Category Archives: Books

One book, many conversations

Today I participated in a nation-wide conversation about George Orwell’s 1984. This week participants from around the country are gathering to discuss this classic book. This is part of “One book, Many Conversations (manyconversations.org), held October 9-15, 2017. The one I attended was at the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association (on Congress Street in Portland, Maine). Other locations in Portland include The Maine Women Writers Collection (University of New England) and Maine College of Art Library. Can’t make it to a live discussion group? You can participate online!

According to the website:

Together we will delve into 1984, a book that raises questions that are at the core of living in a democracy, including the nature of citizenship, the sources of power, and what it takes to be a leader, to be courageous and to love another human being. These themes are broad, common to the human experience, and cross all partisan boundaries. 

Books and war

I’ve been immersed in World War One pamphlets that arrived here at the Maine Historical Society (my day job) about 100 years ago. We finally decided to catalog them, so this is my summer project. Amidst the pamphlets are letters from the American Library Association’s War Service Committee to librarians, asking for men to go into librarianship, as well as asking for book donations.

According to Wikipedia, The Library War Service was established by the American Library Association in 1917 to provide library services to American soldiers training in camps and serving overseas in World War I. Between 1917 and 1920, the ALA raised $5 million from public donations, erected 36 camp libraries, distributed 7 to 10 million books and magazines, and provided library collections to more than 500 locations, including military hospitals.

I find this all so fascinating, about how books and libraries were necessary during war time. So when I found the book “When books went to war: the stories that helped us win World War II” by Molly Guptill Manning at the Maine Charitable Mechanics Association, I checked it out.

Inside this book, I found wonderful tales of how books indeed were used in fighting the war, mostly in providing a book for every soldier, to help improve morale as they fought a war in the most dismal and horrendous of situations. Some of the book movement was a backlash to the book burning going on in Germany, in an effort to control what people were reading. But there is also interesting information about publishing of paperbacks for soldiers, that were lightweight to carry as they traveled into war torn areas. Anyone who believes in the power of bibliotherapy will find this a thrilling read.

On a different but related note, there are, of course, wonderful novels that take place during war-time. Two of note that relate to World War One are “The summer before the war” by Helen Simonson, and “A star for Mrs. Blake” by April Smith. I’m reading “The summer before the war” right now – as the Belgian refugees are taken in by villagers in Rye, I think about the many pamphlets I’ve catalogued about the German invasion of Belgium, when over 200,000 refugees fled to Britain. This novel helps to bring that fact to life. “A star for Mrs. Blake” is about Cora Blake, of Maine, who makes a pilgrimage to France in the 1930s, with other Gold Star Mothers who lost their sons during World War I.

As we commemorate the 100th anniversary of America’s involvement in World War I let’s take the opportunity to recognize the role of books in wartime.

LICL Summer Book Group

Tonight we’re starting another summer book group at our island library, thanks to the generosity of Jean Murley, the daughter of Curt and Penny Murley, island residents. Jean is an Associate Professor of English at Queensborough Community College of the City University of New York. Last year she led a wonderful study of “Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption” by Jennifer Thompson Cannino, Ronald Cotton, and Erin Torneo.
Jean is back again to lead another book group – this time a novel: Mohsin Hamid’s “How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.”

We’re meeting the next three Tuesday evenings. I’m looking forward to it!

 

 

Australia in literature and film

Australian writers are really coming into the forefront of literature, at least in my reading. Two authors of books I wrote about previously for “The Library Suggests” are evidence of that: Liane Moriarty and M. L. Stedman (who also appears in previous blogs). I’m currently reading “The Forgotten Garden” by Kate Morton, another Australian writer, which takes place in both Australia and England. I loved “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simsion, a whimsical and fun romp.

Other classic non-fiction works I’ve enjoyed throughout the years include “Tracks,” by Robyn Davidson, about her travels across Australia by camel (which also became a terrific movie). Jill Ker Conway’s books about growing up in the Australian outback are wonderful, especially “The Road from Coorain.” Jill later became the first female president of Smith College.

