Saturday, October 31, 2015

Featured Author: Shirley Jackson

Shirley Jackson, who died 50 years ago this month at the much too early age of 48, left behind a solid literary opus anchored in two indelible works: the iconic short story “The Lottery” and the classy ghost story novel, The Haunting of Hill House (turned into the equally classy movie chiller, The Haunting, starring Julie Harris and Claire Bloom). On the basis of these much-loved works of fiction, we tend to remember Jackson for her dark, if wry, vision, but as a new collection of her previously unpublished and uncollected stories, essays and occasional pieces reminds us, she—and her work—were so much more.
~Robert Weibezahl, "Well Read: Beyond 'The Lottery'", BookPage August 2015

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) "was viewed in the 'Mad Men' era as a mere female scribbler" - her husband, Stanley Edgar Hyman, brought home the bacon as a New Yorker staff writer while Jackson wrote around household duties, including raising four children. She had "occult tendencies", including an interest in tarot and poltergeists and a collection of grimoires, so it's perhaps no wonder that her fiction tended to depict the "domestic nightmare".

This year saw the release of Shirley Jackson's  Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings. Many of the essays are observations of family life which Jackson contributed to "women's magazines"; the stories generally explore the creepiness of everyday life; Library Journal* praises it:

Remember the chilling excitement of reading Jackson's "The Lottery" for the first time? You'll have that same experience over and over again with this new collection, which offers more than 50 unpublished and uncollected works drawn from Jackson's papers at the Library of Congress and coedited by two of her children.
Publisher's Weekly* also recommended it:
Not every piece equals the artistry of "The Lottery," the controversial 1948 story that became an anthology and textbook staple, nor do all the pieces prove as haunting as The Haunting of Hill House. Yet together they are a multifaceted portrait of the artist as wife, mother, commentator on the comfortable middle class, and pioneer who explored a world of inexplicable, occasionally frightening phenomena. Writing about her kitchen, she describes its feuding forks, preening glasses, and sarcastic eggbeater. Jackson suggests (rather than delves into) that which is unnerving, writing in a smart, sharp, clear voice. 

And what better time to revisit the writings of the woman who was "an inspiration to writers from Stephen King to Joyce Carol Oates, [and] dared to look on the dark side and imagine the unimaginable"* than Halloween? Probably you've heard of The Lottery and Other Stories and The Haunting of Hill House (and perhaps you've seen one of the movies based on the latter, The Haunting [1999] and/or [1963]), but though Jackson's life was short, there are many other works to consider, many (but not all) of them spooky and unsettling. Here's a list of Shirley Jackson items in the library catalog:

The Sundial
Before there was Hill House, there was the Halloran mansion of Jackson's stunningly creepy fourth novel, The Sundial. When the Halloran clan gathers at the family home for a funeral, no one is surprised when the somewhat peculiar Aunt Fanny wanders off into the secret garden. But then she returns to report an astonishing vision of an apocalypse from which only the Hallorans and their hangers-on will be spared, and the family finds itself engulfed in growing madness, fear, and violence as they prepare for a terrible new world.*

Seventeen-year-old Natalie Waite longs to escape home for college. Her father is a domineering and egotistical writer who keeps a tight rein on Natalie and her long-suffering mother. When Natalie finally does get away, however, college life doesn't bring the happiness she expected. Little by little, Natalie is no longer certain of anything--even where reality ends and her dark imaginings begin. Chilling and suspenseful, Hangsaman is loosely based on the real-life disappearance of a Bennington College sophomore in 1946.* 

Just An Ordinary Day
A collection of new and previously unpublished stories.* 

Life Among the Savages
In her celebrated fiction, Shirley Jackson explored the darkness lurking beneath the surface of small-town America. But in Life Among the Savages, she takes on the lighter side of small-town life. In this witty and warm memoir of her family’s life in rural Vermont, she delightfully exposes a domestic side in cheerful contrast to her quietly terrifying fiction. With a novelist’s gift for character, an unfailing maternal instinct, and her signature humor, Jackson turns everyday family experiences into brilliant adventures.**

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Taking readers deep into a labyrinth of dark neurosis, We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a deliciously unsettling novel about a perverse, isolated, and possibly murderous family and the struggle that ensues when a cousin arrives at their estate.**

