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Friday, December 12, 2014




All the Light We Cannot See—Anthony Doerr

Museum of Extraordinary Things—Alice Hoffman

Cambridge—Susanna Kaysen

Goldfinch—Donna Tartt

The Invention of Wings—Sue Monk Kidd

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher; stories—Hillary Mantel

The Children Act—Ian McEwan

The Arsonist—Sue Miller

Still Life With Bread Crumbs—Anna Quindlen

Lila—Marilynne Robinson

Nora Webster—Colm Toibin



Before we Say Goodnight: How to tell Bedtime Stories about Your Life and Family—Hank Frazee

Can’t we Talk About Something More Pleasant? A Memoir—Roz Chast

Empathy Exams: Essays—Leslie Jamison

 A Farm Dies Once a Year—Arlo Crawford

  In the Kingdom of Ice: the Grand and Terrible Voyage of the U.S.S.

Jeannette—Hampton Sides

  Lego Architecture: the Visual Guide—Phillip Wilkinson

  Minnesota’s Own: Preserving our Grand Homes—Larry Millett

  Texts from Jane Eyre– Mallory Ortberg

  Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End—Atul Gawande

  Yes, Please—Amy Poehler
  America: Farm to Table: Simple, Delicious Recipes Celebrating
  Local Farmers—Mario Batali
  Baking Bible—Rose Levy Berenbaum
  Lake Superior Flavors: a Field  Guide to Food and Drink Along the Circle                    Tour—James R. Norton
  Make some Beer: Small Batch Recipes from Brooklyn to Bamburg– Erica Shea
  Make it Ahead: a Barefoot Contessa Cookbook—Ina Garten
  Children’s Picture Books
  Book with No Pictures—B.J. Novak
  Duck Sock Hop—Jane Kohuth
  I Wish I Had a Pet—Maggie Rudy
  Ninja Red Riding Hood—Corey Schwartz
  The Secret Life of Squirrels—Nancy Rose
  Little Blue Truck’s Christmas—Alice Shertle




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Fiction Titles

We Are Not Ourselves, by Matthew Thomas.  2014

Eileen Tumulty was born in Woodside, Queens, and raised by her drinking Irish parents.  She took care of them and eventually went to nursing school, although she originally thought she wanted a higher status job, such as law or politics.  She meets Ed Leary, a research scientist, and marries him.  She encourages him to move up in the world.  She wants a nicer house and nicer things than her parents had.  They live in the house where he grew up, and rent floors to other families.  Ed stays at a community college where he has a lab and is happy.  She pressures Ed to move to a nicer house, but he is reluctant.  They have one son, Connell.  Eileen wants more for him that she had, and is pleased when he is accepted into a competitive high school.

Around the time Connell is beginning high school, it is clear that something is changing with Ed.  He is spending more and more time preparing for his classes, and is repeatedly going over his grading and recording grades.  He finally breaks down and admits he needs Eileen’s help entering his grades.  Eileen finally takes him to a doctor and he is diagnosed with early onset dementia.  He is only 51 years old.  Eileen suspects that he knew he was coming down with this disease.   He tries to keep his job until he is at 30 years, for retirement benefits, but the college eventually calls and says he is unable to perform his job, and must retire.   Eileen then faces having Ed at home while she is at work.  He is able to function for a while, but eventually she hires a Russian immigrant to watch him during the day.  He ends up in the hospital for a while, after hurting himself.  Eventually, Eileen must put him in a nursing home because she is unable to physically move him around and care for him.  The story follows his decline, Eileen’s road to acceptance to her life without Ed, and Connell’s dealing with his father’s illness.

This is a well written novel, and an excellent description of a family caught in the throes of early onset dementia.  The journey of the son, who has a hard time dealing with the illness and loss of his father, finally turns his life around and becomes a teacher.  One of the most touching scenes was when Connell reads a letter that Ed wrote to him before his illness took over, in which he encourages him to remember all that they shared while he was growing up, and not to remember him as diseased.


The Story Hour by Thrity  Umrigar,  2014

This author always writes good, psychological novels, and this newest novel is not an exception.
Maggie is a therapist, and a black woman married to Sudhir, an Indian math professor.  A woman about 30 years old comes to the hospital, after she attempted suicide.  Maggie feels sorry for her and agrees to take her on as a client pro bono.  Lakshmi’s husband owns a grocery store/restaurant.
Maggie realizes that Lakshmi is in a loveless marriage, but she knows that many Indian marriages are arranged.  Maggie allows the boundaries between therapist and patient fall down, and Lakshmi sees Maggie as a friend.  Meanwhile, Maggie has been attracted to a photographer, Peter, who is back at the college for a year.  They become involved, and Maggie struggles with why she is risking her steady, solid marriage for this.

