Friday Reads: The Soul of an Octopus

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 


This week, the Narrative Nonfiction Book Club discussed The Soul of an Octopus: a surprising exploration into the world of consciousness by naturalist Sy Montgomery.  We always have a rollicking good time talking about great books, but today’s discussion was one of the most fun.   For some it was overcoming the ick- factor, for others it was learning about something familiar, yet completely unknown, and for all, it was sharing our stories about how this amazing book changed us.  And the writing was beautiful to boot!  Sadly, we didn’t get as far as discussing the quality of the writing.  We were too caught up in eight arms of octopus lore.

The Soul of an Octopus is a love letter to the author’s new found friends: octopuses named Athena, Octavia and Kali; and the diverse group of people she meets who love them too.   Montgomery visits the New England Aquarium in Boston on Wednesdays to gather with her friends, feed capelin to the octopuses, stroke their velvety heads and get hickeys on her arms from their strong and inquisitive suction cups.  They literally taste her skin and give her kisses with their cups.  Through Montgomery’s narrative, we learn about the octopus’ distinct personalities, their great intelligence, and yes, their souls.  We also see there are a number of similarities between them and us.  Amazing.  Sprinkled throughout are interesting scientific facts that are integrated well into the story.

I don’t think any of us had a particular interest in octopuses before reading this book, even the group member who recommended it.  But with the compelling subject so deftly and warmly portrayed by the author, you don’t need three hearts like an octopus to be changed for the better.

Friday Reads: Oysters: a celebration in the raw

Bacon-fatty, fruity, funky, mossy, velvety.   What do these words have in common?

They are a just a few selections from the lengthy oyster lexicon that aficionados use to describe this beloved bivalve.  If you’re still reading, then you must have at least a little interest in oysters, so I want to tell you about a little gem of a book in our new nonfiction area:  Oysters:  a celebration in the raw by Jeremy Sewall and Marion Lear Swaybill.   Scott Snider deserves a call out here for his top-notch photos that will make your mouth water while also providing scientific level detail.  No runway model has ever looked as good in a close-up.

This book, small and meaty like the mollusk it celebrates, has four sections that discuss the history and culture of oysters, the people who harvest them, a sumptuous photo gallery, and of course, oyster stories. You can probably guess some of the topics: aphrodisiacs, pearls, and that myth about the R month, but there are additional yarns to educate and entertain.  It is international in scope, but clearly focuses on Massachusetts farms.

You can find this book on the new nonfiction shelf with the call number 641.394 SEW.  If you’re going to check it out, plan on hitting an oyster bar soon after!

Friday Reads: Dangerous Years

 

New to our library shelves this month is an important book on climate change by a leading environmental thinker, David W. OrrDangerous Years:  climate change, the long emergency and the way forward, published by Yale University Press, is “a valuable addition to environmental and philosophical wisdom.” Says Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University.

The inner flap of the book states:

“This gripping, deeply thoughtful book considers the future of civilization in the light of what we know about climate change and related threats.  David Orr, an award-winning, internationally recognized leader in the field of sustainability and environmental education, pulls no punches:  even with the Paris Agreement of 2015, Earth systems will not reach a new equilibrium for centuries.  Earth is becoming a different planet – more thread bare and less biologically diverse, with more-acidic oceans and a hotter, more capricious climate.  Furthermore, technology will not solve complex problems of sustainability.

Yet, we are not fated to destroy the Earth, Orr insists.  He imagines sustainability as a quest and a transition built upon robust and durable democratic and economic institutions, as well as changes in heart and mindset.  The transition, he writes, is beginning from the bottom up in communities and neighborhoods. He lays out specific principles and priorities to guide us toward enduring harmony between human and natural systems.”

You can find this book shelved in the new nonfiction area with the call number 363.73874 ORR.  Close readers will be pleased to know there are copious notes and an index.

David W. Orr has written several other books on the environment and building design, but don’t confuse him with David Orr, (sans W.)  the New York Times poetry columnist, who has a new book on poetry out this year.   If your interests include poetry, as well as climate change, David Orr’s book, You, Too, Could Write a Poem:  selected reviews and essays, 2000-2015, is also in the new nonfiction area with the call number 808.1 ORR.

 

Friday Reads: Unbowed, a memoir by Wangari Maathai

 

The Narrative Nonfiction Book Club read Unbowed, a fascinating memoir by 2004 Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai this month.   As always we had more to discuss than our short one hour would allow.  That is partly because we had a large turnout of vey engaged readers, and also because Wangari Maathai has accomplished so many important things in her life.  And she’s not done yet.

