Friday Reads: Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil

Did you read the wildly popular Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil by John Berendt when it came out in 1994?  Did you see the movie of the same name, produced by Clint Eastwood and starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack three years later?  Well I did neither at the time, but I knew they were both excellent, so I selected the book for this month’s meeting of the Narrative Nonfiction Book Club.

The best-selling true crime story Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was shocking when it came out more than twenty years ago because it featured a gay man accused of murdering his bisexual friend/assistant and a transgender drag queen, in a time and place when those subjects were not written about.  The first half of the book describes the city of Savannah, Georgia, its history, architecture and several of its colorful characters whom the author got to know over eight years of living there part-time.  The second half of the book focuses on the murder trials of Jim Williams, the first person in the state to be tried four times for the same crime.

I gathered that five out of the 11 people who came to the meeting had read the book when it was new. Most were happy to read it again, however, because it is a captivating story expertly rendered with the essence of a thrilling novel.  With so many having read the book twice, it prompted a very interesting conversation about how times have changed and how the readers themselves had changed.  We discussed how the author’s experience as a columnist for Esquire and an editor of New York magazines influenced his organization and writing style in his first book.  We also wondered about how skewed his perspective was on his adopted part-time city.  Many Savannahians welcomed this northerner warmly, thrusting him into their party or touring him through their town, but we got to really know only the eccentric ones.  Of course, they make for the most interesting read.

We had a terrific discussion this month and I know at least a few of us are now hoping to visit Savannah someday.   One group member highly recommends Berendt’s other book, The City of Falling Angels, which is about the city of Venice.

Join us next time for In the Heart of the Sea:  the tragedy of the whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick.  Did you read it before?  Reading it again and discussing it with an engaged group like the Narrative Nonfiction Book Club is sure to reveal something new.   Join us on Thursday, February 2 at 10:00 a.m. in the Hermann room.   Copies are available at the reference desk.

Faith Lee
Reference Librarian


P.S. Lady Chablis, the transgender drag queen who became quite famous after the publication of this book and starred as herself in the movie, died in September, 2016 at age 59, according to CNN.

Friday Reads: Christmas Days

Just in time for Christmas, a delightful little book to get you in the spirit of the season:  Christmas Days: 12 stories and 12 feasts for 12 days by Jeanette Winterson.  Indulge yourself a little after all your holiday preparations and discover what’s inside this package.

Winterson, author of twenty titles, brings her British wit to this seasonal collection.  “Winterson’s innovative stories encompass the childlike and spooky wonder of Christmas.” (New York Times Book Review)   In addition to mysteries, some with a touch of magic, you’ll find twelve recipes that complement the stories, such as mince pie and sherry trifle.   Kick back and read for a spell with a glass of holiday cheer using the author’s recipe for Mulled Wine.

I especially enjoyed the Christmas Cracker as our family has a tradition of popping open the crackers, donning the paper hats, and regaling each other with the fortunes, and often trading the tiny prizes inside.

The book just arrived this week, but already readers are queuing up to read it.   You can place a hold on any copy in the network or a librarian would be happy to do it for you.  Just let us know.

By Donna Burgess

Friday Reads: 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas


Snappy, clever, unexpected and fun!   Read 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas if you like writing that sparkles, empathize with precocious children with tough childhoods and like jazz.  Experience in Philadelphia a plus, but not necessary.

Debut novelist Marie-Helene Bertino leads us through a single day in the lives of three people: a rebellious nine-year girl who wants to be a jazz singer, her recently divorced teacher, and Lorca, the owner of the night club, The Cat’s Pajamas.  Their worlds come together on Christmas Eve at 2 a.m. at the Cat’s Pajamas.  Love, hope, music and the streets of Philadelphia are a rich setting for this charming story.

Look for it on the Staff Picks shelf.

