Thursday, January 29, 2015

Library Visit: Mystic & Noank Library, Mystic, CT

Mystic & Noank Public Library
40 Library Street
Mystic, CT 06355

About this beautiful library:
Dedicated: January 23, 1894
Built by: Captain Elihu Spicer
Architect: William Bigelow of NY
Contractor: Mertz's Sons of Port Chester, NY

Some of the materials used:
  • Roman brick
  • Granite from Leete's Island in Guilford, CT
  • Sandstone from Longmeadow, VT
  • Marbles from Vermont, Tennessee, and Africa
  • Tile floors from Italy
  • Cathedral glass transoms
An impressive, yet welcoming facade.
The original front entrance (no longer in use)
Looking up at the original front entrance.
Carved frieze: Minerva represents Literature
Carved frieze: Apollo represents the Arts
Side view (note the addition on the right, which added an additional 6,000 sq. ft.)
Chimney close-up.
The new main entrance is through the addition built in 1991.
The new architectural detail is in harmony with the original, thus maintaining the integrity of the whole, a sure sign that this community loves their library.
Unique shelving on the first floor.
Lovely section signs hand-written in calligraphy guide patrons throughout the library.
A reading area on the second floor of the new addition.
Where books go to be repaired.
A stunning room.
The oak ceiling is high, yet the warmth of the wood makes the room feel cozy.
Dedication above the fireplace reads:
Elihu Spicer
Gave this library to the people.
'Large was his bounty and his soul sincere.'
Bay window reading area to the left of the fireplace.
The view from the bay window.
Looking back into the room from the bay window reading area.
Another view of the great room. Notice the periodicals section and the stained glass windows.
A handsome, user-friendly reference desk.
Bookcase detail.
A sunny corner.
The view sitting at a work table to the right of the fireplace.
Cather on the shelf.
Read about the history of the library here. And if you ever find yourself in Mystic, the library is just a short walk up the hill from historic downtown Mystic (where there's a wonderful bookstore, Bank Square Books, and, of course, Mystic Pizza for those of you old enough to remember the movie)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Library Campaign Bricks

My local library is raising funds through a buy-a-brick program. 
$150 dollars for a 4x8 brick upon which you can have three lines carved or $300 for a 8x8 brick with six lines of text.

I always glance at the bricks, but yesterday I took some time and read the bricks on the right-hand side of the walkway.
Here is a sampling.

Of course I was thrilled to see Willa Cather represented, 
and with my favorite quote of hers to boot!

Does your local library currently have a fundraising campaign?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

It's a Sign (WW)

Coming in...


and going out...

They're always so polite at The Book Barn in Niantic, CT.

Check out more Wordless Wednesday posts here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Army-Navy Store Book Find: The Wild Blue

I went into an Army-Navy surplus store for the first time in years, perhaps decades, last weekend. For seven bucks I walked out with a winter cap, a USMC veteran sticker, and this book:

The Wild Blue: The Novel of the U.S. Air Force by Walter J. Boyne and Steven L. Thompson, Ivy Books (Ballantine), 1986. Not just "a" novel, but THE novel of the USAF. My dad was an airman, so I have a soft spot for the Air Force.

The book was nestled between old small arms manuals and a Navy cruise book. I pulled the book from the shelf and opened to this classic 1980s teaser page:

My, my, didn't Kathy Kelly have a nice surprise?

Next I flipped open to a random page to see how engaging the prose is and read:

While the prose style didn't excite me, the content did. 

Not only is From Here to Eternity on my 2015 to be read short list, but a base library is discussed! I just had to buy the book after that and happily paid the $2 asking price.

During my enlistment I was primarily stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC where I enjoyed many books from the base library. It was the first library I frequented as an adult, one that I wasn't introduced to by my parents or teachers, but it was because my parents and teachers had taught me how to use and love libraries that I ended up there. 

Did you know there are base libraries? Many civilians are surprised to learn that there are libraries on military bases.

The back cover copy:

I'm not sure how soon I'll get around to reading The Wild Blue, but when I do I'll be sure to let you know how Kathy Kelly's husband finally learned to please her.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Mayflower II in "dry dock"

I took a drive to Mystic, CT today to visit the library (more on that later in the week) and Bank Square Books, but had to pull over and investigate when I saw this:

See that big ship at the end of the block? That's no Disney prop, it's the actual ship Mayflower II hauled ashore.

The Mayflower II is a full scale replica of the original Mayflower that landed on American shores in 1620. The replica was built in Devon, England and sailed to the US in 1957.

The ship is in the initial stages of a multi-year, seasonal restoration project at The Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard. The restoration will be finished in 2020 which is the 400th anniversary of the original Mayflower's arrival.

You can barely see him, but there's a man in the lower left hand corner of the picture using a long pole to work on the side of the ship. This puts the size of the ship in perspective, doesn't it? It's nowhere near the size of today's commercial ships, but its size is still impressive.

I've had Nathaniel Philbrick's book Mayflower on my 'to be read list' for years now and seeing this replica of the ship makes me want to get to the book sooner rather than later.

You can learn more about the Mayflower II's restoration at the Plimoth Plantation's website or at the Mystic Seaport's website.

