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Happy Pride Month!

If you were young and LGBTQ+ anytime before 1969, there was no world wide web, no “customers who bought this item also bought,” and no friendly librarians steeped in the parlance of broad-mindedness, diversity and human variety. Gay literature was not positively represented. In June, we celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Month with the commemoration of the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, which spurred the start of the modern gay rights movement.

Among other things, that movement lead to a shift in the perception of gay literature, and the acceptance of it remains a work in progress, a not-quite-there-yet effort. This annual observance showcases a glorious variety of humans, and it is a reminder that work remains to keep the evolution of LGBTQ+ rights moving in the direction of equality. As the Library of Congress put it, Pride month demonstrates “how LGBTQ Americans have strengthened our country, by using their talent and creativity to help create awareness and goodwill.”

Celebrate Pride with fiction and nonfiction from your library! Links titled Subjects, Genre, and Topics offer even more reading, listening and watching ideas. For a dash of past Pride, check out these blog posts from across the Library of Congress related to LGBTQ history. And now, onto the suggestions!

FOR KIDS 

Who is RuPaul? by Nico Medina. 

In this child-level nonfiction biography, learn how this Emmy-winning host, producer, and television personality became the world’s most famous drag queen. Even as a young child, RuPaul Andre Charles loved to dress up and imitate the glamorous women he saw on television. When he turned fifteen, he began studying theater in a performing arts school in Atlanta and never looked back. — from the publisher’s description

Be Amazing: A History of Pride by Desmond Napoles; pictures by Dylan Glynn

A kid-friendly primer to LGBTQ history that covers everything from the Stonewall Riots to RuPaul’s “Drag Race.” “Be Amazing” encourages young readers to embrace their own uniqueness and ignore the haters. Ages 0-8.

Subjects:Gays — Juvenile literature. Sexual minorities — Juvenile literature. Sexual orientation — Juvenile literature. Transgender people — Juvenile literature. Picture books for children. Gay liberation movement. Gay Pride Day.

FICTION

Patricia Highsmith‘s eerie 1952 romance-as-thriller, The Price of Salt, got the Hollywood treatment in 2015 and emerged as the feature film Carol. The rights to her first novel, Strangers on a Train, published in 1950, were immediately secured by Alfred Hitchcock, who released the classic film of the same name in 1951. She had her own group of underground Manhattan friends, all closeted lesbian “creatives,” including the remarkable photographer Berenice Abbott and the writer Djuna Barnes (doomy, melodramatic Nightwood, 1936).

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo  

Evaristo, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize for this title, is the first black woman to receive this highest literary honor in the English language. She compels the reader to accommodate and adjust, and the rewards for this tiny bit of mental labor are extraordinary. As she creates a space for immigrants and the children of immigrants to tell their stories, Evaristo explores a range of topics both contemporary and timeless. There is room for everyone to find a home in this extraordinary novel. Beautiful and necessary. — Kirkus Reviews.  Available to check out as a book club set!

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

Cynical August starts to believe in the impossible when he meets Jane on the subway, a mysterious punk rocker she forms a crush on, who is literally displaced in time from the 1970s and is trying to find her way back. McQuiston’s joyful sophomore romp mixes all the elements that made “Red, White & Royal Blue” so outstanding—quirky characters, coming-of-age confusion, laugh-out-loud narration, and hilarious pop-cultural references (“Bella Swan, eat your horny little Mormon heart out”)—into something totally its own. 

The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, this novel about a resilient and courageous woman transformed by the friendship of two remarkable women has become a Broadway show and a cultural phenomenon. Check out the book or the feature film.

Bessie  (DVD) starring Queen Latifah. Bessie Smith, known as the “Empress of the Blues,” was a bold, supremely confident artist who sang with breathtaking emotional intensity on songs such as “Down Hearted Blues,” “Empty Bed Blues,” and “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.” — Britannica.  While you’re at it, check out other materials featuring this Tennessee native.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. Set in El Paso, Texas in the 80s, the novel follows two Mexican-American teenagers, their friendship, and their struggles with racial and ethnic identity, sexuality, and family relationships. A gem of a coming-of-age YA story.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth. In the early 1990s, when gay teenager Cameron Post rebels against her conservative Montana ranch town and her family decides she needs to change her ways, she is sent to a gay conversion therapy center. Check out the book or the feature film.  

Subjects:Gay teenagers — Drama. Sexual reorientation programs — Drama. 

Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi

Emezi’s debut novel incorporates Igbo cosmology into her semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel about a young woman, Ada, who must contend with a multitude of identities living within her as she navigates the world—first in Nigeria and later as an immigrant in the United States. Exploring the spaces between gender, culture, and existence, Emezi writes of identities that do not fit neatly into a single category. 

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong

A Vietnamese-American poet’s debut mines his extraordinary family story with passion and beauty. The novel also draws on elements of his life, to tell the coming-of-age story of Little Dog, the son of Vietnamese immigrant parents in the US. 

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin 

When David meets the sensual Giovanni in a bohemian bar, he is swept into a passionate love affair. But his girlfriend’s return to Paris destroys everything. Unable to admit to the truth, David pretends the liaison never happened – while Giovanni’s life descends into tragedy.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson 

Describes the funny, poignant adventures of a young girl’s adolescence. Jeanette is a bright and rebellious orphan who is adopted into an evangelical household in the dour, industrial North of England and finds herself embroidering grim religious mottoes and shaking her little tambourine for Jesus. Jeanette’s insistence on listening to truths of her own heart and mind—and on reporting them with wit and passion—makes for an unforgettable, moving chronicle into adulthood. “Winterson’s voice, with its idiosyncratic wit and sensitivity, is one you’ve never heard before.” — Ms. Magazine

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

Tired of being labeled white trash, Ruth Anne Boatwright–a bastard who is attached to the indomitable women in her mother’s family–longs to escape from her hometown, and especially from Daddy Glen and his mean-spirited jealousy. Allison’s remarkable country voice emerges in a first novel spiked with pungent characters ranging from the slatternly to the grotesque, and saturated with sense of place — Greenville, S.C.

A landmark coming-of-age novel that launched the career of one of this country’s most distinctive voices, Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown, remains a transformative work more than forty years after its original publication. Born out of wedlock and adopted by a poor, loving family, Molly Bolt finds the South and even bohemian New York a hostile world for a lesbian but manages to thrive and remain confident. With her startling beauty and crackling wit, Molly finds that women are drawn to her wherever she goes–and she refuses to apologize for loving them back. This literary milestone continues to resonate with its message about being true to yourself and, against the odds, living happily ever after.

Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg 

Mrs. Threadgoode’s tale of two high-spirited women of the 1930s, Idgie and Ruth, helps Evelyn, a 1980s woman in a sad slump of middle age, to begin to rejuvenate her own life.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger. A groundbreaking novel that tells the story of a transgender teen’s search for identity and acceptance. 

