“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.
A library staff member put a most unusual memoir on the staff picks shelf. Author Pam Houston describes it as “much more than a brave and luminous memoir.” Author Rick Bass calls it “a wise and beautiful and intelligent book.” And author Sue Halpern calls it “gorgeous.” When Women Were Birds: fifty-four variations on voice by Terry Tempest Williams is all of those things, wrapped in a modest little white package.
When Williams’ mother was one week from death, she promised her daughter her journals, but stipulated that Williams could not read them until after she was gone. When the time was right, Williams located the neatly arranged journals and was surprised to find blank pages. All of them were blank. Shelf after shelf of blank journals. We get some semblance of the shock ourselves when we flip several blank pages in this book. It is disconcerting. Imagine being a woman for whom words hold such power, an author who writes beautifully and who loves her mother unconditionally … imagine her finding these blank journals. In this memoir we follow along her emotional journey as she tries to fathom why her mother did this. The result is a meditative, poignant and unique exploration for which there is no answer which is well worth the read. Just don’t be in a hurry.
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!
Today was the monthly WCAI book show with Mindy Todd on The Point. We hope you got to hear Dennis Minsky and Jill Erickson talk about bird books. We had such big piles of bird books, we think we’ll be doing another bird book show in the fall! Sorry we were pre-recorded today, so you couldn’t call in with your favorites, but if you have a favorite bird book, please add a comment to our list! Miss the show? You can listen here!
Join us for a special workshop for adults with local artist, Jennifer Burkin. Create a gorgeous acrylic landscape on canvas. Beginners welcome. Please sign up using the form below or give us a call at the Reference Desk. We expect this event to fill quickly.
Jennifer Burkin is both an artist and art educator. Jennifer has a Master’s degree in elementary art education from Tufts University in affiliation with the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Additionally she has a Graduate Certificate from Harvard University in Museum Studies. She grew up in Brookline, MA and now lives on Martha’s Vineyard where she continues to make art, sell her artwork, and teach art.
Jennifer paints with acrylics and adds in handmade papers, found objects, etc, turning many paintings into mixed media pieces. Her subjects are largely domestic, many pieces are in fact of her own dog. Other images of domesticity are kitchen utensils and children’s and women’s clothing. She frequently paints and collages images of birds as well.
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.
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.
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:
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]
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!
Last night, we had a great discussion about fake news, media literacy, and the role of the public library to help people find reliable sources. Big thanks to Sean Corcoran and Allison Butler for leading the discussion, and to FCTV for streaming the program live to Channel 13. I also would like to thank the audience for all of their participation and thoughtful comments and questions. I hope everyone learned a little bit more about how to identify reliable news sources. At the bottom of this blog, you will see a list of online news resources and ways to improve your media literacy.
I began the evening with a few quotations:
“The highest purpose of the library is to serve as the armory of the truth, to defend it against lies that serve the powerful.” John Overholt, Curator of Early Modern Books and Manuscripts, Houghton Library, Harvard University.
“Google can bring you back 100,000 answers. A librarian can bring you back the right one.” Neil Gaiman
“Standing up for our values also means, as we all surely know, that we must be especially careful to provide the highest level and quality of service to people and communities who see the world differently, and who maybe aren’t unhappy about the new direction of the country.
Indeed, the American Library Association Code of Ethics states: ‘We distinguish between our personal convictions and professional duties and do not allow our personal beliefs to interfere with fair representation of the aims of our institutions or the provision of access to their information resources.” That’s not always easy or comfortable, it’s just crucial because it’s everyone’s library. We absolutely cannot afford to start eroding confidence in who we are and what we do.” Joseph Janes, Library Journal, March/April 2017
And for those of you interested in the erroneous Moby-Dick quotation about cranberries that I mentioned last night, you can read my blog on this here. And as a bonus, my blog on an erroneous Scott F. Fitzgerald quotation! (And do read the comments at the bottom of that blog entry! We even were mentioned on a blog created in New Zealand!)
All of the resources below will help you with your media literacy skills and give you a hand identifying true news from untrue news. And remember, you can always ask a reference librarian for more help!
Center for News Literacy: Stony Brook University School of Journalism. It is designed to help students develop critical thinking skills in order to judge the reliability and credibility of information, whether it comes via print, television or the Internet.
Mass Media Literacy: Their mission is to ensure that all Massachusetts students are taught the critical thinking skills needed to engage with media as active and informed participants in the 21st century.
The News Literacy Project: a nonpartisan national education nonprofit that works with educators and journalists to teach middle school and high school students how to sort fact from fiction in the digital age.
Snopes: a small staff of researchers and writers dedicated to investigating and analyzing rumors.
You might also be interested in this six volume set of books in the Reference Room: Encyclopedia of Journalism, General Editor, Christopher H. Sterling. Of particular interest, the section on “Self-Regulation” which includes a history of news scandals.
Lynda.com users impacted by data breach in December 2016
The Lynda.com security team determined that an unauthorized third party breached a database that included information about our Lynda.com users. Certain user information, like learning history, was exposed. Any users who had email addresses or passwords exposed were notified directly by Lynda.com in December 2016. For the small percentage of users who had cryptographically salted and hashed passwords exposed, Lynda.com invalidated their passwords and required that they create new ones. There is no evidence that any of this data has been made publicly available.
If you have questions, we encourage you to contact Lynda.com through their Support Center.
This month the FPL Fiction Book Club read an espionage novel entitled All the Old Knivesby Olen Steinhauer. This is the fifth espionage novel we have read in a six-month series that began with Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent and will end next month with Swimmerby Joakim Zander. One of the first questions, which I was not able to answer the day we discussed the book, was where does the title come from? We all knew about the idea of someone stabbing you in the back, but not about the old knives part. So, after a little investigation, I discovered that in fact this is a quotation by Phædrus from his Fables. It is translated as: “All the old knives that have rusted in my back, I drive in yours.” (By the way, Phædrus also gave us “to add insult to injury.”) Another quotation related question was what was “that old Stalin quote about tragedies and statistics” that is mentioned in the book. That quotation is attributed to Stalin and it is: “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.”
The most interesting thing to me, as the one person who attends both the Wednesday evening group and the Thursday morning group, was how radically different the two groups responded to the same book! The Wednesday evening group LOVED the book, and the Thursday morning group thought the author (who said it took him just a month to write the novel) should have done at least one more rewrite!
The plot is extraordinarily timely as it involves two CIA officers in Vienna, Henry Pelham and Celia Harrison, who were lovers at the time of a hostage crisis. Celia leaves the CIA and ends up in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Henry has tracked her down to see her one more time, to relive the past, maybe, or to put it behind him once and for all. Most of the novel takes place at a dinner at a restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea and the point of view switches between Henry and Celia. The author had the idea of setting this thriller at a restaurant after he watched the Masterpiece dramatization of Christopher Reid’s poem The Song of Lunch, which starred Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson. As he writes in the introduction to the book: “I wondered if I could write an espionage tale that took place entirely around a restaurant table.”
The people that loved the book, loved the pacing, and the story, and the fact that it was a quick read. The people who loathed the book thought there wasn’t enough story, the changing of point of view was too confusing, the character of Celia was unbelievable, and the prose wasn’t engaging enough. EVERYONE agreed that the ending was superb!! This novel is soon to be a major motion picture, so we are all waiting to see how the movie will differ from the novel.
The next meeting of the FPL Fiction Book Club will be March 15th at 7:00 PM or March 16th at 10:00 AM. The book we will be discussing is Swimmer by Joakim Zander, and you can pick up a copy at the Reference Desk.