Engaging Methuen Readers

Leave a comment

Atmospheric Mysteries

Recently I finished the Tana French mystery series set in Dublin. A strong part of its appeal is the glimpse into modern Ireland today, with its uneasy mix of rich but tragic history and twenty-first century commercialism and economic problems. That got me thinking about how crucial atmosphere is to the success of many of the best mystery series today, along with strong plotting and memorable characters.

There are so many great series out there that it’s hard to know where to start, but here are a few:

Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti series, set in Venice

death atkilled at

Colin Cotterill’s series starring crime reporter Jimm Juree, set in Thailand

The Scandinavians, including Steig Larsson, Henning Mankell, and Jo Nesbo:

 girl with the dragon tattoopyramidredbreast

Alexander McCall Smith, who has evocative series in settings as disparate as Botswana and Scotland

No. one  44 scotland

And there are many, many more…what other mystery series stand out to you because of their setting?

Leave a comment

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

1543551 One of the best written and most thought-provoking nonfiction books I’ve read so far in 2015 is Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy.  This New York Times bestseller, written by an experienced journalist, focuses on the senseless and seemingly endless murders of young black men by other young black men. The story of a LA  detective determined to solve the murder of a colleague’s son is both a fascinating true crime tale and a horrifying look at all the other murders that go unsolved and taken for granted. Reviewers have praised its “gritty reporting” (Los Angeles Times) and called it “a searing indictment of legal neglect” (Boston Globe).  Ghettoside is certainly not a beach read but it will get you thinking and questioning our criminal justice system.  

Beth, our Nevins Buzz co-editor, has since moved on to a new position at another library.  We congratulate her and wish her the best in future endeavors.  Beth has graciously left us a legacy of posts before departing the Nevins Memorial Library. A big “thank you” to Beth for helping to get this blog started and for writing many interesting posts.

Leave a comment

TED Talks

susancain On another of our long snow-bound days this winter I discovered the pleasure of TED talks. I settled into my winter routine: read a little, watch a TED talk on my computer, shovel, nap, eat, and repeat (endlessly!). One of my favorite TED Talks so far is by Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Finally, someone who says that not only it is okay to be quiet but that it’s a good thing! The next time someone tells me in a pitying tone how quiet I am I’ll think of Eleanor Roosevelt, Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and other introverts who have made the world a better place. What TED talks do you recommend?

Leave a comment

Book Review: A Spool of Blue Thread


Why do I like Anne Tyler so much? Because her tales of seemingly ordinary Americans and their lives reveal a deep understanding of the complicated joys and sorrows in all families? Because The Accidental Tourist, the story of a hapless travel writer who dreads travel and is trying to keep going after the tragic loss of his son and the end of his marriage, is one of my all-time favorite books? Or, is it because Tyler was once a librarian?

For whatever reason, I highly recommend A Spool of Blue Thread, the latest, and possibly the last, book by this wonderfully gentle yet wise author. Over her fifty-year career,  she has written twenty novels I plan to explore. I admire Tyler for her lack of sensationalism, her understated humor, her love of the quirky, and her rare ability to thrive as an author without being drawn into the seemingly endless whirl of self promotion that so many writers must do whether they want to or not.

Keep writing Anne!

1 Comment

Arctic Exploration

With the winter we’ve had, is it masochistic to be reading tales of Arctic exploration? Or is it a positive thing, forcing me to realize that no matter how much snow I shoveled I still didn’t come close to facing the hardships endured by these incredible men? Either way, In The Kingdom of Ice, the account of George Washington De Long’s doomed 19th century expedition to the North Pole, is fascinating reading. If you’re craving still more Arctic chill, try Jennifer Niven’s The Ice Master: The Doomed 1913 Voyage of the Karluk.

And, now that the heat of summer is upon us, how about River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candace Millard? This account of Roosevelt’s expedition down the Amazon reminds us that the Arctic explorers don’t have a monopoly on suffering. There’s plenty of misery to be had in the steaming and treacherous jungle.

Leave a comment

Books Being Made Into Movies 2015

Here are a few of the great books being made into movies this year.

Madame Bovary Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert’s classic novel of an unfaithful wife and the tragedy she causes, will hit the screen this June in a film starring Mia Wasikoswka. Check it out in fiction or large print here at the Nevins.

Paper towns A romance by the massively popular young adult author John Green will be in theaters this July. Get ready by looking  for Paper Towns or another of Green’s novels in our YA section.

into thin air Jon Krakauer’s true-life account of the 1996 Mt. Everest climbing disaster is expected to be released this September. Krakauer is one of the current masters of gripping nonfiction, and this story will keep you on the edge of your seat even if you do know the ending.

Black mass Black Mass, starring Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger, as well as Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, and Kevin Bacon, should also be in theaters this September. Let’s see if they finally get the Boston accents right!

Brooklyn And, finally, Irish author Colm Toibin’s evocative novel about Eilis Lacey, an Irish immigrant to Brooklyn in the 1950s, is expected to be released this November. Meanwhile, check out our copy in fiction and read (as The New Yorker so aptly put it) how “to emigrate is to become a foreigner in two places at once.”

Leave a comment

Anniversary of Lindbergh’s Flight

With May 20th honoring the anniversary of Charles Lindbergh’s first solo transatlantic flight, let’s turn to an equally fascinating figure: his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh. In her novel The Aviator’s Wife, Melanie Benjamin looks at the real woman behind the fairytale romance. Anne, the daughter of ambassador Dwight Morrow, was a gifted writer. She suffered with Charles through the kidnapping and death of their young son. She suffered alone as he betrayed her (it turned out he had whole other families with other women). Read the novel, read biographies about her, and read her own words in Gift from the Sea.

Leave a comment

May is Mediterranean Diet Month


The Mediterranean Diet comes from the traditional diet of Greece, Southern Italy, and Spain and features fresh flavorful produce, healthy fat, and whole grains. What’s not to like about a diet that allows you nuts, wine, and olive oil and will strengthen your heart in the bargain? Sounds like a good match with the warm summer nights we’re all dreaming of right now. Check out The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for some new recipes.


The Mediterranean Diet is also included in the 2015 best-seller The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People. Author Dan Buettner looks at the world’s longest living and healthiest people and reports on how we can  incorporate aspects of their diet and lifestyle to help us live longer and better.

1 Comment

April 15th is the Anniversary of the Titanic’s Sinking

The British luxury passenger liner The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912, and there has been no shortage of books and films to commemorate the tragic event. Although the 1997 epic with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio may be the first thing that comes to mind, there is a wealth of books available for those of us who want to learn more about the fascinating cast of characters on this doomed voyage.

If you’re looking for fiction, try Kate Alcott’s The Dressmaker or Jack Finney’s time-traveling novel From Time to Time. For nonfiction, read Titanic Survivor: The Newly Discovered Memoirs of Violet Jessop Who Survived Both the Titanic and the Britannic Disasters or Voyagers of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuilders, Aristocrats, and the Worlds They Came From. And, if you’re looking for a classic, there’s always A Night To Remember.