Subjects:Transsexuals — Fiction. Identity (Psychology) — Fiction.

HERmione by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) 

A semi-autobiographical tale of Doolittle’s early 20s. She is driven to a nervous breakdown by conflicting aspects of her personality. After her relationship ends (a thinly veiled portrait of Ezra Pound) and she comes home from Bryn Mawr, Hermione goes through a painful self-reflection with a beautifully transcribed eerie, interior monologue. 

Loving Eleanor by Susan Wittig Albert

When AP political reporter Lorena Hickok is assigned to cover Eleanor Roosevelt in the 1932 campaign, the two women become deeply involved. “Loving Eleanor” is a profoundly moving novel that illuminates a relationship we are seldom privileged to see, celebrating the depth and durability of women’s love.

The Magnificent Spinster : a novel  by May Sarton

The fifty-year friendship of two remarkable women, Jane and Cam, is relived as Cam, in her seventies, recalls and celebrates the personality, compassion, and fulfilling career of her recently deceased friend.

The Revolution of Little Girls by Blanche McCrary Boyd

Bedeviled by fragments of her childhood dreams, Ellen embarks on a painful odyssey that leads from her Charleston youth to lesbian experiences, spiritual quests, and a reconciliation with her mother.

Crossing by Pajtim Statovci; translated from the Finnish by David Hackston

Originally born in Kosovo to Albanian parents, Statovci’s family fled to Finland to escape the violence that destroyed Yugoslavia. This novel, a finalist for the National Book Award, follows a young Albanian boy, Bujar, and his best friend as they deal with the aftermath of war, eventually leaving to find better lives in Italy. In a foreign country, however, they are forced to confront their identities in more ways than one, exploring the intersections of sexual orientation, gender identity, alienation, and migration. –BUST Magazine

NONFICTION

My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (true) story & art by Nagata Kabi; translation, Jocelyne Allen

This gripping graphic novel about a 28-year-old Japanese woman who is struggling with her sexuality and mental health, makes even the lumpiest of her warts-and-all confessions look adorable. Winner of many awards and critical acclaim, the memoir features minimalist drawings that underscore a powerful story of struggle and self-discovery and confronting topics ranging from sex work to depression with dignity and understanding. It will strike a chord with people from anywhere, undergoing any kind of struggle. 

Subjects:  Lesbians — Comic books, strips, etc.

The Sacred Band: Three Hundred Theban Lovers Fighting to Save Greek Freedom by James Romm. A vivid portrait of ancient Thebes — and the saga of the greatest military corps of the age, the Theban Sacred Band, a unit composed of 150 pairs of male lovers. A spirited, informative classical history from an expert on the subject. 

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein. Stein’s other writings include letters between her and Thornton Wilder. The Letters of Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder  Edited by Edward Burns and Ulla E. Dydo, with William Rice.

The friendship between Gertrude Stein and Thornton Wilder is a surprise. How did two such different writers, of different generations and with such radically opposed cultural backgrounds, become so close? As the editors succinctly explain, and the letters so eloquently prove, Wilder, 37 when he first met Stein in Chicago in 1934, was in dire need of a mentor, and Stein, sanguine at 60, was thrilled to find a new disciple, especially one as gifted and impressionable as Wilder. –Booklist

Queer Intentions: a (Personal) Journey Through LGBTQ+ Culture by Amelia Abraham 

Today, the options and freedoms on offer to LGBTQ+ people living in the West are greater than ever before. But is same-sex marriage, improved media visibility and corporate endorsement all it’s cracked up to be? At what cost does this acceptance come? And who is getting left behind, particularly in parts of the world where LGBTQ+ rights aren’t so advanced? Combining intrepid journalism with her own personal experience, in “Queer Intentions,” Abraham searches for the answers to these urgent challenges, as well as the broader question of what it means to be queer right now.

Tabernacles of Clay: Sexuality and Gender in Modern Mormonism by Taylor G. Petrey

Information-packed, with a forceful thesis and jargon-free prose, this is an important contribution to Mormon studies as well as a convincing consideration of the ways religions construct and maintain frameworks. Petrey’s trenchant history takes a landmark step forward in documenting and theorizing about Latter-day Saints (LDS) teachings on gender, sexual difference, and marriage. 

Subjects:Gender identity — Religious aspects — Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Sexual orientation — Religious aspects. Mormon Church — United States — History — 20th century. Mormon Church — Political activity — United States. Sexual ethics — Religious aspects — Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager

Short and straightforward profiles of queer figures throughout history, ranging from ancient and obscure to modern and well known. For as long as there’s been air, there’s been Queer; in acknowledgment, Prager offers 23 short biographies of individuals who changed their world and ours. Ages 12 and Up.

Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician elected to office in California, fought for civil and human rights. Elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, this charismatic and eloquent public servant was assassinated by a fellow supervisor almost a year after taking office on November 27, 1978, at age 48. Check out the books and documentary, The Times of Harvey Milk.  

Subjects:Milk, Harvey. Gay politicians — California — San Francisco. Assassination — California — San Francisco. Gay men — California — San Francisco — Biography. Gay liberation movement — United States Gay liberation movement — California — San Francisco — History — 20th century.

Art After Stonewall: 1969 – 1989, edited by Jonathan Weinberg. Explores the impact of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender civil rights movement on the art world of the period. It focuses on openly LGBTQ artists such as Robert Mapplethorpe, Catherine Opie, and Andy Warhol, as well as the practices of such artists as Diane Arbus, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Karen Finley in terms of their engagement with queer subcultures. –Adapted from inside front cover.

Subjects:Art — United States — 20th century — History and criticism — Exhibitions. Gay artists — United States — Exhibitions. Lesbian artists — United States — Exhibitions. Gay men in art — Exhibitions. Lesbians in art — Exhibitions. Transgender people in art — Exhibitions. Gender identity in art — Exhibitions. Gay liberation movement — United States — Exhibitions. Stonewall Riots, New York, N.Y., 1969.

Outlaw Marriages: the Hidden Histories of Fifteen Extraordinary Same-Sex Couples by Rodger Streitmatter

A selective glimpse at prominent same-sex nuptials. For more than a century before gay marriage became a hot-button political issue, same-sex unions flourished in America. In the households of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns and James Ivory and Ismail Merchant, both parties were famous. Walt Whitman, the father of free verse, had a 25-year relationship with his muse, the significantly younger railroad worker Peter Doyle. Jane Addams, the most admired woman in America in the 1900s, and who became the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931, had a 40-year marriage with Mary Rozet Smith, whose financial backing kept Hull House afloat. 

