Women have lived and done momentous things longer and more frequently than history has recorded them. Yet, as society is becoming increasingly aware, women in history haven’t been nearly as represented in books and other media as men. It’s past time for that to change. We shouldn’t need a Women’s History Month, but until general history accurately portrays women, we’ll celebrate books on women to compensate.
It’s good news for women’s history that the two most requested books at our library right now are ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama and ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover’. Both memoirs share stories of overcoming people’s expectations, breaking barriers, and generally making dreams a reality. Memoirs have been accompanied by high profile books recognizing the role women have played in technology booms (something that they frequently point out should have been more widely acknowledged from the start). Books like ‘Broad Band: the Untold Story of the Girls Who Made the Internet’ by Claire Evans, ‘Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History’ by Keith O’Brien, ‘Sharp: the Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion’ by Michelle Dean, and, of course, the high profile books from a couple of years ago: ‘Code Girls’ by Liza Mundy and ‘Hidden Figures’ by Margot Lee Shetterly. There are other, more general collections like ‘Visionary Women: How Rachel Carson, Jane Jacobs, Jane Goodall, and Alice Waters Changed Our World’ by Andrea Barnet, and some that focus on women where they are often overlooked like ‘The Unwomanly Face of War: An Oral History of Women in World War II’ by Svetlana Aleksievich, and even books about the darker deeds of women like ‘Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History’ by Tori Telfer.
If true stories aren’t your thing, another way to celebrate Women’s History Month is to read about authentically written female characters in fiction. Lisa See’s new novel ‘The Island of Sea Women’ is a perfect example of this. On the Korean island of Jeju, two young women are best friends who defy death daily by diving to support their people. The story spans decades and multiple wars and the two change, conflict, depend on one another, and get torn apart. It’s an achingly realistic story that invests you in tragic characters. It’s also a story about the resilience and fortitude of women when depended on. Other novels include ‘Daisy Jones and the Six’ by Taylor Jenkins Read, ‘Ginger Bread’ by Helen Oyeyemi, ‘American Spy’ by Lauren Wilkinson, ‘The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls’ by Anissa Gray, and ‘We Must Be Brave’ by Frances Liardet.
There are countless others too, just waiting to be found. Give us a shout at the Library and we can help find a read that’s perfect for you. #Women #History #Hype.
Mark: Hey Nancy. We are so excited for your new T’ai Chi Chih program at the library! What is T’ai Chi Chih?
Nancy: T’ai Chi Chih is a set of 19 movements and a pose focused on the development of an intrinsic energy we call Chi. It is a meditative practice of ‘joy through movement’. I like to call it ‘mindfulness in motion’, if that doesn’t sound too corny. All the movements are slow and gentle, making them do-able by just about anyone, regardless of age, weight, and physical ability.
Mark: Neat, but why do you do Tai Chi Chih, and how did you learn?
Nancy: Simply, it makes me feel good. It helps me focus on the present moment. I learned from a Roman Catholic Nun in Texas when a friend gave me a gift of classes during a particularly trying time in my life. Even for people starting out, it’s possible to feel the benefits immediately and you can learn the whole thing in 8-weeks. Medical studies have shown that practicing Tai Chi Chih can dramatically reduce stress, increase energy, improve balance, concentration, and focus.
Mark: It sounds like it has worked for you, certainly. Who can participate in this program?
Nancy: Anyone. It is simple, meditative, gentle movements. Tai Chi Chih allows for adaptive methods, like doing movements seated, so that people with physical limitations can participate as well. There’s no special clothing or equipment required, and it is quick to learn. Once you learn the 19 movements and 1 pose and practice regularly, you’re there!
Mark: Brilliant. I’m sure that people would love to get started. Where and when is this program taking place?
Nancy: We’re hosting the class here at the Library in the meeting room. Starting April 1st we’re meeting on Monday’s from 9:45-11am. Both TaiChiChihNewHampshire on Facebook and TaiChiChih.org are places people can go to learn more about the program. I’m here at the library a lot too, so say ‘Hi’ if you see me!
We get asked all the time how we decide which books to add to our Classics section. There is no one shining resource that definitively declares which books are classic enough to be part of the Classics section--so we started with some well known lists and then added to it using judgement based on the Library’s collection. It’s not perfect; but it doesn’t need to be. The section is meant to be a spot for people to easily find books that have proven themselves to be extraordinary. We think that classics have a written quality that withstands the test of time. Classics have had an impact on culture, offer timeless food for thought, and are relevant no matter the age in which they are read. High standards, but so many magnificent books have been written that shelf space quickly fills up.
