Monday, June 29, 2015

Back to the Beach--and more good reading!



Beach-goers of the meditative sort, and some who are not so much thoughtful as seeking entertainment, eagerly shove paperbacks into their gear this time of year. No doubt, they're taking advantage of free time to catch up on intended or suggested reads. Some are reading to find good choices for next fall's meetings. Regardless of reason, here is a knapsack full of fun.
First off, I've found a couple good writers based in Nantucket. These island residents write—a lot—and specialize in the women's fiction genre, which includes emotions and relationships immersed in a character-rich plot. Nancy Thayer and Erin Hilderbrand are both popular, best-selling authors. Their books entertain, and also give those unfamiliar with this vacation spot a glimpse of island life and places (that may actually exist) to visit.
Thayer recently released "The Guest Cottage," in which two single parents accidentally co-rent a Nantucket house. One is a widower and the other has been brutally dumped by her philandering husband. Amid competing outside temptations, they mend their broken lives. It's well written, and the children's confusion—as they deal with grief and separation—complements the main theme. As the author of 23 novels and a variety of short stories published in "Redbook" magazine, Thayer is no stranger to family themes and the strong emotions associated with love and loss. It's quick, enjoyable fare.
I read two of Hilderbrand's books: "Summerland" and "The Matchmaker." Both were fun, but I particularly enjoyed the latter, in which the action is juxtaposed with comments from characters whose lives were changed by the protagonist's matchmaking. She senses a good match, but is unable to trust her instincts when it comes to making her own romantic choices. Hilderbrand was at a Worcester reading with Hank Phillippi Ryan during May.
I don't know this writer, but you may want to check out Cynthia Riggs' mysteries, set on Martha's Vineyard. She's an island native who has written multiple mysteries about a 92-year-old amateur detective. That's different! Her new books include "Murder on C-Dock" and "Poison Ivy." There are, of course, many more authors who reside or summer on the Cape and islands, so ask at local bookstores when you arrive. That's a good idea regardless of where you find yourself this summer.
Next, a few authors sent in additional suggestions to the summer reads we published last month. A good idea is welcome, so ...
"Here are three," said Chris Bohjalian (his newest is 'Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands'). "I was riveted by Jill Alexander Essbaum’s novel, 'Hausfrau,' a re-imagining of 'Anna Karenina' set in Zurich in the present. It is poignant, exquisitely written, and (yes) incredibly hot. (And I mean hot in a good way, not in a Paris Hilton sort of way.) I savored Nick Hornby’s 'Funny Girl,' a novel set in the world of British TV in the 1960s. It helped me endure the fact I know longer have 'Mad Men' to feed my 1960s addiction. And I will never look at Scientology quite the same way again after Lawrence Wright’s 'Going Clear,' his history of L. Ron Hubbard and the organization he founded in the 1950s."
Daniel Bruce Brown of Westborough ("Roll Over Hitler," "The Fifth Season") says, "I’d certainly recommend anything by Kurt Vonnegut. 'Bluebeard' and 'Galapagos' in particular."
Dave Ellis, president of the Brande Foundation and an educator and leadership professional, is the author of "Becoming a Master Student," "Falling Awake," "Creating Your Future" and several other educational and leadership-oriented books. "I just read three books in a row by the same author," he said. "I have never done that. I was captivated by his style and the stories. His name is Glenn Cooper. I read: 'The Keeper of the Library,' 'The Tenth Chamber,' and 'Library of the Dead.' I also enjoyed 'The Circle' and 'Zeitoun' by Dave Eggers."
Thanks, guys.
A Quick note
Matthew Quick, formerly of Holden but now living in North Carolina, has published a sixth novel. HarperCollins released his newest, "Love May Fail," in mid-June. Quick is the author of "The Silver Linings Playbook." Based on the description, intertwining a noble quest with a cast of very strange characters, I'm expecting a pretty good read. (See June 14 Telegram & Gazette for an interview with Quick.)
Gerritsen launches War on Alzheimer's
Writer-physician Tess Gerritsen has started an effort to further research on the illness which took her father's life. Her campaign is at www.gofundme.com/WOA-2015. Since her fictional Rizzoli & Isles have made it big on a television show of the same name, she's offering two winning contributors at that site a chance to name characters in her next R&I novel, being released in 2016. “Watching my father lose his identity as he struggled with Alzheimer’s is the most devastating experience our family has been through,” said Gerritsen, author of "The Mephisto Club," "Vanish," "The Bone Garden," "Gravity" and multiple other novels. 
Book groups
While this is primarily a column for adult readers, it's worth mentioning that there are children's clubs that continue to pierce the iPad shell and attract young readers. Renee Cormier Wheeler, children's librarian at Leominster Public Library (and daughter of the late novelist Robert Cormier) typically sees 10-12 children at the clubs for boys 8-12 and one for girls 10-13. Upcoming meetings for July: girls, June 30, July 14 and July 28; boys, July 14 and Aug. 18. Wheeler selects books from a range of age-related literature. For details, contact rwheeler@cwmars.org or call 978-534-7522, ext. 4.
Eben Chesebrough of the Douglas Library group reports steady numbers throughout the summer: "Last night, we had 11, a good number for us."  On July 14 at 6:30 p.m., the group will discuss "Riding the Bus With my Sister" by Rachel Simon, the updated story of a girl with Down Syndrome who rides the bus daily and asks her sister to join her for a year.
The NOW Women's Issues Book Group has slated "Traveling With Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story" by Sue Monk Kidd ("The Secret Life of Bees") and Ann Kidd Taylor, for its July 13 meeting. They travel in Greece, Turkey and France—a journey of loss and return, delving into the experiences behind Kidd's books.
The Friday Morning Book Club at Northborough Public Library will discuss contemporary fiction, "The Wedding Letters" by Jason F. Wright, at its July 10 meeting.
The Worcester Public Library book club, Pages and Palates,  will discuss singer-songwriter Patti Smith's "Just Kids" on Wednesday, July 8, from 3 to 4 p.m. and again on Saturday, July 11, from 2:30 to 3:30. Smith's "M Train" won the National Book Award. (The library is  hosting reading-related free events daily at the main library and branches through Aug. 14 for children, teens and adults.
Carl Hiaasen's "Skinny Dip" is the choice for Crawford Library, Dudley, where members will meet July 2 at 6 p.m. to discuss this comedic mystery. Up for August will be Wally Lamb's "We Are Water."
At Merrick Public Library, Brookfield, author Ed Londergan will conduct a free creative writing workshop from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 18. Anyone may attend. Banister Book Group meets at 7 p.m., July 28, to discuss "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" by Mark Twain.
In Gardner, members will discuss Sue Monk Kidd's "The Invention of Wings" at 4:30 p.m., July 29.
The New Earth Book Club has switched focus to a new topic: individuality in the complex world around us. They read "The World Beyond Your Head: On Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction" by Matthew B. Crawford and "All My Friends are Superheroes" by Andrew Kaufman in June. Organizer Celine Livingston says anyone interested in attending should email livsbookjourney@gmail.com.
The group at Gale Free Library in Holden is reading "Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty. A meeting is set for 10:30 a.m., July 7.
Thayer Memorial Library's evening book group meets July 28 to discuss Franz Kafka's "The Trial." The group rotates between fiction and nonfiction. Contact Karen Silverthorn at ksilverthorn@cwmars.org.
Lisa Perry says Sterling's library book club will discuss "We Were Liars" by E. Lockhart on Thursday, July 23, at 6:30 p.m. in the Baker Roomy.
Grafton Public Library's "Not Just for Young Adults" Book Group (18 and over) meets the second Monday of each month with facilitator Heidi Fowler. July's selection is "V is for Villain" by Peter Moore. The library has multiple groups, for fans of mystery, inspirational books, and general literature. See www.graftonlibrary.org.
Send your ideas and book group plans to ann.frantz@gmail.com. See www.readitandreeap.blogspot.com for more book news.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tuesday, June 9 ... Summer!

