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Monday, August 24, 2015



The Contemporary Women Writers Book Group began in January 2005 and has been meeting monthly for over 10 years.   The book group is led by me,  Joan Ennis, Reference Librarian,  at the Northfield Public Library.  We meet the third Tuesday of the month, at 7:00 pm  We usually meet in the library meeting room, but we are temporarily meeting at All Saints Church on the corner of Washington and 5th Street until the library is reopens after construction.  About ten members were the first members of the group, many of whom are still vital members.  Over the years, many new members have joined.  We usually have eight to ten people at a meeting.  Some members come very regularly and some attend sporadically, depending on other events in their busy schedule.
We select books with enough copies in the SELCO system for the group.  I will request copies for members if they ask me, or members can request their own copies.

How do we select titles?  Everyone is encouraged to suggest titles.  For each suggestion, I check the number of copies available.  I email a list of suggestions to all members and ask for feedback, and then we discuss titles at a meeting.
We begin each meeting with  background material on the author and the book, and begin the discussion.  Everyone contributes to the discussion. 
We meet every month, and in December, we have a holiday gathering at a member's home.
A few years ago we began a fun activity.  For each book we read, we think of what the main characters would want for a holiday gift!  It's a fun way to review the books for the year.

Last week we choose titles for the next twelve months.  The titles are:

September 2015   The Wives of Los Alamos by TaraShea Nesbit
October 2015       A Man Called Ove  by Fredrik Backman
November 2015   All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
December 2015   Holiday gathering
January 2016       The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson
February 2016     The Children Act by Ian McEwan
March 2016         A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren
April 2016           Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
May 2016            To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
June 2016            The Republic of Imagination: America in Three Books by Azar Nafisi
July 2016             The Turtle Warriors by Mary Relindes Ellis
August 2016        The Arsonist by Sue Miller.

The group is ALWAYS open to new members.  If you have questions about the group or want to be on the email list, please contact me at 645-1802, or

Monday, August 17, 2015



Two weeks ago I wrote that I was glad that Go Set A Watchman was published, although I had not yet read the book.  I had read a number of reviews stating that maybe the book by Harper Lee should not have been published, and To Kill a Mockingbird, a classic published 55 years ago, should stand as her only published work.
I just finished reading Go Set a Watchman and I feel strongly that the book should have been published.  It is an excellent book on its own.  Go Set a Watchman is set in 1955, at the time  it was written.  Jean Louise returns to Maycomb, Alabama from New York to visit her family.  She has always flown, but this year she takes the train, partly because she doesn't want her father to drive to the airport.  It will be much easier for her father to pick her up at the train station, instead of the airport. Atticus has rheumatoid arthritis and it is hard for him to drive and get around.  We see Atticus' physical frailty at the beginning of the book, and by the end, we see his emotional and spiritual frailties.
Jean Louise has a difficult time when she returns home.  The South has changed.  More importantly, she sees the flaws in the family and friends she grew up with and thought she knew well.  She sees prejudice in the South that she didn't understand before.  Jean Louise deals with her discomfort by remembering times and events in her past when she felt happy and safe.  Thus, the novel gives flashbacks to Jean Louise' childhood.
Harper Lee wrote this novel in the mid 1950's, at the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.
I think her novel was ahead of its time for the South.  The author, and therefore Jean Louise,  understand the discrimination of and prejudice against the black population that many southerners consider the norm.  When the book was accepted by a publisher in 1957, Harper Lee was told to rewrite it in Scout's past, from her point of view.  Thus, To Kill a Mockingbird was written, which became a bestseller and has become a classic.  To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930's.
I am speculating that a book set in the South during the 1930's was easier for the public to accept in the 1950's  than a book set in the current turbulent times in the South. 
Why did Harper Lee chose to publish Go Set A Watchman after all these years?  We will probably never know the answer to that question.  Why did she not publish it sooner?  Perhaps she felt that this book could never reach the popularity and acclaim of To Kill a Mockingbird, especially after it was made into a Academy Award winning movie.  Perhaps she didn't want to change the image of Atticus Finch who became a classic American icon, especially after he was played by Gregory Peck in the movie.  Go Set a Watchman shows Atticus as a complete human being with strengths and faults.
I am glad the it was published this year.  It will change the teaching of To Kill a Mockingbird and the understanding of Jean Louise and Atticus.
Read the book and let me know what you think!


Thursday, August 6, 2015


By now, most of you are aware that the library is temporarily located on the second floor of City Hall, 801 Washington St.  After a long planning process, remodeling of our Northfield Carnegie Library should begin soon.  During the week of July 6, the library staff moved over 10,000 items to our interim location at City Hall.  How did we decide what to take?  What happened to all the other books, dvd's, cd;s, etc?

Librarians responsible for each area of the library looked at how often materials went out and how accessible the books, etc. were at other libraries.  We moved most of the new materials we had on the shelves.  We picked a variety of materials to appeal to a wide variety of patron interests.  We were not able to take very many titles by specific authors.  Hopefully, a title by an author will remind you that you can interlibrary loan other titles by that author.  It was difficult to leave so many books and other materials behind, but they will be welcomed by patrons when we reopen the library next spring!

What happened to all the other materials?  They were carefully packed by staff and volunteers, and being stored in Dundas in a climate controlled environment.

Our small library at City Hall has been very busy since opening on July 13.  We are continuing to buy new books, so our collection at City Hall will be growing.  We have six public computers, which are busy during most of the day.  Wifi is available.    We have some chairs for sitting and reading newspapers, magazines, or a book.   We have juvenile and adult materials. You can return materials by dropping them in the large return box in front of City Hall, or returning them upstairs.   If you don't find what you want, please ask.   Our staff is available to help and we will request materials from other libraries.


     Harper Lee’s newest release, Go Set a Watchman, is the most talked about book this summer. Go Set a Watchman, the first book Harper Lee wrote, was rejected when she submitted it to her               publisher in 1957.   The publisher asked that Lee rewrite her book and focus on Scout’s childhood. 

     She then wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960 which has become  an American classic.  She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the novel in 1961.                                                                               
I have not yet read Go Set a Watchman, and am waiting eagerly for when my name comes up on the library request list!  However, I have read a number of articles since its release on July 14.  While To Kill a Mockingbird is set in the 1930’s, Go Set a Watchman is set in 1955, which was the beginning of the Civil Rights movement and awareness of the Jim Crow laws.  In 1954, with Brown vs. Board of Education, the Supreme Court unanimously voted to mandate integrated schools.  Jean Louise (Scout) returns to her hometown of Maycomb after living in New York.  Her father, Atticus, is now 72 years old.  She is shocked to find out that her father is not supportive of the black community integrating the schools and the community.  The book shows that Atticus is not simply the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird.  He is a more complex character, and some critics say he is a disappointment, compared to the original book.

I have read articles that suggest that Go Set a Watchman should not have been published.  There was an inquiry this year concerning Harper Lee’s mental fitness to decide on the publication.  The author is now 88 years old and lives in an assisted living home in Monroeville, Alabama.  She was determined to be mentally able to decide for herself that the novel should be published.  Some critics feel that the new novel changes our understanding of Atticus and the value of To Kill a Mockingbird, which is a standard required read in most American high schools.  Atticus Finch confronted race in the 1930’s setting, in a book published in 1960.  In 1960, the nation was ready to look at the treatment of Blacks.     In Go Set a Watchman, finished in 1957, and set in 1955, Harper Lee wrote about race relations as they really were at the time.  The South was having a difficult time with integration.  Atticus Finch is not flawless, as he was in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Some critics believe that publishing Go Set a Watchman  tarnishes the image of Atticus Finch, and lessens To Kill a Mockingbird.  Some believe that future students will not be able to read and understand the classic in the same way.  Although I have not yet read Go Set a Watchman, I think publishing the novel is a positive decision.  It would have been a loss to the literary community if the manuscript had disappeared and never been available to readers and critics.  The novel reveals the author’s process as a writer, and her understanding of the 1950’s, as a time of trial and change in the South.  Hopefully the novel will not ruin future readers of To Kill a Mockingbird, but will give them more background information to consider and discuss. 




Friday, February 6, 2015


On Saturday, January 31, 2015, preliminary judges met at the Loft Literary Center to decide on four finalists for each book category.  Some judges needed to read 40 books for their category.
Each group had 3 judges and one facilitator.  I was a facilitator for the Minnesota category.
The finalist books will be sent to final judges, who will read them and meet at the Loft on Saturday, March 7.  The winning books will be announced at the Minnesota Book Awards gala event on Saturday, April 18.  Minnesota has many good authors.  It is an honor to have a book be chosen as a finalist.
The finalists are:

Children’s Literature




  • It’s an Orange Aardvark by Michael Hall (Greenwillow Books/HarperCollins Publishers
  • Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster by Mike Wohnoutka (Holiday House)
  • Water Can Be… by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Violeta Dabija (Millbrook Press/Lerner Publishing Group)
  • Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman and Rick Allen (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

General Nonfiction


  • Harriet Beecher Stowe: A Spiritual Life by Nancy Koester (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.)
  • My Grandfather’s Knocking Sticks: Ojibwe Family Life and Labor on the Reservation by Brenda J. Child (Minnesota Historical Society Press)
  • New Scenic Café: The Cookbook by Scott Graden with Arlene Anderson (New Scenic Café, Inc.)
  • Queer Clergy: A History of Gay and Lesbian Ministry in American Protestantism by R.W. Holmen (The Pilgrim Press)

Genre Fiction

  • Fallen Angel by Chuck Logan (Conquill Press)
  • The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens (Seventh Street Books/Prometheus Books)
  • The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen (Bethany House Publishers)
  • Strongwood: A Crime Dossier by Larry Millett (University of Minnesota Press)

Memoir & Creative Nonfiction

  • Love Imagined: A Mixed Race Memoir by Sherry Quan Lee (Modern History Press/Loving Healing Press)
  • Northern Orchards: Places Near the Dead by James Silas Rogers (North Star Press of St. Cloud)
  • Seeking the Cave: A Pilgrimage to Cold Mountain by James P. Lenfestey (Milkweed Editions)
  • Tailings: A Memoir by Kaethe Schwehn (Cascade Books/Wipf and Stock Publishers)


  • Amphibians and Reptiles in Minnesota by John J. Moriarty and Carol D. Hall (University of Minnesota Press)
  • Her Honor: Rosalie Wahl and the Minnesota Women’s Movement by Lori Sturdevant (Minnesota Historical Society Press)
  • Minnesota Farmers Market Cookbook: A Guide to Selecting and Preparing the Best Local Produce with Seasonal Recipes from Local Chefs and Farmers by Tricia Cornell (Voyageur Press)
  • Minnesota’s Own: Preserving Our Grand Homes by Larry Millett, photography by Matt Schmitt (Minnesota Historical Society Press)

Novel & Short Story


  • A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House)
  • In Reach by Pamela Carter Joern (University of Nebraska Press)
  • The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons by Heather A. Slomski (University of Iowa Press)
  • Stillwater by Nicole Helget (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)



  • Albedo by Kathleen Jesme (Ahsahta Press)
  • Dangerous Goods by Sean Hill (Milkweed Editions)
  • Soul Over Lightning by Ray Gonzalez (The University of Arizona Press)
  • This Way to the Sugar by Hieu Minh Nguyen (Write Bloody Publishing)

Young People’s Literature


  • Ambassador by William Alexander (Margaret K. McElderry Books/Simon & Schuster)
  • Leroy Ninker Saddles Up by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Chris Van Dusen (Candlewick Press)
  • West of the Moon by Margi Preus (Amulet Books/Abrams)
  • The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers/Algonquin
- See more at:

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Local author Donnita Rogers will return to the Northfield Public Library on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, at 7:00 pm and talk about her newest book, Fanning the Flames, book two of her Women of Beowulf series.

Drawing on her years of research and travels in Scandinavia, author and retired teacher Donnita Rogers will bring to life the women of the 6th century epic, Beowulf, and the related Saga of King Hrolf Kraki.

The elevated status of women in Norse culture will be compared and contrasted with the struggles of modern women for recognition and respect.

From her roots in rural Indiana, Donnita Lamb Rogers grew into a teacher, traveler and author. A lifelong passion for learning was fueled by her education at Earlham, a Quaker college, and the University of Minnesota, culminating in a PhD in English Literature. She adopted four children before beginning her teaching career in Texas, which included work at the University of Houston, Lone Star College and Kingwood High School, where she used drama and extensive student involvement to bring literature to life.

After retirement in 2001 she traveled the world, then began to research and write Faces in the Fire, a novel inspired by her teaching of the Old English epic, Beowulf. Five years were spent studying materials on Viking Age culture; a trip to Scandinavia offered such "on-site" experiences as crewing on a Viking ship replica in Denmark and climbing funeral mounds in Sweden, all to discover what life might have been like for women in sixth-century Scandinavia.  She and her partner Don divide their time among an island cabin in Canada, a river home in Texas, and a farmhouse near Northfield.

Book sales and signing will follow her presentation

The program is free and open to the public.  This program is part of the Northfield Public Library’s Hot Reads for Cold Nights adult winter reading program.



Hot Reads for Cold Nights returns to the Northfield Public Library this winter.  During the cold, snowy months of January and February, curl up and read some books and win prizes at the library!  Join the library Hot Reads program starting Monday, January 5, and read for prizes until Saturday, February 28.

After reading a book, each patron will fill out a slip with their name and phone number and a few lines describing the book.  The name and phone number section of the paper will be cut off and put in a fishbowl.  The comment section of each slip will be posted on the bulletin board downstairs, near the new books.  Patrons will be able to browse each other comments for ideas of new books.  From the names in the fishbowl, three winners will be drawn each week.  Each winner will receive a $5.00 gift certificate to a downtown business. This year, patrons who use the Northfield Senior Center will be able to sign up and drop their book slips at the Senior Center.  The completed slips will be posted at the library, and the participants will be included in the weekly drawings.  Several library programs are being planned for winter months.