It may seem like classics are only for history buffs and AP Literature students, but modern entertainment, news, and ethics suggests otherwise. Hit film and TV adaptations of classic books like The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle have recently added to the history of classics made visual. Children’s books have been made and remade into movies and reprints. Stories like How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Jungle Book, Mary Poppins, Peter Rabbit, and more were turned into films this past year alone.
The Handmaid’s Tale was the most popular classic book at our Library over the last year, no doubt driven by the success of the Netflix series. 1984 by George Orwell was second most popular--which at least a couple of reader’s have attributed to a feeling of increasing concern about surveillance technologies and policy. Both dystopian novels have cautionary elements, warning against futures that impinge on the values they suggest. Although it's been decades since they were written, the stories they describe maintain their relevance in today’s culture for many readers.
Millions of readers and viewers might not be wrong. Next time you’re looking through the new section and failing to find something that catches your interest, consider branching out and trying a classic. Better yet, get started with the Classics Book Discussion here at the Library. The next discussion is at 6:30pm on Tuesday, March 26, when they’ll discuss Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It’s a comfortable, thought-provoking environment to think about great stories, and plenty of copies are available at the front desk to borrow. We hope to see you there!
Family & Relationships is the new Parenting section in the Children’s Room. The old parenting section down in the Children’s Room was full of books on parenting strategies: ‘Simple’ things like toilet training, healthy recipes kids will eat, managing behaviors, education and experience, raising extraordinary children, difficult topics like death, bereavement, and divorce, and so much more. The problem we found was that all of these different topics related to parenting were organized by the utterly unintuitive Dewey Decimal system. Browsing the shelf felt clumsy with unrelated topics right next to one another. The new Family & Relations section has verbal subsections for each of the categories mentioned above, and a few more. It's a whole new look! Be sure to swing by it to see. It's by the toy table and sofas, right where a parent’s wandering eyes will land.
The greatest parenting resources are the space itself and the staff ready to help. The Children’s Room is a place for children to play, socialize with others, find books on any topic, and explore for themselves. Meanwhile, parents can help them, connect with other parents, learn from literacy programs, and browse both the Family & Relations section and the curated display of books from the regular collection. The storytime is frequently bustling with the latest activity, whether it be one of the storytime programs, Spanish Camp, a passive craft, or any of the other programs happening weekly. The librarians know the collection as if they’ve been reading the books for years--because they have been. Looking for realistic fiction to inspire your reluctant 2nd grade grandson? They can help.
An example of a relatively new question that parents and guardians have been asking us for are books on how to help children learn from and use modern technology without becoming addicted or dependant. Recently, we have picked up books like ‘Tech Generation: Raising Balanced Kids in a Hyper-Connected World’ by Mike Brooks and Jon Lasser and ‘The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life’ by Anya Kamentz. Both of these resources found in the Family & Relations Parenting section can help to describe the experiences that families have with modern technology, without advocating extreme solutions. Parents have said that Anya’s mantra, ‘Enjoy screens. Not too much, Mostly with others’, is helpful.
Whatever your family question is, try to find it in the Family & Relations section or ask a librarian. It’s what we’re here for.
We all like a good show. It seems like more and more content is being produced, plenty of which is of a quality worth checking out. Most of us don’t channel surf TV anymore, favoring instead browsing the commercial free library shelves or flipping through streaming menus. One of the first things people say when they visit the library for a first time is ‘Whoa, that’s a lot of DVDs’, and they’re right. We have thousands of DVDs, a good chunk of which are video series. We don’t call them TV series, because some are Netflix specials or others that skipped airing on cable. Another thing they say is ‘I didn’t know libraries have streaming services!’ Of course we do! Hoopla has an immense video collection and it’s free to all library card holders.
The collection is so big because it’s in demand. Hang out by the front desk for awhile and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll notice a steady stream of traffic to the new DVD stand. DVDs get put up as frequently as they are taken down in a carousel of movement. Often times there are more new DVDs on the reserve shelf than on display, and far more than that are checked out at any given time, being watched in homes around town. To really get a sense of what new DVDs we’ve picked up, take a look at the catalog. While you’re there you can put the series you want to watch on reserve.
If you’ve just finished a series and are looking for something new, try one of the newly released series we have on DVD. The first season of Frankie Drake Mysteries has been a hit in town. Set in 1920s Toronto, Frankie Drake runs an all-women detective agency that is willing to bend the law for clients in need. With wit, charm, and bright visuals, it's a great series to enjoy detective work. Another new on DVD series is Genius, the first season of which features the eccentric Albert Einstein. Some other season one’s we have are Animal Kingdom, Killing Eve, Succession, Yellowstone, S.W.A.T., and Stranger Things. We’re always interested in which new series people are looking for, so feel free to ask for a new series at the desk!
Of course, we continue to keep up new seasons of favorite shows as they come out. Hit shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, Westworld, Vikings, Poldark, Longmire, Blue Bloods, Chicago Fire, and Empire among others, have all had new seasons come out in the last few months, and they are here for your use. Historic series like Doctor Blake Mysteries, the Crown, and The Durrells in Corfu continue to be popular It can be confusing, but try not to get Doctor Blake Mysteries, Frankie Drake Mysteries, and Grace and Frankie mixed up, as they as completely distinct shows. Science Fiction fans may enjoy catching up on the newest season of Mr. Robot. Horror fans can try out The Sinner. Realistic Fiction fans can find out what the hubbub with This Is Us is. Crime fiction fans can try out Janet King.
If none of these fit your interests, just ask at the desk and we can find something for you, pick up a copy of what you’re looking for, or borrow it from another library. Entertainment is more accessible than ever, so explore!
Love. Romance. Sex. There are books about every aspect of human experience from flirty rom-coms to erotica. The paperback section boasts ‘cozy’ romances that are heavy on the morals and werewolf romances that are less so. Us librarians are happy to make recommendations on all genres including romances, so don’t be afraid to ask for a new read.
Nicholas Sparks, for example, has a reputation for writing love stories that rend your heart strings into a satisfied mess of fibers. Those who have experienced love often have a hard time describing it, but Sparks doesn’t. You’ll forget you’re breathing when his newest book, ‘Every Breath’, sparks somethings in your heart.
If you like your romance with a dollop of remembrance, try Julia Kelly’s new ‘The Light Over London’ or ‘Becoming Mrs. Lewis’ by Patti Callahan Henry. ‘The Light Over London’ zips back and forth between time periods driven by the stories found in relatively common artifacts. Cara Hargraves finds a fetching photograph that draws her into a gripping story of a woman in WWII whose suitor and love interest both went to war. She chooses to become a ‘Gunner Girl’, and the rest, well, all of it, is history. So is the story of Mrs. Lewis. Joy Davidman was an outspoken women, skilled author, thinker, atheist, and the woman the world thought was the least likely match for C.S. Lewis, until she proved them wrong in that too.
If you can’t decide whether you want a book set in the future, present, or past, try ‘Hazards of Time Travel’ by Joyce Carol Oates. In a dystopian future, a 17-year-old speaks out against an oppressive regime only to be exiled 80 years into the past for ‘reeducation’. Now in 1959 Wisconsin, she balances survival with new found love. Yes, it is that cool.
How are you at suspension of disbelief? If you can’t do it, then skip down to the next paragraph. If you can, try ‘The Dinner List’ by Rebecca Serle. Sabrina has imagined what five people she would most like to have dinner with. She didn’t imagine that she would get that chance, but there she is at her thirtieth birthday dinner with her father, her philosophy professor, her bestie, her on and off again lover, and Audrey Hepburn. She suspends her own disbelief to enjoy the strangest, most romantic, and most enlightening meal she’s ever had.
‘Not Quite Over You’ by Susan Mallery is a light read with clear signals. ‘Dark Sentinel’ by Christine Feehan is a similarly overt romance, but the supernatural setting could not be more different. Lisa Gabriele’s ‘The Winters’, on the other hand, is a romance driven by the allure of secrets, passions, and family history. After quickly falling for an ambitious and recently widowed father, a young woman finds herself caught between his dangerous hunger for power, his maniacal daughter, and the memory of his deceased wife.
Whatever your taste in romance, there is a book to match. Swing by the library to see for yourself, or browse online!