What historic objects, big or small, have made you want to learn more about them and their history?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

From the Fifteenth District: Stories by Mavis Gallant

I'd never heard of Mavis Gallant (1922-2014). Perhaps I should be embarrassed to admit this in public, because she was a respected, prolific writer. Over 100 of her short stories were published in The New Yorker, the first in 1951.

Jhumpa Lahiri credits Mavis as "the single most important influence on her own writing" (source).

Mavis was a Canadian from Quebec who worked first as a journalist before deciding to be a full-time fiction writer. She made Paris her home.

There are nine stories in this collection, each of which is concerned in some way with World War II, before, during, and after: From the lazy coastal life of southern France and northwest Italy before the war, to what it was like in Italy, France, and Germany during the war, to how people adjust to the changing world in the years immediately following the war and well on into the the Cold War.

In "The Four Seasons" there's a completely self-absorbed English family living on the northwest coast of Italy prior to WWII who are certain war will not break out because Hilter and Mussolini say they don't want war. When war comes they stubbornly insist they won't be bullied out of the country. Inevitably, they are desperate to leave. 

"The Moslem Wife" is a fascinating story about a woman hotel owner in the south of France who deals with the changing tides of the war and the ghosts it leaves, such as one man who "got on the wrong side of the right side at the wrong time." Her husband is stuck in America during the war and she realizes she can't write anything real to him about her situation and so there are silences in her letters, the "silence imposed by the impossibility of telling anything real." It's a story about the realities of war for civilians, a story that breaks the silence that is too often unbreakable in real life.

In "The Latehomecomer" we see the anger of a young German man who was a POW in France until 1950. His anger is not at the French or the Russians, but the older generations of German men--men who hid below ground in the relative safety of bunkers while teenage boys and then teenage girls pulled anti-aircraft duty above. In this story we see how deeply war shapes and changes life--from who women marry and why to what names newborns receive to what men do in the kitchen--and how one's lot is shaped by social-economic status in war and peace.

All of the stories were breathtaking to read for the first time and some made me want to reread them immediately. One such is "His Mother," the story of a mother whose life and the changing circumstances of life in the Soviet Union are revealed in thoughts around letters to her son who defected to Glasgow on a soccer trip.

The stories are literary fiction, to be sure. There is no standard plot that drives the stories. I found myself reading slowly to absorb the story, yet turning the pages quickly to see what would happen next. What morsel of insight was around the corner? Would a long suffering character find some relief? What slap upside the head would a deluded character receive?

These are stories that tell deep truths about life and war and how people carry on in world that has been forever altered. And although the collection ends on a high note, these stories will take you through the wringer.

Originally published in 1978, From the Fifteenth District was released by Open Road Media in digital format last month.

I read this book as part of a tour hosted by France Book Tours and received a free copy for an honest review. Read more reviews on the tour here and enter to win a digital copy of this book (open to US residents only).

Friday, January 2, 2015

Happy New Year! 2014 Recap

Happy New Year! I hope your 2015 is off to a lovely start and that you have a fresh stack of books at your side.

I took some time yesterday to look over my spreadsheet of books read in 2014 and compiled some numbers. I read 42 books last year. That's 13 fewer than 2013, but according to Goodreads it's 501 pages more. No doubt because I read The Count of Monte Cristo, The Moonstone, The Woman in White, and The Quick, which are all chunksters.

Looking back, I'm surprised I read as much as I did manage since the main focus of the year was getting settled in the new house, exploring a new state, and getting the hang of a new job.

Overall, it was a good reading year. Here's the breakdown on the 42 books I read:

Fiction: 26
  • Mystery/Thrillers:15
  • Literary: 6
  • Historical: 4
  • Drama: 1
NonFiction: 16
  • Memoir: 7
  • History: 3
  • Biography: 2
  • Science: 2
  • Autobiography: 1
  • Animals: 1
Books by women: 27
Books by men: 15

DNF: 4 

By century:
19th century: 3
20th century: 7
21st century: 32 (15 of which were published in 2014. I didn't think I read that many new releases this year.)

I felt like I wasn't reading many classics or older titles and these numbers confirm it. I'm a bit surprised by how skewed my reading was towards contemporary titles, but I suppose that comes with the territory of reading memoirs and new mysteries. 

Favorite Fiction Titles
Based on the passion of the writing, the originality of the story and characters, and the sense memory left from the reading experience, these are my favorite fiction reads of 2014. In no particular order & links go to my post on the book:
Favorite Nonfiction Titles
I like to read nonfiction to learn new things, to see how people deal with what life throws their way, how they deal with the repercussions of their own decisions, and to find encouragement and hope. Again in no particular order, here are my top 5 nonfiction reads:
Reading plans for 2015
I'm not committing to any new reading challenges this year, but I am recommitting to my Classics Club list, which I recently revised. I cut it down from 100 to 50 books and kept my original deadline in an effort to motivate myself to get to some of the books I say I want to read.

I'll also read more from my own shelves and try to resist the temptations of book tours, review copies, library displays, and new tables at bookstores.

Will also see about reading some 18th and 19th century titles and more early-to-mid 20th century titles. I enjoy pre-twentieth century literature. There was a time when it was the majority of my reading (at least when it came to fiction). Perhaps my tastes have changed? Reckon I'll find out this year.

As for how many books I'll try to read, my standard goal is always 52 books. One a week.

How was your reading in 2014 and do you have any special reading plans for 2015?

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