The Mad Boy, Lord Berners, My Grandmother and Me : An Aristocratic Family, a High-Society Scandal and An Extraordinary Legacy by Sofka Zinovieff

In this gorgeous, entertaining narrative of bohemian aristocracy illustrated with lots of photos, Zinovieff gives an account of her grandparents’ unconventional relationship with her grandfather’s gay lover, examining period taboos, family secrets and cultural dynamics that shaped their shared lives. This impressively researched saga, which spans both world wars, is an effervescent account of the British upper class in the first half of the 20th century.

Genre: NonFiction; Domestic; Gay; Gay and lesbian; Lesbian; Sociology; Biography

Same-sex marriage; Marriage; Relationships; Gay lifestyle; Lesbians; Social history; American history

Topics: Same-sex marriage — United States.

Behind the Mask : the Life of Vita Sackville-West by Matthew Dennison. A lively, vigorously written biography of a singular character that beckons readers urgently back to Sackville-West’s writing. A British novelist and poet known mostly for her ardor for Virginia Woolf and as a gardener at Sissinghurst later in life, she grew up an only child to her overbearing mother. Her adoration for playing dramatic roles, cross-dressing, and wearing masks tied in befittingly with Vita’s extravagant, secretive persona, and her duality of nature, male and female, that she would try to resolve in her writing. 

Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde

A collection of essential essays and speeches written by Lorde, a woman who wrote from the particulars of her identity: Black woman, poet, activist, cancer survivor, mother, and feminist writer. This collection now considered a classic volume, of Lorde’s most influential works of non-fiction prose has had a groundbreaking impact in the development of contemporary feminist theories. –Wikipedia

Read in a Sitting

If the idea of blowing through a 500-lb book is as appealing as running a marathon in a parrot costume, read on. Maybe it’s all the heavy slogging we’ve done this past year, but I find myself shying away from longer reads. I reach for thinner books, and I often have success browsing the library for leaner literature.

Quick reads or fast reads are generally 200 pages or less, and it’s gratifying to knock out a couple in an afternoon. I can still read a meaningful book–whether it’s being “well read” with a short classic, or tackling more contemporary novels, generally considered to be titles published 1970 and after.

Try your hand at a fast read. I’ve collected a pile of quick read suggestions to assist in your slide to the shorter side, available from the Everett Public Library! Ask a librarian for even more suggestions.

God-level Knowledge Darts : Life Lessons from the Bronx By Desus Nice & The Kid Mero. Nonfiction. Full of irreverent, witty humor writing, this book is a bright light. 

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. Fiction. Uncommonly funny, this little fable offers pleasures no book lover should forego. Starring Queen Elizabeth II!

A Month in the Country by  J. L. Carr. Fiction. A divorced, WWI veteran’s own reconstructing of his faith in life coincides with his restoration of a mural.

We Love Anderson Cooper by R. L. Maizes. Fiction. The characters in this humorous and deeply human short story collection remind us that even in our most isolated moments, we are never truly alone.

The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada, Translated by David Boyd. Fiction. Asa moves with her new husband to a rural area close to where his family lived. On an errand for her mother-in-law one day, she came upon a hole perfect for her. This is the first of many bizarre happenings, and she begins to wonder if she is losing her mind. 

The Factory by Hiroko Oyamada. Fiction. The story follows three workers at a sprawling industrial factory. With hints of Kafka and unexpected moments of creeping humor, it casts a vivid–and sometimes surreal–portrait of the absurdity and meaninglessness of the modern workplace.

The Vegetarian: a Novel by Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith. It is “An unusual and mesmerizing novel, gracefully written and deeply disturbing… In her first novel to be published in English, South Korean writer Han divides a story about strange obsessions and metamorphosis into three parts, each with a distinct voice.” –Kirkus Reviews

Ethan Fromme by Edith Wharton. Fiction. Published in 1911, “Ethan Frome” is a perfect example of the way in which Wharton’s painstakingly detailed portrait of a community and its landscape proves that the environment decides an individual’s behavior, personality, and ultimate fate. 

The All of It by Jeanette Haien. Fiction. A priest stands fishing in a salmon stream, pondering the dark secret that “the death of a parishioner has revealed, and the astonishing tale the woman who survives the deceased has told him.” –“Publishers Weekly.” “The only book I know in which innocence follows experience. A truly amazing thing.”  – – Poet Mark Strand 

Train Dreams By Denis Johnson. Fiction. “The story of a turn-of-the-century logger and railroad laborer who loses his family to a wildfire and retreats deep into the woods of the Idaho panhandle as the country modernizes around him. Johnson’s spare, strange, elegiac prose conjures a world that feels both ancient and ephemeral, full of beauty and menace and deep sorrow. . . . A haunted and haunting reverie.” — LitHub 

Passing by Nella Larsen. Fiction. An upper middle-class woman reconnects with a lighter-skinned friend who has left the black community to pass as white.

The Small Hand: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill. Fiction. A bookseller is plagued by nightmares after stumbling across a derelict Edwardian house in this suspenseful quick read. 

The Book Shop by Penelope Fitzgerald. Fiction. On the heels of “The Blue Flower” (1997), here’s a slighter, equally charming, half as deep little novel—about snobbery and meanness in the provinces—that the immensely gifted Fitzgerald published in England in 1978. –Kirkus Reviews  

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten. Translated by Marlaine Delargy. Mystery. Five connected stories about a murderous old Swedish lady. Pure fun and irreverent as all get out.

We have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Jackson’s beloved gothic tale of a peculiar girl named Merricat and her family’s dark secret.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. Comedy science fiction. In this, the first book in the series, we meet bemused human protagonist, Arthur Dent, who wanders the Universe after the destruction of Earth with alien travel writer Ford Prefect. The broadcast from which the book comes is so gleefully silly, I was immediately smitten. 

The Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday. Nonfiction. This engaging special collection contains six demonstration lectures Faraday gave to young people at the Royal Institute in London in 1860. This mastermind could write simply and clearly and is best known for his contributions to our understanding of electricity.

Heartburn by Nora Ephron. Fiction. It has no spies, no world crises, no acts of Congress—only love, betrayal, and heartbreak, set against a Washington backdrop. Ephron’s first and only novel chronicles her marriage to real life Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein, who, along with Bob Woodward, won a Pulitzer Prize for their series of articles exposing President Nixon and the GOP staffers who broke into the Watergate. Ephron wrote many essays and screenplays, including the rom com hit, “When Harry Met Sally.”

Night by Elie Wiesel. Nonfiction. Hungary, 1944: a Jewish boy manages to survive the worst that man can do to man, only to wonder what in this life could be worth the cost of survival. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. Fiction. Okonkwo’s greatest fear is not the forest, not savage beasts, not black magic, not even the white men who are taking over Nigeria. More than these, he fears himself. 

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro. Fiction. Set in postwar Japan after the country’s defeat in World War II, the debut novel of Ishiguro explores the country’s move towards Western ideals, and follows a family in the thick of it through various characters–conservative and liberal alike. The focus is largely on the oppression of women in traditional Japanese society.

