Horror Fiction

One can’t miss the signs – pumpkins perch on doorsteps, zombies stalk front yards, witches fly from porches and faceless ghosts dangle from trees. In my neighborhood, an eight foot purple ghoul with glowing green eyes hunches menacingly over a field of cardboard gravestones.  Halloween is approaching.

There’s no better place to celebrate Halloween than in New England. The region has a long and extensive history of the mysterious and unexplained, reaching as far back as the 1692 witch trials in Salem. New England is full of crumbling cemeteries, haunted inns, ghost ships, abandoned settlements and haunted bridges. Authors of horror stories such as H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King most certainly have taken inspiration from their New England backgrounds to create tales of the macabre and fantastical.

The horror fiction that has been so popularized by Lovecraft and King has ancient origins with roots in folklore and religious traditions that stretch back to pre-Roman times. Stories that focus on death, the afterlife, evil and the demonic have been common for centuries in many countries and cultures. The vampire, for example, can be traced all the way back to ancient Mesopotamia, while some scholars believe the werewolf made its debut in The Epic of Gilgamesh, the oldest known work of written literature.

Horror fiction blossomed in the nineteenth century with the publication of Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson and Dracula by Bram Stoker. Edgar Allan Poe contributed to the genre with short stories such as The Tell-Tale Heart and The Pit and the Pendulum. Horror fiction continues to flourish and thrive today with writers such as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, Anne Rice, Peter Straub and many others.

What makes horror stories so enduring and so appealing? The simple answer would be that people enjoy it for the thrill of being scared. H.P. Lovecraft explained it best, “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest fear is fear of the unknown.”  Reading horror fiction is like a roller coaster ride with all its thrills, chills and heart-stopping moments. It offers plot twists, cliff hangers, false leads and glimpses into an eerie world of the unknown and unexplained. Horror fiction reminds us that the world may not always be as safe as it seems. It forces us to confront ideas and images we’d rather not think about. And, just as we experience exhilarating relief as we step off the roller coaster, as we close the pages of the horror story, we revel in the realization that we, as least, are still alive and unharmed.

Horror fiction is on display this month at the library. Browse the collection, make a selection and prepare yourself for an electrifying experience. Just remember to read with the lights on.

Posted in Readers

October is “Jumping!”

Whenever I see friends, I am invariably asked, “What’s going on at the library?” It’s a casual and expected question to which I usually give a casual and expected response. Not long ago, I was asked the question, and I responded that the library was “really jumping.” Thereupon my friends burst out laughing. The idea of a library “jumping” was just too much for them. Their picture of a library was of a quiet, staid place where nothing much happened but the settling of dust on library shelves. I had the pleasure of telling them that things have changed in libraries; they’ve changed a lot.

As an example of how libraries have changed and become the hub of activity, take a look at our October calendar. You’ll find the traditional morning story times, preschool children’s programs and afternoon book clubs, but you’ll also find crafts, cooking, art instruction, STEM workshops, technology updates and exhibits. Yes, we have books, but we also have opportunities for you to engage in active learning and to connect with others who share your ideas and interests. Here is a closer look at this month’s happenings.

The month begins with our new Men’s Only Book Club, one of four book clubs the library sponsors each month.  A discussion of the college application process is the topic of the Teen Advisory Group meeting later in the month. We get crafty with a hands-on workshop for those who enjoy crafts. This month the group is learning the technique of reverse glass painting, a traditional folk art. The Cooking Club meets the first Monday night of each month. It’s like a book club only instead of a novel, members meet to discuss recipes, and enjoy each other’s company. Each month they share a potluck meal prepared from the recipes they’ve chosen. This month they are using recipes from family traditions.

If you’re thinking of canceling your cable service and moving to streaming, join us for Cutting the Cord, a workshop to learn the pros and cons of this new technology. Want to learn how to paint like the masters? Then, our Sunday afternoon art instruction workshop might interest you.

In October we begin a new series of book discussions for children and adults, Read to Together, and host a Pokemon Club for kids on Sunday afternoon. Everyone can build a vibrabot with Coyle Cassidy engineering students at a STEM workshop on a Saturday morning.

As you can see, the library offers something for every age and interest. It really is “jumping!’ For more information about these programs and other activities at the library during October, call the library at 508-823-1344, visit the library’s webpage, raynhampubliclibrary.org, or drop-by the library and pick-up a monthly calendar. The library is open Monday through Wednesday, 10:00 to 8:00, Thursday 10:00 to 2:00, Friday, 10:00 to 5:00, Saturday, 10:00 – 2:00 and Sundays 12 noon to 4:00 October through May.

Posted in Children, Readers, Services

Reflect and Connect

Although we celebrate new beginnings in January each year, September has always felt more like beginning anew to me. Summer has ended, children are back in school, days are getting visibly shorter and daily life takes on a new rhythm. The easy going attitude of summer is replaced with more focused resolve. With a shift in the seasons, comes a shift in outlook. We’re eager to take on new challenges, explore new interests and pursue new pastimes. It’s no different at the library. September brings a new schedule of programs and special events, none more special that our book discussion groups.