The Bird's Nest
Elizabeth is a demure twenty-three-year-old wiling her life away at a dull museum job, living with her neurotic aunt, and subsisting off her dead mother’s inheritance. When Elizabeth begins to suffer terrible migraines and backaches, her aunt takes her to the doctor, then to a psychiatrist. But slowly, and with Jackson’s characteristic chill, we learn that Elizabeth is not just one girl—but four separate, self-destructive personalities. The Bird’s Nest, Jackson’s third novel, develops hallmarks of the horror master’s most unsettling work: tormented heroines, riveting familial mysteries, and a disquieting vision inside the human mind.**

Come Along With Me: Part of a Novel, Sixteen Stories and Three Lectures 
This eclectic collection goes beyond her horror writing, revealing the full spectrum of her literary genius. In addition to Come Along with Me, Jackson's unfinished novel about the quirky inner life of a lonely widow, it features sixteen short stories and three lectures she delivered during her last years.**

9 Magic Wishes (J)
A child meets a magician who grants eight wonderfully fantastic wishes, with one wish left over. 

Also consider Private Demons: The Life of Shirley Jackson, a biography by Judy Oppenheimer, and Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrell, a psychological thriller in which fictional young couple spends a year at Bennington in 1964 with novelist Shirley Jackson and her husband.

*quote taken from the library catalog
**quote taken from

Thursday, October 29, 2015

New & Novel: History of Punk

What is punk? Simply put, a music genre with a heyday in the 1970s, but also, culturally, an anti-establishment movement rooted in freedom of expression.  A lot of people have embraced punk, from fashion designer Vivienne Westwood to musician Billie Joe Armstrong to actor Noomi Rapace.  Musicians like Robert Smith, Kurt Cobain, Jack White, Beth Ditto, Florence Welch, Sufjan Stevens,and Moby have all talked about the impact punk played on their lives. Here's a few quotes from some of the major players of punk in an attempt to encapsulate the movement:

To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom not to be successful, freedom to be who you are.  It's freedom.
~Patti Smith

Questioning anything and everything, to me, is punk rock.
~Henry Rollins

Punk was originally about creating new, important, energetic music that would hopefully threaten the status quo and the stupidity of the 1970s.
~Jello Biafra

People forget the punk thing was really good for women. It motivated them to pick up a guitar rather than be a chanteuse.  It allowed us to be aggressive.
~Siouxsie Sioux

To me, punk is about being an individual and going against the grain and standing up and saying 'This is who I am.'
~Joey Ramone

I never wanted to go back and relive the glory days; I just wanted to keep moving forward. That's what I took from punk.  Keep moving.  Don't look back.
~Paul Simonon

We recently saw an internet meme that showed a picture of punk rockers Ian MacKaye and Henry Rollins (as they look today) with the caption "Punk rock is not dead. It is, however, graying, balding, and going to bed at a much more reasonable hour..." With that on our minds, and the recent memoirs published by Patti Smith (M Train) and Carrie Brownstein (Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl) in the library catalog, and with a little help from the folks at Book Riot, we thought it might be a good time to revisit the history of one of our favorite genres. Here's some items dealing with history of punk from the library catalog:

From the Velvets to the Voidoids: A Pre-Punk History For a Post-Punk World by Clinton Heylin [eBook]

Punk: The Whole Story edited by Mark Blake

Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone by Marky Ramone with Richard Herschlag

Dancing with Myself by Billy Idol

Punk by Stephen Colegrave & Chris Sullivan

Punk Rock: An Oral History by John Robb [eBook]

For Kids 

The Story of Punk and Indie by Matt Anniss (J)


The Decline of Western Civilization Collection 
(See the Penelope Spheeris' "crucial, compelling statement of the most significant and influential youth movement and musical transformation of the past 3 decades" at The Guild Cinema November 20-21!)

We Are the Best!

For more punk, try a subject search of "Punk rock musicians" or "Punk culture". You can even find some fiction with punk rock themes, like Jennifer Egan's A Visit From the Goon Squad, I Am China by Xiaolu Guo, The Unnoticeables by Robert Brockway, Tyler McMahon's How the Mistakes Were Made, The Predictions by Bianca Zander, and The Listeners by Leni Zumas.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Back Pain

Dennis D. Potokar / Photo Researchers / Universal Images Group
Rights Managed / For Education Use Only
Have you never experienced back pain?  Can you say you have never described yourself as having "a bad back"?  Consider yourself lucky. Back pain is an all-too-common ailment, whether it's caused by bad habits (incorrect posture, not following recommended lifting techniques), injury, or accident, and it can affect your lower back, your middle back, cause neck pain, or show up as sciatica. We are long time sufferers (who knew you could throw out your back sneezing in the shower?) and we've tried all sorts of remedies to try to assuage the pain - Aleve, Tiger Balm, hot water bottles, electric blankets, yoga, exercise, chiropractic...and books from the library catalog, of course!  Here are some helpful reads for those times when your back is out of whack, because, even when you're flat on your back, most of the time you can read.