The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam. Fiction. Orphaned by the Sri Lankan civil war, a young man hopes an arranged marriage might make his last days in a refugee camp more meaningful.

84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Nonfiction. An exchange of letters, all through the ’40’s and ’50’s, between Miss Hanff and Marks & Co., Booksellers, 84 Charing Cross Road (London, of course). “No volume conveys the enduring and serendipitous charm of books as happily as this one.” — James Mustich, former editor of “A Common Reader”

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Mark your calendar! Tune in May 25th. Everett Public Library librarians will chat about books that made them drool with anticipation of their arrival as well as books that have been a source of pleasure–or pain. Book Bites is back this Month, May 25th from 12 to 12:30. Bring your lunch and let us know what you’re reading or looking forward to in the chat the day of the discussion. Register beforehand, and then join us on Crowdcast. It’s easy! See you at lunchtime! 

The Month of Humor

As April is National Humor Month and glum has been the prevailing tilt to the world’s axis this past year, it seems to be a golden opportunity to highlight titles that might make you laugh or give you a lift. Reading has always been a conduit for joy for me, and this past year, the funnier the better. 

YA and Middle Schoolers

Don’t keep the celebration to yourself. Check out the library’s collection of joke books, and pick a favorite to tell your best pal (who’s 38, for instance) and child (who’s 8). My guess is they’ll both appreciate the laugh.

One of my favorite forms is clowning around, nonsense humor, wit and satire. I have long been a fan of P. G. Wodehouse, particularly the merry distraction that is Jeeves and my favorite knucklehead, Bertie. Because of these two, The Code of the Woosters is a joyous romp. I re-read Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome whenever I’m especially blue. Bring on the silly!

More Fiction

Jasmine Guillory’s Wedding Date series

Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. Especially fun, as well, is You Suck, although most anything by Moore is an odd, fun, joy-ride of a read.

Science Fiction/Fantasy

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, first in the Thursday Next series. 

Mort by Terry Pratchett, one of the Discworld series

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, book one of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.

Dark humor can be the outlet where we brighten ourselves and others up by pointing out the funny sides of adversities or shortcomings in order to laugh about them. While they can have a cheerless aspect, look for the buoyancy, as well.   

Twelve-year-old Flavia, “the world’s greatest adolescent British chemist/busybody/sleuth” (The Seattle Times), lives in a decaying mansion in 1950s England with two prickly older sisters and a distracted father. Part of the charm of a Flavia de Luce series is Flavia’s plucky take on the circumstances in front of her and then heading where that leads. Mix in her avid curiosity and author Alan Bradley’s sterling, darkly comic plot, and you have the recipe for smart and funny mysteries.

At the heart of the 10th installment, The Golden Tresses of the Dead: a Flavia de Luce novel, is a ghoulish question: “How had an embalmed finger found its way from the hand of a dead woman in a Surrey cemetery into the heart of a wedding cake?” While you can grab any one of the books and read it, if you start at the beginning with the wickedly brilliant first novel, The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie, you’ll follow Flavia’s bigger story as it slowly unfolds.

Bradley, who has few peers at combining fair-play clueing with humor and has fun mocking genre conventions, shows no sign of running out of ideas.(Publishers Weekly, starred review)

In The Question of the Missing Head by E.J. Copperman, Asperger’s sufferer Samuel Hoenig puts his syndrome traits to good use running a business called Questions Answered. With the help of his new colleague Janet Washburn, Hoenig uses his unique powers of deduction to investigate the disappearance of a preserved head from a cryonics institute and the murder of one of the facility’s scientists.

Told from Hoenig’s perspective, this cozy mystery series uses light-hearted humor to point out that the approach of the “normal” world can be confusing and, at times, downright silly. Intricately plotted, thoughtful and frequently humorous, these gentle stories showcase Samuel’s unique perspective as a help rather than hindrance to his sleuthing success.

Patrick deWitt’s The Sisters Brothers is a funny, award-winning re-imagining of the Western novel.

A gorgeous, wise, riveting work of, among other things, cowboy noir…Honestly, I can’t recall ever being this fond of a pair of psychopaths. (David Wroblewski, author of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle)

Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation by Adam Resnick. This Emmy-winning screenwriter, who started as an intern for the original Late Night starring David Letterman, makes his debut with this collection of personal tales ranging from childhood to being a dad. The book is full of tension between Resnick and everyone in his life, whether he’s on vacation at Disney World or finding a blade in his milkshake at a fast-food chain.

The writing is sharp and sharp-tongued, sometimes close to the line of mean-spirited—the book is not for readers who are easily offended…. A neurotic, unapologetic, hilarious collection. (Kirkus Reviews)

One of the best laugh-out-loud reads I have had in a long time.

Non-Fiction

The Corfu Trilogy: a naturalist and his family leave England to live on the Greek island of Corfu. These are the tales of the interactions they have there–with both humans and animal varieties.

Allie Brosh’s latest offering, Solutions and Other Problems, continues where Hyperbole and a Half, her first book, left off in 2014. Both are based on collections of personal stories and drawings, including funny tales from her childhood, the adventures of her ‘very bad pets,’ and the absurdity of modern life in a mix of text and intentionally crude illustrations. They are part graphic novel, part confessional, and overall delightful. The books come from collections of blog posts in the form of her very popular webcomic, Hyperbole and a Half. Brosh started Hyperbole in 2009.

“A quirky, humorous memoir/collection of illustrated essays.” (Kirkus Reviews)

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“‘There are moments, Jeeves, when one asks oneself, “Do trousers matter?”’

‘The mood will pass, sir.’”

~  P. G. Wodehouse, Very Good, Jeeves

Women’s History Month Readfest Ideas

To kick off Women’s History Month, let’s journey through a list of women authors with stories featuring women or girls. These titles–fiction and nonfiction–feature stereotype-busting women characters facing, among other challenges, racism, war and writer’s block. Check them out at the library!

Dear Miss Kopp by Amy Stewart

The sixth installment of the smart, top-notch Kopp Sisters series follows the adventures of the Kopp Sisters as they head overseas to help in the World War I effort, each in her own personal inimitable adventure. They are separated for the first time, and the sisters write to each other with their news. This is a smart, light-hearted series based on the sisters’ true story. Early in the 20th century, Constance Kopp was named one of the first female deputies in the nation. The sisters lived what was considered at that time to be an unconventional life. The three lived alone on a farm in New Jersey, and despite Constance working as a deputy sheriff, it was frowned on to not have any males around to provide and protect. Occasionally the trio piled into the horse and buggy for a day to visit their brother and his wife, and I wonder if he will show up in the series, at some point. The seventh book, Miss Kopp Investigates, arrives on library shelves this year. 