Maggie and Lakshmi’s lives get intertwined when she begins bringing  Maggie and Sudhir Indian food, and he hires her to cook or a party.  Friends also hire her, to both cook and clean.   The boundary between therapist and client are irrevocably crossed when Lakshmi uncovers a secret in Maggie's life, and Maggie cannot accept something Lakshmi reveals in therapy.  Yet, when Maggie's marriage falls apart, Lakshmi is able to help her.    Although the ending is a bit of a stretch,  it was very touching, and demonstrated how all the characters had grown, from knowing and being with each other.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New Fiction Titles

Are you looking for new fiction titles?  See below for some suggestions of books I enjoyed.

The Wives of Los Alamos  by Tarashea Nesbit.  2014
      This novel is written in a collective voice, representing all the women of the physicists who worked at Los Alamos, on the atomic bomb.  The wives were not allowed to know what their husbands were working on.  Families were isolated from much of society.  They were not allowed to visit their families elsewhere, nor were their families allowed to visit them.  The wives came from all  over the country and the world.  The narrator reveals that they did not always agree on things, and had different ways of looking at their lives.  However, it is clear that there were strong bonds because the women needed to rely on each other for several years, without the support of family networks or other social networks.  They raised their children and tried to cook decent meals in spite of rationing, and tried to keep their homes as nice as possible, although their were many problems.  The narrator reveals how all the women changed to deal with the situations at Los Alamos.   By the end, it is clear to the reader that the project was the creation of the atomic bomb. The novel describes the various reactions of the scientists and families when they hear reports of the atomic bomb maiming and killing so many civilian Japanese.  Well written, and an interesting historical novel.

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen.  2014
     Well known photographer Rebecca Winter moves out of her New York City apartment and  into a small cottage, in order to rent out her apartment and try and cover her finances, including her mother's nursing home bills.  Her twenty-something son Ben, does not realize how poor she has become.  She hasn't produced anything new in years.  She begins a relationship with a roofer, Jim.
who gets a raccoon out of her house.  She is unaware that he has a mentally sister, and the photography project that gets her reestablished is connected to his sister.  In the end, pieces of her life are brought together.  Wonderfully written, with unique chapter headings.

A Star For Mrs. Blake by April Smith.  2014
      This novel is a WWI follow up story, set in 1931.  Cora Blake lives in Deer Isle, Maine, and lost her son, Sammy, in the war.  She has been selected as a Gold Star Mother - one of the mothers who will travel to France to see her son's burial site.  The U.S. government spent over $1 million to give mothers who lost sons the opportunity to go to England and France.  Cora corresponds with the other mothers before the trip, and discovers that they all come from different backgrounds - Bobbie, a wealthy woman; Katie, an Irish immigrant who worked for women like Bobbie; Minne, a Jewish immigrant, and Wilhellma, married to a famous architect who has declared her legally insane because of her grief.  The group is accompanied by Thomas Hammond, a young military man who comes rom a long military family, and Lily, a nurse assigned to the group.
      As different as the women are, they have all lost their sons, and must grapple with feelings of what did they die for.  There is reference to the Depression and a possible second world war coming. 
They meet a writer, who has been badly injured in the war and must wear a face mask.   The women find out more about their sons lives, themselves,  and each other on the trip.  There are good descriptions of ordinary women being exposed to travel, new events, and worlds they had never experienced, while dealing with their grief.   The author found a great entry in the aftermath of World War I, and poses questions about patriotism and the waste of human lives in war.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Fiction Titles

New fiction titles are continually selected and arrive on our library shelves.  I will be reviewing several new books that you might want to read.

What is Visible by Kimberly Elkins, published in 2014.

The book is based on the real life story of Laura Bridgman, who lived in the 1800's.  She contracted scarlet fever at age 2, and was no longer able to see, hear, smell or taste.  When she was seven, she was taken to the Perkins Institute in Boston, to determine what a child with her disibilities could learn.  Dr. Howe taught her to write with her fingers, on the palm of a hand, and she learned to read, and write on a board.  She becomes very attached to Dr. Howe, and he favors her and lets her stay in his house, until he marries a woman named Julia.  He and Julia go to India for a year, and come back with a child.  Laura is no longer as special.

A woman, Sarah White,  is hired to be her companion, and teach her.  Laura becomes very attached to Sarah, and when Sarah is being courted by Mr. Boyd, Laura thinks he is courting her.  She is devasted when Sarah leaves, and marries Mr. Boyd.  The Boyds live on one of the Hawaiian Islands for several years, and she is very subdued when she returns.  It turns out that her husband had syphillis.  She becomes ill later in life, and ends up in an asylum.  It is never clear if she got syphillis, or this was from the depression she had dealt with all her life.  When Sarah leaves, a young Irish woman named Kate is hired to help Cook, and also to spend time with Laura. Kate becomes pregnant by an unnamed man, and has to leave. 

 Julia is portrayed as a very bright, intelligent woman who needed more intellectual stimulation than she was getting in her marriage.  She travels abroad for a while, and Dr. Howe is threatened when she has a friendship with a poet.
Dr. Howe spends less and less time with Laura as she becomes an adult.  He is frustrated that she has her own ideas about philosophy, religion, slavery and abolitionists.  This parallels his relationship with his wife.  He is against her writing and publishing her own poetry, and establishing her own identity.  Laura lives a long life, but was restricted in so many ways, in addition to her physical disabilities.  A very interesting, true story about a handicapped woman who preceeded Helen Keller.

The Arsonist by Sue Miller, published in 2014

Sue Miller writes another very good book.  Frankie Rowley returns home to New Hampshire after working for 15 years in Africa.  She feels she doesn’t belong anywhere.  She stays in the summer home of her parents, who have just moved permanently to their summer home in a small village in Pomeroy.  Frankie remembers summers growing up here, when, she was a summer resident.  Now she is living here during the year.  Her sister Liz and family are building a family home nearby.  When Frankie arrives she sees that her parents, both retired professors, are living a very different life.  Her father, Alfie, seems to have Alzheimer’s and her mother is his caretaker.  Her father has times of lucidity and times of strong confusion.   Frankie moves into her sister’s house, which is half built, while the family is away.  The book focuses on a number of arsons, that first occur  before the summer residents arrive in June.  Then the fires begin while residents are in the town or in their house.   Meanwhile, Frankie is falling in love with Bud, the owner of the newspaper who has left Washington D.C. to buy the local newspaper, and write the news, and live in a small town.  Frankie doesn’t know if she wants to go to N.Y. to work, or stay.   She is torn between her love for Bud and her need to travel and work abroad.  The book has several themes going on -- Alzheimer’s, and the devastation to a very intelligent man and his family;  Fear in the community when arson begins, and how relationships change as people  become suspicious of each other;  Frankie's difficulty determining what she wants in life,what feels meaningful to her, and where she feels she needs to be;  These feelings mixed in with the feeling of not belonging anywere, and leftover feelings from childhood about parents.    This is also a love story, focusing on the difficulty of making a commitment and understanding each other’s needs.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014


As you walk upstairs in the library, you will see two displays on the landing.  When you are upstairs, you will see three tables of displays.  Librarians change these displays regularly to introduce you to a variety of fiction or nonfiction.  Right now, our five displays are:

1.  Vacationing or Staycationing with kids.  Are you looking for crafts, camp games, travel books, fun activities to do with kids?  Look on the first display on the landing.  You will find lots of ideas for kids of all ages.

2.  New Nonfiction in 2014.  The library purchases many nonfiction books each year, ranging from how to books, biographies, cookbooks, history, finance, religion, parenting, crafts,  travel, etc.  Take a look and find something new.

3.  Book to Read in the Dark with a Flashlight.  The flashlight is not because you are a kid and you mother told you to turn out the light and go to sleep.  The flashlight is because these stories are scary!
Written by traditional authors you may have read before and new authors, these books will keep you up at night.

4.  Coming of Age Stories.  These fiction titles contain some classic titles and many new books that you may not have read before.  Some take place in areas of the U.S. and some are set in other countries.  These stories are great for a good summer read.

5.  Graduation is not the End, it is the Beginning.  You or someone in your family has graduated.
What's next?   Higher education, or a job?  Graduates and their parents are all affected by this milestone.  Look at this display for some ideas and guidance.

