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Engaging Methuen Readers


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Science Fiction Featuring People Of Color

Welcome to the 21st century! Science fiction isn’t just about white people anymore, and thank goodness. How plausible is a homogeneous universe? Authors like Nisi Shawl, Maggie Shen, and Omar El Akkad all add some much-needed diversity to sci-fi leading casts. Here are a few books that will shake up your homogeneous reading list.

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Cover image for American war American War by Omar El Akkad

In 2074, a new American Civil War breaks out. Sarat find herself in a camp for displaced persons, her father gone, her future uncertain. That makes her a perfect candidate for recruitment, by one side or another.

 

 

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

A homegrown genius from a backwater African village finally gets her chance: she’s going to study hyper-advanced math at a university on a faraway planet. But when her ship is hijacked by an enemy alien en route, she’ll need more than just intellect to save herself!

Devil’s Wake by Tananarive Due and Steven Barnes

When the apocalypse comes, it’ll be weirder than anything fiction imagined. Sure, there are zombies, as well as more dangerous hordes of starving and desperate survivors, but there’s more. There’s a school bus and a vast no-man’s-land. Ultimately, against all odds, there’s love.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

What would have happened if someone had brought steam technology to the Congo just prior to Belgium’s colonization of that area? This book explores the  possibility of a steam-powered African state, technologically matched to European invaders and capable of holding its borders.

Cover image for An excess male : An Excess Male by Maggie Shen

In a population where the one-child policy has run amok, men vastly outnumber women. As a result, women may take more than one husband…to an extent. When Wei-guo has an opportunity to become a third husband, he leaps at it, suddenly finding the acceptance and connection that he’s craved all his life. But one mistake might put all of that in jeopardy.

The Lesson by Cadwell Turnbull

The Ynaa won’t say why they’re here. For five years, their ship has hovered over Water Island in the Carribbean, coexisting peacably with humans most of the time but reacting to any display of aggression with excessive force. When they kill a child, the showdown that everyone’s dreading becomes inevitable.

How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

Time travel is a terrible idea. People who attempt it always make things worse for themselves. Charles Yu’s mom, for example, is stuck in a short time loop where all she can ever do, for the rest of time, is make dinner. That leaves his dad, who may still be out there somewhere. Guided by a book written by his own future self, Charles sets out to find him.

Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee

Disgraced warriors unite in this sweeping space opera. Kel Charis, breaker of the rules of war, needs to redeem herself fast. Her mission: retake a critical, unassailable fortress before her heretical enemy takes down the forces of order itself. To accomplish this, Kel’s going to have to employ someone even worse than herself: an undead tactician known mostly for slaughtering his own army.

Cover image for The prey of gods The Prey of Gods by Nicki Drayden

The old gods are washed up, and new ones must take their places. These are gods of machines, gods of computers, and gods of AI. But nobody likes to be supplanted, and as a new goddess rises, an old one determines to dig in and maintain her power, even if that means sacrificing her followers.

The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

When the laws of physics go haywire, scientists worldwide succumb to despair. Reality isn’t what we thought…or is it? Daring to question the evidence of their very eyes, a few of Earth’s greatest minds unravel clues that may point to something more sinister.

 


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2019-2020 Nevins Library Book Group Schedule

It’s that time of year again…back to school for kids and back to book clubs for adults!

Do you enjoy reading books? Or want to find new and different books to read? Join one of Nevins Library’s Adult Book Clubs!

We have books in a variety of different genres and topics that the clubs and groups read. More information about all of the Book Groups can be found on our website (with descriptions and sometimes the books/themes we’ll be reading).

And the dates that they’re happening can be found on our Calendar of Events (and even if you don’t plan on participating in any of the Book Groups, go see the Calendar of Events anyway. It’s awesome!!)

Bestseller Book Group – Meets the 1st Tuesday of Each Month @ 7 PM 

Contact Pat for more information.

Thursday Evening Book Discussion – Meets the 1st Thursday of Each Month @ 7 PM

Contact Krista for more information.

Stranger than Fiction (Non-Fiction) Book Group – Meets the 2nd Monday of Each Month @ 7 PM

Contact Tatjana for more information

LGBT Book Discussions – Meets the 2nd Thursday of Each Month @ 7 PM

Contact Krista for more information

Sociable Seniors – Meets the last Friday of Each Month @ 10 AM

Contact Tracy for more information

Wednesday Afternoon Book Group – Meets the 3rd Wednesday of Each Month @ 1 PM

Contact Sarah for more information

NEW-ish Forever Young-ish Book Group – Meets the 3rd Thursday of Each Month @ 7 PM

Contact Amy for more information.

