Favorite books of 2016: a top 10 list

Can you judge a book by its cover? In my case, yes! Many of these books that “sparked joy” for me in 2016 have wonderful covers and titles that drew me in – and delivered!

 

*Light between oceans : a novel / by M.L. Stedman. This author’s first novel, set on an island and coastal community in Western light-between-oceansAustralia, is so well written, with great characters and an interesting setting. I’m eager to see the movie!

 

*The little Paris bookshop : a novel / by Nina George. This is totally my kind of book – a pilgrimage of sorts for the characters in the book, with delicious descriptions of Paris and the French countryside. And a happy ending!litte-paris-bookshop

 

 

*Pastrix: the cranky, beautiful faith of a sinner and saint / by Nadia Bolz-Weber.  Nadia’s photo on the front, showing her tattoos, would hardly make you believe she was a Lutheran minister – I loved her story, a wonderful mix of sacred and profane.pastrix

 

*Mary Coin: a novel / by Marisa Silver. This novel, based on the famous photograph of a migrant mother taken by Dorothy Lange during the Depression, is elegant and beautifully written. And it will make you run to your computer to find out more about the real people and story (which to me is always the sign of a good book).mary-coin

 

*The ditchdigger’s daughters: a black family’s astonishing success story / by Yvonne Thornton. This is a wonderful story about an amazing family – the six daughters of Donald Thornton, who had dreams for his daughters to be the best they can be, including being a part of a music group, and going to college. Yvonne, the author, became an obstetrician, ditchdiggers-daughtersbeating many odds. This book is entertaining and inspirational.

 
*Coming home / by Rosamunde Pilcher. This classic was published over 20 years ago, but I reread it this past year and truly loved it all over again. Taking place in 1940s Cornwall, it follows the story of Judith, and the Carey-Lewis family who absorb her into their family. The very British details make for a perfect book to read with a cup of tea next to you.coming-home

 
*The Kashmir Shawl / Rosie Thomas. I read this book on our train ride to and from Washington D.C. I was enthralled with the setting of this book, as I’ve always wanted to go to kashmir-shawlKashmir, as well as the story and characters.

 

*Hotel on the corner of Bitter and Sweet : a novel /  by Jamie Ford. Mostly taking place in Seattle, this story of a Chinese boy and a Japanese girl, alternating during World War II and present times, is entertaining while telling a story of a period of time in history that will hopefully never be repeated, of hotel-on-the-corner-of-bitter-and-sweetputting American citizens into internment camps, just because of their ethnic background.

 

*Me before you / by JoJo Moyes. Initially I dismissed this book as “chick-lit” but I have to admit I really loved this book – so much that I would wake up in the middle of the night me-before-youthinking of the characters. While the characters didn’t do what I wanted them to do, I forgave them, and understood why they did what they did. The dialogue and interior lives portrayed in this book are excellent (and full of humor, despite the serious subject).

 

*Without a map: a memoir / by Meredith Hall. I remember when this book, by a Maine author, came out and received good reviews, so when I saw it at the Long Island Community Library book sale, I grabbed it. This is one of the best-written books I’ve read in a long time – I had a hard time putting it down. Meredith becomes pregnant at 16 during a time in that her family land hometown in New Hampshire shunned her – how far we’ve come, and how fortunate we are that Meredith wrote this book.without-a-map

 

 

Happy New Year from the Long Island Community Library – may 2017 bring you many wonderful books!

Goodreads

People always ask me “What good books have you been reading?” It’s hard for me to think on the spot. Thanks to Meredith Sweet, who gave me a book several years ago for recording books, I now have a record of what I am reading (several notebooks later). I’ve also joined Goodreads (goodreads.com), which is a fun way to have an online tool to not only record what you read, but share with friends books that you want to read, are reading, and have read, with reviews, if you like. It’s a kind of social networking for book lovers. I joined in January of this year, and Goodreads just sent me a synopsis of 2016.bookstore

In 2016 I read 39 books. The shortest book was “Ghosts of Acadia” by Marcus LiBrizzi (read for my Maine Historical Society book group) at 142 pages. The longest book I read was Rosamunde Pilcher’s “Coming Home” at 977 pages. The most popular book was “Me Before You” by JoJo Moyes (read for my Maine Charitable Mechanics Association book group), which over a million other people on Goodreads already read. The “least” popular book (at least in Goodreads) was “Early Gravestones in Southern Maine” by Roy Romano, which is probably more of local interest, and popular within the state. My average rating of books was 4.4, which means that either I’m easy to please, or I just choose to read good books.

