Beyond the Bestsellers

Bestsellers come, and then, they go.  When first published they are raved about and read. The library can’t buy enough copies to meet the demand. Dozens of people wait patiently for their turn to read the latest James Patterson, John Grisham or Janet Evanovich. However, over a period of months, demand slows. Readers’ attention turns to yet another bestselling blockbuster while yesterday’s favorites are quietly forgotten – left to languish on the shelf. Many deserve to be forgotten, but there are just as many that deserve to be read beyond the flurry of their publication. Also deserving are the dozens of other wonderful books that are overlooked by the critics and never make the New York Times bestsellers list. Nothing saddens my heart more than seeing a favorite novel collecting dust on the shelf.

So in an effort to draw your attention to a few books that you may have overlooked, didn’t catch your eye in the first place, or you just missed, I offer these suggestions for your reading pleasure while you wait for that next bestseller. Be warned, these are not newly published, but books – at least to my mind – of enduring value.

First on my list is Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner, a novel that explores the mysteries of friendship. It’s the story of two couples, the joys and challenges of their marriages and enduring friendship and a life insulated within Ivy League’s walls. Called a “magnificently crafted story . . . brimming with wisdom,” Crossing to Safety, since its publication in 1987, has established itself as one of the greatest and most cherished American novels. It is a work of quiet majesty, deep compassion, and powerful insight into the alchemy of friendship and marriage.

A Manual for Cleaning Women, by Lucia Berlin, is another of my overlooked favorites. Written before Berlin’s death in 2004, but not published until 2015, A Manual for Cleaning Women compiles the best work of this little known short-story writer. With her trademark blend of humor and melancholy, Berlin crafts scenes from the everyday–uncovering moments of grace in the cafeterias and laundromats of the American Southwest, in the homes of the Northern California upper classes, and from the perspective of a cleaning woman alone in a hotel dining room in Mexico City. The women of Berlin’s stories are lost, but they are also strong, clever, and extraordinarily real.

For a complete change of pace, I recommend, Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons, published in 1932. The plot concerns the efforts of “a rational, bossy London heroine” to bring order and serenity to her rustic relations, the Starkadders, on their run-down Sussex farm. Cold Comfort Farm is the perfect comfort read. It is a wonderful blend of British charm, comic characters, and a clever young woman at the heart of it all.

These are only a few of the hidden treasures on the library’s shelves. Explore; discover. Don’t be afraid to venture from the tried and true. For reading suggestions, visit Readers’ Corner on our webpage, subscribe to a monthly book alert service from LibraryAware (links on our webpage), pick-up a copy of the monthly BookPage, or a copy of recommended monthly reading from LibraryReads. You’ll be surprised at what awaits you beyond the bestsellers.

Posted in Readers

Fall Book Sale

Fall in New England is a magical season. We are enchanted by the orange, yellow and gold landscape that surrounds us, and charmed by the plump harvest pumpkins and pots of colorful chrysanthemums that decorate doorsteps. The drone of leaf blowers provides a soft backdrop to our Saturday afternoons, and we delight in the crisp, cool days as we slip into sweaters and jackets. Our calendars are full of fall events – craft fairs, school open houses, church suppers – and we’re beginning to think about those holiday menus. But wait! Before we plunge head long into the holidays, there’s one more event that marks the season – the library’s Annual Fall Book Sale.

Libraries depend on book sales to help defray expenses. We are fortunate that our Friends of the Library host two sales each year – one in the fall and the other in the spring. Both events are important sources of income for the library. Funds are used to purchase museum and zoo passes and support our children’s summer reading program. Our Friends work long and hard to organize, sort and sell hundreds of items for each sale.

Generous donations are the key to a successful book sale. So now is the time to clean out that closet, organize those shelves and free yourself of excess clutter. The library happily accepts books, compact discs, videos, audiobooks, children’s books and paperbacks for the sale. Consider donating your items for this worthy cause. There are several reasons you should.

Book sales are a bargain. Library book sales make ownership of books affordable to everyone. You can spend a lot or spend a little and still go home with a bag full of books. Book sales promote recycling – much better for someone else to read the book than to discard it completely. Book sales promote a sense of community. By donating your items, you become part of the larger effort to support library service. Book sales are fun. Everyone loves to browse through tables loaded with books. Book sales raise money for the library in a satisfying way.

You never know what you’ll find – a new bestseller, an old favorite from your childhood, a book long out of print. The oft-told saying that “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is never truer than at a book sale. Discover your treasure at the library’s Fall Book Sale on Friday and Saturday, November 2nd and 3rd. Doors open at 10:00 am.


Posted in Readers

Prelude to War, 1919-1939

In the eleventh month, on the eleventh day, at the eleventh hour in 1918, the world powers brought an end to one of the most violent conflicts in the history of civilization. The Great War, involving most of Europe, Britain and its allies, Russia, Japan, the United States, Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria and others, saw the slaughter of more than 16 million people – military and civilian, the upheaval of empires, the transformation of borders, the political and economic destabilization of Europe, and contributed to a financial instability that caused worldwide economic collapse a decade later. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War, 1914-1918.

It was called the Great War and “the war to end all wars.” As we know now, it was not the war to end all wars. The Treaty of Versailles which held Germany and its allies financially responsible for damages laid the groundwork for the global war to come.  In the twenty year period that followed the Armistice, the world witnessed increasing turmoil in Europe and elsewhere, the rise of Fascism, Communism, and Nazi Germany, the collapse of the financial system and the Great Depression. The interwar period ended in September 1939 with the German invasion of Poland and the start of World War II. It is undeniably a fascinating period of history.

Dr. Gary Hylander examines the years between the wars – the events, personalities and issues that led to World War II – in a series of three lectures, Prelude to War, 1919-1939, at the Raynham Public Library beginning Sunday, October 21, at 2:00. Central to the presentation will be the results of the Paris Peace Conference, the rise of Nazism in Germany, Mussolini’s fascist Italy and the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and China in the 1930s. The subsequent lectures will be on Sunday, November 18 and Sunday, December 16, at the library. These are free public events, but we ask that you reserve a space. Reservations can be made by calling the library at 508.823.1344 or online in the Events Calendar at

For reading on this subject, we recommend The Deluge: the Great War and the Remaking of Global Order, 1916-1931, by Adam Tooze, The Long Shadow, the Legacies of the Great War in the Twentieth Century, by David Reynolds, The Time Between the Wars: Armistice to Pearl Harbor, by Jonathan Daniels, and To Hell and Back: Europe, 1914-1949, by Ian Kershaw.

Posted in Readers, Services

Join the Discussion

You may think it all started with Oprah, but you’d be wrong. She certainly popularized it, but its origins can be traced to the eighteenth century. What is it? It’s the book club. 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. From Boston to Seattle, in communities large and small, you’ll find groups of 5 to 30 discussing the finer points of Middlemarch or Mockingjay.

Though the book club was originally associated with educated upper-class women who had the leisure to read – not to mention the ability, today 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 subject or genre groups, such as of history, romance, science fiction, or mystery.

There are some book clubs you don’t even have to leave the house to join. For those who prefer online book clubs, you can catch-up on what celebrities are reading with Reese’s Book Club (Reese Witherspoon), Belletrist (Emma Roberts) or Our Shared Shelf (Emma Watson). You’ll find dozens of online books clubs on GoodReads (, including groups for baseball, science fiction and the paranormal. If you don’t want to limit yourself to one genre, there’s the Book-Club-for-Any-Type-of-Book with 846 members. 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 today’s book discussion group can be described in two words, reflection and connection. In-depth discussion contributes to your knowledge and appreciation not only of the writing but of the world around you. 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 three 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. October reading selections are Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah, The Storied Life of A. J .Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin and The Baker’s Secret, by Stephen Kiernan. For more information, contact the library at 508-823-1344.

Posted in Readers, Services

September is Sign-Up Month

A few years ago there was a popular advertising campaign that ended each of its commercials with the question, “What’s in your wallet?” If you were to answer the question today, what would you say – a credit card, health insurance card, gym card, driver’s license, a few bills and coins, old receipts? Would you say – library card?

Library cards have been around as long as libraries and much longer that any of the other types of cards that may be in your wallet. The first cards, or tickets, were probably issued at membership libraries, 18th-century organizations where members contributed fees, and sometimes books from their own collections, in exchange for the right to check out materials. Benjamin Franklin co-founded the first such membership library in Philadelphia in 1731.  Just as libraries have evolved from private to public, the library card has evolved from paper ticket to paper card to a square of plastic with bar code to a digitized image carried, not in your wallet, but on your smartphone.

In its most common use, a library card serves as a membership card. It’s a visible symbol of your membership in the library’s community of users.  The person who holds a library card has borrowing and other privileges associated with the issuing library. The library card also serves as a method of identification when borrowing materials. The card holder presents the card at checkout and takes responsibility for the item until returned. The library card speeds up the checkout process, ensures that the transaction is accurate and protects the user’s account from errors.

September is Library Card Sign-up Month, a time when we join public libraries across the country to encourage everyone to get a library card. Unlike the libraries of Benjamin Franklin’s day, libraries today are publicly funded and library cards are free. If you’re not a library card holder, we encourage you to register for a card during the month of September. If you are a library card holder, we encourage you to download the new SAILS mobile app for easy access to the library’s catalog, programs and events, and, yes, even your library card. Get the app free from your app store.