I'm busy reading those recommended summer reads mentioned in my May 31 column, and many more books - latest reads are:
- Two for fun by Elin Hilderbrand of Nantucket: "The Matchmaker" and "Summerland." Nice for a breath of sea air on the page, and both contain characters that are rich.
- Kent Haruf's first novel, "The Tie That Binds," which established the late author as a fine writer of midwestern plains life, with beautifully drawn characters. His "Plainsong" and "Eventide" became Hallmark films back when Hallmark meant something more than love stories. His posthumous release, "Our Souls at Night," is on my "must-read" list.
- Jennifer McMahon's "The Winter People" is a slow building, increasingly scary summer read. Brrr....
- Anthony Doerr's "All the Light We Cannot See," joins my long list of War War II-era reads with a profoundly touching story about the intersecting lives of a German soldier and a blind French girl allied with the Resistance. In the end, we are all victims.
- Right now, I'm alternating between Colum McCann's "Let the Great World Spin," a somewhat ponderous, thoughtfully told story of several New Yorkers whose lives turn on a single observation - that of a man walking a high wire between two towers - and Kathleen Norris's "Dakota," a reflection on life in the Dakotas, mostly plains and Black Hills. I lived there for 17 years after marriage, and her writing is a beautiful call to home.

I reread one of my all-time favorites, "To Kill a Mockingbird" perioically, and want to alert readers to an interesting event coming up June 18 at the Worcester location (Lincoln Plaza) and also Burlington, Nashua,  Millbury and Framingham in this region. Those stores and others will hold a discussion of the book and the movie version (referred to by one store as "scream adaptation" in advance of the July release of Lee's final work, "Go Set a Watchman." All events are at 7 p.m. Check the B&N website for more details; some stores require an RSVP.

Our Lancaster book group, the Off-Track Bookies, has scheduled its final meeting of the season for June 18, with a potluck and brief discussion of "An Invisible Thread" by Laura Schroff. This nonfiction account of an 11-year-old panhandler's life after he tries to con a busy executive (Schroff) is a step into the world few of us are forced to live. Her involvement is not overwhelmingly beneficent, but she is as involved as life permits--certainly more than the average passerby, and the results are exceptional for this young man's life. I enjoyed the book when I read it last year.

Somehow, amidst all this and the routine of summer visitors and trips, I am managing to work on a much-neglected novel, written some time ago. It's amazing how much I learn between the times I have a go at editing and rewrites. Two books I recently picked up, to that end, are John Casey's "Beyond the First Draft: The Art of Fiction" and James Hynes' "Writing Great Fiction: Storytelling Tips and Techniques." The latter is part of the Great Courses series and includes a CD. I picked it up at the library in Lancaster.







Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Kenny O'Donnell, JFK and the launch of political handlers