Goodreads also allows me to add book reviews, which is nice for books that are more obscure, such as a book that a friend of mine wrote, and asked me to review for Goodreads. There are probably many other features that I have yet to take the time to figure out (like any social networking tool, it can suck up a lot of time). But otherwise, it’s a great way to keep track of books and share with friends what I am reading.

Deck the Halls: Christmas ornaments and decorations made by Long Islanders

We are pleased to announce that our winter exhibit is installed – we are showcasing Christmas ornaments and decorations made by Long Islanders, past and present. The exhibit is in the library’s small glass case, and can be viewed during library hours. Come on down and see sheep, butterflies, a snowflake, snowmen, pinecones, Christmas trees, and other wonderful ornaments and decorations, made by our talented islanders.

christmas-ornament-exhibit-2christmas-ornament-exhibit

In celebration of tea … and books!

As the cool autumn wind blows over our island community, what better time than to curl up with a great book and a cup of tea? Several years ago I showcased my tea pot and tea cup collection at the Long Island Community Library, along with a list of some of my favorite tea books, which I will share below. What are some of your favorite books about tea?mhs-tea-party

The book of tea / preface by Anthony Burgess. Flammarion, 2005.

Barnes, Emilie. If teacups could talk : sharing a cup of kindness with treasured friends. Eugene, Oregon : Harvest House Publishers, 1994.

O’Connor, Sharon. Afternoon tea serenade : recipes from famous tea rooms, classical chamber music. Emeryville, Ca. : Menus and Music Productions, Inc., 1997.

Rubin, Ron. Tea Chings : the tea and herb companion : appreciating the varietals and virtues of fine tea and herbs / Ron Rubin and Stuart Avery Gold. New York : Newmarket Press, 2002.

Smith, Michael. The afternoon tea book. New York : Macmillan Publishing Company, 1986.

Siegal, Helene. The totally teatime cookbook / by Helen Siegal and Karen Gillingham. Berkeley, Ca. : Celestial Arts, 1995

Maine Historical Society book group is back again

designingacadia_webgraphicWednesday, October 5, 2016 – Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Maine Historical Society Book Group is back by popular demand! Join us for five fun evenings of camaraderie and great book discussion. Led by MHS Research Librarian Tiffany Link, the group will read five books, each related to MHS’s Designing Acadia and World War I exhibitions, then gather for discussion. Light refreshments will be served. The group will meet in the MHS Brown Library, 6-8pm on the first Wednesday of each month through March. (There will be no December meeting.)

October 5:  A Land Of Discord Always-Acadia From It’s Beginnings to the Expulsion of Its People 1604-1755 by Charles Mahaffie (Camden, ME: Down East Books, 1995).

Please Read Chapters : 1- 4- 7- 11- 16- 21- 24- 29- 32 and 33 (or the whole book if you like). Also choose a chapter from Longfellow’s Evangeline to discuss and compare.

November 2: Ghost of Acadia by Marcus LiBrizzi (Rockport, ME: Down East Books, 2011).

January 4: Becoming Teddy Roosevelt by Andrew Vietze (Rockport, ME: Down East Books, 2010).

February 1: Love on the Rocks-Stories of Rusticators and Romance on MDI (Yarmouth, ME: Islandport Press, 2008).

March 1: Bar Harbor in the Roaring Twenties: From Village Life to the High Life on M.D.I. by Luann Yetter (The History Press, 2015).

Program dates: October 5, November 2, January 4, February 1, March 1. For questions, please contact Tiffany Link at tlink@mainehistory.org or 207-774-1822 x 230. A 20% discount on the books read for this group will be offered in the MHS Museum Store. $20 MHS Members; $30 general admission for all book sessions. Limited to 25 people.

Register today!

 

Harriet Beecher Stowe in Brunswick, Maine

Harriet Beecher Stowe houseThere’s a “new kid on the block” – that is, another historic house in Maine open to the public, and a literary site, too. The house where Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” can now be visited. Well, at least one of the rooms – “Harriet’s Writing Room” is a public exhibit space commemorating Stowe’s literary legacy. The home is a National Historic Landmark and a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Site. Harriet also sheltered a slave in her home, John Andrew Jackson, while living in this house on Federal Street in Brunswick.

Harriet Beecher Stowe House sign

Why was Harriet Beecher Stowe in Brunswick? Her husband Calvin was a professor at Bowdoin College, his alma mater. They lived there only a short time – from 1850 to 1852 – but what a lot Harriet accomplished. Much of her over 500 page book was written there; a book which  which would soon become a classic, and would influence laying the groundwork of the Civil War. All while raising children and running a household (and sheltering slaves).