Are there any books or remedies you recommend?  Let us know in the comments!

Ending Back Pain: 5 Powerful Steps to Diagnose, Understand, and Treat Your Ailing Back by Jack Stern, M.D., Ph.D 

Healing Yoga: Proven Postures To Treat Twenty Common Ailments-- From Backache to Bone Loss, Shoulder Pain to Bunions, and More by Loren Fishman, MD

Yoga For Back Pain by Loren Fishman, Carol Ardman

Exercises For Back Pain by William Smith [eBook]

If you are experiencing back pain or another ailment or want to find out more information about a health condition, you can also try using one of our health and medical databases.   Some of these resources require a valid library card number and PIN to access. Please be aware that neither books nor eResources should replace advice from a qualified medical practitioner.

Consumer Health Complete: A reliable, user-friendly resource featuring medical, health and wellness articles, guides, videos, reports, fact sheets and more.  Available in many languages.

Medline Plus: a service of the National Institutes of Health, produced by the National Library of Medicine.  Timely and authoritative health and medical information presented with the needs of patients and their community of family and friends in mind.

WebMD: A dynamic, interactive consumer health site bringing together health guides, news and communities.

Health Reference Center Academic: A full-text database featuring articles and reference resources for consumer health researchers, students and medical professionals.  

Sports Medicine & Physical Therapy Collection: Both researcher and practitioner alike will find relevant, authoritative content in this collection, which includes over 100 titles covering the fields of physical therapy and sports medicine. Covering a wide spectrum of information, researchers will have access to a diverse, but focused set of topics in the field, including proven treatment techniques, experimental research theses, and many more. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Horror: What is it?

Since I've been reading nothing but horror books this month, I was interested to read the posts Kelly Jensen, of Stacked Books, has written about it. I've never given much thought to what makes a horror story--does it have to include paranormal elements? Or is it something that could happen in real life? If someone asked, I suppose I would say horror needs to include a paranormal element, based on the fact that so much of Stephen King's novels could never happen in real life.

But then I read the Horror Writers Association's definition of horror fiction, which to summarize, is any fiction that elicits a painful or intense fear, dread, or dismay in readers. As the Horror Writers Association goes on to mention, this means horror fiction doesn't have to be limited to just one thing. It's not just supernatural stories, like a ghost story. It can be anything that elicits the emotions, so it could be a story about a serial killer. According to author Ellen Hopkins, horror has the possibility of being something like peer pressure (though in an interview, she stated she's not sure if peer pressure can be horror fiction, though it can be horrifying to teens).

Since reading some of these ideas, I've been thinking about what horror is to be. Can horror fiction be supernatural? Absolutely. Any ghost story written with the intent to scare is horror. Stories with serial killers can also be horror, but not all of them are--some are mysteries. To some people, maybe that's the same thing. What I think is interesting is that some people think a series like Barry Lyga's I Hunt Killers is horror, because it deals with a protagonist whose dad is the world's most notorious serial killer, and the dad wants the protagonist to be exactly like him, but to me, the I Hunt Killers series isn't horror at all. For me, it's a mystery series.

As some people, such as Kelly Jensen, have suggested, horror fiction is getting harder and harder to define, and I agree with them that it's in part because what elicits intense fear in one person is different from what elicits intense fear in another person. It's such a personal thing that it might not be easy to define what is horror fiction and what isn't, hence the blurring of boundaries.

What is horror fiction to you? Whether it's just a definition of what it means, or a list of some books that you consider horror, let me know in the comments!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Foodie Fest: Baked Goodies

Various cooking and baking utensils on shelf and hanging from rail. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 5 Sep 2015.

Who knew there was so much variety in baking? Vegan baking, baking with less sugar, gluten-free, raw (?!), America's favorite desserts, cakes and cupcakes with a surprise inside, cakes with evil designs, vintage bakes, baking traditions from around the world, baking to make yourself happy, the Great British Bake Off  (anybody else watching it on PBS?). This was an easy list to compile - the difficulty was not placing a hold on every book so we could drool over the glossy pictures! 

