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.

2017 Falmouth Reads Together

We are excited to announce our selections for the 2017 Falmouth Reads Together program!

The Falmouth Reads Together committee has selected Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, MD, and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast as the townwide reading selections for 2017. Both best-selling books are honest, humane explorations of how we approach the end of life for ourselves and our loved ones. Younger readers are invited to read Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord, I’ll Love You Forever by Robert Munsch, Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar, and The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z by Kate Messner.

Copies of Being Mortal and Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? are available for circulation at every public library branch in Falmouth, courtesy of the Friends of the Falmouth Public Library, as well as at Eight Cousins Bookstore on Main Street.

Atul Gawande is a surgeon, writer, and public health researcher. He practices general and endocrine surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and is a professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School. He also has been a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine since 1998 and has written four New York Times bestsellers. Roz Chast’s cartoons have been published in many magazines besides the New Yorker, including Scientific American, the Harvard Business Review, Redbook, and Mother Jones. She is the author of several best-selling books.

The committee is so pleased to partner with several Falmouth/Cape Cod organizations to promote this important conversation including Neighborhood Falmouth, HopeHealth, the Death Café, and Cape Cod Healthcare’s Quality of Life Management Task Force.

Scheduled events include:

  • February 13, 5 p.m.: In a live video simulcast co-hosted by Neighborhood Falmouth, Being Mortal author Atul Gawande will speak about the value of communities and the opportunities they offer as we grow older. This will be the only opportunity to hear directly from Gawande this year. The presentation will be followed by a Neighborhood Falmouth open house. Hermann Room, Falmouth Public Library. This event is free, but registration is required; please contact Susan Loucks at Neighborhood Falmouth at 508-564-7543.
  • February 25, 2 p.m. Hope Hospice will co-host a screening of the one-hour documentary “Being Mortal,” followed by a panel discussion and Q&A featuring members of Cape Cod Healthcare’s Quality of LifeManagement Task Force: Ellen McCabe, RN, of Hope Hospice; Tina Soares, RN, from the Visiting Nurse Association; and Dr. Peter Hopewood. Hermann Room, Falmouth Public Library.
  • March 13, 6:30 p.m.: A Death Café will offer the opportunity to meet Falmouth neighbors, eat cake, drink tea, and discuss all aspects of death in a relaxed and comfortable setting. Small group conversations will be group directed and lightly guided by trained Death Cafe facilitators. Its objective is to “increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.” Congregational Church in Falmouth Center.

The schedule of events will be updated as more programs are planned.




NEW Titles on the Social Sciences: Groups of People, Social Processes, and Culture and Institutions

Check out these titles recently added to the NEW section:

On Social Processes [303’s]

303.48 BIN  Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost its Mind and Found its Soul, by Clara Bingham.

Woven together from one hundred original interviews, Witness to the Revolution provides a firsthand narrative of that period of upheaval in the words of those closest to the action–the activists, organizers, radicals, and resisters…

On Groups of People [305’s]

305.42 WHA  What I Told My Daughter, edited by Nina Tassler.

Tassler has brought together a powerful, diverse group of women—from Madeleine Albright to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from Dr. Susan Love to Whoopi Goldberg—to reflect on the best advice and counsel they have given their daughters either by example, throughout their lives, or in character-building…

305.896 FIR  The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, edited by Jesmyn Ward.

National Book Award winner Jesmyn Ward takes James Baldwin’s 1963 examination of race in America, The Fire Next Time, as a jumping off point for this groundbreaking collection of essays and poems about race from the most important voices of her generation and our time.

On Culture & Institutions [306’s]

306.0948 PAR  The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, by Ani Partanen.

Partanen compares and contrasts life in the United States with life in the Nordic region, focusing on four key relationships—parents and children, men and women, employees and employers, and government and citizens.

306.768 STR  Transgender History, by Susan Stryker.

Covering American transgender history from the mid-twentieth century to today, Transgender History takes a chronological approach to the subject of transgender history, with each chapter covering major movements, writings, and events.


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

Booked for the Season

Winter is here and it’s up to your beloved librarians to find you the book that will keep you up late at night, tucked in with piles of blankets and a warm comforting light by your bed. We are up to the task as we have many bookletters, booklists, databases, and two book clubs to help you read, read, read all winter long.

Book Discussion Groups for Adults

We have two book groups for adults: Books on the Half Shell (fiction) and the Narrative Nonfiction Book Group. Visit our Book Groups page to see what we’re currently reading, sign up for the email list, and come pick up your copy in the Reference Room.

Book Letters

Crushed for time? Browsing for books can be difficult if you have a demanding work week or if you find it difficult to search for books in our stacks. Book Letters are weekly booklists that you can receive by email. We have many to choose from, not limited to new audiobooks, new adult fiction, and much more. You can view them at your leisure and if you find something that speaks to you, you can visit our catalog and place a hold on it right away.

