Engaging Methuen Readers

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NPR’s Book Concierge 2018

2019 is right around the corner, so this is my last chance to sneak in another Best Book’s of 2018.  The Book Concierge is NPR’s annual, interactive, year-end reading guide. You can use their descriptive filters to explore more than 300 titles NPR staff and critics loved this year.  To find my next read, I combined the filters “Comics & Graphic Novels” and “Tales From Around the World”.  Thanks to this nifty matrix, I found what will be my first read of 2019: Belonging: A German Reckons With History And Home by Nora Krug.  Always nice to have my next read lined-up!

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Source:  NPR visuals

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Find Your Next Book Here!

LImage result for booksooking for an awesome book to read?  Look no further than our Awesome Book display at the Nevins Library.  These are books (audio/print) that Methuen readers deemed “awesome” and wanted to share with others in the community.  On the backside of the Awesome Book display, you’ll find lots of other sources for your next good read:

  • LibraryReads:  the monthly nationwide library staff picks list for adult fiction and non-fiction.  Every month, we display a sign with the top ten books published this month that librarians across the country loved.  There is also a notebook with past months’ LibraryReads top ten choices.
  • All sorts of fiction and non-fiction booklists in pamphlet, sign, and bookmark formats.
  • Non-Fiction binder containing themed monthly bibliographies from the Stranger Than Fiction book group going back three years.
  • Award Winners by Genre notebook:  “from the team that brought you the Nevins Buzz blog, a stirring adventure in literary awards”
  • Binder of previous weeks’ Local Best Sellers from the Boston Globe.

“You never know what you’re looking for … until it’s in a neatly-ordered binder.”  


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Bookish Confessions: my year of reading challenges

I’ve always been a voracious reader, but it wasn’t until this year, that I put myself to the test and signed up for several reading challenges.  For the past decade or so, I’ve been keeping track of the books I read with the title, author, and basic plot description in various book journals.  Thank goodness I did that because I am now, prematurely I think, at the stage where I have to go back through the journals to see if I already read a book that looks somewhat familiar.  How many of you have read 3/4ths of the way through a book before realizing that you already read it?  Sheesh!

This year I decided to put the pedal to the metal and get competitive with myself and see exactly how many books I can read in a year.    In an effort to educate myself, a couple Image result for booksof years ago I started to read classic books that I missed out on in high school.   How could I have gotten through 10 years of higher education and not read George Orwell?  Aren’t all librarians required to read Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”?  When my colleague introduced me to the Classics Club and their reading challenge, it was a match made in heaven — reading classics for my own erudition and getting external credit and praise for it!  Thus, my first challenge is a doozy — reading 50 classics within a five year period.  This year, my first, I have read 5 classics, so I have to step up the pace in the remaining 4 years of this challenge.  I do feel smarter, though!

Next up, the GoodReads challenge.  As I write this post, I have read 97 out of 100 and I am on track to finish by the end of the month.  I have also combined efforts with our Nevins team on GoodReads, so you can check out what your librarians are reading.

Since it sounded fun and I thought it would bring my reading in new directions, I printed out the PopSugar 2016 reading challenge and chose to follow it privately.  Even though it had interesting parameters to meet like reading a book with a blue cover, a book based on a fairy tale, a romance set in the future, I still read what I wanted to read and let fate decide what “fit in” with this challenge.  The final result:  25 out of 40 book categories read.  I didn’t really challenge myself with this.  Maybe it was because I already had to read books I wasn’t comfortable with for the book groups I belong to?

Finally, since I was curious and place setting appeals to me, I recorded what states and countries my reading led me to.  In the United States, my reading took me on a cross-country trip through 26 of the 50 states.  Louisiana garnered the most titles, 5, most probably because I visited New Orleans in March and it is such a colorful, dynamic place to read about.  Internationally, good old literary England won out with 9 titles, although there was a good showing from the African countries (6 titles). Over all, 16 countries, not including America, were represented in the final tally.  Going outside my comfort zone, I read 6 titles that largely took place in outer space, and even one book that took place far beneath the sea — 20, 000 leagues under, in fact.

All in all, this has been a good experiment and one I am willing to embrace again for next year.  Where will your reading take you in 2017?

Happy New Year of Reading!