Friday Reads: Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand

A sure sign of a good book is one that you are happy to read again for your book club, even though you read it on your own when it first came out … and you find that you are so excited by the heart-pounding action and brilliant writing that you have to put it down to catch your breath and calm your nerves, but not for too long, because you can’t wait to find out what happens next.  Such a quandary!  That was the experience of one member of the library’s Narrative Nonfiction Book Club when she was reading Seabiscuit: an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand.

Seabiscuit, in case you aren’t familiar, was a crooked-legged racehorse, “one of the most electrifying and popular attractions in sports history and the single biggest newsmaker in the world in 1938.” (Publisher’s summary.)  He overcame humble beginnings and numerous setbacks to win the most important race of the time.  But this book isn’t just about the horse.  It is about the three men who loved him: his owner, his trainer and his jockey, and the culture of horse racing that thrived despite the Great Depression and looming world war.

Almost half of the book club members read the book when it came out in 2003.  It “was an instant success – so instant, in fact, that it made its way to No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list before it was even advertised.  The book stayed at No. 1 for nearly 10 months and remained on the best-seller list for more than two years.  Seabiscuit sold more than 6 million copies in the United States alone and has been translated into 15 languages.  It also spawned a hugely successful film that garnered seven Oscar nominations.” (

Members who read the book again for the book club commented that during the first read, they were caught up in the story, but during the second read, they found they noticed more details.  For those readers who enjoy learning about an experience they’ll never have themselves, such as professional horse racing, mountaineering, commercial diving, and the like, the details in Seabiscuit make the reader feel as if he or she is on horseback pounding down the track, streaking over the finish line.  Members who read the book for the first time were enthralled, whether or not they had an interest in horses before opening the cover.  It was just that good.

Next month, we will be discussing Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: a Savannah story by John Berendt.  Pick up a copy at the reference desk now and join us on Thursday, January 5 at 10:00 am in the Hermann Foundation meeting room for another rousing discussion.

Friday Reads: Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon


“I’m sittin’ in the railway station / Got a ticket for my destination…”

Homeward bound – were you among the many who were homeward bound this Thanksgiving week?

For Paul Simon and many baby boomers the phrase conjures up the 1960s when the duo Simon and Garfunkel were popular folk-rock singers.

Author Peter Ames Carlin takes the reader from the late 1960’s to present day and the release in June 2016 of Simon’s latest album, Stranger to Stranger. Over the past 60 years of Simon’s life we have listened to and memorized many of his lyrics. We were disappointed in the break of the duo Simon and Garfunkel and relieved when they reunited, only to separate again. We have bought many of his albums (which have sold more than a hundred million!) We have heard his political views and championed his sometimes controversial roles in many of the significant events of the last several decades.

In this biography of Simon, Carlin illuminates the on, and off again stage life of this singer/composer. With several pages of photos, you’ll get a glimpse of Simon’s life yesterday and today.

Look for Homeward Bound in the new nonfiction section, Call # 927.8 Simon

Library Mindfulness Program on FCTV

In October, we had an overwhelming response to Dr. Sang H. Kim’s “Mindful Movement and Meditation programs held here at the library. Many people in town were already familiar with him and the unique program he developed to ease stress and improve mindfulness. The last of the three October programs was filmed and edited by volunteer FCTV videographer and Falmouth Public Library patron, Kate Eldred. Kate just told me the approximately one-hour long show went on air this weekend!

So, get out your yoga mat or chair, put on some comfortable clothes and clear your schedule for an hour of mindfulness with gentle exercises and breathing techniques lead by Dr. Kim. What better time to take a break and learn how to de-stress, than now, the beginning of the holiday season. Here are the times this week for the show titled, “Sang Kim at Falmouth Library” on FCTV, channel 13:

Monday, Nov. 21,   7:00 PM
Tuesday, Nov. 22,   8:30 AM
Wednesday, Nov. 23,   12:30 PM
Thursday, Nov. 24,   3:00 PM
Friday, Nov. 25,   3:29 AM (Yes, according to their schedule, AM)
Saturday, Nov. 26,   3:00 PM
Sunday, Nov. 27,    7:04 PM

Visit FCTV for scheduling info beyond this week:…/c…/public-channel-programming-schedule

We have some of the many books Dr. Kim has written, including his latest, “Mindful Movement: mastering your hidden energy.”  Here is a list from our catalog.