By Ann Connery Frantz

Worcester native Kenneth O'Donnell Sr. was well-known during the 1950s and '60s for his unique position in John F. Kennedy's campaigns and, later, as a key presidential adviser.
Lesser-known is the crucial role Worcester played in Kennedy's ascent to power. O'Donnell was responsible for it. He suspected Worcester would be critical to JFK's 1952 Senate victory (while no one else even considered the overlooked city) and pushed to focus there. After JFK beat Henry Cabot Lodge in a huge upset victory, he remarked to O'Donnell: "You are either a political genius or the luckiest SOB on the planet." Kenny told him it was the latter.
Helen O'Donnell, Kenny's daughter, tells that story as part of "The Irish Brotherhood: John F. Kennedy, His Inner Circle, and the Improbable Rise to the Presidency," her just-published history. It's based on lengthy tapes with O'Donnell, presented to her by broadcast journalist Sander Vanocur.
She provides a fascinating glimpse into the Kennedy campaigns and the people dedicated to steering JFK into the White House by 1960. Helen was drawn into historical writing by those who sought to tap her father's recollections, like political pundit Chris Matthews (host of "Hardball"), with whom she worked in the writing of his "Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero." Before she finished transcribing Vanocur's extensive interviews, Helen had learned much more about her father's relationship to the Kennedy family.
"A Common Good: The Friendship of Robert F. Kennedy and Kenneth P. O'Donnell" became her first book. In March, Counterpoint Press released her second, "The Irish Brotherhood," which details campaigns between 1952 and 1958, up through 1960 and the early days of JFK's tenure as president. It is a story that divulges Robert F. Kennedy's importance to the JFK campaigns as well, revealing Bobby's character in equal depth. But mostly it is a book about the roots of modern-day campaign handling.
"You think you know all these stories, know what happened … but I really didn't," she said. "It's really a great — what they say in Hollywood — a great backstory. It was much grittier and more hard work than they ever let on to get him into the White House."
She recounts the amazing rise to power of John Kennedy, assisted by a dedicated, unpredictable, bull-headed but politically savvy group of hand-picked staff members, many of them World War II veterans, like JFK. He trusted their strategies, though his brilliance often put him ahead of them.
They weren't the predictable campaigners of old, she writes; they were a new breed, and their efforts yielded an entirely new kind of campaigning. They set a new standard for political handlers, using blue-collar roots and know-how to fight an upward battle in a political world suspicious of Irish Catholics— especially one whose father was Joseph Kennedy.
Kenny O'Donnell ate it up. "Dad was all about politics, but he saw his job as getting Jack Kennedy across the finish line," Helen said.
The brotherhood — O'Donnell, Larry O'Brien, Dave Power and Bobby — learned how to climb the political ladder, pulling and squeezing where they needed to, and working around the clock for a candidate with one big count against him: his religion. Few Catholics who had risen to powerful positions were about to jeopardize their well-being for an upstart politician. Striving to overcome perception and political cowardice were people like O'Donnell, whose hard-nosed, aggressive campaigning meshed well with this "Irish mafia."
The book is not for those seeking another JFK biography. It is, instead, a fascinating look into the pioneering roles of media handlers, whose existence today is taken for granted in political campaigns. Their ploys, their struggles and their overriding dedication to Kennedy made new men of O'Donnell, O'Brien, Bobby and their associates, as they moved every political boulder they could to facilitate the path JFK had chosen. (Bobby alone, it seemed, had a dedication as well to social justice, and would pursue that in his own way.)
Kennedy would have had a much harder time achieving the presidency without this group. O'Donnell was a loving father and husband, but in his work, he pursued the group's goals with a dogged aggression — he was brazen, with the ability to learn quickly from mistakes — there were plenty — and alter their course.
The campaign, improbably, took off in Worcester, where O'Donnell urged Kennedy to campaign hard before his 1952 election date.
"They (the Kennedys, Larry O'Brien) would have overlooked it, but he understood the changing demographics of that time, and how important Worcester was to the state. They never considered Worcester the key element that it was. Part of that was their sense of Worcester; it was not a small town, but people sort of perceived it that way. My dad and mother were from Worcester. They understood the politics of the city, and how much of the city's voters would be JFK voters if he were just exposed to them.