Do you like a particular author and wish you could find similar authors?  Do you like a particular genre of fiction, or do you like novels set in a particular place.  Try Novelist, the readers advisory database that you can access in the library or at home.  You can click on Novelist when you are at the library catalog page.  Database are listed on the right had side of the page.  You can find book suggestions for adults and children.  Also, if you are in the library or contact us,  we are always happy
to suggest books.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Winners of the 2014, 26th Annual Minnesota Book Awards

The winners of the Minnesota Book awards were announced at a gala at the St. Paul Depot on April 5. As a Minnesota Book Awards judge, I was one of the  record-breaking 960 people attending this exciting event.  John Moe, author and Minnesota Public Radio host of “Wits, ” emceed.  
Children’s Literature
 David LaRochelle and Mike WohnoutkaMoo!
When Cow gets her hooves on the farmer’s car, she takes it for a wild ride. Using just one word (well, maybe two), this book will have readers laughing one moment and on the edge of their seats the next. LaRochelle is a previous Minnesota Book Award winner and lives in White Bear Lake. Wohnoutka has illustrated books for Random House, Dutton Children’s Books, and more – this is his first Book Award.
General Nonfiction
Jack El-HaiThe Nazi and the Psychiatrist: Hermann Göring, Dr. Douglas M. Kelley and a Fatal Meeting of Minds at the End of WWII
El-Hai uncovers the remarkable relationship between army psychiatrist Captain Douglas M. Kelley and the elite of the captured Nazi regime, particularly Hermann Göring. El-Hai is the MN Book Award winning author of The Lobotomist.
Genre Fiction
 William Kent KruegerTamarack County
While investigating a woman’s disappearance, Cork O’Connor and his family are pulled into a deadly series of events which may have a connection to a murder more than twenty years old – a case where Cork was the deputy in charge. Krueger is the author of twelve previous Cork O’Connor mysteries and this is his fifth Minnesota Book Award.  Krueger has spoken several times at the Northfield Public Library, and is a favorite among Northfield readers.
Memoir & Creative Nonfiction,
 Melanie HoffertPrairie Silence
Stories about returning home and exploring abandoned towns are woven into a coming-of-age tale about falling in love, making peace with faith, and belonging to a place where neighbors are as close as blood but are often unable to share their deepest truths. Hoffert holds an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University.
 Kristin MakholmModern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison
This beautiful book, co-written with W. Jackson Rushing, III, showcases Chippewa artist Morrison’s work while also exploring the artist’s identity as a modernist within the broader context of twentieth-century American and Native American art. Makholm is Executive Director of the Minnesota Museum of American Art.
Novel & Short Story
 Ethan RutherfordThe Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories  
The strange, imaginative, and refreshingly original stories in Rutherford’s debut collection explore the ways in which we experience the world: as it is, could be, and all that lies between. Rutherford‘s fiction has appeared in Ploughshares, American Short Fiction, and The Best American Short Stories.
 Matt RasmussenBlack Aperture
In his moving debut collection, a finalist for the National Book Award, Rasmussen faces the tragedy of his brother’s suicide, refusing to focus on the expected pathos, blurring the edge between grief and humor. Rasmussen is a founding coeditor of Birds LLC, a small independent poetry press, and teaches at Gustavus Adolphus College.
Young People’s Literature
 Carrie MesrobianSex & Violence  
After an assault that leaves seventeen-year-old Evan scarred inside and out, he and his father retreat to the family cabin in rural Minnesota—which may offer him his best shot at making sense of his life again. Mesrobian teaches at the Loft Literary Center. This is her first book.
Book Artist Award
 Fred Hagstrom – a local artist, and distinguished professor of art at Carleton College since 1984

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27, 2014
Science fiction and fantasy blog: Dystopias
Over the past five years many dystopia themed novels have been published making it one of the most popular speculative fiction subgenres with mainstream fiction readers.  This blog will provide a brief introduction to the dystopian novel for adults.
Thomas More’s book Utopia was published in 1516.  Now considered a foundational text in philosophy and political science, the novel added the word utopia to the English lexicon as well as a labeled literary genre.
The opposite of a utopian society is a dystopian society.  Dystopias are ruled by an elite group with a private agenda that is cloaked in euphemism and lies.  The controlling strata maintain rule thorough the use of coercion or conditioning and regulate almost all aspects of an individual’s existence including daily routine, career and family.  Crowd control and maintaining the status quo are the main concern of the power elite.  As long as the oppressors believe they are able to maintain social order by exercising their authority Individuals within the oppressed population are safe as long as they remain anonymous.
In dystopian works, dissension by an individual or group reveal a rift that exists within their repressive society as it is, and as it should or could be.  Divisive events give rise to an awakening by the oppressed of the injustice of their world, the lack of human rights therein and lead to a further flowering of the spirit of individualism by those being controlled.

Equally as significant in the dystopian novel is the implicit understanding that there is no guarantee of a happy ending for either the society or the individuals within it.  The message contained within the unfolding story arc is more important. 
What are the characteristics of a “good” dystopian novel for teens and adults?

