Engaging Methuen Readers

Leave a comment

The Post-Holiday Season

The holidays are over and that means one thing: the sun’s coming back! Hooray! Our glad tidings and gamboling have pleased the powers. Now’s the time to get happy again. Let some light in. Have some fun!

To this end, I’ve asked several people around the library what they consider worth doing during these cold winter months and what books they’d recommend to those ends. Here are their answers.


Reference Department

1635446I play a lot of Minecraft. If you’re under 15, you are already familiar with the novelizations. However, did you know that you could learn to program Python with Minecraft, too? It’s true! You can play a highly addicting game and become a master programmer at the same time. Because winter is for geeky pursuits.





Reference Department

1533085.jpgTatjana knows how to make the days merry and bright! A hearty winter cocktail will warm your winter in style. We’re not talking about your average appletini or margherita, either. If you’ve never had hot mulled cider, then it’s time to grab your mug and fuzzy socks.





Reference Department

1660151So you got a million sweaters during the holiday, but not one of them is in any way attractive or aesthetically appealing. Time to break out that dusty old sewing kit! Stitch your things up whimsically and revel in your victory over the gift-giving season.






Reader Services Department

1573321Sure, you’ve heard of this book, but have you taken it to heart? Tidying up really can change your life. Not only will you experience the bliss of a clean space, but you’ll have an extra few hundred dollars from all the change you’ll have found in your couch cushions.





Children’s Department

862950Obviously, librarians are going to recommend that you catch up on your reading list. But if you’re all read out, to the extent that you can’t imagine a book that you haven’t read, what can you possibly do to continue reading? Librarian action figure Nancy Pearl has you covered, lustfully.





Teens Department

bingeLibrarians are not just about books. No, not by a long mile. Librarians are also about movies! But wait, librarian friend, I hear you say. I have no Netflix password, nor Hulu access. Alas, my life is a misery. I respond thusly: you haven’t been reading our blog. Binge away.





Reader Services Department

puzzleDid you know that the Nevins Library has an active jigsaw puzzle going in our fireplace room? It’s true! So now, in addition to books and movies and cleaning up and other snuggly winter pursuits, you can stop by and help us do our puzzle. And the next one too. And the one after that.

Aren’t the post-holidays wonderful?

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

There once was a rhyming blog post…

Every March, we librarians dread,

With foreboding and scratching of head,

What new Irish book

Will make patrons look?

Maybe limericks can do it instead!



mv5bmtg3ndg0nju5of5bml5banbnxkftztcwmjawmjiymq-_v1_sx640_sy720_Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

As a child, young Frank was so poor

That anyone probably had more

His lazy, drunk dad

Spent all that they had

But left him with stories galore



51vbtiu7kelIn the Woods by Tana French

Detective Rob Ryan is good

But when a little girl dies in a wood

He has to, at last,

Revisit his past

And the scars of his own childhood.



dubliners-james-joyceDubliners by James Joyce

This classic is wrought in short stories

Which makes it a winner for sheer ease,

But if you want more,

There is plenty in store

For a challenge, try reading Ulysses!



41977Circle of Friends by Maeve Binchy

When four friends venture out into Dublin,

Their bond seems to be for thick or thin.

When ambition makes cracks,

They do things they’d take back

And each of them learns a great lesson.



13928Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier

In order to save her six brothers,

Young Sorcha may speak to no other.

The magical curse,

And danger much worse,

Is the work of her evil stepmother.



51pmenuyngl-_sy344_bo1204203200_A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle

Though some might consider him bad,

Boy Henry is still quite a lad.

His Ireland’s gritty

But the book is so witty

If you read it, we’re sure you’ll be glad!



60822Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

A head is found sunk in the peat

In a village that seems awfully sweet

Could be the head’s old

And the case has gone cold,

Or a murderer could stalk the streets.