You can always call us at 978-686-4080 to find out more about any of these groups as well.

We hope to see you at one or more of these if they spark your interest!!


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Get it All: Fiction and Non-Fiction combos

Have you ever read something in a novel that you were curious about and wanted to explore further?  Satisfy your curiosity (and widen your understanding) by pairing a fiction with a non-fiction  book on the same subject.  Here are some pairings to try:

Cover image for The atomic city girlsCover image for The girls of Atomic City : the untold story of the women who helped win World War IIThe Atomic City Girls by Janet Beard  FICTION

The Girls of Atomic City: the untold story of the women who helped win World War II by Denise Kiernan  NON-FICTION

 

 

 

Cover image for The Last Kind Words Saloon : a novelCover image for Dodge City : Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the wickedest town in the American WestThe Last Kind Words Saloon by Larry McMurtry  FICTION

Dodge City:  Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the wickedest town in the American West by Thomas Clavin NON-FICTION

 

 

 

Cover image for The only woman in the roomCover image for Hedy's folly : the life and breakthrough inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the most beautiful woman in the worldThe Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict  FICTION

Hedy’s folly: the life and breakthrough inventions of Hedy Lamarr, the most beautiful woman in the world by Richard Rhodes  NON-FICTION

 

 

 

Cover image for The wanderersCover image for Endurance : a year in space, a lifetime of discoveryThe Wanderers by Meg Howrey FICTION

Endurance:  a year in space, a lifetime of discovery by Scott Kelly  NON-FICTION

 

 

What fiction/non-fiction titles would you recommend that would go together well?


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Out-Of-This-World Sci-Fi Audiobooks

Audiobooks are the best. In the car, there’s no better companion. Whether you’re washing dishes, sewing, working out, weeding petunias, or just walking along a sylvan trail basking in the warm sunshine of a beautiful late spring day, audiobooks are your best friend. This is especially true if you’re a fan of science fiction. That’s right! Books on tape aren’t just for little old cat ladies. Dive into these audio sci-fi titles on Overdrive or by borrowing them on CD from the library.

Provenance_ann_leckie Provenance by Ann Leckie

Alien intrigue. Spaceships. Family drama. Jailbreaks. Firefights. This book has it all and then some. On top of that, the narrator does impeccable accents.

 

 

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

It’s the old biopunk-pirate-in-a-submarine shtick, but the story’s really about free will and the meaning of self-actualization. If you like your robots to have lots of romantic crises, you’ll like this.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Social media fame is the name of the game when aliens leave a secret riddle on Earth. But is Twitter really the best way to impress higher intelligence?

the_three_body_problem The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu

Scientists are killing themselves. It’s no coincidence. Something is driving them all over the edge, and it’s somehow tied to a computer game that simulates life on a doomed planet with three suns.

 

 

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

There are no names in Area X. People are their function, but function can be changed. In Area X, where an unearthly event has tangled the laws of nature, change is the only certainty.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel

Told largely in letters and memos, this book follows the discovery of a giant, segmented robot that appears to be looking for pilots. But is it a symbol or a weapon? As signs point to the latter, a romance between the team researching the robot complicates the situation.

the_long_earth The Long Earth by Stephen Baxter and Terry Pratchett

What if our Earth were just one of an infinite number of Earths existing across an infinite number of alternate dimensions? As humanity struggles to reconcile unlimited resources and the possibility of a fresh start, a danger from another reality looms.


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Happy birthday, Internet! Have a cyberpunk nightmare!

Cyberpunk happens when lowlifes dabble in high tech. Think cutpurses with cybernetic enhancements and prostitutes who moonlight as hackers. That may seem futuristic, but remember, ten years ago Google was exciting and new! In honor of the Internet’s birthday, here’s a taste of the unmitigated chaos that is our digital future.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Case used to be a hacker. Kinda. He stole information with his brain, courtesy of implants that let him jack into cyberspace directly. Then he irritated his boss and his boss destroyed his brain, like you do.