"He (Kenny) took a gamble, based on his knowledge of the city. It was critical for him, because he and Larry both knew they were going to be short on the numbers in '52 and they needed that Worcester voting block to push him over the edge. They were right. They took a hell of a gamble, but they won."
That win launched JFK into the rare thin air of national campaigning, proving himself a viable candidate for higher office.
O'Donnell lived on Clinton Street — "1301, at Tatnuck Square," Helen said. "The house is still there. He grew up there and maintained connections with a lot of Worcester people for years. He loved it."
Kenny worked by JFK's side from 1952 until his death in 1963, and knew family members well. They trusted him. He knew them for who and what they were, respected that, and kept confidences to himself. He adored Jackie Kennedy, who was cut from a different cloth. There's an interesting quote in the book, reflecting her father's understanding of the family: "The Kennedys always think of themselves first." That may seem callous, but it's candid.
"My father was sort of cold and practical about that; it was one of the reasons he insisted Bobby come run the campaign in 1952," Helen said. "He said to Bobby, you need to come to campaign because only a Kennedy can tell a Kennedy no. There was a line beyond which only another Kennedy could take across Jack or Bobby." That relationship served them well in crises.
"They were raised that way, and I think it's still true today. Anyone who thinks otherwise is foolish," Helen said. "They were raised to win the race. It's kind of an ethic of theirs."
The brothers were a good pairing, she said. "Bobby had a reputation for being the tough guy, ruthless, but in reality, my father said on the tapes, Jack was much tougher. Jack had steel that came from his own battle with survival all his life. When Jack Kennedy said 'no' or this guy's gonna go (from the campaign staff), that was it. Whereas, he said, Bobby would try to find a million reasons to save the guy before he'd drop the ax on him. Public perception is one thing, but the reality was different."
O'Donnell has not stopped writing; she has 200 taped interviews to draw from, most of which she has already transcribed. She's also writing a short book between Kennedy works. This will be about Frank Sinatra and Jack Kennedy; their friendship drew the nation's notice. "It's a small book, a novel, because I found out these great stories in Los Angeles that I couldn't use in either book. So I'm working on that right now."
"The Irish Brotherhood" will be succeeded by a book on the next segment of the Kennedy era, 1960-1963 — when the president was assassinated and Lyndon B. Johnson took the reins of office.
"I always loved to write," she said. "I was raised with news and history with my dad, but never thought that much about (doing) it. I was working in D.C., and Michael Kennedy (Bobby's son) asked me to write something for him — I assumed he had a speech to give. I had worked for Ted Kennedy, and sometimes Kennedys will do that when they need information. Then he called and said it was so good that he'd sent it to an agent and sold it for a first book. I told him I'd never written a book! And he said "You're smart, you'll figure it out." That was around 1998."
She lives in Washington, D.C., now, and visits the Cape when she's able.
Her father was, literally, in it to win it. "He did love it all. My mother was all in for Jack Kennedy too; she believed in what my dad was doing, but he never appreciated what she sacrificed. He was gone from home all the time. He'd been gone for years. When they finally won, and my mother was in that hotel in Hyannis, she was thinking he's 'finally' home. Then she learns he's going to the White House — right away. Dad and Jack had Bobby call my mother and tell her!"
He stayed in Washington for some time. "His last year at the White House he was executive director of the Democratic National Committee, trying to build up the modern DNC. I think he'd be pleased by how it's turned out. He was a political specialist listening to Lyndon Johnson. That was a complicated relationship, but Johnson trusted him."
Kenny O'Donnell passed away in 1977, when she was only 13 or 14. "He was really my hero. There was a lot of sadness around that time," she said. "One of the things I try to do with my writing is focus on the good times; there's a lot of tragedy, but these guys had a hell of a good time."
He died at 53, of heart and liver failure. But perhaps heartache as well, she said. "He just never recovered after Bobby's death. And my Uncle Warren was shot in a robbery in Worcester, and didn't live long. That devastated my dad; he never quite recovered from all that."

Monday, June 1, 2015

Ephron, Burke, Packer and other authors share summer picks



 ... And when God created the Earth, beaches came into being. Man, following suit, created patios, fans, icy drinks, cool tubs and swimming pools. All beckon readers—not for us the surf-side volleyball nets, max-sweaty hot yoga, lawn mowing. Sure—some things are inevitable, but in the back of our minds as we pursue the "musts" and "shoulds" is the impulse to read.
Authors are the same. In fact, while they may be writing, editing or teaching, they too plan summer reading. And today some of them share their book choices for the hot months. I asked, they responded.
Hallie Ephron, whose "Night Night, Sleep Tight" made the New York Times best-seller list, has a couple of recommendations.
"On the light side, looking forward to reading Lucy Burdette's new one (July) 'Fatal Reservation.' Key West, food, always fun. At the other end of the spectrum, I've set aside Greg Iles' nearly 800-page behemoth 'The Bone Tree.' Might take me all summer to read." Iles' book is the second in a trilogy that began with "Natchez Burning."
Concidentally, regional mystery writer Barbara Ross ("Clammed Up," "Musseled Out," "Boiled Over," "Death of an Ambitious Woman" and more) is an Ephron fan. She plans a busman's holiday in her reading—a generous helping of mysteries.
"Right now I'm on a book deadline, but as soon as I press SEND (June 1) I've promised myself the treat of reading Hallie Ephron's 'Night Night, Sleep Tight,' a suspense novel about an infamous Beverly Hills murder that took place when Hallie was growing up there in the '60s," she says. "Later in the summer, one of my favorite mystery authors has a new book out. I'll be first in line to purchase Louise Penny's 'The Nature of the Beast.' On the lighter side of mystery, on the beach I'll be reading Edith Maxwell's 'Farmed and Dangerous,' Sherry Harris's 'Longest Yard Sale,' Lucy Burdette's 'Fatal Reservations' and Lea Wait's 'Threads of Evidence.'  "
James Lee Burke (his Dave Robicheaux character has been portrayed by Alec Baldwin in "Heaven's Prisoners" and Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Electric Mist") says he's most likely to pick up his summer reading on a whim, passing through bookstores. But he has one recommendation: "I just finished 'Dead Wake' and thought it a smasher of a book."
Ann Packer, author of "The Dive From Clausen's Pier," "Swim Back to Me" and "The Children's Crusade," (among others), suggests two books.
"I can't wait to read 'Saint Mazie,' Jami Attenberg's follow-up to her extraordinary novel, 'The Middlesteins.' And Kate Walbert's 'The Sunken Cathedral' is a sublime book, which will surprise none of her fans." (Walbert, noted author of "A Short History of Women," "Our Kind" and "The Gardens of Kyoto," will be at the Harvard Book Store in Cambridge on June 17.)
From mystery writer Kate Flora (author of 14 mysteries and true-crime books including "And Grant You Peace," and "Finding Amy") splits her reading list into fiction and non-fiction choices:
She suggests Anthony Doerr's amazing novel of a blind French girl and a young WWII German soldier during the bombing of Saint-Malo, "All the Light We Cannot See." She'll also read "H is for Hawk" by falconer Helen Macdonald, an award-winning memoir about finding her way through grief with hawks. Also, Roxanna Robinson's "Sparta," a novel about the complex layers of PTSD, and conservation activist Terry Tempest Williams' "Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place," which describes her Utah family's struggles with cancer, living downwind of a nuclear test site, along with recounting how the Great Salt Lake flooded wetlands that were a refuge for migratory birds in northern Utah.
Jenna Blum ("Those Who Save Us," "The Stormchasers") has returned to the Boston area. She recommends a book she's just completed, Celeste Ng's "Everything I Never Told You," and two others.
"'Everything I Never Told You' is newly out in paperback—as is Laura McBride's stunning debut about culture and class clash in Las Vegas, 'We Are Called to Rise' and Courtney Maum's delightful 'I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You,' about a philandering British man who wants nothing more than to woo back his French wife," she says. "There you go, readers: paperbacks for your book clubs and the beach!"
Ng's book is a novel, by a writer with links to Boston's Grub Street writers collaborative. "It's about how attitudes in and around a mixed-race family in the 1960s have a trickle-down effect to the children, with heartbreaking results." She describes it as "a great emotional cause-and-effect book ... it reminded me a little of 'The Memory Keeper's Daughter,' with its emphasis on the sadness and destruction of secrets kept, but I thought the writing in 'Everything' was less melodramatic and much better, with beautiful similes.
Hank Phillippi Ryan also ventured forth. "I remember wonderful summers reading 'Winds of War' and 'Bonfire of the Vanities' and oh, my gosh, 'Ragtime,' says award-winning Boston writer Hank Phillippi Ryan ("Truth Be Told," "The Other Woman" and "The Wrong Girl"). "There's always 'the book,' right? And it gets sand in the pages and thumb-printed with sunscreen." Her recommendations follow.
"I'm reading the chilling 'Missoula' by Jon Krakauer (partly for research for my next book), and 'The Wright Brothers' by David McCullough, since I am fascinated by flying, and by people with passionately new ideas. I just finished the amazing Lisa Scottoline's 'Every Fifteen Minutes.' Looking forward to 'Hover' by Anne A. Wilson, a debut thriller author who was a Navy helicopter pilot. And the irresistible Joe Finder's new 'The Fixer'— I am afraid to start it, because I know I won't be able to put it down and I have writing to do!"
I'll include other authors' suggestions for summer reading in next month's column.