One of the first Australian books I read was the novel, “My Brilliant Career” written in 1901 by Miles Franklin (Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin). The heroine of the story is Sybylla Melvyn, is an imaginative, headstrong girl growing up in rural Australia in the 1890s.

And to deviate into film, we are enjoying the Dr. Blake mysteries on PBS. The series stars Craig McLachlan in the lead role of Doctor Lucien Blake, who returns home to Ballarat, northwest of Melbourne, in the late 1950s to take over his late father’s general medical practice after an absence of 30 years. And one of my all-time favorite movies is “The Man from Snowy River,” a 1982 Australian drama film based on the Banjo Paterson poem of the same name. I remember seeing it in the theater for the first time and being mesmerized by the scenery, music, and story (which includes a sweet love story).

Who are some of your favorite Australian writers? (Colleen McCullough anyone?)

 

Not Australia, but as close as I’ve gotten (Hawaii)

Which is better – the book or the movie?

Which is better – the book or the movie?  For me, it’s usually the book, but there are always exceptions.

This past month I checked out two DVDs from the Long Island Community Library based on some of my favorite books in recent years. One was “Wild” by and about Cheryl Strayed and her hike on the Pacific Crest Trail – this was a great book, but the movie was merely good. It’s difficult to get the interior voice into a story. It seemed to focus more on Cheryl’s backstory than on her transformative journey. The other movie, which I watched last night, was “Light between oceans” based on M. L. Stedman’s book about a family on a remote lighthouse off Australia. This was a lovely movie, which portrayed the drama with fine casting, and of course the beautiful scenery provided a great backdrop. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I dropped a few tears at the end.

 Another favorite book of mine that I read last year didn’t translate well into a movie, in my opinion: JoJo Moyes’ “Me before you.” I loved this book, especially the dialogue and inner voices. While it was a good story on film, it didn’t seem to be as entertaining as the book. But there again, I knew how it would end. The real test is what my husband thinks of a movie, as he hasn’t read the book and doesn’t know the story. It was fun to watch “Gone Girl” with him as I knew what was going to happen, having read the book by Gillian Flynn, and he didn’t read it. Often when I’m reading a book I think “hmmm… this would make a great movie” – and sometimes a movie is made from the book, and it delivers.

And then there are the times when I see the movie first and then read the book, such as “Gone with the Wind” – I read this book many years after I saw the movie. I loved the book, although I did picture Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh as Rhett and Scarlett as I read the book.

I didn’t care for “A man called Ove” by Frederik Backman, but maybe it will make for a better movie experience. The movie, as well as “Girl on the train” by Paula Hawkins, are available at LICL. Since I haven’t read “Girl on the train” yet, I think I will read it first, and then check out the movie. I’ll let you know what I think – about both!

July 7th: Regarding “Girl on the Train: I enjoyed the book, and the movie! I thought the movie did a good job of translating the book into a movie, although they changed the setting from the London suburbs to the New York City suburbs (but Emily Blunt got to keep her British accent)

 

You can buy the mug above at:

https://www.etsy.com/listing/204814503/funny-mug-coffee-cup-tea-cup-bookworm?ref=finds_l

 

In praise of Richard Blanco and inaugural poets

April is National Poetry Month so this year I would like to honor Richard Blanco, in a wave of nostalgia for inaugural poets, which the current administration chose to forgo. Blanco is the fifth poet to read at a United States presidential inauguration, having read for Barack Obama’s second inauguration. He is the first immigrant, the first Latino, the first openly gay person and the youngest person to be the U.S. inaugural poet. And he lives in Maine! I love his memoir: “For all of us, one today” which details the process of becoming the inaugural poet. “One today,” the poem read at the inauguration, is also a beautifully illustrated children’s book. And Blanco’s poetry books are full of treasures.

The Long Island Community Library has several of Richard Blanco’s  books – I would encourage you to check out a few of them this month, and find yourself transported.

 

 

 

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.

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!