1.            A setting that is vividly described and almost becomes a character in itself.
2.            Individuals or forces in charge with a legitimate reason for being as they are.
3.            Protagonists shaped by their environment and situations.
4.            A conclusion that reflects the dire circumstances.  While a feeling of hope and measured optimism is good, the protagonists may not escape unscathed and may face insurmountable obstacles. 
The Hunger Games has been a successful crossover novel, and an increasing number of dystopian works have been written for young adults but appeal to readers of all ages.  But while the “coming- of- age” subtext is a core characteristic of dystopian novels for teens, it may be absent in novels written for an adult audience.
    Below is a list of dystopian novels both new and old readers of this speculative fiction subgenre may enjoy.  All o f these works are in the Northfield Library.  There are many more dystopian titles and available through Interlibrary Loan.  Contact the Northfield Public Library Adult Services desk if you are interested in additional titles.

1.       Feed by M.T. Anderson.  Cambridge, MA:  Candlewick Press, 2002.  -  Northfield YA AND

2.       The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  NY: Everyman’s Library, 2006 – Northfield FIC

3.       MadAddam:  A Novel by Margaret Atwod.  NY: Nan A. Talese/Doubleday, 2013 - Northfield FIC

4.       Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.  NY: Nan A. Talese, 2003 – Northfield FIC

5.       Year of the Flood: A Novel by Margaret Atwood NY: Nan A. Talese, 2009 – Northfield FIC

6.       Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury NY: Simon & Schuster, 2003 - Northfield SCIFI

7.       The Postman by David Brin.  New York, Bantam, 1985. – Northfield SCIFI

8.       Armageddon’s Children by Terry Brooks.  NY: Del Ray, 2006 – Northfield SCIFI

9.       Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner. Cambridge, MA: R. Bentley, c1968, 1979 – Northfield SCIFI

10.   Veracity by Laura Bynum. NY: Pocket Books, 2010 – Northfield SCIFI

11.   A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. NY:  Norton. 1962 – Northfield FIC

12.   The Passage: A Novel by Justin Cronin.  New York: Ballantine Books, 2010.  Northfield SCIFI

13.   The Twelve: A Novel by Justin Cronin.  New York, Ballatine Books, 2012.  Northfield SCIFI

14.   Neuromancer by William Gibson. NY:  Ace Books, 1984.  Northfield SCIFI

15.   The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway.  New York: Alfred Knopf, 2008.  Northfield SCIFI

16.   The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist.  Translated by Marlaine Delargy.  NY:  Other Press, 2008.   Northfield FIC

17.   Wool by Hugh Howey. London, Century, 2013.  Northfield SCIFI

18.   Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. New York, London: Harper & Bros. 19- Northfield FIC

19.   Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro.  New York: Alfred Knopf, 2005.  Northfield FIC

20.   The Children of Men by P. D. James. NY: A.A. Knopf, 1992. Northfield FIC

21.   The Stand by Stephen King.  New York:  Doubleday, 1990 NOR FIC

22.   The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. Le Guin.  New York: Harper & Row, 1974 NOR SCIFI

23.   Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell. NY: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2004. NOR FIC

24.   Animal Farm: A Fairy Story by George Orwell.  Fiftieth Anniversary Edition.  NY:  Signet Class, 1996.  NOR FIC

25.   1984 by George Orwell. NY: Signet Class, c1991.  NOR FIC

26.   Atlas Shrugged of Ayn Rand. NY: Random House, 1957 NOR FIC

27.   Blindness by Jose Sarmago.  Translated by Jose Pontiero.  NY: Harcourt, Brace & Company. 1997.  NOR FIC

28.   Dies the Fire by S. M. Stirling.  NY:  New American Library, 2004. NOR SCIFI

29.   Battle Royale: The Novel by Koushun Takami.  Translated by Yuji Oniki.  San Francisco: Haikasoru, 2009.  NOR SCIFI
30.   The Traveler by John Twelve Hawks. NY: Doubleday, 2005 NOR FIC

31.   The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. Mahwah, NJ:  Watermill Classic, 1980.  NOR SCIFI

32.   Julian Comstock: A Story of 22nd Century America by Robert Charles Wilson.  NY:  Tor Books, 2009. NOR SCIFI
Other dystopian themed titles may be found by consulting Ebsco Novelist.  Novelist is a fiction database that provides subject access, reviews, read-a-likes, book discussion guides, annotations and much more for over 125,000 fiction titles.  Book links within Novelist allow you to search the holdings of the Northfield and SELCO libraries.
Novelist is available through the Northfield Public Library website.  To locate it Click E-Library then NPL’s Electronic Resources.  Scroll down to Ebsco Novelist.  You will need to enter your Northfield Public Library card number to use this database.  The hyperlink below will also allow you access to the website
Jamie Stanley
March 2014