Conjure Women by Afia Atakora

A cast of characters make up the community of ‘Conjure Women,’ and Miss Rue, a healer and midwife like her mother, is its center. Because the story’s structure is deftly threaded forward, past and during, you can pluck from this absorbing read the connection of secrets and fallible humans, which plays out in different eras of the Civil War. Miss Rue cares for a community of freedmen, some closer to her than others. She has cared for many people in her life, including a strange kinship she has with a baby who had a difficult birth. When she is accused of witchcraft, she says she just “knows things.” While she is privy to secrets about the plantation owner’s daughter, she knows exposure of her own secrets is a very real possibility. 

West with the Night by Beryl Markham

Markham, a British adventurer, covers growing up in Kenya in the early 1900s and beyond. In 1936, Markham became the first woman to cross the Atlantic east-to-west solo, and the first person to make it from England to North America non-stop from east to west. In 2004, this memoir, first released in 1942, landed in the number eight spot out of 100 best adventure books by National Geographic. I gobbled up this aviation pioneer’s memoir like it was a gastronomic garden party. She may have had lauded careers as a bush pilot and a racehorse trainer; however, readers are fortunate that it is because she was also such a talented writer, her compelling adventure stories have endured.

Anybody Can Do Anything by Betty MacDonald

Betty MacDonald spent a good chunk of her younger and teen years in the Roosevelt District of Seattle. In her four primo memoirs, details from this madcap family portrait occasionally come bubbling out, and it’s crackling good fun to read. Descriptions of antics and arguments the close-knit family experience attest to their ability to think beyond bleakness. I suppose that’s why the buoyant Anybody Can Do Anything was a surprising delight to read. Betty and her sister, Mary, were job hunting in Seattle during the depression of the 1930s. From what I knew, I expected a glum read. It was not. The family was far from depressed, especially Mary. She saw the economic situation as a personal incentive. Mary’s fearless outlook triumphs and leads Betty into one zany job after another. A groove-restoring read.

The Egg and I, MacDonald’s best-known memoir, was also a successful movie. It was based on the four years she and her husband spent deep in the Olympic Peninsula raising chickens on their remote farm. Alas, the marriage ended. Could it have been that the farm had no running water or electricity, but plenty of endless work starting with the rooster’s crow at 4am, year after year? While she didn’t answer that question in the book, her take on the experiences make for a light-hearted, witty read. Readers bought one million copies in the year after it was published. It was then made into a popular 1947 movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert. Betty’s neighbors down the road a bit from the poultry farm, Ma & Pa Kettle, had audiences guffawing so hard, they got their own movies. 

In another excellent read, The Plague and I, MacDonald writes about the nine months she had tuberculosis. It is very contagious. During that time, she stayed in a Seattle sanatorium waiting to be healthy again. 

More absorbing reads by women starring compelling women:

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende. “Two refugees from the Spanish Civil War cross the Atlantic Ocean to Chile. This decades-spanning drama is readable and engrossing throughout.” –Kirkus Reviews

Lady Clementine by Marie Benedict. Check out Benedict’s other under-celebrated women in history. The Only Woman in the Room, The Mystery of Mrs. Christie, and others.

How to Order the Universe by Maraia Josae Ferrada. A traveling salesman and his daughter traverse Chile.

Bird by Bird : Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott.

Life After the Afterlife

One recent rainy Sunday, bored and scrolling through Netflix, I landed on a six-part documentary series examining death and what comes after. It sounded like a sure-fire opportunity to watch an obvious bunch of hooey, so I settled in. As I later learned, the series is based on the nonfiction book Surviving Death: a Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife by Leslie Kean .

The approach in the series turned out to be more scientific and historical than I expected, although Kirkus Reviews said of the book:

Those given to believe in ghosts, heaven, and white lights will find this a fine example of confirmation bias, while those who are not will not be swayed.

While I haven’t read it, reviews seem to suggest the book doesn’t lean on a believer-centric foundation and does a better job presenting evidence to suggest that consciousness survives death. 

As part of episode one of the Netflix series, viewers are whisked off to a Seattle meeting of IANDS (International Association for Near-Death Studies), an open support group for those who’ve had near-death experiences (NDE) and others who wonder about loved ones who have died. Both types come together–now meeting online–to hear the NDEs directly. The series explores other paranormal phenomena including apparitions, contemporary mediums and reincarnation. 

Compelling case studies involving unlikely, level-headed persons (a spine surgeon, and an Oklahoma law enforcement officer, to list two). A historic look at many aspects of the unworldly–including fakers, debunkers, cheerleaders, medical doctors, academics and organizations–makes for an entertaining binge watch. Who knew the case to continue research to lift the veil between life and the afterlife could be mysterious and informative? Netflix did.

One I wouldn’t have guessed to be interested in parapsychology was William James, known as the father of American Psychology and the first to offer a psychology class in the U.S. He co-founded the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) in 1884, the oldest psychical research organization in the United States dedicated to parapsychology.

Check out Kean’s book now. The Netflix series, which launched in January, is not available on DVD at this time. If it becomes available, the library will purchase it.

If you liked Surviving Death, you might want to read The Hairbrush and the Shoe : A True Ghost Story by Jeanne Stanton. When a workman in her home is pushed, Stanton takes action. The former Harvard Business School case writer embarks upon a rigorous search to learn what is happening, which makes for an absorbing, creepy and sometimes funny read.

Soul Survivor: The Reincarnation of a World War II Fighter Pilot by Bruce and Andrea Leininger. This story details how the authors finally accepted that their young son was the reincarnated WWII fighter pilot, James Huston. This account is also featured in the reincarnation episode of the Netflix documentary series.

Life with the Afterlife : 13 Truths I Learned about Ghosts by Amy Bruni. In this autobiography, Bruni, co-star of the popular paranormal show, Kindred Spirits, discusses what she has gleaned from ghosts, her unique approach to paranormal investigations, and tips for amateur ghost hunters. 

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife by Mary Roach. Science writer Mary Roach–Everett Reads! author a few years back–moves on from the cadavers in her book Stiff to what happens after death. From Kirkus reviews: “Truly deft handling of the (mostly) daft.”

Whether it’s buying and demolishing what he believed was a ‘demon house,’ hanging out at his popular haunted museum in Las Vegas or starring in the widely popular Ghost Adventures on cable, Zak Bagans knows how to stay in the spotlight. He’s done it for a long time. Last year, for instance, he released his third book, Ghost-hunting, part of the For Dummies series, and turns out it could be just the guidebook you need if you have a hankering to investigate spooky stuff. He also relays an assortment of unearthly experiences, much of it one of a kind.

Life After Life by Raymond Moody. Originally published in 1975, this remains essential reading. Moody, considered the grandfather of the Near Death Experience (NDE) movement, introduced the world to the phenomenon.