Born in a rural village in Kenya in 1940, she enjoyed a childhood bound closely to nature and her family.  Unlike most girls in Kenya she went to a Catholic school locally, then on to college in the United States. She was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in East and Central Africa.  She married, had three children, went through a very public and ugly divorce (which was shameful in her society), taught at the University of Nairobi and was a political activist for many causes, especially for women, the environment, and democracy.  Despite of the Kenyan government’s efforts to knock her down time and again, she is a selfless and tireless advocate for causes she believes in.  In 1977 she established the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, which has spread across Africa and garnered attention in other continents.   The movement is an effort to replant large swaths of deforested land with indigenous trees, planted by women, who earn an income for their successful seedlings.   This initiative goes a long way to solving both environmental degradation and empowering and employing women.

President Bill Clinton said, “Wangari Maathai’s memoir is direct, honest and beautifully written – a gripping account of modern Africa’s trials and triumphs, a universal story of courage, persistence, and success against great odds in a noble cause.”

The book club loved this book and I highly recommend it.

IRS Tax Scams in the 2016 Filing Season

Scammers are making unsolicited phone calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a false tax bill. They try to con victims into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls.”

These calls have been received by people in the Falmouth area. One of our librarians received a just such a call. The recorded message said a lawsuit had been filed and warrant would be issued for her arrest if she did not call the 800 number they gave her.

Many phone scams use such threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.

The IRS will NEVER:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you receive one of these calls, do not identify yourself, do not argue with the caller — just hang up.

REGISTER: Ticks & Tick-borne Illnesses (This Weekend!)

We are pleased to announce a free two-part series on ticks and tick-borne illnesses on Saturday, March 18, and Sunday, March 19, 2017.  Come learn about how to avoid ticks, the many diseases they spread, how to manage your health if you become infected and about the “untold story of Lyme Disease.”

Part one will be held on Saturday March 18 from 10:30 to noon in the Hermann Foundation meeting room.  A panel of three speakers will present their complementary areas of expertise regarding ticks, followed by questions from the audience.  Larry Dapsis, entomologist from the Cape Cod Cooperative Extension, the education department of Barnstable County, will talk about tick habits, habitats and precautions to take when spending time outdoors to avoid exposure.  Lauren Valle, founder of Kinship Herbal and Holistic Healing in Falmouth, will present an array of information related to healing Lyme Disease, including herbal medicines, immunity, nutrition, detoxification, self-advocacy, tracking symptoms and maintaining optimism and strength.  Ron Gangemi, founder of Lyme Awareness of Cape Cod and Entire Health and Wellness, both in Mashpee, will discuss the many tick-borne illnesses that are found on the Cape and the latest information on treatment options and resources, including integrative approaches.  Light refreshments will be served.

Part two will be held the next day, Sunday, March 19 from 2:00 to 4:30 PM, in the Hermann Foundation meeting room.  We will be screening the award winning documentary film:  Under Our Skin, followed by a discussion of the film lead by a reference librarian.  “Under Our Skin is a powerful and often terrifying look not only at the science and politics of (Lyme) disease, but also the personal stories of those whose lives have been affected and nearly destroyed.” (Underourskin.com) It won six “best documentary” awards when it came out in 2008 and it is still an important expose on the disease.

Come to either event or both.  Please register for the panel discussion on Saturday.

Program Registration Form

    If your plans change, please contact us so we can make room for others. Please give us a call at (508) 457-2555 ext. 6 if you have any questions.
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Friday Reads (and CDs): violins and fiddles

Highlighting today’s early morning news was the story of a Stradivarius violin once lost (stolen) in 1980, found in 2015, and now fully restored in 2017 from its past of Super Glue and Elmer’s Glue patches. Exactly why does the name Stradivari seem to remain in our vocabulary, usually in conjunction with values in the millions? What is so special about this luthier’s instruments? As it happens, the library has a book that may help with these musings. The Violin, a Social History of the World’s Most Versatile Instrument.  2013 [787.2 SCH] has extensive sections on the Stradivari family and Stradivarius instruments.

If you’re wondering about Mira Wang, the violinist who will perform soon on the above-mentioned recovered Strad, you might want to search for a magazine article about her in our fine arts database, Gale’s Fine Arts and Music Collection.

The book title, The Violin, a Social History of the World’s Most Versatile Instrument, elevates the violin to a rank often bestowed upon the guitar… or maybe the piano. Is the violin really so versatile?? Here is a book on fiddling, another style of violin playing:

The fiddle book; the comprehensive book on American folk music, fiddling, and fiddle styles including more than 150 traditional fiddle tunes compiled from country fiddlers. 1967. [787.2THE].

Dig into our CD collection to sample some of the violin’s many music-making guises from both older classics and newer recordings.  From Classical to jazz to gypsy jazz to country to Acadian folk, all the formats share one thing, a beautiful sounding instrument. Here are a few listening suggestions.