The problem is that nobody’s as good at information theft as Case, and now someone important needs him for the job of a lifetime. Case is back, damage and all, but this time, he’s going to need some help…

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

This book was the basis for the hit film Blade Runner, although it varies in a few key points. Rick Deckard is an assassin, but he’s never killed a person – just androids. Runaway machines can blend in with the human population perfectly, but though they may look human, they have no empathy or spiritual connection. That may change, though. As the line between robot and human blurs, Deckard finds himself questioning everything he knows about himself.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Hiro is a pizza boy. For the Mafia. In an America that’s been carved up and essentially destroyed by corporate interests, he’s just a cog. But in the Metaverse, he’s a superstar hacker living a glamorous digital double life. That’s how he learns about the new computer virus that not only attacks circuitry, but the mind. Weirder still, the virus might also be a language, a religion, and a piece of lost Sumerian technology capable of freeing the world from its hyper-capitalist vice. It’s up to Hiro to figure it out – or save the day trying!

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

How many pharmaceutical pirates named Jack travel the world in their illegal submarine? Not many! That’s what makes the Robin Hood of illegal medicine such a cool chick. But when a batch of her drugs reprograms people to become addicted to work, Jack knows she’s got to set things right. That means figuring out where the drugs are coming from and stopping them by any means necessary!

Infomocracy by Malka Older

Even when the Internet finally takes over government, it’ll need scumbags to make sure the wheels don’t come off. Unfortunately, those are the same people who stand to gain from a little chaos. A corrupt politician. A radical dissenter. An employee of the search engine that rules us all. They will soon discover more than they wanted to know about how democracy really works.


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The End Is Near And It’s Going To Be Extremely Entertaining

Tired of the weird weather? Worried about the future of our planet and, more to the point, of our species? Can’t help you there! However, I can recommend some pretty good literature to help us all cope with the new normal.

 

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

o&c.jpgA society of excess and poverty. A planet permanently perched on the edge of disaster. A mad scientist willing to give it a little tip. As a genius plots the death of humanity, he simultaneously engineers its successors: people who will be better. But what does better mean when the alternative is the destruction of life on Earth? This first installment in the famous Maddaddam trilogy will freeze your heart and give you hope at the same time.

 

 

 

The Windup Girl by Paulo Bacigalupi

windupWelcome to the inundated world: inundated with water, disease, temperature, starvation, and people. If you want to use electricity, prepare to wind up a spring by hand. If you want to survive…well, good luck. Unless you’re synthetic, of course. Artificial humans are a subclass and subject to discrimination, but they may just be the salvation of intelligent life on Earth.

 

 

 

California by Edan Lepucki

california.jpgIn turbulent times, people often try to wait to bring a new life into the world. In many cases, they try unsuccessfully. When Cal and Frida find out that they’re pregnant, they need to reconcile the hard post-climate change life they struggle through with their need to protect and nurture their child. Worse, they’ll need to find other humans who they can trust.

 

 

 

Odds Against Tomorrow by Nathaniel Rich

odds against.jpgMitchell’s job is to expect the worst. He drafts worst-case scenarios for giant companies so that they can prepare, and business is good. But when Manhattan is destroyed by a hurricane, Mitchell has to come to terms with the fact that he’s profiting off of disaster. Meanwhile, the woman who may be his true love waits on a commune in Maine with her own end-times secret.

 


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Snow-ence Fiction

Massachusetts just had its first big snow of the season – but not its last! We greet snow with a unique mixture of delight and misery. Our mixed feelings produce a sense of mystical wonder surrounding white-frosted pines, falling flakes of crystal ice, and yeti. This may be why snow features so prominently in speculative fiction. If you just can’t get enough stark, ominous white snowscapes in your life, try these reads.

 

snowpiercer_vol_1_the_escape_coverSnowpiercer by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette

This list would not be complete without this graphic novel classic, which was recently turned into a gripping, atmospheric film. Humanity is doomed: worldwide arctic temperatures have made the planet uninhabitable. The last survivors travel endlessly on a train that represents the last vestige of the technological marvel that was civilization. But there *is* a kind of society: one that privileges the few first-class travelers and grinds the rest underfoot. When the third class passengers revolt, the first class discovers that there’s nowhere to run…

 

01The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

Young Lyra, a child of mysterious nobility, haunts the Oxford halls with her daemon. But a great conspiracy is afoot that threatens the very essence of humanity, and Lyra is at its heart. In order to prevent disaster, she will have to journey into the Arctic north, befriending armored polar bears and witches.