Book groups, authors

Why do we do this, anyway? Claudia McNeil of Chapters Book Discussion Group in Spencer, has an answer. "We've been going strong since 1986," she said. "We have read the best books (and of course, some were horrible picks), including many I would never have chosen on my own that were wonderful. And there have been some that I swore I disliked at the beginning of our discussion, only to really appreciate them after discussing them." Thanks, Claudia.
Author James Patterson will be featured at the Hartford, Conn., Mark Twain House and Museum. He'll appear at 7:30 p.m., June 17. Author and former inmate James Tillman ("The Power of Conviction") speaks of his 18-year wrongful conviction before DNA made him the first overturned wrongful conviction. He will appear on June 8 at 7 p.m.
Shrewsbury Public Library kicks off summer reading with a June 26 carnival featuring area authors. Check with the library for more details; its web site also includes summer reading tips.
Women's Issues Book Group has slated "Americanah" a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, for its Monday, June 8 meeting, 7 p.m. in Barnes & Noble Booksellers 541 Lincoln St., Worcester. Its story: a young woman leaves Nigeria to attend college in the United States and experiences racism for this first time—in this country.
This coming week, there will be a reading/book signing by a former member of the Women's Issues Book Group, Judith Ferrara. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 2, she will read from "The little O, the earth: Travel Journals, Art & Poems" at the Gene J. DeFeudis Italian American Cultural Center, 26 Mulberry St., Worcester.
The Douglas Library Book Group invites interested readers to attend a discussion of Garth Stein's "A Sudden Light." Session begins at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 9. Stein, author of "The Art of Racing in the Rain," has written about a 14-year-old who confronts his father in order to protect his grandfather. To reserve a library copy of the book call 508-476-2695.
Northborough Public Library Friday Morning Book Club members are reading John Bunyon's "Pilgrim's Progress" for a 10 a.m., June 12 meeting. They rotate classics with contemporary monthly. July 10's selection is "The Wedding Letters" by Jason F. Wright.
Jodi Picoult's "The Storyteller" is up for discussion at Gardner's Heywood Library Book Group,  June 24 at 4:30 p.m.
The Contemporary Book Group at Gale Free Library, Holden, will meet at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, June 2, to discuss JoJo Moyes' "Me Before You." The Classics Book Group has slated a poetry share for 6:30 p.m., Thursday, June 25.
Off-Track Bookies in Lancaster closes out its season with "An Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive and an Unlikely Meeting." This nonfiction work by Laura Schrod and Alex Tresniowski unfolds the story of a boy who encounters a woman who will change his life... and vice-versa. Meeting is at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June11.
Robert Haston's "Fatherland" is the subject of Haston Library's book group meeting, 7 p.m., June 30.
Members of the Crawford Memorial Library, Dudley, will discuss "Becoming Finola" by Suzanne Strempek Shea at 6 p.m., June 5.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

No-fear book culling (or not)