Harriet Beecher Stowe House interior

For more information: http://bowdoin.edu/stowe-house

Art & Soul 2016

We are pleased to announce that the Long Island Community Library’s 2016 fundraiser, Art & Soul, was a great success, thanks to all our generous library users and fans, who bought books, raffle tickets for baskets, artwork, and food. Special thanks to all the volunteers who made it happen, from schlepping books upstairs, to making baskets, to contributing art, to baking desserts. All was so appreciated! We made over $10,000, which will go so far in supporting the library. Thank you!

Art & Soul 2016 art auction

Art & Soul 2016 book sale Art & Soul 2016 food Art & Soul 2016 raffle basket

Famous men’s wives and lovers in literature

What do the wives and loves of Ernest Hemingway, Robert Louis Stevenson, Pablo Picasso, William Shakespeare, and Frank Lloyd Wright have in common? They all have recently appeared as the main characters in literary novels. Paula McLain’s “The Paris Wife” tells us the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley. Nancy Horan’s “Under the wide and starry sky” portrays Fanny Stevenson, Robert Louis Stevenson’s wife. Another book by Horan, “Loving Frank” profiles Martha “Mamah” Borthwick’s relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright.  “Madame Picasso” by Anne Girard is about Eva Gouel, Picasso’s companion and a great muse in his artwork. Andrea Chapin’s “The Tutor” tells the story of a muse of Shakespeare.

No longer in the shadow, these women deserve to tell their side of the story, which is told through the imagination and research of the authors of these novels.Degas

American Writers Museum

Longfellow house and garden May 2015I am a big fan of literary sites – of course it helps that my office looks out onto the Longfellow Garden, behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of America’s most beloved poets. One of these days I want to travel the country, visiting literary homes and sites, reading and blogging about the literary works as I visit writer’s homes. But perhaps my first stop should be in Chicago at the American Writers Museum, which opens in 2017. The Wadsworth-Longfellow House and Garden is one of the affiliates.

The American Writers Museum Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) organization whose mission is to establish the first national museum in the United States dedicated to engaging the public in celebrating American writers and exploring their influence on our history, our identity, our culture and our daily lives.

Check it out! http://americanwritersmuseum.org/

 

Monroeville: the literary capital of Alabama and home to Nelle Harper Lee

By Lorinda VallsLorinda 4

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday driving thru Alabama, passing the cotton fields with their fluffy white flowers; much different from the snow I had left behind on Long Island, Maine. Our destination was Monroeville, Alabama, “The literary capital of Alabama” – proud to call itself that because of well-known , respected and all around good citizen Nelle Harper Lee, known for writing To Kill a Mockingbird and most recently Go Set a Watchman . She enjoyed her town, close friends family, community events, writing and golfing; what she didn’t like was all the Media, reporters, and questions that come from writing a best selling and controversial, to some, book. Her book was loosely based about Monroeville growing up with her brother and close friend Truman Capote and her visits to the Monroe County Court House to sit in the balcony at the courthouse and watch her father practice law. The themes of the book cover racial equality , rape, and childhood innocence.

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Nelle Harper Lee died at the age of 89 on the Friday that we were in Alabama. We were saddened by the news. It was only on our drive that we heard on the radio that she was to be buried Saturday in a private funeral ceremony. We wondered if the museum would be opened but we continued on our journey. While parking the car at the Monroe County Courthouse and Museum I noticed black bows on the Courthouse doors, flowers on the steps, and a few people dressed in black and, wouldn’t you know it, a reporter. Whatever was said between those in black and the reporter, it was quick and off she went. Probably “No Comment. ” I think Harper Lee would approve. We were able to get into the museum and and courthouse and see 2 permanent exhibits: Harper Lee : In her Own Words, and Truman Capote : A Childhood in Monroeville. Harper Lee and Truman Capote lived next door to each other as children and shared a love for reading and writing stories about people in their town. Our tour continued with a visit to the Courtroom. It is the model for the courtroom scene from To Kill a Mockingbird – completely set up with Judge’s bench, attorney’s tables, chairs, jury box and the view from balcony which gives you a bird’s eye view of the court house. I felt that for a minute I was with Harper Lee watching court in session. Moments later I was on the floor of the courtroom walking around, and as I approached the witness stand and judges bench there were flowers, a picture of Harper Lee, and a frame with a quote from To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus says to Jem “It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin. But you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what You rarely win- but sometimes you do.” MS. LEE WON!! “She died clean as the mountain air. ” At 1:30 that afternoon on a Saturday at the Methodist church in Monroeville, AL, Nelle Harper Lee was buried with family and a few friends present and a world full of people bidding her farewell.

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A small library on an island on the coast of Maine