Classical violin: Joshua Bell. The Four seasons. Antonio Vivaldi. 2008. [CD MUSIC Class VIV]

Gidon Kremer. Tracing Astor: Gidon Kremer plays Astor Piazzolla.2001 [CD MUSIC Class KRE]

Jazz Violin:         Stephane Grappelli.  Atlantic jazz. Mainstream. 1986. [CD MUSIC Jazz ATL]

Nigel Kennedy.  Recital. 2013 [CD MUSIC Jazz KEN]

 

Country Fiddle:  Bob Wills (of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys):

Back in the saddle again; American Cowboy Songs. 1983 [CD MUSIC C&W BAC]

 

Acadian Fiddle: The Slippery Stick: Traditional Fiddling From New Brunswick / with Gerry Robichaud,

fiddle and Bobby Robichaud, guitar. 1996 [CD MUSIC Folk ROB]

The ubiquitous “Dummies” books offer the chance to sample the very long and labor-intensive process of learning to play the violin: Fiddle for Dummies : Book + Online Video and Audio Instruction, 2014; is available to borrow online from Axis360. Without a doubt, any smattering of experience playing a violin OR a fiddle would give one an admiring appreciation and understanding of what’s so special about a Strad!

Friday Reads: In the Heart of the Sea

 

This month the Narrative Nonfiction Book Club was all hands on deck to discuss In the Heart of the Sea:  the tragedy of the whaleship Essex by Nantucket author, Nathaniel Philbrick.  In a nutshell, the book recounts in harrowing detail how an angry 85-foot sperm whale stove in the Essex in late 1820 and the men, some of them, survived at sea for more than 90 days with little more than some hard tack (dry biscuits) and their wits.

Not just a survival story of man against nature, we also are provided with thoroughly researched and well-presented historical context of Nantucket culture in the 19th Century and the whaling industry.   The shipwreck was well-known during its time, in part because the men resorted to cannibalism to survive.  Also noteworthy was the rarity of a whale, and an unusually large whale at that, attacking a ship.  The event was the inspiration for the climactic scene in Herman Melville’s novel Moby-Dick.

There was so much to talk about that the hour was quickly over, quite unlike the whaling voyages we were discussing.  Although a few in the group had read the book before, and many of us had some familiarity with whaling, we all were thoroughly engaged and felt enriched for having read this book.

If you are looking for an excellent work of narrative nonfiction about historical New England, then In the Heart of the Sea is for you.  Look for it on the Staff Picks shelf soon.

Next month we will be discussing Unbowed: a memoir by Wangari Maathai.  Join us on Thursday, March 2 at 10 AM in the Hermann Foundation Meeting room.  We look forward to seeing you.

Friday Reads: Great House

Great House is a great book.  Written by Nicole Krauss, author of the international bestseller The History of Love, the follow up novel, Great House is a “tour de force of fiction writing” according to a starred review in Booklist (2010).

In this complex novel we meet five very different people, including an American novelist, an antiques dealer in Jerusalem and a man in London caring for his dying wife.  “Connecting these stories is a desk of many drawers that exerts a power over those who possess it or have given it away.  As the narrators of Great House make their confessions, the desk takes on more and more meaning, and comes finally to stand for all that has been taken from them, and all that binds them to what has disappeared.

Great House is a story haunted by questions:  What do we pass on to our children and how do they absorb our dreams and losses?  How do we respond to disappearance, destruction and change?” (Publisher’s summary)

Here in the library Great House was discussed by the Fiction Book Club some time ago and it is currently on the Staff Picks shelf, although not for very long – it is frequently checked out.

If you are looking for a book that is rich, intricately plotted, character-driven and demands close reading, then you will be hooked on this “soaring, powerful novel about memory struggling to create a meaningful permanence in the face of inevitable loss.” (Publisher’s summary)

Tax Forms are Here!

Tax forms have arrived in the library. They are located in the downstairs hallway in the cafe area. We have basic IRS forms 1040, 1040A & 1040EZ, plus instructions and Massachusetts resident and nonresident booklets.

You can also find tax forms on the IRS website. View their list of current forms and publications here.

Download Common Tax Forms & Instructions

2016 1040 form  [instructions]

1040 Schedule A

1040 Schedule C (Profit or Loss from Business)

2016 1040EZ form

2016 1040-ES form

W-9 Form[instructions]

Helpful Publications

Check the status of your refund

Find a professional tax preparer

Find your local IRS office

Form 1040 Tax Tables

2016 Federal Tax Guide

Free Tax Preparation

The Community Action Committee of the Cape Cod & Islands offers tax preparation assistance to those who are eligible. Contact them for more information and to schedule an appointment: 508-771-1727

The Falmouth Senior Center offers tax assistance to those who meet certain income requirements. Contact them for more information: 508-540-0196