Also watch:

Angela’s Ashes starring Emily Watson

The Boxer starring Daniel Day-Lewis

Circle of Friends starring Colin Firth

The Commitments starring Angeline Ball

Once starring Markéta Irglová


Also listen:

Water from the Well by The Chieftains

The High Kings by The High Kings

Hill of Thieves by Cara Dillon


Leave a comment

Abraham Lincoln: the man, the legend, the literary figure


The Great Emancipator. The best President in history. Savior of the Union. Honest Abe. President Lincoln has gone by many names throughout history, and in keeping with his exalted status as a terrific president, he has appeared in nonfiction from Team of Rivals to How to Fight Presidents. Today, we call him AWESOME and celebrate him in fiction!



Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

One man stands between us and the bloodthirsty undead: Abraham Lincoln, whose zeal for destroying vampires propels him into the White House. From there, he personally and politically defends us all against Confederate ranks swollen with vamps. Grahame-Smith interwove plenty of real history into the fictional story of Honest Abe, the slayer of inhuman hordes, so expect to have trouble separating fact and fiction.



The Hypo: the melancholic young Lincoln by Noah Van Scive1380319r

This story is not actually fiction: Abraham Lincoln really suffered from what was then known as melancholy. Today, psychologists would probably consider him bipolar or a victim of major depression. But despite the fact that it’s historically accurate, The Hypo is a graphic account of Lincoln’s life that features him as a character, taking pieces from history and weaving them into a narrative of the dark times that he had in his twenties. Also, it’s great, so we’re including it anyway. A must-read.



1347699.jpgThe Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln by Stephen L. Carter

1867. Two years after having survived an assassination attempt, President Abraham Lincoln is about to be impeached for botching Reconstruction. Enter a young, indomitable black law clerk, Abigail Canner, who might just be Lincoln’s last hope. The meticulous research that went into this arresting book shines through every page. Historical fiction at its best!




Lincoln: a novel by Gore Vidal1137243

Lincoln is often upheld as a modern saint, but there’s another story beneath the hero worship: the story of a sly politician, a conflicted leader, and a man whose personal tragedies shaped his actions. Gore Vidal’s classic historical novel breathes life into the 16th President again.



Want more Lincoln? Also watch:

1416970.jpgLincoln starring Daniel Day-Lewis

During his final months in office, Lincoln struggles with the moral and political complexities of a nation in flux.


1388312Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter starring Benjamin Walker

Who protects us against the bloodsucking hordes? Abraham Lincoln, of course! Based on the book.


1308891.jpgThe Conspirator starring Danny Huston

This film focuses on the lone woman charged in the conspiracy to murder Lincoln, Mary Surratt, who owned the boarding house where Lincoln’s murder was planned.


1595540.jpgBetter Angels starring Brit Marling

The harsh Indiana wilderness and two remarkable women shape young Abraham Lincoln into the man we know.

Leave a comment

Let’s Do The Time Warp


Theoretically, time travel is within the reach of modern technology. All you need is a pretty fast spaceship and some luck! Failing that, you could fall through the years loosey-goosey as a result of a family curse, a set of magic standing stones, or a genetic condition. Get your time travel groove on with these once and future classics!



To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis

In 1940, a bomb exploded a Victorian travesty of art and taste called the bishop’s bird stump (don’t ask.) Though most people might consider this piece of history rightly lost, unfortunate temporal historian Ned Henry is tasked with traveling through time to study it for a historical restoration of Coventry Cathedral. But when one of his colleagues accidentally changes history, Ned has to keep two would-be star-crossed lovers apart…for the sake of the future! A comedy of manners with a science fiction twist, this is a great pick for fans of Downton Abbey.



Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

What would this list be without Outlander? In 1945, nurse Claire Randall walks through a set of standing stones in Scotland and emerges in the year 1743. There, a young laird steals her heart and challenges her fidelity to her husband. Meanwhile, her modern-era medical skills may yet brand her a witch…and she may not be the only time traveler in 18th-century Scotland. Fans of the TV show will adore this sweeping, epic love story in its original format!