I recently faced the distressing possibility that I might not live long enough to read all of my books. I imagine this happens to all book collectors eventually. That quick purchase, and the next, and the one after that, all gather on the shelves until ... another book case is needed. And then, another. And another.
I know I have too many, know it's a compulsion, like hoarding. But it is such a sweet, harmless sin. I'm too lazy to do a count, but I estimate in my rough Irish way that there are a thousand books or so settled on the shelves, waiting for the books I borrow from the library, those I receive for reviews and others purchased for my book club—the aptly named Off-Track Bookies.
That's a lot of reading. My life/death estimate is predicated on the fact that I don't skim books; I read them slowly, deliciously. I study the style and savor the words until I near the end, when it's no-holds-barred race to the finish line (if it's a good book). At my current pace, I will have to live—and be able to read—until something like 100 years old. Given the rate at which my eyes are deteriorating, that's not looking too likely. That, and the fact that I plan to take up risque living at age 90.
I'm not too thrilled; my kids—who will have to dispose of all my books someday—aren't too thrilled either. I will accept that I bear some responsibility for thinning out the shelves before that time (though it's tempting to just let them suffer). But since I love books, I want to see them off to a better place.
Getting rid of your old friends is hard. I tell myself lies: Of course I'll read them all! I'll even reread them. I'll pass them on to dear friends and give some to the library. I'll be buried with them. Imagine: a coffin made of books. I like that.
But back to the living. When you, like me, are ready to accept that some culling of the herd is necessary for your psychological health, other readers have some advice for you, as do I:
1. Keep a "give away" and a "sell" box near the book case. Once a month, remove and dispose of the books that simply occupy space. You won't read them; your kids don't take time to read, and your grandchildren won't use them for reference one day, since they have the internet.
2. Go shelf by shelf. Pick up each book, thumb through it and consider whether you will read it. Be honest. If you've been hoarding it for years, the answer is probably no. If it's from college years; throw it in one of the bags.
3. Offer them to the library, since libraries earn precious operational funds from book sales, and they have a built-in audience.
4. Sell them. Try amazon.com. Shipping is a nuisance, but maybe you won't mind. If you know of a second-hand shop with bookshelves, bring them best-sellers (which you probably don't want to keep anyway) no more than 5-6 years old. You won't make much, but they'll be gone. Quality special topic books also sell well (cookbooks, travel, photography). Some used book stores will buy your books up front and offer you either a pittance or a book credit for them—which won't solve the inventory problem.
5. Bring a few good reads to places where you see friends—book club, coffee shops, places that have exchanges (my hair salon loves them). Senior centers. Waiting rooms. You get the idea. If they seem unwilling, drop the books and run.
6. Don't forget the Prison Book Program out of Quincy, Mass. (www.prisonbookprogram.org) which collects, organizes and ships books to prisoners. This is a good outfit, and your help in any form is appreciated.
7. Keep only what you truly intend to read. You won't miss the others, some say, (though I sincerely doubt it and would never do that myself; sorry, kids).
8. Do nothing. They're not hurting anyone until you go. Then it's not your problem.
Robyn Devine, author of "She Makes Hats", suggests:  "I dedicated a shelf to “need to read” books, and noted the date. Any books that started out on that shelf on that date but were still there six months later I purged – I had discovered I truly had no desire to read them!" (This is not an absolute: I've found wonderful books that I owned for years before reading).
Minimalist Joshua Fields Millburn says: "Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club inspired me to get rid of the vast majority of my books a little over a year ago: 'The things you own end up owning you.' 'It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.' ... I read those quotes several times and within a week sold or donated 98 percent of my books. I purchased a Kindle and kept one shelf of my favorite physical books." (OK, Millburn, you're nuts. Then again, if you like Kindles, go for it. Seems like an expensive way to replace a library.)

Authors visit Worcester:

Two popular writers will appear at a Women's Authors event to benefit the Worcester YWCA's Daybreak program. Hank Phillippi Ryan and Elin Hilderbrand will speak at a 5 to 7 p.m., May 21, gathering in Alden Hall, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, 100 Institute Road.
Hilderbrand is the author of "The Matchmaker" (2014) (which debuted at no. 5 on the New York Times bestseller list and earned praise from Publishers Weekly), as well as 11 previous novels, including "Beautiful Day." She is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has lived on Nantucket for 20 years. Her latest, "The Rumor," will be released this summer.
Journalist and writer Hank Phillippi Ryan has won multiple awards for crime fiction, including the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award for "The Other Woman." National reviews have called her a "master at crafting suspenseful mysteries" and "a superb and gifted storyteller." Her newest book, "Truth Be Told," is a Library Journal Best Book of 2014. Her next novel, "What You See," will debut this fall. 

Amy Belding Brown at Lancaster
Thayer Memorial Library hosts the author of a novel based on the life of noted Lancastrian Mary Rowlandson (1637-1711) , wife of Rev. Joseph Rowlandson, the first minister of Lancaster’s First Church, who was captured by Native Americans during King Phillip's War. Her memoir, “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson” was published in 1682. 
Amy Belding  Brown wrote "Flight of the Sparrow," imagining the time and situation, and did so skillfully. She will be at the library at 1 p.m., May 2, to discuss the writing of that novel.

Book Group meetings:
NOW Book Group meets May 11 at Barnes & Noble, 541 Franklin St., Worcester, to discuss Mark Twain's "Diaries of Adam and Eve," a light take on the war between the sexes.

Thayer Memorial Library in Lancaster hosts these meetings: Tuesday (April 28), Katherine Boo's non-fictional "Behind the Beautiful Forevers," and May 26, Celeste Ng's novel, "Everything I Never Told You." The group meets at 6:30 p.m. in the meeting room area. To reserve a copy, contact the library.

Audio Journal’s “Speaking Volumes” call-in book group airs on the first Tuesday of the month at 8 p.m. All are welcome to listen live at www.audiojournal.net.  Next up is Marilynne Robinson's "The Gilead," on May 5. For details see: http://www.audiojournal.net/programming/speaking-volumes.

Members of the Westborough Public Library's 10:30 a.m. Thursday group will meet May 21 to discuss "The Hare With Amber Eyes" by Edmund DeWaal. The Monday evening group meets at 7 p.m. May 4 to discuss Garth Stein's "A Sudden Light."

Northborough readers will discuss Susan Cain's "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking" at 10 a.m., May 8 in the library.

Heywood Library's group will review "The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Done," by Atul Gawande at its 4:30 p.m., May 27 meeting.

In Dudley, Crawford Public Library's book group will meet at 6 p.m., May 7, to discuss Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night."

At Gale Free Library, Holden, Contemporary Book Group will discuss "The Boys in the Boat" by Daniel James Brown at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, May 5. The Classics Book Group meets May 28 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss "The Bell Jar" by Sylvia Plath.

At Haston Free Library in N. Brookfield, members will meet at 7 p.m., May 26, to discuss a work by Charles Dickens. Call for details.

Members of the Douglas Library Book Group will discuss "The Emerald Mile" by Kevin Fedarko, a nonfiction recounting of the fastest boat ride in history, on a hand-built dory, along the Grand Canyon's Colorado River. Meeting is at 6:30 p.m., May 12.

Ann Connery Frantz is a Lancaster writer-editor, co-founder of the Seven Bridge Writers Collaborative. To send questions or ideas write ann.frantz@gmail.com



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

April events for readers and poets



There is much going on this month.
Here are some that didn't make the newspaper, thanks to my own error!

Seven Bridge Writers Collaborative invites readers to observe National Poetry Month with several events at Thayer Memorial Library this month. Poets may read from their work at a Poetry Open Mike at 6:30 p.m., April 14, in the library's downstairs Dexter meeting room. There is a five-minute maximum reading period for each participant. 
Also, poet Michael Fisher, author of "The Wolf Spider" and "Libretto for the Exhausted World" will lead a workshop on the Language of Poetry from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 on Saturday, April 18, in the Dexter Room.

Holden Free Library is also welcoming fans of poetry at a poet-led writing workshop, Monday, April 13, 10:30 a.m. to Noon. Jennifer Freed will lead the workshop, one of several poetry and writing sessions offered during April at Gale, (508) 210-5569.

Northboro Public Library's Friday Morning Book Group will discuss Debra Dean's "The Madonnas of Leningrad" at a meeting planned for April 10. The novel is based on the World War II seige of Leningrad. Call the library, (508) 393-6889, for information from Marie Nieber, leader.

Thayer Memorial Library's Adult Book Group will meet at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, March 31, to discuss "People of the Book: A Novel" by Geraldine Brooks. This is the fact-inspired story of a rare illuminated manuscript, the Sarajevo Haggadah, through centuries of exile and war. For more information, contact Assistant Director Karen Silverthorn at 978-368-8928 or ksilverthorn@cwmars.org.

Actress-singer Debbie Reynolds' "Unsinkable: A Memoir," is the topic of Heywood Library's book group for April 29.

Gale Free Library's Contemporary Book Group in Holden will meet at 10:30 a.m., Tuesday, April 7 to discuss "The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion" by Fannie Flagg. Its Classics Book Group will meet on Thursday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m. to discuss "The Custom of the Country" by Edith Wharton.

At Haston Library, North Brookfield, members will discuss "Common Threads Poetry," at 7 p.m., April 28.

Members of Lancaster's "Off-Track Bookies" will meet on April 9 to discuss Ann Leary's "The Good Wife."

On April 13, the NOW Women's Issues Book Group will discuss "Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers," by Mary Roach. "Great science writing, and very engaging, says Joan Killough-Miller. "But don't try to read this over lunch!" Meets at 7 p.m. inside Barnes & Noble, 541 Lincoln St., Worcester.




Top of Form