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Helping you help yourself: self-help books at the library

self-help-graphicTypically, we think of the New Year as a time for reflection and self-improvement, but if there’s something bothering you, there is no time  like the present to begin working to improve it!

Often, patrons will approach the reference desk asking for the “self-help section.” Due to the number of topics that fall under the umbrella of what one might consider “self-help,” books of this type are shelved in many different locations.

Some common authors and titles that patrons are looking for include books like

A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Miguel Ruiz

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John M. Gottman and Nan Silver

Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money – that the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert Kiyosaki

I’ve recently written a brief guide to getting started on self-help. For each of the different topics that you may be looking to learn more about, I’ve listed the call numbers where you can find books to suit your interest, as well as some suggested titles. Whether you’re looking to improve your financial, physical, spiritual, or marital health, we’ve got books for you! Please ask at the reference desk, or find the brochures on the shelves near the large tables on the second floor.

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged that an avid reader in possession of a good book must be in want of another. That, dear reader, is where Bookish comes in.” —

Bookish is a lively and colorful site that aims to please both the casual and the serious-minded reader with its all-things-literary articles, genre pages, and their book recommendation tool.  In this site, you’ll find special seasonal previews, staff favorites and topical recommendations, news from the publishing world, essential book lists, etc.  Bookish covers all the big genres and topics in fiction and nonfiction as well as children’s and young adult literature.


I love the above colorful and creative image from the July 1, 2015 ‘s Red, White, and Books: Our Literary Version of the American Flag” post by Kelly Gallucci and Elizabeth Rowe.

Challenge:  What books represented in that flag have you read?  


Destination Maine: a literary travel guide for the whole family

Destination Maine:  Vacation Land!

Summer has sprung, the kids are out of school and we’re getting hot to trot.  The cool ocean waves, the tall shady pine trees, fresh blueberries and luscious lobster all beckon us to the classic New England vacation state, Maine.  Before you head out there, be sure to stop by your library and pick up books for the whole family to enjoy.

Children’s picture books:

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One Morning in Maine by Robert McClosky
An exciting day, the loss of Sal’s first tooth, is realistically recaptured by this fine storyteller and in the large, extraordinary blue-pencil drawings of Penobscot Bay.  Pair with Blueberries for Sal, another classic by McClosky.

The Wicked Big Toddlah by Kevin Hawkes
A year in the life of a baby in Maine who is just like any other baby except that he is gigantic. Silly fun!

L is for Lobster by Cynthia Furlong Reynolds ; illustrated by Jeannie Brett
A Maine alphabet!


For Older Children:

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Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord
When the state of Maine threatens to shut down their island’s one-room schoolhouse because of dwindling enrollment, eleven-year-old Tess, a strong believer in luck, and her family take in a trumpet-playing foster child, to increase the school’s population.

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt
In 1911, Turner Buckminster hates his new home of Phippsburg, Maine, but things improve when he meets Lizzie Bright Griffin, a girl from a poor, nearby island community founded by former slaves that the town fathers–and Turner’s–want to change into a tourist spot.

The Young Man and the Sea by Rodman Philbrick
After his mother’s death, twelve-year-old Skiff Beaman decides that it is up to him to earn money to take care of himself and his father, so he undertakes a dangerous trip alone out on the ocean off the coast of Maine to try to catch a huge bluefin tuna.

For Teens:

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The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
In the late-eighteenth century, eleven-year-old Matt befriends an Indian boy of the Beaver clan who helps him survive alone in the wilderness.

This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith
“Perfect strangers Graham Larkin and Ellie O’Neill meet online when Graham accidentally sends Ellie an e-mail about his pet pig, Wilbur. The two 17-year-olds strike up an e-mail relationship from opposite sides of the country and don’t even know each other’s first names. What’s more, Ellie doesn’t know Graham is a famous actor, and Graham doesn’t know about the big secret in Ellie’s family tree. When the relationship goes from online to in-person, they find out whether their relationship can be the real thing”

Need by Carrie Jones
Depressed after the death of her stepfather, high school junior Zara goes to live with her grandmother in a small Maine town, where new friends tell Zara the strange man she keeps seeing may be a pixie king, and that only “were” creatures can stop him from taking souls.


For Adults:

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The State We’re In: Maine Stories by Ann Beattie
This is about more than geographical location of Maine, and certainly is not a picture postcard of the coastal state. Some characters have arrived by accident, others are trying to get out. The collection opens, closes, and is interlaced with stories that focus on Jocelyn, a wryly disaffected teenager living with her aunt and uncle while attending summer school. As in life, the narratives of other characters interrupt Jocelyn’s, sometimes challenging, sometimes embellishing her view.

Town in a Blueberry Jam by B.B. Haywood
“In the quaint seaside village of Cape Willington, Maine, Candy Holliday has a mostly idyllic life, tending to the Blueberry Acres farm she runs with her father, and occasionally stepping to to solve a murder or two… Candy is just as shocked as the rest of the locals when two murders occur back-to-back… When her friend, a local handyman, is accused of the murder, Candy investigates to clear his name…But as Candy sorts through the town’s juicy secrets, things start to get very sticky indeed…”

The Hungry Ocean: a SwordBoat’s Captain’s Journey by Linda Greenlaw (Non-Fiction)
The female captain of a swordfishing vessel chronicles the experience of a month long fishing voyage.

Also, check out the 2016 Maine Literary Awards for more titles.

What other books summon up summer in Maine to you?


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Here’s an app for you


Litsy is a brand new app for book lovers.  Backed by Out of Print, this app blends the best of GoodReads and Instagram, creating a very graphically pleasing interface to discover new books and readers on your mobile device.

Once you sign up for a free account, you are able to search for people to “follow”.  Whomever you follow will populate your feed with the books they are reading and posting about.  You are also able to briefly review a book you’ve just read, add a quote that you enjoyed, or just post a blurb about anything related to the book.  Every post gives you the option to add your own photo of the book too.

When you see a post from someone else, you can “like” that post and even add it to your “to read” or “read” stack.  I’ve found this helpful when I want to then borrow the book from the library… I can easily call up the titles I was interested in.  You can also leave a comment which can lead to a mini-book discussion, which I always appreciate.  Also, when people like your posts or add the books you’ve posted about, your “litfluence” increases.  I don’t think your “litfluence” means much anywhere else (or even within the app), but it does help you see if and how you are connecting with other readers on the app.

As of right now, this app is available for download through the Apple App Store only.  I hope that it becomes available on other platforms soon!  If you’re interested, go ahead and download it and have fun exploring!  If you’re looking for someone to follow – you can find me there with the name:  sarahreadstoomuch.

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Save the Earth…With Your Brain!

Climate change is an enormous issue, so large that it’s overwhelming. What can the average person possibly do to change the status quo? Believe it or not, there are lots of little ways that ordinary people like you and I can affect the environment in a positive way.

Step one is to get educated. There are lots of ways to remove soot from the air, just like there are lots of ways to stop sticking it up there through passive support of a psychopathic suicide system. Because the one thing human beings are better at than fire is innovation and problem-solving creativity! Here are some easy-peasy starter points:

1. Think before you buy


If you already feel mildly guilty about driving your gas-powered car to work, you’ll hate how much fuel Amazon uses to ship cheap circuitboards and sippy cups. Luckily, the solution is easy: resourceful reuse! These lessons start right at home. Parents with small children may already be aware of some good play solutions from the famous Earth-Friendly Toys by George Pfiffner. (Incidentally, this is also a great resource if you’re trying to get the kids away from their computer and device screens.) Pfiffner has written several other books in the same vein, as has Rhonda Redleaf in Learn and Play the Green Way. Adults who enjoy shopping more than dolls might find that thrifting is a more enviro-friendly option than ordering new-made items. Al Hoff teaches you all his secrets in Thrift Score, and Sandra Donovan teaches you all of hers in her classic how-to Thrift Shopping. If birthdays and holidays in all their disposable glory have got you down, try Mollie’s tips for making decorations for events of all kinds. For the home decor aficionados, try Upcycle by Rebecca Proctor. Of course, the library has dozens of books on upcycling everything from clothing and decor to art and gardening. And remember: just by using the library, you’re reducing your carbon footprint! One less book bought is one less tree cut, rendered, printed, bound, and shipped using fossil fuels.

2. Use refillable water bottles


Remember, recycling plastic is a process that, in itself, requires tons of carbon fuel. Anyway, why spend a $120 a year on bottled water (assuming you drink one a day and buy the 24-packs) when you can spend $10 on a lasting water bottle once? Lowering your plastic usage is as good for your wallet as for the environment. To start, try Plastic Free by Beth Terry. (She also discusses the social aspects of home environmentalism, and letting go of eco-guilt.) Plastic Purge by Michael SanClements discusses health implications of plastic use, but is also chock-full of great advice on lowering your plastic usage. Of course, if you happen to find yourself with a pile of old bottles around, you could also just make jewelry out of them.

3. Grow things!


Trees, grass, and even algae are natural air purifiers, and part of their job as part of the ecosystem is to clean carbon out of the atmosphere. That’s why planting extra green things, including home gardens, can be great for the planet as well as for your table. Plus, industrial-scale farming involves tractors, fertilizer trucks, and mass quantities of things that need to be transported to the grocery store in gas-powered vehicles. Growing stuff in your backyard eliminates the need for a lot of that heavy-duty gas-guzzling machinery. Rodale’s Basic Organic Gardening is a great place to start, and Food Grown Right, in Your Backyard by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm, is a good follow-up. If you happen to live in an apartment, you’ve still got options: try The Container Kitchen Garden by Anthony Atha and The Downsized Veggie Garden by Kate Copsey. Not only will the planet thank you, but you’ll get mad props from your friends when you start distributing fresh zucchini by the handful.

There’s one more thing you and your garden could do for the planet: eat less meat. Not no meat, nor even much less meat, but maybe just a couple meatless meals a week. You’d be amazed at the difference it could make. Rely more on plant protein, whether it’s home-grown or store-bought, and you could help reduce climate change mitigation costs by as much as 50%. For vegetarian recipes, try the work of Mollie Katzen, who founded the Moosewood Restaurant, and Crescent Dragonwagon, who just has the best name. The library has literally dozens of vegetarian cookbooks, so stop by and start changing the world today!


Also Read:

1130546Global Warming and Climate Change Demystified

by Jerry Silver


1609628While Glaciers S
lept: being human in a time of climate change

by M. Jackson



1104297Green Remodeling: your start toward an eco-friendly home 

by John D. Wagner


Also Watch:


Earth: the sequel

from the Discovery Channel


1445369Chasing Ice

directed by Jeff Orlowski


1645558Bill Nye’s Global Meltdown

from National Geographic

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Spotlight on Ebooks: Safari

Safari Books Online

I am something of a computer nut. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me – if it’s blinking, I’m up for it. However, I come from an unlikely background. English, anyone? With a background in creative writing, even?

In all seriousness, my second degree – the one that landed me in Libraryland – was much more tech-focused than my first. But, Johnny-come-lately that I was, I didn’t have a chance to focus on high-end programming languages as much as I’d have liked. Enter Safari Books Online.

Nerds, you may start your computational knowledge engines. This incredible resource is available to you, too

Ruby Wizardry


A book that teaches your children to code Ruby.


It doesn’t matter what you want to learn. You can be a hardware geek. You can be an experienced big-data data cruncher. You can be a child. Safari will take you where you want to go by providing the textbooks that software developers use in college.

The computing textbooks are far and away the best reason to use Safari. However, a tremendous number of Make: books are also available, which include titles that can teach you to make stuff like the pioneers. (Early life hacking?) All of the For Dummies books are there too – because why not? – and there’s a category for personal and professional development, even down to marriage and family health.

There’s no wait for copies as there is with OverDrive and Axis 360, but this is because copies are not downloadable. Since so many computing textbooks are best used while propped open next to a keyboard and a steaming mug of coffee at 2:30am, it can be a little hard to utilize the book as it lives online. A library account won’t let you bookmark your place, either. (A paid personal account will.) However, using a tablet to access the book and then simply keeping it open is a viable, if not ideal, workaround. Considering the variety and usefulness of the books available here, I find it worth the inconvenience. This is especially true since the staggering volume of computing material present represents hundreds of thousands of dollars more in specialty information than even the largest and best-funded public library could hope to stock.

If you’re in the mood to learn something esoteric, like COBOL, Safari should be your first stop. If you want to expand upon your skills or acquire new ones, Safari is your go-to. Even if your goal is to sort through programming books with intention to borrow or buy a paper copy, Safari is an invaluable resource. I recommend it to geeks and non-geeks alike.