I love reading (no big surprise there) and I especially enjoy it when a book provides interesting “rabbit trails” to investigate. This month the Second Tuesday evening book group read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I somehow had it in my mind that I had once read this book, but I quickly realized that in fact I had not. As one of the book club members said, “What a treasure!” Set in the early 1900s, I learned all sorts of things about the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn and the lives of the very poor at that time. However, two items in particular fascinated me… and I thought I’d share them.
First, have you ever wondered what type of tree the title of the book refers to? Many of us were expecting something like a majestic oak or maple. Instead, the “Tree of Heaven” is the Ailanthus altissima or Chinese sumac and it was first introduced to America in 1784. At first prized as an ornamental that grew quickly in urban areas, it is now considered an invasive species in many States.
Another bit of information I just HAD to learn more about while reading the book is from a scene in which Francie and her brother Neeley tell each other what they want for Christmas:
“I’ll tell you what I want and you can buy it for me,” said Neeley.
“All right. What?”
“Spats?” Francie’s voice scaled up.
“Pearl grey ones,” he said firmly.
I had a vague idea that “spats” had something to do with shoes, and indeed they were originally called “spatterdashes” and were designed to protect shoes and ankles from mud, etc. (although Neeley probably wanted them more to be fashionable and show off his improving economic status).
I could go on (author Betty Smith led a fascinating life) but I’ll leave further investigations to those who are interested — or drop by Reader Services any time and discuss reading rabbit trails with us.
If you noticed the members of Reader Services looking teary yesterday there is a simple explanation: we received news that a patron we had all worked with had passed away. You might assume it was someone who regularly came into the Library and spoke with us at the desk, but in fact none of us ever met her. What we knew was that she was a voracious reader–primarily of cozy mysteries (preferably in long series)–who was always looking for new books. It was her husband, however, whom we met each week–a kindly gentleman who admitted he didn’t know what books to pick out for his wife. He was just the go-between, picking them up and returning books as she sped through them.
We “met” his wife an old-fashioned way: through notes. She would send in handwritten lists of authors and titles she wanted to try. In return, we began to print out lists of books in series so she could check them off as she finished them. Sometimes we’d write notes (“Have you tried this author?” “What do you think of this type of mystery?”) and she’d send back short replies. Through it all her husband would patiently wait for us to pull stacks of books from the shelves and shrug as we’d hand him another list of books we wondered if she might like.
And then we didn’t see him. The husband’s schedule was random so we each figured he had been by during someone else’s shift. That was until yesterday, when he stopped by to gently inform us that his wife had passed away.
Does it seem strange that we would mourn a person we never held a conversation with, never met in person? Perhaps, but she was not only a patron. She was of our tribe, a reader, and we appreciated her nearly insatiable enjoyment for books. It bound us together and the loss of that connection is keenly felt.
Are you a reader? Stop by any time and “talk books” with us at Reader Services. Or, if you’d rather, drop us a note. We’ll reply.
We’re looking forward to discussing The Submission by Amy Waldman in both our morning (August) and evening (September) 2nd Tuesday Book Groups. It is a fictional examination of what might happen if a Muslim architect won a contest to design a Ground Zero Memorial.
With the subject matter in mind, I am fascinated by the various covers the book has been given by different publishers/editions.
What do you think? Do any particularly stand out to you? (Covers are: Hardback USA, Paperback USA, Hardback UK, Paperback UK, Hardcover Canada)
Once July 4th is celebrated the rest of the summer shoots forward like a firework. Our Summer Reading Program — “Reading is So Delicious!” will be wrapping up on Wednesday, August 8th. That means there are still almost four more weeks of weekly drawings, trivia contests, logging in book titles, and of course, earning rewards!
If you haven’t signed in with us yet, there’s plenty of time to do so. If you’ve already completed all prize levels, your reads will earn you additional chances in the drawings, including those for our three Grand Prizes.
Please stop by the Readers Services Desk “Book Bistro” for the latest “dish” on this “tasty” program.
Just got back from a fabulous tropical vacation. Blue waters, ocean breezes, white sandy beaches, palm trees. Did you know that there are two speeds when you visit an island? Slow and slower! This took a bit of time to get used to, but quickly became a wonderful adjustment to make.
One interesting surprise was to see the majority of the beach-goers reading. Hardbacks, paperbacks, and now more than ever, eReaders. LOTS of Kindles in the hands of many sunbathers. I found myself sneaking peeks at book covers, curious about what others were choosing to spend their valuable downtime devouring–turns out I saw a lot of popular fiction by Patterson, Grisham, Clancy, and Stockett (The Help). (Not sure what was on those Kindles, which is one downfall for the nosy, I guess.)
I sometimes found the librarian in me surfacing as I found myself singing the praises of free downloads from the library to those eReader owners. Seeing the excitement on their faces was thrilling!
Just for fun: The primary language spoken at my vacation destination is Papiamento, a mixture of several native languages. Can you guess where I was?
I admit it: I’m not really that interested in who wins the Superbowl this year, but I’ll still watch the game! Whether you can never get enough football, you’re more of an occasional fan, or you are a “football widow” here are three books to check out:
Not as much a detailed history of football as a cultural look at how football became the most popular American sport – surpassing even baseball, which no one thought could ever happen. The author frames the narrative around key episodes in the history of the game (it opens with the legendary game between the Colts and Giants in 1958) and many of the fascinating personalities (players, coaches & owners) who have dominated the sport. A great read for anyone interested in gaining a “big picture” look at football’s development.
This account of one of college football’s greatest contests was given a *Starred Review* by Booklist which called it, ” A great sports story, told with propulsive narrative drive and offering
a fascinating look at multiple layers of American popular culture.”
Today is not just Halloween, it is the 85th anniversary of the death of Harry Houdini. So, ladies and gentlemen! Introducing a quick round up of just a few of the many interesting books and other items about this fascinating man and magician: