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On The Waterfront

Welcome to On the Waterfront, the place where library director Ellen Connor muses about books and libraries and sometimes things in between.

Image of NPR's Books We Love

It is a most wonderful time of year for a lot of reasons and for book lovers it's that time of year when the lists of the best books for the year appear. Our favorite of these lists has long been NPR's Book Concierge. Last year, "Book Concierge" became "Books We Love" and while I miss the old name, the new "list" is better than ever before. The ease of use, the wide variety of books, the organization of the site, all of it is wonderful. The graphics of the book covers (and the links they hold) are fun to behold and ponder over. You will find enough books in this "list" to last a lifetime - and that might be the downside of this incredible many books, so little time. If you have book lovers in your circle, if you like to get books as gifts but aren't sure what to ask for, if you are looking for the next book to check out from your public library, "Books We Love" will guide you to the right title (or titles - be careful!) Happy reading well into the happy new year!

Image of Book-Opoly poster

We’ve been hosting an adult reading program for close to 15 years and this year we decided to switch things up a bit and play a reading game based on one of the most famous board games that we all know and love. (Most of us anyway). Book-Opoly ended up being much fun to organize and from what we’re hearing from participants, it’s been a lot of fun to play. The game board looked very familiar to anyone who has ever played Monopoly, but when you took a closer look, you realized you weren’t on Park Place anymore. You could, however, go to jail if you wished. We came up book categories, grouped by the familiar colors of the Monopoly properties, and as you read the books you got a sticker of a house on your game board and if you finished a group of three, you got a hotel sticker. Never underestimate the power of reward, even for adults. Participants also received a small prize and chances to win one of 10 beautiful baskets that our staff person, Carol, put together for us. The categories this year were, as always, cleverly designed by staff. Some of them were Book with A Blue Cover, Book with a White Cover, Book with a Color in the Title, Book with an Animal on the Cover, Book with a Person on the Cover, Book with No Picture on the Cover…you get the idea. Some might argue we took the easy way out this year – we say we made the program much more flexible. We did come up with some categories that were less vague than the ones already mentioned, and we also added categories to introduce people to our “Library of Things”. So, this year, some people learned how to play a Ukulele or a Harp, and others baked a cake in one of many shapes using one of our novelty cake pans. Of course, there was a bonus to including a category about baking a cake…we had some of the best cake of our lives this winter. The response to our adult reading program was fantastic. The boost the program gives to participants and us during the long winter months cannot be overstated. The next best thing after helping people find something to read, is discussing what they read after they bring the book back. We will keep having this program as long as people want to play. Thank you to everyone who participated.

Image of coronavirus

Is it too soon to read about Pandemics? Are we ready to be scared out of our wits by novels that detail the horrors of a society run amok by the ravages of disease? Do we want to know all about infectious disease and the fine line between discoveries and outbreaks? It turns out, we do. This list was compiled for the winter adult reading program and no one seemed to complain too much about reading something that hit close to home. Pandemics have been the stuff of dystopian fiction for a long time and the 1793 and 1918 pandemics have been written about over and over as new information and theories come to light. One imagines that the Covid pandemic will still be written about a century out too. There is something for everyone on this list. All of these books are in infosoup and most of them are here at this library.

Agnes at the end of the world. McWilliams, Kelly. Collection: Teen Fiction, Call #: McWilliams

Sixteen-year-old Agnes must escape a cult and a Prophet as she attempts to save the world from a pandemic

Air Mail: Letters of Politics, Pandemics, and Place. Irvine, Amy. Collection: On Order, Call #:

Letters penned during pandemic by writers Pam Houston and Amy Irvine as they shelter in place in Colorado's high country, one on either side of the Continental Divide.

An American plague : the true and terrifying story of the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. Murphy, Jim. Collection: Children Nonfiction, Call #: 614.5 MUR

In a powerful, dramatic narrative, critically acclaimed author Jim Murphy describes the illness known as yellow fever and the toll it took on Philadelphia’s residents, relating the epidemic to the major social and political events of the day and to 18th-century medical beliefs and practices

A beginning at the end. Chen, Mike. Collection: Fiction, Call #: Chen

Four survivors come together as the country rebuilds in the aftermath of a devastating pandemic. With stunning foresight, this character-driven postapocalyptic suspense is an intimate, hopeful look at how people can move forward by creating something better.

A bright as heaven. Meissner, Susan. Collection: Large Print, Call #: Meissner

Pauline Bright and her husband come to 1918 Philadelphia with hopes for a better life that are quashed when the Spanish Flu arrives. Despite loss, they learn the meaning of love by taking in a baby orphaned by the disease.

Bunker : building for the end times. Garrett, Bradley L. Collection: Nonfiction, Call #: 613.69 Gar

Currently, 3.7 million Americans call themselves preppers. Millions more prep without knowing it. Bradley Garrett, who began writing this book years before the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, argues that prepping is a rational response to global, social, and political systems that are failing to produce credible narratives of continued stability

COVID : the politics of fear and the power of science. Siegel, Marc. Collection: Nonfiction, Call #: 362.1962414 Sie

People are afraid. COVID-19 has upended our lives as it poses new medical dangers, economic suffering and grave uncertainty about the world around us. The collateral damage is enormous, but politics invade perception. There are so many unknowns. Does a treatment work? Is a vaccine coming? How likely are you to catch COVID and how can you best protect yourself and your family? What are the real risks and what is hysteria?

COVID-19 : the pandemic that never should have happened and how to stop the next one. Mackenzie, Debora. Collection: Nonfiction, Call #: 614.5 Mac

In a gripping, accessible narrative, a veteran science journalist lays out the shocking story of how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic happened and how to make sure this never happens again

The Decameron project : 29 new stories from the pandemic. Collection: NEW, Call #: 813 Dec

Presents a collection of short stories originally commissioned by "The New York Times Magazine" as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the world, from twenty-nine authors including Margaret Atwood, Tommy Orange, Edwidge Danticat, and more, in a project inspired by Boccaccio's "The Decameron."

Don't stand so close to me. Walters, Eric. Collection: Children Fiction, Call #: Walters

In this novel for middle readers, 13-year-old Quinn and her friends try to adjust to life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The end of October : a novel. Wright, Lawrence. Collection: Fiction - Mystery/Thriller, Call #: Wright

In this propulsive medical thriller--from the Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author--Dr. Henry Parsons, an unlikely but appealing hero, races to find the origins and cure of a mysterious new killer virus as it brings the world to its knees.

The fever of 1721 : the epidemic that revolutionized medicine and American politics. Coss, Stephen. Collection: Nonfiction, Call #: 616.912 Cos

The fever of 1721 : the epidemic that revolutionized medicine and American politics

Flu : the story of the great influenza pandemic of 1918 and the search for the virus that caused it. Kolata, Gina Bari. Collection: Nonfiction, Call #: 614.5 Kol

The fascinating, true story of the world's deadliest disease. In 1918, the Great Flu Epidemic felled the young and healthy virtually overnight. An estimated forty million people died as the epidemic raged. Children were left orphaned and families were devastated. As many American soldiers were killed by the 1918 flu as were killed in battle during World War I. And no area of the globe was safe.

How we live now : scenes from the pandemic. Hayes, Bill. Collection: Nonfiction, Call #: 779.997471 Hay

In How We Live Now, author and photographer Bill Hayes offers an ode to our shared humanity--capturing in real time this strange new world we're now in (for who knows how long?) with his signature insight and grace. As he wanders the increasingly empty streets of Manhattan, Hayes meets fellow New Yorkers and discovers stories to tell, but he also shares the unexpected moments of gratitude he finds from within his apartment, where he lives alone and--like everyone else--is staying home, trying to keep busy and not bored as he adjusts to enforced solitude with reading, cooking, reconnecting with loved ones, reflecting on the past--and writing.