“What is a ‘diverse’ book?” We get asked about diverse books so frequently that I think it’s time to talk about it here. People ask because they hear about diverse books from places like Amazon, NPR (and NHPR), the digital library collections, and national organizations like ‘We Need Diverse Books’. ‘Read a Diverse Book’ is also a frequent line in the Library’s reading challenges and summer reading programs. So, what is it?
We need to start by talking about diversity available from book vendors and on library shelves. Diversity on the shelves means having a wide range of topics, perspectives, settings, author culture and heritage, writing styles, mediums, and all kinds of characters. To have a diverse shelf you need to easily find books set in places across the world (even on other worlds! Go Sci-Fi). A diverse set of books will have characters of all races, cultures, languages, beliefs, socioeconomics, genders, and abilities portrayed authentically. Any writer knows that it is difficult to authentically portray a diverse character without lived experience, which is why it is so important that publishers and libraries seek out authors from many cultures and heritages.
Diversity on the shelves serves two purposes. Firstly, readers, kids most of all, want to see themselves in the characters of stories. More than that, they want to see themselves in the star characters, well portrayed, not just as side roles, or worse, as a caricature. By having a diverse collection of books we can guarantee that all readers find at least a few books that speak to their experiences. It helps to affirm what they feel and what they believe, while also offering language to describe their experience.
Secondly, diversity on the shelves means that readers can find stories that expand on their own experiences. Reading a good story driven by a character unlike you or in a setting or culture that is different from your own experience can open your eyes to the ways in which other people live and how they see the world. It can be fascinating. It’s almost always fun. Learning about other cultures and experiences helps to grow empathy, compassion, and understanding.
Having diverse books on the shelves is the best kind of win-win. All readers, even those who have a hard time seeing themselves in a majority of books on the shelves, can find enough books that speak to their experiences and puts someone like them in the star role. Once satiated by the craving for self-recognition in a story, readers can find books about experiences unlike theirs on the same shelf to learn about how others have encountered the world.
When we put ‘Read a Diverse Book’ on a challenge, we are challenging you to read a book by an author with lived experience that is different from your own. We are hoping that you will engage with a character, setting, and/or culture different from your own. Books are extraordinary in their ability to convey emotion and experience without actually living it. On our shelves are many stories than any one of us literally cannot imagine, until we read them. Let’s get to it.
For weeks we’ve been talking about cozy reads, resting, hygge, and generally taking time to relax and collect oneself. Well, we’ve done that, so now it’s time to get up and do something! Let’s get moving. It’s a brand new year and we’ve got goals--let’s make them happen.
But, where do we start? Say you’ve decided to run a 5k in March, or you want to learn how to cook, or you’ve decided to go to back to school. In all cases the first thing you need is information. See where this is going? We have books and digital resources to help you get started on your new goals. If you are serious about reaching your goals, these books can help you set out a plan to learn efficiently. ‘Teaching yourself’ can work, but it tends to be inefficient. Take less time away from the rest of your busy life by learnly intelligently. Instead of just running, learn how to adjust your diet, lifestyle, and running technique to enable your running to improve quickly. Don’t just look up a dish and try following the recipe, get a book on a cooking style, read about how it works and then practice it. Research different course programs, what schools are looking for in their applications, and then cater your application to their expectations. In all these cases there is good and bad information out there. We can help you sort through it all to quickly get the best information available.
‘Happy Runner’ by Meghan Roche is the type of resource we’re talking about. It neither describes a one-size-fits-all method for running nor addresses only a niche demographic. It offers advice on how to thrive at running based on how you think, and to maximize the aspects of running that are most enjoyable. If you’re determined to run a 5k, might as well love it!
‘Real Life Dinners’ is exactly the type of cookbook title that a learner might look for too. Rachel Hollis, the author, is not for everyone, but if she speaks to you then her cookbook will too. A learner who is more into chemical processes instead of emotional ties might look to ‘Food Lab’ instead.
Mix these passions together and try ‘Run Fast, Cook Fast, Eat Slow’ by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky. Their first cookbook was a hit, but this one focuses on quick dishes for those who do anything else besides cooking. The food is healthy, delicious, and possible. There is even motivation for athleticism and nutrition.
For those thinking about higher education in the New Year, we have current resources on standardized tests, college comparisons, choosing programs and majors, and straightforward books like ‘Paying For College’. It’s all here ready for you to utilize.
So, whatever new thing you are looking to try this year, come learn about it at the Library. We look forward to learning with you!