Honey & Jam: Seasonal Baking From My Kitchen in the Mountains by Hannah Queen

Custom Confections: Delicious Desserts You Can Create and Enjoy by Jen Besel (J)

Cake My Day!: Eye-Popping Designs For Simple, Stunning, Fanciful, and Funny Cakes by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson 

Back in the Day Bakery, Made With Love: More Than 100 Recipes and Make-It-Yourself Projects to Create and Share by Cheryl Day and Griffith Day 

Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break, With Recipes For Pastries, Breads, and Other Treats by Anna Brones & Johanna Kindvall

Baking With Less Sugar: Recipes For Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-To-No White Sugar by Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery + Café

Baked Occasions: Desserts For Leisure Activities, Holidays, and Informal Celebrations by Matt Lewis

Baking Chez Moi: Recipes From My Paris Home To Your Home Anywhere by Dorie Greenspan  

Great British Bake Off 2013  by Linda Collister 


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Foodie Fest: Food and Literature

Various cooking and baking utensils on shelf and hanging from rail. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 5 Sep 2015.

Are you a fan of culinary mysteries? Do you enjoy novels and memoirs with recipes, such as Like Water for Chocolate, A Homemade Life, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, My Berlin Kitchen, and Julie & Julia? We'd like to recommend more delicious literary feasts to you! Whether it's taking inspiration from literature (and, occasionally, from television and art) or cooking one's way through great books and the history of world literature, these books should tickle your palate for reading, or eating, or both!

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti

From Goldy's Kitchen: Recipes and Words on Writing, Culinary Adventures, and Life by Diane Mott Davidson

The Modern Art Cookbook by Mary Ann Caws

Kafka's Soup: A Complete History of World Literature in 14 Recipes written and illustrated by Mark Crick


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Foodie Fest: Single Subject Cookbooks

Various cooking and baking utensils on shelf and hanging from rail. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 5 Sep 2015.
Sometimes you pick up a cookbook because you are a fan of a celebrity chef (hello, Nigella) or a cuisine (Ethiopian, anyone?) or a lifestyle (many, many people are giving veganism a try) or a cooking technique (barbecuing/grilling, for example).  But have you ever tried a cookbook that is based around a specific food? We recently saw that the catalog was featuring 3 cookbooks devoted to yogurt, and we thought, what other cookbooks revolve around a single subject?  The list we came up with is kind of...eclectic. Are there any single subject cookbooks you've been intrigued by or would recommend?  Let us know in the comments!


Yogurt: Sweet and Savory Recipes For Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner by Janet Fletcher

Yogurt Culture: A Global Look at How to Make, Bake, Sip, and Chill the World's Creamiest, Healthiest Food by Cheryl Sternman Rule

The Greek Yogurt Cookbook: Includes Over 125 Delicious, Nutritious Greek Yogurt Recipes by Lauren Kelly [eBook] 


Brassicas: Cooking the World's Healthiest Vegetables - Kale, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts and More by Laura B. Russell  

Salad Love by David Bez


Animal Ingredients

Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World's Most Versatile Ingredient by Michael Ruhlman

Haute Dogs: Recipes For Delicious Hot Dogs, Buns, and Condiments by Russell Van Kraayenburg 

Pork: More Than 50 Heavenly Meals That Celebrate the Glory of Pig, Delicious Pig by Cree LeFavour  

Meat: Everything You Need to Know by Pat LaFrieda and Carolynn Carreño


The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin by Michael Krondl 

Bitter: A Taste of the World's Most Dangerous Flavor, With Recipes by Jennifer McLagan 


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Foodie Fest: One Dish, One Bowl, One Pot

Various cooking and baking utensils on shelf and hanging from rail. Photograph. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 5 Sep 2015.
We don't know about you, but when we get home from a hard day at the library, we want our dinner to be simple and fast to make. That doesn't mean it has to be frozen or boil-in-a-bag or takeout, though!  Here are some cookbooks - there's even a baking book - of food you can make that won't have you cooking on all burners and cleaning up a mess of dishes afterwards. Enjoy a homecooked meal  without using every pot in the house!

One Pot of the Day by Kate McMillan

Salad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads For Every Season by Patricia Wells 

For slow cooker recipes, try a search using the subject "electric cooking, slow" or the keyword "slow cook*" (an asterisk at the end of a word will search for all variations of the word beginning with cook - cooking, cooker, etc.).

Not a meal, but looks like fun:

One-Hour Cheese by Claudia Lucero


The Story Behind the One-Pan, Nine-Minute Pasta Recipe That Took Over the Internet [Slate] 

Healthy one-pot recipes [BBC] 

One-Dish Wonders [Whole Foods Market]

How to Eat Healthy [President's Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition] 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

New and Novel: Herbs

We've got a lot of  great books about herbs in the library catalog right now!  Whether you are a budding herbalist (pun intended!), a gardener, a tea aficionado, or just looking to know more about culinary herbs, we've got something for you to peruse. Here's some of our latest acquisitions:

Herbal Goddess: Discover the Amazing Spirit of 12 Healing Herbs with Teas, Potions, Salves, Food, Yoga, and More by Amy Jirsa

Natural Health Remedies: An A-Z Handbook With Natural Treatments by Janet Maccaro


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Young Adult Horror

It's been about three months since I've read any young adult fiction, and now that it's October, I've found myself finally wanting to read it again. It's perfect timing, too. This month's reading theme is horror, and there are plenty of young adult horror novels to choose from. Here's what I'll be reading this month. All book summaries are from the library's catalog.

MARY: Unleashed by Hillary Monahan: Jess McAllister's summoning obsession has turned into a deadly haunting since the ghost of Mary Worth will not rest until Jess has come undone, so now it is up to Jess and her reluctant friends, Shauna and Kitty, to stop Mary for good.

The urban legend of Bloody Mary has always fascinated me, and I was thrilled when MARY: The Summoning was published last year. While it wasn't the best horror novel I've read, it kept me interested, and I was happy to see that it was the first of a series.

Thirteen Chairs by Dave Shelton: When Jack enters the deserted house in his neighborhood, he finds a group of people who invite him to take the thirteenth chair in the room and share a story--in the house where the ghosts meet.

I love ghost stories, and this one sounds different enough from the typical ghost story that I couldn't wait to check it out.

What We Knew by Barbara Stewart: "When I was little, I imagined a monster: Scaly hands. Pits for eyes..." When Tracy and her best friend, Lisa, were kids, stories about a man -  a creep who exposes himself to little girls - kept them out of the woods and in their own backyards. But Tracy and Lisa aren't so little anymore, and the man in the woods is nothing but a stupid legend. Right? But someone is in the woods. Someone is watching. And he knows all their secrets, secrets they can't tell anyone - not even each other. "Monsters don't exist." Lisa's just being paranoid. At least that's what Tracy things. But when a disturbing "gift" confirms her worst fears, ti sets the girls on a dangerous journey that takes them beyond the edge of the woods. But reality is more terrifying than the most chilling myth, and what they find will test the bonds of friendship, loyalty, and love. "Once upon a time, two girls were lost in the woods." In Barbara Stewart's What We Knew, Tracy and Lisa can't destroy the evil they'll face, but can they stop it from destroying each other?

A creepy monster living in the woods? Yes, please!

Don't Stay Up Late: A Fear Street novel by R.L. Stine: Ever since a car accident killed her father and gave her a severe concussion, high school junior Lisa has been plagued by nightmares and hallucinations, but when she accepts a babysitting job in hopes it will banish the disturbing images, she faces new terror as she begins to question exactly who--or what--she is babysitting.

I have to admit, I'm only reading this one because it's R.L. Stine. I never read the original Fear Street series, but I loved Goosebumps, and now that Fear Street is back, I thought I'd give it a try.

Return to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz: Ivy Jensen escaped the Dark House--but the haunting memories of the friends she left behind remain. As the trail for the killer grows cold, it's up to Ivy to end the nightmare. Forever.

I loved Welcome to the Dark House. It felt like I was reading a horror movie. I love horror movies, and I would love to see this book turned into one. It was creepy without being too terrifying, and I couldn't help but read it in one sitting. I can't wait to dive into the second book.

Slasher Boys and Monster Girls, edited by April Genevieve Tucholke: Inspired by classic tales and films, a collection of fourteen short stories ranging from bloody horror, to psychological thrillers, to supernatural creatures, to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, by acclaimed YA authors of every genre.

Ask the Dark by Henry Turner: Billy Zeets has a story to tell. About being a vandal and petty thief. About missing boys and an elusive killer. And about what happens if a boy who breaks all the rules is the only person who can piece together the truth. Gripping and powerful, this masterful debut novel comes to vivid life through the unique voice of a hero as unlikely as he is unforgettable.

There are also a few adult novels and short story collections I'd like to read.

Hawkes Harbor by S.E. Hinton
Christine by Stephen King
The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

I don't know that I'll be able to get through everything, but I love this time of year. Fall perfect for reading (I love curling up in bed with a cup of hot tea and a good book!), and October is even better because with the holidays coming up, everything is starting to feel festive and fun, and there's no better time to read a scary story than that.

Will you be reading any horror novels this month? Let me know in the comments. Happy reading!