11/22/63 by Stephen King

If you could change one thing about history, what would it be? Would you kill Hitler? Save the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand? What about the life of John F. Kennedy? When modern-day Jake Epping finds himself in 1958, he realizes that, in a decade, he’ll have the chance to stop the death of a President. But time resists change…



The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Like most of us, Clare lives her life from the past into the future. But her husband, Michael, is displaced in time and randomly disappears and reappears at moments of emotional import. Though this strains their relationship, their love transcends time. This isn’t as much of a science fiction book as it is a drama with a clever theme. In other words, it’s perfect for the non-scifi fan!




Kindred by Octavia Butler

The year is 1973. Dana has just turned 26 when she is wrenched from California back to antebellum Maryland, where she saves a white slaveholder from drowning. Then, just before she is captured and enslaved herself, she returns abruptly to her own present. Time and time again, Dana finds herself back in Maryland, trapped in a land of slavery and pain, often forced into servitude, compelled to rescue the man who would become her great-great-grandfather. Butler herself called this “grim fantasy.” It’s heavy and thought-provoking, but it easily ranks among the great science fiction – and historical fiction – books of all time.



Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

An alien abduction leaves Billy Pilgrim unstuck in time, traveling back and forth through his life to experience and re-experience, again and again, its most significant and mundane events. But Pilgrim is trapped within the events of his own life: Dresden, where he’s a prisoner of war during World War II; his time of the alien planet Tralfamadore; the death of his wife. The book is a powerful statement about war and what people do when they’re at the mercy of forces more powerful than they are.


Bowie in Books

Today, we mourn the passage of the great David Bowie. The best commentators in the world have already weighed in on the impact of this incredible musician and performer, but we at Nevins Library would like to take a minute and recognize him as a literature hound. An avid reader, Bowie was a fan of William Burroughs, George Orwell, and Heinrich Harrer, and much of his work bore a debt to Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Niezsche. What we’re saying is that David Bowie was smart and he liked books. Without any more ado, here are just a few of the songs that reflect the legendary artist’s literary tastes.


They’ll split your pretty cranium and fill it full of air/And tell that you’re eighty, but brother, you won’t care/Beware the savage jaw of 1984.

Did you know that Bowie intended to write a musical based on George Orwell’s classic 1984? He never managed to pull it off (Orwell’s widow objected) but if you listen to his 1974 album “Diamond Dogs,” you’ll catch references to Orwell’s most famous dystopian work in the songs Big Brother, 1984, and We Are the Dead.

Oh! You Pretty Things

Look out my window and what do I see/A crack in the sky and a hand reaching down to me/All the nightmares came today/And it looks as though they’re here to stay.

One prevailing rumor suggests that this song was inspired by Ayn Rand’s classic Anthem. Since David is “thinking about a world to come/Where the books were found by the golden ones,” this seems possible. However, it seems at least as likely – or more so – that the lyrics reference the works of Aleister Crowley, a British occultist; and Friedrich Nietzsche, an influential philosopher.

Silly Boy Blue

Mountains of Lhasa are feeling the rain/People are walking the Botella lanes/Preacher takes the school/One boy breaks a rule/Silly Boy Blue, silly Boy Blue.

When David Bowie was 19, he was inspired by the works of Jack Kerouac to become a Buddhist. But it was Heinrich Harrer’s book, Seven Years in Tibet, that inspired this song, which was one of the pop artist’s firsts.

The Man Who Sold the World

Though many people think of this as a Nirvana song, it’s actually a cover of Bowie. Here is the first verse:

We passed upon the stair, we spoke of was and when/Although I wasn’t there, he said I was his friend/Which came as some surprise I spoke into his eyes/I thought you died alone, a long long time ago.

And here is the first stanza of Hughes Mearns’ 1899 poem “Antigonish:”

Yesterday, upon the stair,/I met a man who wasn’t there./He wasn’t there again today,/I wish, I wish he’d go away…

If you notice a few parallels, that’s because Mearns inspired Bowie to write this song!

If this list has you wishing that you could listen to some David Bowie right now, be sure to check out his discography. Many of his albums are available through Nevins or the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium:

Ever the showman, David Bowie also appeared in a number of films. Check these out for a sample of his ouvre: