Tag Archives: Megan’s picks

Our summer reading picks

In anticipation of summer vacations full of summer reading, the staff at Chatham Community Library offer up these great recommendations for your summer reading pleasure…

Amy: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer.

Visit the Channel Islands during World War II and honor creativity in adversity! It’s the power of books and community told through letters.



Brendan: Lost Rights by David Howard

I’m currently reading Lost Rights: The Misadventures of a Stolen American Relic for Chatham Community Library’s July Book Club meeting. It’s the story of how North Carolina’s original copy of the Bill of Rights was stolen during the Civil War and recently rediscovered in an FBI sting operation, and its convoluted journey through many hands along the way. Come talk about it with us on July 3 at 6:45 pm at the Chatham Community Library!

Dana: A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss

This well-researched historical thriller launches the Benjamin Weaver series, in which a boxer-turned-private investigator travels through the seedy underworld of eighteenth-century London in pursuit of thieves and debtors. Weaver (a Jew among Christians, adding yet another layer of interest to the story) becomes entangled in the world of finance and scandal leading up to the world’s first stock-market crash, brought about by speculation in the South Sea Company’s stock. If you want a rollicking good read without even realizing you’re also getting a bit of a history lesson (the beginnings of speculative trading, anyone?), you won’t be able to get enough of this series.

Megan: On Writing by Stephen King

Summer always puts me in creative-mode, and Stephen King’s classic memoir is full of both writing advice and hilarious life stories. A perfect lead-in to our summer edition of National Novel Writing Month this July!


Molly: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte & Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

Jane Eyre was written in 1847 and is the story of orphaned unloved Jane, self-described as “poor, plain, and little.” The novel, told in the passionate first person voice of Jane herself, chronicles the narrator’s life from age 10 through adulthood. While the story contains elements of romance, I would argue that it is a book primarily about one person’s quest for self-determination. Jane is caught in a time and place (19th century England) in which her role in the world is pre-determined. She does not accept this fate, however. There is a mystery at the heart of the book, too, which I won’t spoil. After reading Jane Eyre, definitely try Jean Rhys’s, Wide Sargasso Sea. While the book is technically a prequel to Jane Eyre, it was written over a century after Bronte published her novel, in 1966. This book follows the story of Antoinette, a brilliant and troubled creole woman from the Bahamas. To say more would be to ruin the surprise of both books.

Jennifer’s picks: Find yourself taking a “stay-cation” this year? Three outstanding new books will transport you to different times and places–from the deep woods of Michigan to the Blue Ridge of Virginia and North Carolina–hold you tighter than a patch of brambles, and haunt you like ballads “way over yonder in the minor key,” as Woody Guthrie put it.

The protagonist of Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon a River, Margo, is a teen abandoned by her mother. She’s learned most of what she knows on the river and is as sure a shot as her idol, Annie Oakley. After a tragedy forces her from her home, she survives in the wild on a search for her mother. This is a young woman who makes choices, though they aren’t always good ones, and faces challenges with a calm assurance. In a nutshell, Campbell has created a female Homer who overcomes trial after trial to return home—to herself. Although no Pulitzer prize for fiction was awarded this year, this book was long rumored to be in the running.

Ron Rash and Robert Goolrick are masters of atmosphere, and their newest novels ring with moonshine and high lonesome mystery. Neither Heading Out to Wonderful nor The Cove reach the art achieved in A Reliable Wife or Serena, but both are beautifully written mountain tales that evoke the sights, sounds, and smells of the Virginia and North Carolina Blue Ridge and readers would be missing stories as memorable and compelling as fairy tales.

Open Goolrick’s Heading Out to Wonderful and you won’t be able to stop reading until the bitter end. In 1948, “Charlie Beale drove into town out of nowhere in an old beat-up pickup truck. On the seat beside him were two suitcases. One was thin cardboard. . .and in it were. . .a set of butcher knives, sharp as razors. . .The other one was made of tin and. . .it was filled with money. A lot of money.” Then the handsome, mysterious stranger not only meets the ethereally beautiful wife of the meanest man in Brownsburg, Virginia, but draws the four-year-old son of his new employer into a train-wreck of a tale that will remind you of Long Black Veil, Tom Dooley, and other traditional tragic songs.

In The Cove, the suspicious inhabitants of Mars Hill, North Carolina have labeled Laurel Shelton a witch, though they accept her brother Hank, who has returned home from World War I minus one arm. The gloomy, secluded cove where she and her brother have spent their lives is widely believed to be cursed. One day Laurel follows the sound of flute music emanating from a swath of rhododendron and discovers a mysterious stranger. Dressed in rags, he has a note pinned to his shirt explaining that his name is Walter, he is mute, and he needs to get to New York. Hank and Laurel want to keep Walter in the cove as long as possible; Hank in order to make improvements to the homestead so he can leave the cove for good, and Laurel because she sees in Walter her only hope for happiness. When Walter’s dangerous secret is unwittingly revealed to a vigilante, the story steams full-tilt to its dramatic ending. Readers will want to learn more about the true events that inspired this story.

If you are still looking for books to read, here are more recommendations:

NPR’ s 2012 Summer Books Series

Goodreads Popular Summer Reading Shelves

Nancy Pearl Unearths Great Summer Reads

Library Journal: Summertime and the Reading is Easy

Don’t forget: summer reading isn’t just for kids! Chatham Community Library is pleased to offer its first summer reading program for adults, Between the Covers. Click here to sign up.


Book Review: Veggie Burgers Every Which Way–Lukas Volger

Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger

It’s summer, which for many people means it’s grilling season! Too often, though, vegetarians and vegans get the short end of the stick at cookouts. Let’s face it – those frozen, boxed veggie burgers really aren’t very good. They taste bland and artificial to me, and I have trouble appreciating that lovely dry, cardboard texture. Fortunately, delicious and nutritious veggie burgers are easy to make at home, and Lukas Volger shows us how in Veggie Burgers Every Which Way.

Volger’s book provides thirty unique veggie burger recipes, and the variety of styles ensures that there is something for every palette. All of the recipes are clearly-written and easy to follow, and many include directions for how busy cooks can prepare portions of the recipe ahead of time. Best of all, many of the recipes take thirty minutes or less of prep and cook time! Also included is a section on freezing your veggie burger mix for later use and the proper storage method for making your leftovers last, especially convenient for hectic schedules and small families.

Most of the recipes call for fresh ingredients readily available at any major supermarket. Those few ingredients that are less standard can be found in organic food stores or Asian grocers. The emphasis on fresh ingredients makes these burgers both more flavorful and more healthy than the alternatives provided in the (very few) other veggie burger cook books out there. More than half of the recipes are also vegan or gluten-free, and many others are easily modified for specialized diets.

The introduction to Veggie Burgers Every Which Way outlines the typical ingredients found in veggie burgers and the most common basic cooking methods for each, making this book easily accessible to fledgling cooks. For those who are looking to further amp their veggie burger experience, the section on condiments and toppings provides an eclectic mix of sauces, relishes, and other burger essentials. Definitely don’t skip the homemade french fry section; these tasty fry recipes are surprisingly easy and varied, a great change from frozen french fries. Adventurous cooks should try the burger bun section, which includes standard, whole wheat, pretzel, corn, and gluten-free recipes for homemade burger buns.

The burger recipes are divided into three sections based on their primary ingredients: Bean, Grain, and Nut Burgers; Vegetable Burgers; and Tofu, Seitan, and TVP Burgers. The offerings range from basic burgers that anyone can love to adventurous flavors inspired by international cuisine. Don’t be scared off by an unfamiliar ingredient or spice, though; Volger knows what he’s doing, and every burger is perfectly balanced.

I have personally tasted five of the recipes included in this book. At the American Library Association Conference in 2010, Volger prepared small samples of the Mushroom Burgers with Barley; I have made the Thai Carrot Burgers, Ginger-Soy Tempeh Burgers, Red Bean and Quinoa Burgers, and Pub Grub Veggie Burgers in my own kitchen. All have been straightforward, delicious, and satisfying to both vegetarian and omnivorous guests. Even the devoted carnivores in my life adore these recipes – this book is truly for everyone!

Book Review: Nation by Terry Pratchett

Nation by Terry Pratchett

Nation (2008) is not your typical Terry Pratchett offering. Readers who aren’t familiar with Pratchett’s massive back catalog of works need not worry; this young adult novel is a standalone piece unrelated to his previous series work. The Times Online said of Nation, “Thought-provoking as well as fun, this is Terry Pratchett at his most philosophical, with characters and situations sprung from ideas and games with language. And it celebrates the joy of the moment.”

Nation is an alternate history set in the 1860s, though elements of fantasy are present throughout the book. The primary characters are Daphne, a high-born daughter of British nobility with too many thoughts in her head for society’s taste; and Mau, a young Island man set to complete his right-of-passage to adulthood. When a tidal wave destroys life as they know it, Daphne and Mau are forced to reconsider long-held beliefs and cobble together a community of refugees. They learn from each other, respect each other, achieve great things together — and make the greatest scientific discovery of the century.

The real value of Nation is in its handling of the most difficult issues in life: death, grief, faith, and community. While it may sound exceedingly sad, make no mistake, Pratchett’s dry humor and sense of the joy in life make Nation an inspiring and fulfilling read. No matter what your age, if you love character-driven stories then pick up Nation by Terry Pratchett in the YA Fiction collection.

A Printz Award Honor book.

Book Review: The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai

Books have the wondrous power to free our minds and save us, but life for us is never quite as fanciful and free of consequences as it is for the characters in our books. The Borrower follows Lucy, an accidental children’s librarian with revolution in her blood; and Ian, a 10-year old book lover whose parents heavily censor his reading and force him to attend an anti-gay camp. The two inadvertently kidnap each other and set out on a completely unintended road trip, much to Lucy’s dismay.

Though the premise sounds far-fetched and funny, and there are indeed quite a few funny moments, The Borrower is in fact a challenging read for the ethical dilemmas Lucy faces, her questionable choices, and our view into her slowly crumbling identity. Ian’s sparkling characterization and bright personality shine a bright light into the dark places this novel explores, and the need to see the consequence and resolution for both characters keeps the pages turning. Fans of juvenile and young adult literature will be pleased by the frequent parodies and references to familiar works, though librarians may be offended by gross misrepresentations of library ethics and the profession itself.

You won’t find a rollicking beach read or a neat and concrete ending here, but the character interactions and the exploration of freedom and identity are worth the journey.

New Year’s Resolutions @ CCL

The new year is upon us – the time when we think back on the last 365 days and consider what we did right, what we did wrong, and what our hopes are for the future. Why not include the library in your New Year’s resolution plans? Take a look at some of the resources available at the Chatham Community Library that can help get your 2012 off to a great start!
(Numbers in parentheses are Dewey Decimal call numbers.)

Money: Economically-speaking, times are rough for many of us. CCL has a variety of resources to help you stretch your dollars, budget effectively, plan for retirement, spend wisely, and get out of debt.
Personal Finance (332.024), Retirement (332.024 & 646.79), Consumer Report (reference desk)

Health: Whether you’re looking to learn to cook, start cooking more meals at home, drop a few pounds, or manage a troublesome health issue, we have you covered!
Diet & Fitness (613.25-613.79), Cooking & Cookbooks (641), Psychology & Self Help (150-158), Medical Sciences (610-619)

Hobbies: Do you have a passion you never pursued, or a craft you’ve always wanted to learn? Maybe you’re just looking for something new and interesting to learn, or something fun to pass the time. We have everything from goat farming and beekeeping to quilting and knitting.
Gardening & Hobby Farming (630-635), Pets & Other Animals (636-639), Crafting (738-746), Music (780-788)

Education: Is your 2012 goal to go back to school, improve your knowledge of a subject area, or make the most of the education you have? Maybe you want to catch up with current technology or learn new software. We can feed your brain and give you the leg up you need.
Standardized Test Guides (378), College Majors (331.7023, 378), Computer & Software Classes @CCL

Career: Is 2012 the year you’ll start a new career? Launch your own small business? Improve your management skills or leadership? We have all the tools you need to set yourself up for success.
Resumes & Cover Letters (650.14), Business, Leadership, & Management (658), Small Business (658.022)

Family: Will you be starting a family in 2012, or perhaps expanding? Are you interested in researching your family history and lineage? We have a great genealogy section and plenty of resources to help you help your family.
Pregnancy & Fertility (618.2), Parenting (305-306, 649), Genealogy (LGH section), Adoption (362.734)

Reading: Last but never least, CCL is here to support reading and literacy. We have books and audiobooks galore in both hard copies and electronic versions available for download. Fiction, non-fiction, books for teens, books for children, practical, fun, informative, frivolous, whatever strikes your fancy. And don’t forget, if we don’t have a book or topic that you’d like to see on our shelves, feel free to fill out a purchase request at the circulation desk!
Fiction (adults, teenagers, children), Books about Books (011, 028, 809-810, 813), Books about Reading (372, 649.58)

Let us help you with your plans for the new year! We hope to see you soon.

Happy New Year from the Chatham Community Library!