You can also visit his website,, to see more videos of him performing his movements or his other website to learn more about mindfulness.

Peace and joy to you this holiday season.

Friday Reads: Home Accessibility

While reviewing our shelves recently, making sure that our books on home maintenance and repair were in good repair themselves, I came across an overlooked gem I want to share:  Home Accessibility, 300 Tips for Making Life Easier by Shelley Peterman Schwarz.

The author writes, “This book has been written for anyone who is experiencing either a short-term disability such as after surgery or while healing a broken arm or leg, or a long-term chronic illness such as multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, or cancer.  It is also for people who are challenged by sensory, vision, hearing, or tactile limitations: mental health issues including memory loss, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease; and for those who have had an accident, heart attack, stroke, or are getting older and find it more and more difficult to bend, reach, twist, and get up or down, in and out.”

After discussing basic concepts, Schwarz, who is wheelchair bound, goes through the house room by room pointing out how areas can be made accessible.  Starting with the front path and doorway, she notes such things as:  “Pathways and ramps should be 4 feet wide. (…)  Railings should be built to support 250 pounds at any point along their length. (…) For someone in a wheelchair to open a door, they will need 18 to 24 inches of clear space on the side where the door opens.”  Inside the house she advises about lighting, flooring choices, appliances, plumbing, safety and much more.  Each chapter includes a list of resources and products.

This very helpful little book offers many “affordable solutions to make your home safer and more accessible without costly remodeling,” which is sure to be of great interest here in Falmouth.  If you are looking to make your home easier to live in, or if you know someone with any of the issues mentioned above, be sure to check out this book.  These tips could be just the thing to make one’s life easier and safer or prolong one’s independence.  Why put up with hassles in your home when you know how to make it more comfortable and safe?  Accessibility improvements might make a welcome holiday gift for the aging parent who has everything and wants to remain in their home as long as possible.

Home Accessibility is shelved with the call number 643.087 SCH.  You can also ask at the reference desk where to find it.

Cancer Resource Center at the Main Library

Do you or someone you know have cancer?  Do you want to find out more about the disease and treatment options?  Do you want financial or emotional support?  There is such a wealth of information online that it can be overwhelming and websites can contradict each other.  It is hard to sift through it all.   Well, there is a place where you can skip all that frustration and get reliable and comprehensive cancer information both in person and on the web — The Cancer Resource Center at the Falmouth Public Library.

The Cancer Resource Center (CRC) was created in 2010 through a partnership of the Falmouth Hospital and the Falmouth Public Library.  Located at the main library, the CRC is a place where patients, their loved ones and anyone looking for cancer information can go to find reliable sources.    Reference librarians are always available to help you find the best materials to answer your questions, whether it be free handouts in the reference room, magazines and newsletters in the reading room, books on our shelves or reliable websites.

If you prefer to find your information online, visit our newly re-organized webpage.  Here you will find links to websites you can trust.  You can search local support groups, clinical trials, help for caregivers, drugs, details about several common types of cancer, and much, much more.  All of these sites have been inspected and selected by a reference librarian for reliability, timeliness and ease of use.  Many of the websites are described by a librarian so you can decide which links to click on to suit your needs.  For example, if you want to know how to pronounce a term you saw in print so you can talk to your doctor about it, read the descriptions of three online cancer term dictionaries and you will see only one of the dictionaries offers pronunciations and phonetic spellings.