 

 

41mckp1f7fl-_sx332_bo1204203200_Let Me In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Also published as Let the Right One In, this book has been the subject of two films. There’s a new girl next door. Oskar is immediately fascinated, and not only because she seems old beyond her years. Eli only comes out at night…and she’s interested in Oskar for a much darker reason. As snow falls on Sweden, a young boy will come to know that some horror resides in which promises you make and keep.

 

 

6068551Shiver by Maggie Steifvater

The wolves behind Grace’s house watch her every winter. But one in particular is more than just hungry. In the summer, he’ll turn into a human, and when that happens, he and Grace will meet again. This time, sparks will fly. Steamy romance will…romanticate. This book draws a lot of valid comparisons to Twilight. It’s Twilight with snow and a wolf. So if you love Stephanie Meyers, you’ll love this. If not, well, better go with Snowpiercer.


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Review: “Perdido Street Station” by China Mieville

The back of Perdido Street Station dismally fails to capture it in summary. Oddly, it succeeds for exactly this reason, drawing people into the book through what are essentially false premises. By the time the hapless reader understands that they have been duped, it is too late. They are too far into the snare and there is no escape from the land of Bas-Lag.

Here’s the blurb:

Beneath the towering bleached ribs of a dead, ancient beast lies the city of New Crobuzon, where the unsavory deal is stranger to no one–not even to Isaac, a gifted and eccentric scientist who has spent a lifetime quietly carrying out his unique research. But when a half-bird, half-human creature known as the Garuda comes to him from afar, Isaac is faced with challenges he has never before encountered. Though the Garuda’s request is scientifically daunting, Isaac is sparked by his own curiosity and an uncanny reverence for this curious stranger. Soon an eerie metamorphosis will occur that will permeate every fiber of New Crobuzon–and not even the Ambassador of Hell will challenge the malignant terror it evokes.

The blurb gets a few things right, namely that Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin, a brilliant but unfocused dabbler in several scientific pursuits, is the primary focus of the book. However, the rest sucks. So I’m going to write a few better descriptions that the good people of Del Rey are free to borrow in exchange for a slice of royalties.

A visit from a mutilated foreign stranger sends scientist Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin

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Artist unknown. Saved from Pinterest

careening down a dangerous path that leads through the twisted streets and various dens of criminal activity that is the city of New Crobuzon. Along the way, he’ll hatch a deadly public health threat from its pupa, disrupt the drug trade and its maniacal mobster kingpin, and confront the most fearsome menace of all: his own closest friend. As the hum of New Crobuzon is replaced by nightmare screams and its many alleys grow dark with fear, Isaac must risk everything to save the city that he loves.

See, THIS description pulls in the city of New Crobuzon itself, which represents a vivid backdrop to the tale, while implying a decent threat level that does not rope in the *entirely incidental* Ambassador of Hell.

However, there are some issues with this description, too. After all, the cast of characters in Perdido Street Station is expansive. Let’s see if we can’t introduce a couple other people.

 

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Artist unknown. Saved from Pinterest

A chilling misstep by a hapless scientist unleashes a fate worse than death on the city of New Crobuzon. Now Isaac  Dan der Grimnebuilin must bear the burden of his mistake and repair the damage before more of his friends die. Meanwhile, Isaac’s girlfriend, half-insect artist Lin, struggles with a commission that may have everything to do with the accident, while the mysterious wingless bird-man, Yagharek, wanders the city in search of his lost power of flight. Together, they will join forces with criminals and drug addicts, inter-dimensional demigods and monsters made of gears and wheels, only to face the difficult truth: it may already be too late…

This isn’t bad at all! See? Already better than that first blurb! But what it *doesn’t* capture is the Steampunk aesthetic of New Crobuzon and the roiling wave of political tension upon which the story bucks and sways for the duration of the book.

In a city that runs on both steam and thaumatergical magic, where the political elite soar in blimps and the polity ride in taxis pulled by machines that may yet become sentient, the punishment for transgression is worse than death. But that threat can’t equal the rewards: the scientist who discovers how to make a mutilated bird-man fly could generate unlimited energy and finally correct the many social ills of New Crobuzon. But when Isaac Dan der Grimnebulin goes too far, the consequences of his research reverberate through the twisted streets of brick and stone, even as far as the great copper thinking machine that hides in the city’s expansive dump and into dimensions where enormous forces communicate in transcendent poetry. All centers on the city’s hub and center of government: Perdido Street Station, from whence all trains travel and where all dangerous things end up sooner or later.