Lethal agent. Mills, Kyle. Collection: Fiction, Call #: Flynn

An unprecedented bioterrorism plot threatens to kill millions of Americans in the midst of a divisive presidential election, in the next thriller in the #1 New York Times bestselling Mitch Rapp series.

An ocean of minutes. Lim, Thea. Collection: Fiction, Call #: Lim

America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan--time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. If she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded laborer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs

One for sorrow : a ghost story. Hahn, Mary Downing. Collection: Children Fiction, Call #: Hahn

From ghost story master Mary Downing Hahn, a chilling middle grade tale set during the flu pandemic of 1918.

Orleans. Smith, Sherri L. Collection: Teen Fiction, Call #: Smith

Set in a futuristic, hostile Orleans landscape, Fen de la Guerre must deliver her tribe leader's baby over the Wall into the Outer States before her blood becomes tainted with Delta Fever

The orphan collector. Wiseman, Ellen Marie. Collection: , Call #:

In the fall of 1918, thirteen-year-old German immigrant Pia Lange longs to be far from Philadelphia's overcrowded streets and slums, and from the anti-German sentiment that compelled her father to enlist in the U.S. Army, hoping to prove his loyalty. But an even more urgent threat has arrived. Spanish influenza is spreading through the city. Soon, dead and dying are everywhere. With no food at home, Pia must venture out in search of supplies, leaving her infant twin brothers alone...

Pale rider : the Spanish Flu of 1918 and how it changed the world. Spinney, Laura. Collection: Nonfiction, Call #: 614.518 Spi

The Spanish flu of 1918-1920 was one of the greatest human disasters of all time. It infected a third of the people on Earth--from the poorest immigrants of New York City to the king of Spain, Franz Kafka, Mahatma Gandhi and Woodrow Wilson. But despite a death toll of between 50 and 100 million people, it exists in our memory as an afterthought to World War I.
In this gripping narrative history, Laura Spinney traces the overlooked pandemic to reveal how the virus travelled across the globe, exposing mankind's vulnerability and putting our ingenuity to the test.

Pandemic. Cook, Robin. Collection: Fiction, Call #: Cook

The explosive new medical thriller from New York Times-bestselling author Robin Cook. After a young, seemingly healthy woman collapses suddenly on the NYC subway and dies by the time she reaches the hospital, her case is initially chalked up to a virulent strain of influenza. That is, until she ends up on Dr. Jack Stapleton's autopsy table, where Jack discovers something eerily fishy: First, that the young woman has had a heart transplant, and second, that her DNA matches that of the transplanted heart. Strangely, two more incidences of young people with this same sudden and rapid illness follow, and Jack fears that this could be the start of an unprecedented pandemic. But the facts aren't adding up. Something is off about these cases, something creepy, and only Jack can figure it out before it's too late.

The pull of the stars : a novel. Donoghue, Emma. Collection: Fiction, Call #: Donoghue

Dublin, 1918: three days in a maternity ward at the height of the Great Flu. A small world of work, risk, death, and unlooked-for love, in Donoghue's best novel since Room (Kirkus Reviews)In an Ireland doubly ravaged by war and disease, Nurse Julia Power works at an understaffed hospital in the city center, where expectant mothers who have come down with the terrible new Flu are quarantined together.

The rules of contagion : why things spread - and why they stop. Kucharski, Adam. Collection: Nonfiction, Call #: 302.2 Kuc

A deadly virus suddenly explodes into the population. A political movement gathers pace, and then quickly vanishes. An idea takes off like wildfire, changing our world forever. We live in a world that's more interconnected than ever before. Our lives are shaped by outbreaks - of disease, of misinformation, even of violence - that appear, spread and fade away with bewildering speed. To understand them, we need to learn the hidden laws that govern them.