To get to our Cancer Resource Center webpage, start at the library homepage, and click on “eBranch” in the white bar at the top of the pager.  Under the heading “Research & History,” you will see the link to “Cancer Resource Center”.  Once on the CRC webpage, you will see an online form where you can write a question to a reference librarian if you like.  Be sure to scroll past that form to get to the list of helpful websites.

Finding information to help you cope with a cancer diagnosis in yourself or someone you care about can be overwhelming.  If you would like help finding reliable online sources, books, newsletters or pamphlet, please ask any of the reference librarians at the main library and we would be happy to help you.

Yours in health,

Faith Lee
Reference Librarian

Friday Reads: Cure Back Pain

According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, “Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives.”  If you are one of these people, you may be interested in a new book we received this month … Cure Back Pain:  80 personalized easy exercises for spinal training to improve posture, eliminate tension and reduce stress by Jean-François Harvey.

The author, who is an osteopath, kinesiologist and athlete, writes in a clear and conversational way.  Reading his explanations of evolution, how the body works, and how to do the exercises, is like having a trusted and expert guide leading you along the path to recovery.   Armed with his insights about why certain common treatments don’t solve back pain (taking pain relievers, doing sit-ups or wearing orthopedic soles, for example), the reader is educated, not just prescribed a set of one-routine-fits-all exercises.

A Publisher’s Weekly review highly recommends this excellent book and describes it as follows: “His spinal training regimen combines a number of exercise methods, such as yoga, Pilates, advanced stretching, rehabilitation exercises, qigong, and breathing exercises, as well as the principles of osteopathy, biomechanics, and the Godelieve Denys-Struyf method (a way to stabilize the spine that combines several therapies, including stretching, manual massage, reflex techniques, and muscle stimulation).  (…) Readers can choose which exercises suit their health issues and lifestyle, though Harvey recommends that readers consult with a doctor first.”

This book is on the NEW NONFICTION shelf with the call number 617.564 HAR.  Look for a bevy of new health, medicine and fitness books on this shelf over the coming weeks with numbers ranging from 613 – 618.

To your good health!

Friday Reads: Rail U.S.A. Museums and Trips





So I might be stretching the meaning of the word “reads” in this “Friday Reads” blog by featuring an illustrated map and guide set, rather than a book; but I am really happy with this new arrival, so I want to share the news.   Anyone remotely interested in trains or know a child who is, will want to keep reading.

We have recently received Rail USA Museums and Trips.  It is a set of three large, illustrated maps of the United States featuring 425 railroad museums, depots, scenic railroads, dinner trains, model layouts, miniature railroads, historic sites and trolley and train-watching locations.  The three maps cover the eastern states, the central states and the western states.   The front, a typical road map with major highways, features little red train icons for all 425 points of interest and several lovely watercolor illustrations of selected sites.  I was very pleased to see a picture of the beautiful Chatham Railroad Museum on the Eastern States map.

The back of the maps list all of the points of interest, state-by-state.  The listings include icons to quickly explain what features are available (for example: museum, depot, historic site, excursions, dinner train) and if the site has layouts, it notes what they are.  Did you know Bay State Model Railroad Museum in Roslindale has layouts HO, HOn3, N and O-scale?  Of course the listings also include street addresses, telephone numbers and web addresses so you can make your plans.  Since hours and admission prices are subject to change, they are not included.  You can get the most up to date information by visiting the website or calling.

I highly recommend this set to rail enthusiasts as well as parents and grandparents who are looking for something to do with the kids during these crisp fall weekends and during school breaks.  There are 19 sites in Massachusetts alone, four in nearby Rhode Island and 18 in New Hampshire.  If you are planning a vacation further away, you can consult these maps to see what attraction you might want to add to your itinerary.  Going to Pennsylvania?  You’ll be overwhelmed by the choices.   California?  You could spend two weeks visiting only railroad sites and not get halfway through them all.  You can find Rail USA Museums and Trips on the new nonfiction shelf, for the moment anyway with call number 917 RAI.  Have fun!