Book discussion groups or book clubs are more popular than ever. By some estimates, more than five million people in this country sit down together every few weeks to discuss what they’ve been reading. They gather in living rooms, local libraries, community centers, church basements, bookstores and bars in communities large and small from Boston to Seattle.

There are discussion groups for every gender, interest and age. There are book clubs for women, men, couples, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, grandparents and grandchildren, teens and tweens. There are single-author groups – think Jane Austen – and single genre groups, such as of history, romance, science fiction, or mystery. There are book clubs you don’t even have to leave the house to join. For those who prefer online clubs, you’ll find dozens of online books clubs on GoodReads, including groups for baseball, science fiction and the paranormal. Whatever your inclination, there will be a like-minded group of people somewhere who share your enthusiasm. We have to ask, what is the appeal?

The appeal of the book discussion group can be described in two words, reflection and connection. You hear different points of view that either challenge or confirm your own thinking, helping to create layers of understanding that might otherwise be missed. Before voicing your opinion, you must take time to reflect on your understanding of the author’s characters and plot. Part of that reflection is connecting your own experiences to the story – to validate or reject the story’s authenticity.

Through discussion we not only connect to the story, but to each other. Book clubs are wonderful places to meet new friends. It’s a place where honesty and ideas are valued. It’s a place for self-expression and sharing. It’s a place for friendship, caring, laughter and fun. If this sounds appealing, consider joining one of the book discussion groups that the library sponsors. Groups meet on the first and second Wednesdays of each month at 1:00 or the second Tuesday at 6:30. A Men’s Only Book Club meets on the first Tuesday evening and a Read Together Book Group for children, ages 8 to 12 meets on the second Sunday afternoon. For more information, contact the library at 508-823-1344.

Posted in Readers, Services

Summer at the Library

Summer has officially arrived, and at the public library, we couldn’t be happier. Summer is a special time at the library, a time when children fill the building with excited voices and sounds of laughter. The Children’s Room overflows with youthful energy and enthusiasm. Children love to read; they love to come to the library, and we love that they come.

Some may wonder about the importance of reading for children today. After all, so much of learning and entertainment involves looking at a screen, it is tempting to think that reading doesn’t matter as much as it used to. It seems so much easier to watch the movie than to read the book. There are actually a number of good reasons why children – and all of us – should read. Here are just a few for you to consider.

Reading exercises our brains. It’s a complex mental task that involves strengthening and building brain connections. Reading gives us insight into the world around us – about people, places and events outside our own experience, and helps to build background knowledge. Reading develops our imagination, helps to develop empathy, improves our ability to concentrate and enriches our vocabulary. Reading also relaxes the body and calms the mind, but, most importantly, reading is simply fun.

Summer reading programs in public libraries provide quality learning activities that are not only fun, but also encourage some of the best techniques identified by research as being important to the reading process. Research shows that free, voluntary reading is essential to helping kids become better readers, writers, and spellers. Children read more when they can choose materials based on their own interests. Self-selection of reading materials is an extremely important factor in motivating struggling readers, and is a key component of our summer library program.

This summer we’re putting lots of fun into reading for both kids and adults. Our Universe of Stories program offers reading incentives, weekly activities, movies, special events and tickets to our annual ice cream social. We’ll explore the night sky with the Museum of Science traveling planetarium, learn to play the ukulele, be amazed by floating beach balls with Mad Science, and laugh along with ventriloquist Kevin Driscoll and his dummies. Celebrate the summer with us. Register for reading at the Raynham Public Library. For more information, visit our Summer at the Library page on our website raynhampubliclibrary.org, or visit the library.

Posted in Children, Readers, Services

Summer is for Reading!

Summer is almost here! You can soon take life a little easier – slow down, relax, slip into those comfy flip-flops and enjoy all that summer has to offer, whether it’s lounging by the pool, dozing in the hammock or sunning at the beach. Wherever you go, go prepared. Sunscreen is a must. Bottles of water essential, and never forget to bring a book.

As far as the library is concerned, the best part of summer isn’t the weather, the family cookouts or the time spent hanging out with friends. The best part of summer is all that time for reading! Long, lazy, sun-filled days are perfect for catching up on the latest bestsellers or favorite authors.

Publishers work overtime to get their books in print before the summer demand peeks, so our shelves are full of newly published titles – from literary debuts to new works from well-known authors. This summer’s books are especially outstanding. There are nail-biting suspense novels, pulse-pounding thrillers, tender romance novels, eerie true-crime stories, intriguing mysteries and historical fiction to take you to faraway times and places.

So here’s your chance to get away from it all this summer by getting into a book.

Suspense: Cari Mora, by Thomas Harris. Twenty-five million dollars in cartel gold lies hidden beneath a mansion on the Miami Beach waterfront, protected by the caretaker of the house, Cari Mora. As ruthless men close in on the treasure, Cari Mora shows surprising skills in her determination to survive. From the creator of Hannibal Lecter and The Silence of the Lambs, this is a story of evil, greed, and the consequences of dark obsession.

Fiction: Searching for Sylvie Lee, by Jean Kwok. Kwok has created a poignant and suspenseful drama that untangles the complicated ties binding three women, two sisters and their mother, in one Chinese immigrant family. When the eldest daughter disappears a series of family secrets emerge.