Also worth a check out: 

Between Two Worlds: Lessons from the Other Side by Tyler Henry

Near-death Experiences: Understanding our Visions of the Afterlife by John Martin Fischer

To find more information and materials all about this subject, try searching the catalog using these keywords and phrases: 

Near-death experiences.

Parapsychology — Investigation.

Ghosts.

Haunted places.

Ghosts — History.

Haunted places — History.

Parapsychology — Investigation — History.

Mediums — United States — Biography.

Clairvoyants — United States — Biography.

EPL’s Virtual Book Club says Bah! Humbug! to 2020!

Books with a general winter theme are the focus of discussion at our next meeting of the library’s virtual book club (Stay Home, Stay Reading) December 28 from 6-7pm. Read any title–fiction or nonfiction–of your choosing inspired by winter. Nary a sprig of new spring growth takes center stage this month! On Monday, Dec. 28, join us when you like, and leave when you like during our open discussion.  

If it’s possible to love and hate a season, then winter is it for me. I detest this dark season; yet, I enjoy hibernating and reading (or listening to) stories with a wintertime setting–the genre doesn’t matter. Still I grew up in Las Vegas, and grabbing a heavy sweater if you went out was about it for outside winter prep. The past years, starting around the Winter Solstice, even the cat knows now to look for me on the couch under a blanket, book in hand. In terms of daylight, Winter Solstice (December 21 this year) in Everett is 7 hours, 34 minutes shorter than on the longest day of the year, June Solstice. Las Vegas is a mere 4 hours, 55 minutes shorter than its longest day. I continue to adapt. 

A book with a chilly setting seems to be more haunting, or it can add a layer of mystery–which sends shivers down my spine. Maybe it’s the short days? If you’re looking for a great winter read, consider that much of Russian literature takes place where there is often snowfall, from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy to Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. Back in America, check out the snowy scenes in Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell and an iceberg-cold lake in Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Also known to fill an icy wintery vibe and be slow to unfold are those Scandinavian crime novels from authors such as Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø. Snow muffles sound, I’ve noticed, and books set in snow settings are a bit quieter. Whenever it’s snowy, too quiet and I’m alone reading Stieg Larsson, I check to make sure the doors and windows are locked. 

This season it seems appropriate to read or re-read, watch or rewatch A Christmas Carol, the beloved 1843 novella by Charles Dickens. Since it’s Dickens, you can expect that living circumstances are squalid. With few exceptions, there is great difficulty getting by in life, including for Tiny Tim, a child who uses a crutch. He is seen as being symbolic of the consequences of the protagonist’s choices. Our protagonist and well-off miser, Ebenezer Scrooge of Bah! Humbug! fame, scorns openly those who have less:

Merry Christmas! What right have you for being merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.

It is Christmas Eve, and what happens to Scrooge that night is among the greatest stories set in winter. A Christmas Carol is not about a holiday as much as it is about redemption, being for the light and against darkness, and being a good person. It is an inner dialogue you can have with yourself at any time of year. 

This year has a lot in common with Scrooge, who is described by Dickens as:

….squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shriveled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; a frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

Scrooge and 2020 both give off a stench of sourpuss right up until the end when Scrooge has a reckoning, and one of 2020’s few bright spots is that a Covid vaccine has arrived or will soon. As I write this, today the first person in the Western world has received the vaccine–a 90-year-old British grandmother. In 2021, we can hope for a smooth, efficient roll out of the vaccine in the U.S. 

If you’re looking for A Christmas Carol, the library has a lot to offer. Whether you listen to the audiobook, read it digitally or in the physical book format; or watch one of its many adaptations for television and film over the years, it’s a delight to step away from 2020. Check out physical materials such as these television and film DVDs also.

Many versions have emerged as the story of saving Scrooge’s soul is re-imagined. For example: Scrooged starring Bill Murray, the 1938 film A Christmas Carol (100% on Rotten Tomatoes), the 1970 musical film Scrooge, Blackadder’s Christmas Carol, the 1984 A Christmas Carol starring George C Scott, the 1992 The Muppet Christmas Carol, and on Hoopla, the 1951 B&W classic A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim.

This season I plan to re-watch the 1951 film version of A Christmas Carol that I have enjoyed many times, and I’ll read A Christmas Carol using, for the first time, a book I recently came across on a shelf at my apartment. It belonged to my mother, who died 25 years ago this Thanksgiving. The title was long gone from the spine, it was so worn. Her signature was on the inside page in pencil, Erna Mae Lueder. For the season, these two will be a good winter combo for me. What special title–winter or not–will you be reading or watching? 

If you need a few more December books to choose from, perhaps consider these titles: Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel, The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld, We Met in December by Rosie Curtis, The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy, The Call of the Wild by Jack London.

At the book club meeting, we will discuss whatever winter books you’ve been reading or read in the past: Dec. 28 at 6pm. 

To join the meeting, you’ll need a phone or a computer with internet access and a browser. No special software is required. Use this link: https://tinyurl.com/y5mhq3bk or call 425-616-3920 and use conference ID 919 910 778#

Books that Give Us Hope

“Have Hope, Stay Strong,” (Other Title, “Hope,”) was created by artist Giancarlo Mancuso and published by Amplifier in Seattle, 2020. Poster (left) shows a collage of illustrated images with a center circle reading: “Honor our heroes–Help fight against COVID-19–Help prevent spread–Stay home for those who can’t.”


Books that give us hope will be the uniting theme and focus of discussion at the next meeting of the library’s virtual book club (Stay Home, Stay Reading) November 23 from 6-7pm. Read any title–fiction or nonfiction–of your choosing inspired by this month’s theme.  

This month read a book that gives you hope. Winter is coming, and November represents the transition to it from the autumnal harvest season. Thanksgiving, a beloved holiday to many, is a day to reap the harvest and celebrate the bounty. Books that give us hope can make the transition to winter less cruel and dark, and remind us not to fear, for spring will follow. 

If you need a few more November books to choose from, perhaps consider these titles:

It’s Not All Downhill from Here by Terry McMillan, fiction. “A close-knit group of 60-something black women deals with loss, illness, addicted family members, and the never-ending challenges of diet and exercise.” –Kirkus Reviews

All Adults Here by Emma Straub, fiction. “….a beach read for when you can’t get to the beach. …Family secrets come soothingly to light.” –Vox.com 

Humans by Brandon Stanton, nonfiction. “Just when we need it, ‘Humans’ reminds us what it means to be human.” –Washington Post

Keep Moving, Notes On Loss, Creativity, and Change by Maggie Smith, nonfiction. Sage insights and advice to return to in times of confusion or loss.

Whether you prefer to read a book in a digital or physical format, options are available through the Everett Public Library. The library not only has eBooks and eAudiobooks, but also physical copies of titles, including audiobooks (on CD), playaways and graphic novels. 

