What was your all time favorite book/memory of reading, that got you to love books?

December Staff Picks

Jan’s Pick:

Roland Merullo’s “The Talk-Funny Girl” is a fascinating, heart-wrenching story of a young girl told in her own unique voice and language. You will avidly follow her life as she fights her way from a desperate family situation toward adult happiness.

Susan’s Pick:

In “Lost Memory of Skin” Russell Banks introduces us to an alternate world occupied by social deviants. Sound loathsome? I dare you to try this book about outcasts who have been thrown away with no chance of redemption. Chances are good that you’ll wind up with a broader point of view, and maybe even a smidgen of respect for the main character’s will to survive.

Cindy’s Pick:

I just finished listening to “The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb” by Melanie Benjamin, a fictionalized account of the remarkable life of Lavinia Stratton, a “perfectly formed woman in miniature”. Showman PT Barnum fanned the flames of romance between Lavinia and his protege, General Tom Thumb, and when the two married in 1863 they were the most famous couple in America. Lavinia’s story is told with abundant period detail and insight into the life of a woman small in stature but large in spunk and determination.

Cheryl’s Pick:

“My name is Mary Sutter.” by Robin Oliveira, tells the story of a young woman during the Civil War who wants to become a surgeon. Oliveira’s descriptions of battles and the grim conditions of war make this novel a realistic, powerful read.

Janet’s Pick:

I adored “The Art of Fielding.” First-time novelist Chad Harbach uses baseball as a metaphor for life, love, family, friendship and honor. A pure joy to read, with transcendent passages, and one of THE books of the year.


October Staff Picks

Cindy’s Pick:  “Before I go to Sleep”, by SJ Watson. Can you imagine waking up each morning with no memory of who you are? Amnesia-sufferer Christine’s memory is erased each night when she falls asleep. In this thriller, she must piece together what is real and who can be trusted.

Cheryl’s Pick: “Game of Thrones” by George R. R. Martin is the 1st book in the series “Song of Ice and Fire”. Fantasy similar to Lord of the Rings, but a cut above. Well developed characters and intriguing plots make this a page turner.

Janet’s Pick: (audiobook) In “Boomerang” Michael Lewis writes with humor and clarity about the international monetary crisis of 2008 as he takes us on a tour of Iceland, Greece, Ireland, and, yes, the United States — member countries of what he calls the New Third World. Actor Dylan Baker hits just the right notes in his reading of this timely book.

Jan’s Pick: Brian Selznick’s “Wonderstruck” is a fascinating novel of two  young people.  Ben’s story is told in words, and Rose’s in over 460 beautiful illustra-tions. Set 50 years apart, the amazing stories weave back and forth and ultimately intertwine. Recommended for grades 5-8, but may appeal to adults as well.

Susan’s Pick: I read rave reviews of Booker Prize winner “Wolf Hall,” but put off trying it because I have little interest in Tudor England. My mistake! Hilary Mantel pulls you into the world and life of Thomas Cromwell from the very first page, and never lets up. A rich, absorbing work of fiction.

Please share your comments on these books — or suggest some for us to try.

Guilty Pleasures

OK, everybody – time to lower the intellectual level around here a little bit. What do you read for pure, unadulterated, mindless escape? And I don’t want to hear “Jane Austen!” Time to dish…

As for me, sometimes I like to revisit the “Governess Gothic” novels so beloved of my youth. They always seem to be written by women with nondescript Anglo-Saxon names (or pen names) – Victoria Holt, Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitney.  “Kirkland Revels loomed high above the wild and eerie Yorkshire moors like a brooding stone fortress. To some there was an atmosphere of evil about the place, but to innocent young bride Catherine Rockwell, the mansion seemed magnificently romantic. She did not know then of the terrible secrets imprisoned behind its massive walls.”  Be still, my heart!

So what’s your pleasure? Guys too – I know there are some Tom Clancy or Doc Savage fans out there somewhere.

Susan Swasta, MSL Librarian

What makes for a great summer beach read? That depends on what you are looking for from your summer reading experience.  Are you searching for escape, adventure, laughter… relaxation?

I like a book to transport me to another place and time and I like to do that through literary fiction. Alan Bradley’s A Red Herring without Mustard fits the bill.  Set in the English countryside circa 1950, it’s the third installment in the “Flavia de Luce” series.

I can’t describe it any better than Borders does: “Award-winning author Alan Bradley returns with another beguiling novel starring the insidiously clever and unflappable eleven-year-old sleuth Flavia de Luce. The precocious chemist with a passion for poisons uncovers a fresh slew of misdeeds in the hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey—mysteries involving a missing tot, a fortune-teller, and a corpse in Flavia’s own backyard.”  In one word, Flavia is a delight!

This book could stand alone but I would recommend starting with the first in the series, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie. How a middle-aged man who has never lived in England could write this series is a marvel!

What’s your idea of a great summer beach read?  We’d love your recom-mendations — this is the time of year when people are always asking us for good vacation books!
Posted by MSL Adult Services Librarian Cindy Waters

For someone who is constantly trying to remember where I left my glasses, Joshua Foer’s “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything” had obvious appeal. And guess what? Once I started reading, I was so taken with this captivating book that I pretty much forgot everything else until I finished it. As one critic says: “You have to love a writer who uses chick sexing to help explain memory.”

We travel through time with Foer, back to the ancient Greek poet Simonedes and his “memory palaces” — visual images used as mnemonic devices. This technique is still used today, and I’m having so much fun with it that I can now recall at will a totally random list of objects such as a jar of pickled garlic, a vat of cottage cheese, 3 hula hoops, and a peat-smoked salmon!

Foer engagingly describes this and other techniques — but this book is by no means a “How-To” manual. It’s an examination of culture, the transmission of information from generation to generation, contemporary external memory devices (think smart phone, computer, IPad…) and the quirky individuals Foer met in his quest to compete at the 2006 US Memory Championship.  And it’s a great read! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go look for my glasses.
Posted by Youth Services Librarian Janet Kleinberg

James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke is a prolific, but consistently good author. Most of his books feature Dave Robicheaux, a sheriff in New Iberia, LA. Robicheaux’s police duties sometimes take him to nearby New Orleans, where Burke depicts the seamy side of the city.

His deeply flawed characters lend texture and complexity to his novels. His rich prose evokes a sense of place, whether he is describing the nutria in the lush swamp or pelicans flying over the delta.

Each time I finish his latest book, I say that was my favorite one. He just gets better and better. If you want a literary treat with a little grit, read James Lee Burke.    Any Burke fans (or prospective Burke fans) out there? We’d love to hear your opinions and observations.




This is a blog for everyone who loves to read, period. All of us here at Mark Skinner Library will be sharing our favorite books, genres, authors, etc. We’ll also invite “guest bloggers” from time to time. Jump in with comments and let’s have some lively discussions.

Love Your Library month

We put up a comments tree to invite our customers to tell us why they love Mark Skinner Library, and the response has been tremendous. My favorites: “It’s a great spot to hang out and browse the world.” “Because of the ‘friends’ I find on the shelf and behind the desk.” “Weil hier immer alle so nett sind.” “All the glorious Harry Potter books — thank you!” And the hands-down favorite among the small fry — bean bag chairs.

It’s so nice to be appreciated!

Hello world!

Blog entry #1 from Mark Skinner Library in Manchester, Vermont. We’ll be sharing the news from our little corner of Library Land. Stay tuned… and meanwhile, check out our Web page at http://www.markskinnerlibrary.org/.