Romance: The Bride Test, by Helen Hoang. This is a charming, quirky love story set between a mixed-race girl from the slums of Ho Chi Minh City and an autistic young man whose mother is determined to find him a bride. Hoang shows that love can cross international borders as well as all boundaries of the heart.

True Crime: The Five: the untold lives of the women killed by Jack the Ripper, by Hallie Rubenhold. The author has thoroughly researched the lives of the five women murdered by Jack the Ripper in 1888 to present a revealing look at Victorian England, at the poverty of the time and at the misfortune of being born a woman.

Mystery: Death Below Stairs, by Jennifer Ashley. Young cook Kat Holloway takes a position in a Mayfair mansion and soon finds herself immersed in the odd household of Lord Rankin. When her assistant is murdered, Kat and footman, Daniel, set out to undercover the culprit. A light and entertaining read.

Historical Fiction: Mistress of the Ritz, by Melanie Benjamin. A captivating novel based on the story of the extraordinary real-life American woman who secretly worked for the French Resistance during World War II while playing hostess to the invading Germans at the iconic Hotel Ritz in Paris. This is another appealing story from the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator’s Wife and The Swans of Fifth Avenue.

Need more suggestions? Pick-up a copy of the BookPage magazine for news of the latest titles. Free copies are available in the library’s front lobby. Enjoy the summer

Posted in Readers

A “Third Place”

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. You also can’t judge a library’s value to the community by simply the books on its shelf. Last week’s Friends of the Library’s Murder Mystery Dinner is a perfect example of community value added far beyond library books.

The dinner was the culmination of this year’s community read, A Little Mystery. The Friends’ group sponsors the read every year with a different book and theme. This year’s theme led naturally to the murder mystery dinner. More than 100 of us gathered at the Raynham Park Club to enjoy dinner and a little murder a la carte. For those of us caught up in the moment of this shared experience, it felt like a “village” event – that wonderful feeling of community and sharing that comes along all too infrequently.  It was a moment that gave me cause to reflect on how the public library contributes to the feeling of community.

Sociologist Ray Oldenburg has coined the term “third places” to identify those places in the community outside of home (“first place”) and work (“second place”). Third places refer to locations where people spend time, enjoy themselves, exchange ideas and build relationships. They are the informal spaces that are often mainstays in a neighborhood, places where both random and intentional in-person relationships are made. It might be a barbershop, church, local pub, golf course or gym. It might be the public library.

Being a “third place” gives us the opportunity to know our users, and for them to get to know others in the community. We’d all like to think we live in a place where people care about others. Life is a lot easier when you are part of a network of friends and family, a community, a neighborhood. If you have a library card, then you are part of the community in a unique way – you are part of a community of library users. We care about our users and offer them opportunities to connect with each other – whether it’s through a summer reading program, a storytime, a book club, a program on a shared interest, a community read, or a murder mystery dinner. We care about our users becoming active learners and intellectually curious, independent adults, and we offer materials and services to support that end.

The “third place” public library contributes to the community in a way that enriches the common good, building and strengthening the bonds that tie us together – creating a place we all want to live in.

Posted in Services

Resistance Fiction

Next year will mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II, and as the 2020 dates approach, publishers are eager to capitalize on the public’s interest. Dozens of books have already been published, with dozens more soon to be published, to commemorate the war and its close. Along with the expected non-fiction titles recounting these world-changing events are an abundance of novels which seek to portray the emotional side of the turmoil and chaos that engulfed the world.

These are not, however, novels that rely solely on tears, tragedy and self-sacrifice to carry the plot. These novels are packed with strong female characters and intricate story lines that celebrate the courage and devotion demonstrated by women surviving in the harshest of circumstances – women who not only survived, but who actively resisted their oppressors. There are so many of these novels being published that it’s created a totally new sub-genre of historical fiction – Resistance Fiction.

Set primarily in France where the resistance movement was strong, these novels combine adventure, romance, intrigue, cunning and courage to make thrilling, entertaining and satisfying reading. There is something that fascinates us about these novels. Is it the danger, the intense emotion, the intrigue? Or, is it the combination of tremendous risk and passionate romance?  If you enjoy historical fiction, you’re sure to enjoy reading Resistance Fiction. Here are a few titles we recommend.

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr, tells a multi-layered story centered on a young blind woman who gets gradually drawn into the French Resistance. This award winning novel speaks powerfully to the human connections that transcend the forces that divide men and nations. The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pan Jenoff, is a story inspired by true events of friendship and courage among a handpicked group of British female spies sent to France by a top secret government division during WWII. Mistress of the Ritz, by Melanie Benjamin, is based on the story of the extraordinary real-life American woman who secretly worked for the French Resistance during World War II, while playing hostess to the invading Germans at the iconic Hotel Ritz in Paris. Kristin Hannah’s, The Nightingale, has touched readers with the story of two sisters who struggle to maintain family under Nazi occupation and deprivation.

Looking for more titles? Check-out the Resistance Fiction book display and pick-up a copy of the book list at the library.

Posted in Readers