer who is a singer, song writer, performance artist, and author. To make him even cooler in my eyes, he is also good friends with singer/songwriter Tori Amos and godfather of her daughter. I am admittedly a bit of a fangirl.

gaiman5Gaiman began his writing career in England as a journalist. His first book was a Duran Duran biography that took him three months to write, and his second was a biography of Douglas Adams, Don’t Panic: The Official Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Companion. Soon afterward he collaborated or creating in graphic novels such as Violent Cases, Black Orchid, and Sandman. Over the years he has added picturebooks, children’s fiction, adult fiction, television, film, and theater to his body of work. This includes writing for one of my favorite shows, Doctor Who. He also does the narration for most, if not all, of the audiobook versions of his work.

Neil and his works have won many nominations and awards over the year. A few of the awards include: Kurt Vonnegut Jr Award For Literature, Boston Public Library Literary Lights For Children, CBLDF Defender of Liberty, The “Galaxy” Award (China) for Most Popular Foreign Author, Horn Book Honors, Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books, ALA Booklist Editors’ Choice: Books for Youth, Hugo Award, IndieBound Award, and many, many more.

gaiman1Here is a sampling of his works, though far from comprehensive. They are in no particular order.
Chu’s Day
Chu’s First Day of School
Chu’s Day at the Beach
The Wolves in the Walls
Blueberry Girl
Crazy Hairgaiman2
Instructions: Everything you’ll Need to Know on your Journey

Children’s and Young Adult Books:
Fortunately, the Milk
M is for Magic
The Graveyard Book
Hansel & Gretel: a Toon Graphic
Odd and the Frost Giants
The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountainsgaiman3
The Books of Magic
Marvel 1602

Adult Books:
The Ocean at the End of the Lane
The Make Good Art Speech
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbancesgaiman4
Anansi Boys
American Gods
Good Omens
Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
Neil Gaiman’s Lady Justice. Vol. 1