Instead of focusing on a specific book, each month we invite readers to discuss books around a broad theme. Aiming for easy to access and fun, we want to spur on open-ended discussions. Come and go from the meeting when it’s convenient for you. Read a book, don’t read a book. No problem. For those who love to read and exchange views on books (or just sit back and take in the conversation!), join us. You never know when you’ll find your next treasured read, but joining the library’s virtual book club can make it that much easier to do. There is no formal registration. 

If you could use a little help ahead of time to learn how to get connected to the meeting, call the library (425-257-8000 and 425-257-8250), and talk to a librarian who can walk you through the process. You will need a device with audio and video and an Internet connection to participate. Doubleclick on the text “Join Microsoft Teams Meeting” below, and you’re on your way. If you are not comfortable using video, that’s okay! You can still join. Simply call the phone number below and enter the password (conference ID) on your phone and you will be connected. 

Join Microsoft Teams Meeting

+1 425-616-3920   United States, Seattle (Toll)

Conference ID: 919 910 778#

The Everett Public Library hosts a virtual book club meeting on the 4th Monday of the month from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. through 2020. Our next meeting is December 28. The December theme is Winter–Books that take place during the winter season.

Stay Home, Stay Reading in October

“October’s bright blue weather A good time to read!” Poster for the WPA Statewide Library Project, Chicago : Illinois WPA Art Project (between 1936 and 1940). Looking for a delightful and free source for autumn and Halloween images? Check out the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division. The selected items are from the Free to use and reuse resource, unless otherwise noted. This set of copyright free pictures features activities and scenery from late September through early November. Check back often! More images are regularly added.

Big book club announcement! We are changing up the how and when of the library’s virtual book club: Stay Home, Stay Reading. Join us for our monthly book discussion October 26 from 6-7 pm hosted digitally by the Everett Public Library. Starting this month, we will be hosting an open book discussion on the 4th Monday of the month from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. through 2020. You are free to read any title of your choosing. Instead of focusing on a specific book, each month we’ll invite readers to discuss books around a broad theme.

Aiming for easy to access and fun, we want to encourage more open-ended discussions. It can be a good time for the exchange of reading ideas.  

Here are the themes for 2020: 

October 26: The Unexplained 

November 23: Hope–Books that give us hope 

December 28:  Winter–Books that take place during the winter season 

This month’s connecting theme will be “The Unexplained.” Read a fiction or nonfiction title about which the reason for it or cause of it is unclear or is not known.

Does the idea of a spooky story give you chills? Are you interested in a nonfiction title identifying US lakes known for their monsters (including the Winged Alligator-Snake of Lake Chelan)? Perhaps you are more interested in curling up in front of a roaring fire with a mystery surrounding a baffling legend and a hellhound? Whether you want to learn more about ancient past rituals surrounding afterlife preparation or absorb details about the Witches’ Market in La Paz, the literary possibilities are endless. 

If you need a few more October books to choose from, perhaps consider these titles:

These titles are available through the EPL digital catalog. Just reserve an available copy of the ebook (or eAudioBook) and read it instantly using your library card or consider putting a hold on the title, and picking it up at one of our two Curbside Pickup libraries to get your hands on a physical book or audio book (plays CDs). If you have any questions, just ask library staff for more details at 425-257-8000 o 425-257-8250. 

Staff Picks: Favorites from Childhood

As a first grader, I checked out as many books from our public library as I could pile high in my arms (with my parents’ help). As quickly as my parents could read them to me, we would head back to the library for more. I grew up with favorites including Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and the Nancy Drew mystery series by Carolyn Keene. 

Having this routine of reading aloud with my parents led to a life of jubilant reading and writing. Having a routine of reading childhood favorites can be a fun way to bond with kids, and discuss how life was different in the past and how the books may be outdated. In that spirit of back to school, I surveyed the Everett Public Library staff to learn what favorite books they read starting from kindergarten through the end of high school. 

Leslie

That’s a tough one. There are so many. I recently read an excellent book by Jason Reynolds called Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, a remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi, and I found it so much more accessible. It was an entertaining and educational read about the history of racism, racism itself and what you can do about it. I highly recommend it!

My favorite easy reader (and once again, there are so many) is called Baby Monkey, Private Eye by Brian Selnick. It’s laid out like a chapter book, so kids feel proud to read it. It’s funny! Baby Monkey, private eye, will investigate stolen jewels, missing pizzas, and other mysteries- if he can only figure out how to get his pants on. (He has a tail, of course!) As for a favorite picture book, I’d choose anything by Julia Donaldson. I can’t pick one. The Gruffalo, The Detective Dog, The Snail and the Whale, Superworm, and The Giant Jumperee are all excellent. I love them because they rhyme, have great stories and usually a surprise ending. 

Lisa 

When I was little I remember really loving books by Gyo Fujikawa and Joan Walsh Anglund. We went through a lot of books as a family so I don’t have one favorite that stands out – just how much I enjoyed reading and being read to. The book that stands out to me most from high school was The Jungle by Upton Sinclair. Not a happy read by any means, but it left a deep impression. 

Linda

I loved My Side of the Mountain by Jean C. George because I was so impressed that he learned how to live in the wild from reading library books! I read it in 4th or 5th grade, so 10 or 11 years old. 

Scott

Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Player Piano, which focuses on the human and social costs of workplace automation, made such an impression on me that within a month I’d read everything of Vonnegut’s I could get my hands on.

Andrea

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Each of five children lucky enough to discover an entry ticket into Mr. Willy Wonka’s mysterious chocolate factory takes advantage of the situation in his own way.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery:

Anne, an eleven-year-old orphan, is sent by mistake to live with a lonely, middle-aged brother and sister on a Prince Edward Island farm and proceeds to make an indelible impression on everyone around her.

Eileen 

If I had to choose a favorite childhood book, it would be the Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I loved the mystical elements, and how Mary’s connection with nature and others helped her grow into herself. I also appreciated the darker, complex themes of grieving, hope and finding non-traditional family. 

Elizabeth

I read The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes when I was in third or fourth grade and it really had an impact on me; in fact I remember crying while reading it. The story is about bullying, accepting differences, and standing up and doing the right thing. It is based on a real life experience the author had in school. Art plays a role in the book as well, which always appeals to me, and the illustrations done in simple but brilliant watercolor and colored pencil are still beautiful all these years later.

Illustration from “The Hundred Dresses”

The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell was probably the first survival story I read, and I still like them to this day. The determination and ingenuity of the stranded young girl, Karana, was so inspiring to me. She inadvertently gets left behind when her people sail away, and is all alone on the remote island for years. She builds shelter and protection, stockpiles provisions, befriends a wild dog, and spends time watching all the animals. It is a true story of female strength, persistence, perseverance, and survival.