Of all the cards in your wallet, the library card is the best value. It allows you free access to books, CDs, DVDs, audiobooks, magazines, resources on local history, downloadable music, e-books, audiobooks, streaming video and discounted admission to area museums and zoos. It allows the use of on sight computer workstations and gives you free access to WiFi.

The American Library Association estimates that two-thirds of Americans have library cards. Almost 7,000 folks in Raynham have one. Check your wallet; are you one of them? If not, what are you waiting for? Applications are simple. Drop-by the library, show us a photo-ID, give us contact information, and you’ll get your card immediately. Then, put it in your wallet, or on your smartphone.

Posted in Services

All Titles Trump

Is everyone in politics writing a tell-all book? Judging by the sheer volume of books pouring forth from publishers, one would have to say, YES. It seems that everyone – political insiders and analysts, former staff and colleagues, friends and foes – wants a say on this presidency. The fact that President Trump has been in office less than two years makes the number of books quite extraordinary. From political perspectives on the left, right and somewhere in between, writers are promising the “definitive”, the “inside” or “untold” story on this president and his presidency.

Tell-all books are a staple of celebrity culture, and politicians, especially those who attain a certain celebrity status, have had their fair share. Library shelves are full of Kennedy biographies and Kennedy era commentaries; the Clintons take up a few shelves as well. However, nothing is going to compare to the number of books generated by the Trump presidency, including those published to date, and the rumors of ones yet to come. You won’t want to read them all, but in case you haven’t been keeping up, here’s a short list of what’s been published. The title is descriptive of the content.

Unbelievable: My Front Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History, by Kathy Tur, Let Trump Be Trump, by Corey R. Lewandowski, Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President, by Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff, Understanding Trump, by Newt Gingrich, The Briefing, by Sean Spicer, Everything Trump Touches Dies: a Republican Strategist Gets Real About the Worst President Ever, by Rick Wilson, The Making of the President 2016 : How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution, by Roger Stone, It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America, by David Cay Johnston, The Case Against Impeaching Trump, by Alan Dershowitz, House of Trump, House of Putin: The Untold Story of Donald Trump and the Russian Mafia, by Craig Unger, Unhinged: An Insider’s Account of the Trump White House, by Omarosa Manifault Newman, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, by Brandy Lee, The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump, by Gregg Jarr, Trump’s War: His Battle for America, by Michael Savage, Born Trump: Inside America’s First Family, by Emily Jane Fox, Liars, Leakers and Liberals, by Jeanine Pirro. The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and author, Bob Woodward, releases his first book on the Trump administration, entitled Fear, in September. Major Garrett follows soon after with the publication of Mr. Trump’s Wide Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency.

Given the controversies surrounding this administration and turnover rate within the White House, there will likely be many more to come. Check the library’s catalog for a comprehensive list.

Posted in Readers

Engaging with the Community

The library is full of stories. Not only do we have shelves full of stories—both fiction and nonfiction—but by virtue of being an active community center, the library is also a place where so many stories happen. Today’s library is not only a provider of materials and information, but a provider of experiences as well. Yes, our users engage with the print, visual and audio stories, but they also form their own stories by connecting with the wider community of library users. They are not just passive readers; they are active participants – exchanging ideas, sharing interests, building friendships and often working together to create that most precious commodity – a community where we can all flourish.

Libraries offer opportunities to connect with one another and with the community in organized interest groups – book clubs, workshops, classes, reading programs, film discussions, arts and crafts.  Libraries also encourage informal exchange – as you share what you are reading with a neighbor or get to know other young mothers at our weekly storytime. Our annual Raynham Reads One Book, One Community is an example of both the organized and informal form of community engagement. The event is organized by the Friends of the Library to encourage discussion of a single book that all are reading. Community engagement is central to a library’s mission and success.

One of the most important ways the library encourages community engagement is to offer opportunities for teens to volunteer at the library. We do this through our Teen Advisory Group (TAG) which we began a couple of years ago.  TAG is a group of teens who are interested in becoming more involved in the community and the library. They give input on the library’s teen collection, help create programming, and volunteer at library events. They are a talented group of kids, and we love the energy, interest and ideas they bring to the library. Not only does the library benefit, but the teens benefit as well. Involvement in the community helps them build confidence as they have the opportunity to serve as mentors to younger children, learn how to manage time and resources, have the opportunity to communicate with adults and acquire community service hours. This summer the library has opportunities for dozens of community service hours that can be used to satisfy school requirements.

Our next TAG meeting is Wednesday, July 11, at 6:30. If you know someone who might be interested in joining TAG, encourage them to attend. The Teen Advisory Group is open to teens in grades 7 through 12 residing in Raynham. Applications are available at the library or on the Teen page on the library website,


Posted in Services