If you don’t see any booklists that interest you, contact us and let us know! We would be happy to create a custom list that is based on your specific reading interests.


Adults: We have curated nine varied booklists on our newly updated Staff Recommendations page and our Awards & Top Lists page is a terrific place to search for award-winners and bestsellers.

Teens: We notice what catches your eye in the YA Room. Take a look at our What Should I Read Next page.

Reader’s Toolkit: Our toolkit features the best websites and booklists out there for readers, including Stop, You’re Killing Me for mystery novel fans and Lit Lovers for readers who are interested in book discussions.


We have two great databases made especially for avid readers.

eSequels: Our eSequels database helps you find the next book in the series, as well as helping you discover new books by your interest in a particular location or subject.





Novelist Plus:  Novelist is the best thing since sliced bread as far as we’re concerned. This is the place to visit if you are stumped about what to read next.





Get in Touch

On a final note, please get in touch if you would like a reading suggestion, a booklist made just for you, or if you need any help at all finding a good book to read. We would love to help!







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.

Winter Reads

This morning on WCAI’s The Point host Mindy Todd talked books with Jill Erickson, Head of Reference & Adult Services at Falmouth Public Library and Jennifer Gaines, librarian at the Woods Hole Library. If you missed it you can listen online. Here is the reading list from the show this morning:


Mindy’s Pick
The Nature of Cape Cod by Beth Schwarzman


Jennifer’s Picks

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Snow by Orhan Pamuk

White Shaman by C. W. Nicol

A Guide to Nature in Winter by Donald Stokes

A Field Guide to Animal Tracks by Olaus J. Murie and Mark Elbroch

Tracking and the Art of Seeing by Paul Rezendes

Winter World by Bernd Heinrich

Bark, a field guide to the trees of the Northeast by Michael Wojtech

Brave Irene by William Steig

Owl Moon by Jane Yolen

Fox’s Dream by Keizaburō Tejima

Pioneer Girl: the annotated autobiography by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Mary Azarian


Jill’s Picks

“First Snow” an essay by J. B. Priestley which can be found in both Apes and Angels and Essays of Five Decades.

Midsummer Snowballs by Andy Goldsworthy

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

“Snow” by Mary Ruefle in The Most of It

More Home Cooking: a writer returns to the kitchen by Laurie Colwin (includes Hot Lemonade recipe)

Roast Figs Sugar Snow: winter food to warm the soul by Diana Henry

The Snowflake Man: a biography of Wilson A. Bentley by Duncan C. Blanchard

Home Made Winter by Yvette Van Boven

Winter: Five Windows on the Season by Adam Gopnik

Gardens of Awe and Folly: a traveler’s journal on the meaning of life and gardening by Vivian Swift

The Story of Inkdrop and Snowflake & The Story of Snowflake and Inkdrop by Alessandro Gatti and Pierdomenico Baccalario, illustrated by Simona Mulazzani

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

Oranges” by Ronald Wallace

The Great British Bake Off Christmas by Lizzie Kamenetzky

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.

Local Traditions: From Thanksgiving Day Games to School Yearbooks

Of all the local Thanksgiving traditions celebrated in Falmouth, many townspeople look forward to heading over to Guv Fuller Field on Thanksgiving morning to help cheer on the Clippers as they battle to “bring home a victory to Falmouth High.” Indeed, for many Lawrence High and Falmouth High alumni, the Thanksgiving Day Football Game holds a special place in their hearts for it not only represents the long standing rivalry between Falmouth and Barnstable High Schools (dating back to 1895), but “the game” is also traditionally known as an annual event at which to meet and catch up with former classmates.  It is a time when classmates can reunite and reminisce about the good old days at “dear old Falmouth.”

That is why this Thanksgiving season the Library is especially happy to announce the recent accession of the Falmouth Public School Digital Yearbook Collection.  With some editions dating as far back as 1915, the Collection includes the Lawrencian, the Clipper Compact, and a few editions of The Voice of the L.H.S. and The Broadcaster, the Falmouth Junior High School’s yearbook.

The actual digitization project was federally funded by the Library Services and Technology Act Grant through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and is administered by the Boston Public Library and hosted by the Internet Archive.

So whether you’re remembering the good old days or doing research, the digitized yearbooks are a great addition to our Digital Archives and serve as a perfect example of the Library’s commitment to provide collections that are accessible and responsive to community needs and interests, especially local collections.*

Good Luck Clippers! Here’s strength to you! And here’s to your performance throughout the 2016 season!


*Print editions of the yearbooks are also available and will be back in the library after the full digitization process is complete by the end of November.