Carol

Nancy Drew: The Case of the Safecracker’s Secret by Carolyn Keene

This book—part of a 4 book set my late, great Aunt Judy gave me for Christmas when I was 9—got me hooked on Nancy Drew, mysteries, and reading.

Kristen

Some of my favorite books from my childhood are: Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey and The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell. I enjoyed reading them over and over. I also loved reading them to my daughter and getting to share those memories with her.

Kim

The first series I remember reading is the Boxcar Children books by Gertrude Chandler Warner. Four orphans live in an abandoned boxcar until they are discovered by their grandfather. After moving in with him, they set out to solve a variety of mysteries. Next would be the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder following her life from a little girl living with her family in  Little House in the Big Woods to her life with her husband and daughter in These Happy Golden Years. Then moving on to the Nancy Drew mysteries by Carolyn Keene. I read the Hardy Boys too by Franklin W. Dixon but you know, boys. 

Two other stand outs are From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg about a brother and sister hiding out in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. 

If you want to know my most hated book of my childhood it would be Lord of the Flies!

Richard

One I remember loving from my pre-teen years was Grendel by John Gardner: This retelling of the Beowulf legend from Grendel’s point of view clicked with my growing sympathy for the vanquished and the idea that any story has multiple interpretations, depending on the teller.

Emily

When I was in kindergarten, I loved the Frances books by Russell Hoban; especially A Bargain for Frances. How does one get back at a conniving friend? Outsmart them, of course!  

Ron

From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler provides the perfect young nerd fantasy: a kid living inside of a museum. This was my favorite book in 4th grade. Imagine the thrill of living independently as a 12-year-old, making use of items at hand for comfort and survival, spending days and nights researching and studying… Sigh.

Joyce 

Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh

When Harriet is encouraged to track her observations in a notebook, she does.  She fills notebook after notebook with brutally honest takes on her friends and family, school and home. It’s a great outlet until the notebook falls into the wrong hands. I read Harriet the Spy at age 10, and the idea that she would write down what she observed rang so true, I immediately started doing the same. I liked writing in notebooks, but I was very bad at sneaking around and eavesdropping. I decided to not become a spy, and instead continued reading Nancy Drew books to work toward Career Plan B: girl detective.   

Stay Home, Stay Reading

As the world moves online in response to the coronavirus, virtual book gatherings have grown in popularity. At Everett Public Library, we have also moved many events and programs online in an effort to continue supporting the community while our buildings are temporarily closed. Check out our website, and you will find that many of our pre-pandemic events and programs have moved online.

We are devising educational and useful, as well as fun and funny, virtual programs and events to meet community needs, and there is no admission fee for any of it. Families can take part in virtual child-centered events and book lovers can attend virtual author talks, interacting with writers directly. But what about book discussions you might ask?

We are happy to report that those who would like to discuss a book, can now hop online and come to the library’s monthly virtual book club: Stay Home, Stay Reading.

The library recently kicked off our Fall programs with a virtual author talk with Ellen Feldman, who joined us on August 25th from New York City for a conversation and questions about her latest novel, Paris Never Leaves You. Appropriately this month, Stay Home, Stay Reading will be discussing her novel. Check out our virtual book club event, Saturday, September 26th from 11 a.m. until noon. Information on how to join the discussion can be found here

Feldman’s novel, published in June, follows survivors of occupied Paris throughout and after World War II. It is a story of love, hardship and thorny choices in this vivid depiction of history. The story alternates between 1940s Paris and 1950s New York City, where Charlotte faces tough decisions and life is exhausting for both her and her daughter, Vivi.

In 1940s Paris, they fight to leave and seem to be growing weaker and more hungry with every moment. Charlotte, who works in a Parisian bookstore, gets a reprieve when a soldier comes into the shop, takes a liking to her and helps the mother and daughter get to America.

In 1950s New York City, Charlotte works in publishing where she doesn’t exactly fit in. Matters complicate when Vivi is interested in unearthing her roots and starts asking dangerous questions. Survival comes at a cost, and Charlotte, who has lived with her secret past with a German officer in war-torn Paris, would rather Vivi not dig too much. 

If you enjoyed Paris Never Leaves You, you may also like these titles. They are all available from the library.

City of Women by David Gillham, 2012, 400pp.

Most World War II stories–movies or books–include Nazis, black marketeers, Jewish children hiding in root cellars and attics, and a mysterious, blonde German woman who appears to be keeping secrets, probably underneath her trench coat. When these elements are used over and over, they can become very familiar, losing their intrigue and complex meaning. Fortunately for readers, Gillham takes those parts often at the heart of many World War II tales and puts an original spin on them. In his historical fiction debut about 1943 Berlin, the city is almost empty of men. It has become a City Of Women. This being the height of World War II, most able-bodied men are at war. Sigrid, the wife of a soldier away at war, cares for her disagreeable mother-in-law, goes to work every day, does what she can with rations and wearily keeps up a facade. There is a lot at risk–life and death is not relegated to the front lines. She is secretly in love with a former flame–he is a Jew. She trusts no one until she is forced to, which brings this page turner to an end that is full of suspense.

Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan, 2017, 448pp.

The Pulitzer Prize winner (A Visit From The Goon Squad, 2010) does it again. This time, Egan seamlessly weaves together stories and time periods in this, her first traditionally written novel. The book opens in 1934, and the depression is in full force for Eddie and his 12-year-old daughter, Anna Kerrigan. They are going to the Manhattan Beach home of Dexter Styles, a mobster, in search of work for Eddie. Eddie’s tired of the other job he has for a crooked union boss. He needs something that will pay enough money to purchase a wheelchair for Lydia, his severely disabled youngest daughter. The story jumps forward. Anna has become, at age 19, the first diver at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, and she alone is supporting Lydia and their mother because Eddie disappeared 5 years ago. Anna has a great amount of moxie and determination, which serves her well when she decides she will become a diver. Egan researched the naval yard and its divers for years which makes for detailed descriptions of diving at that time, including the diving suits: what a suit felt like on as well as moving underwater in one. One night Anna approaches Styles for information about her father, and they become involved. Egan successfully combines details of the 30s and 40s, crime fiction and compelling three-dimensional characters to vividly immerse readers in a layered, fluid world which makes great efforts to look at what makes us tick. 

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, 2016, 496pp.

Kelly’s compelling first novel features the stories of three women, who alternate first-person narratives for 20 years–between 1939 and 1959, during and after World War II. In 1939, Hitler is on the march. Poland is captured. In northern Germany, Ravensbrück, the women’s concentration camp, becomes home to 74 “rabbits,” women selected for medical experimentation. Two of the three characters are based on the actual women–one a Ravensbrück doctor, the other an American actress. The third character, Kasia, a rabbit, comes from a compilation of actual camp residents. Despite being set in a world of vicious Nazis, this story is about second chances and determined, gutsy women who help each other survive–in camp and beyond.