Et voila: you now have a decent idea of what Perdido Street Station is about. Therefore, you also have no excuse to not go and borrow it from the library today.

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Artist unknown. Saved from Curufea.com


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Dystopias, Police States, and Other Uplifting Tales

Ever find yourself or your society sliding inexorably backward toward a dystopian hellscape reminiscent of Europe’s Medieval Dark Ages? Ever feel like the forces arrayed on the horizon of liberty are gathering like the coming of a long and merciless storm? Ever nurse the simmering fear that you might rise one morning to find that you no longer draw free breath, say free words, think free thoughts?

Buddy, you’re too serious! What you need is a good old dose of catharsis. Try these gut-busters. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll have something to talk about during your mandatory annual loyalty test.

 

1984 by George Orwell449585

OK, you knew I was going to say it. You did. But seriously, have you actually read it?

Go do it. I’ll wait.

 

 

1488284Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

If your system isn’t good for people, change the people. It’s efficient! In a warped future America, mass-produced citizens inhabit pre-made social strata, kept there by brainwashing, genetic engineering, and physical reward. However, like all precision machines, a grain of sand in these works can initiate a total system breakdown. When an outsider penetrates the mechanics of this Brave New World, it will show itself to be anything but.

 

 

Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M Miller, Jr.1047211.jpg

The end of the world has already come. Welcome to the post-post-apocalypse. Society is gone, replaced by a social system deathly afraid of the technology that caused the demise of civilization. But in one abbey, a group of dedicated monks preserve the writings of ancient pro-science sage Leibowitz, who may still, one day, become a saint.

 

 

1310034When She Woke by Hillary Jordan

Hannah Payne is a criminal. It’s written on her skin, which has been genetically altered to show the world her crime: red, for the murder of her unborn baby. For the crime of abortion, she becomes simultaneously a pariah and the source of entertainment for a world both repelled by and deeply invested in sin. A modern revisioning of The Scarlet Letter!


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Reading in a Non-Material World

Is this the real life? Is it just fantasy? These books call into question all that we know and experience, from the things we care about to the very air we breathe. These aren’t tales of parallel universes – instead, they deal with minds trapped in worlds within the world, embedded in realities that are as real as we believe them to be.

Image of itemReady Player One by Ernest Cline

The Earth is a wreck. The cities are miserable places. Being alive in general isn’t a great experience. Luckily, there’s virtual reality! Plug into OASIS, where knowledge of pop culture and classic video games can earn you vast wealth and save you from your bleak life…or put you directly in the cross hairs of ruthless enemies.

 

 

 

 

Image of itemSophie’s World by Jostein Gaardner

Part philosophy primer and part coming-of-age novel, this unique book is not to be missed. Young Sophie tries to catch herself blinking in the mirror, but she’s never fast enough…until one day. As she learns about philosophy from her mysterious tutor, she begins to question the reality of the world she sees.

 

 

 

 

Animal Man by Grant Morrison

To make a long story short, comic book hero Animal Man, who can borrow the abilities of any animal, realizes that his life is an elaborate fiction engineered for maximum drama by an
unscrupulous comic book writer. When he does, he needs to come to terms with his existence. Does he reconcile himself to being fictional? Or does he confront his creator and demand justice for the death of his family?

 

 

 

Image of itemThe Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

In a world where literary authors have the same social status as rock stars, Jane Eyre is a literary enforcer. Her job is routine: stop militant Baconians from bombing performances of Shakespeare plays, detect criminal forgeries of Byronic verse, and things like that. But when someone starts kidnapping literary characters from within the pages of their own books, she’ll need to go deeper into her books than ever before!

 

 

Image of itemSnow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Any one of a number of cyberpunk novels could qualify for world-within-a-world status, but Snow Crash is one of the most famous. Hiro is a pizza boy and hacker, skilled with swords and code alike. But there’s an ancient, deadly neurolinguistic virus moving through the virtual world, and it threatens to end the fun…permanently. Only Hiro can uncover the plan of the dangerous religious fanatic behind it all.