Scribe : a novel. Hagy, Alyson Carol. Collection: Fiction, Call #: Hagy

Drawing on traditional folktales and the history and culture of Appalachia, Alyson Hagy has crafted a gripping, swiftly plotted novel that touches on pressing issues of our time--migration, pandemic disease, the rise of authoritarianism--and makes a compelling case for the power of stories to both show us the world and transform it.

Spillover : animal infections and the next human pandemic. Quammen, David. Collection: Nonfiction, Call #: 614.43 Qua

A masterpiece of science reporting that tracks the animal origins of emerging human diseases.

Station eleven : a novel. Mandel, Emily St. John. Collection: Fiction, Call #: Mandel

A movie star who's decided to pound the boards as King Lear collapses and dies mid-performance, and shortly thereafter civilization collapses and starts dying as well. The narrative then moves between the actor's early career and a journey through the blasted landscape 15 years after the book's opening events

Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America's Poets Respond to the Pandemic. Quinn, Alice. Collection: NEW, Call #: 811.608 Qui

A movie star who's decided to pound the boards as King Lear collapses and dies mid-performance, and shortly thereafter civilization collapses and starts dying as well. The narrative then moves between the actor's early career and a journey through the blasted landscape 15 years after the book's opening events

Vic Lee's Corona Diary 2020: A Personal Illustrated Journal of the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020. Lee, Vic. Collection: On Order, Call #:

Vic Lee's Corona Diary is an exquisitely illustrated graphic novel-style memoir chronicling the dramatic events around the global spread of the coronavirus

Year one. Roberts, Nora. Collection: Fiction, Call #: Roberts

It began on New Year's Eve. The sickness came on suddenly, and spread quickly. The fear spread even faster. Within weeks, everything people counted on began to fail them. The electrical grid sputtered; law and government collapsed--and more than half of the world's population was decimated. Where there had been order, there was now chaos. And as the power of science and technology receded, magic rose up in its place. Some of it is good, like the witchcraft worked by Lana Bingham, practicing in the loft apartment she shares with her lover, Max. Some of it is unimaginably evil, and it can lurk anywhere, around a corner, in fetid tunnels beneath the river--or in the ones you know and love the most. As word spreads that neither the immune nor the gifted are safe from the authorities who patrol the ravaged streets, and with nothing left to count on but each other, Lana and Max make their way out of a wrecked New York City

The Young Elites. Lu, Marie. Collection: Teen Fiction, Call #: Lu YE 1

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood plague: marked by a jagged scar, snow-white hair and lashes. Cast out by her family, Adelina has finally found a place to belong within the secret society of Young Elites. To some, the Elites are heroes, here to save innocents in desperate situations. But to the Inquisition Axis, the white-robed soldiers of Kenettra, they are monsters with demonic powers who must be brought to justice

It's finally officially summer, but we've known summer is upon us for a few weeks now because our summer reading program is underway and going strong. When we think back to last summer and the fog we were all in, it's a relief to feel things moving forward and having people, young and old back inside the Library. While we've held back on large in person programs for this season, we have moved forward with both virtual and outside in person programs. We also expanded our knowledge of the Beanstack Tracker app for the reading and activity portion of the program and the community has responded. We have 138 people registered on Beanstack and so far the feedback has been positive. The reading program is an all ages program and we have 38 adults signed up this year. As you read and do activities you earn virtual badges and those badges turn into virtual drawing slips for prize baskets.(Watching the black and white badges flip to color when you earn one is rewarding. Who knew?!) Beanstack will choose random winners at the end of the 8 week program and several lucky people will go home with a basket of goodies. Anyone can sign up for the reading program during the 8 weeks it is running. It ends July 30th. Go to or get the Beanstack Tracker app from your app store. After a simple registration process you will be ready to log your reading and activities.

Recovery after an historical event like a pandemic comes in baby steps. We feel like we've taken a lot of baby steps this summer. The sound of children and adults having fun in the library is something we knew never to take for granted. We missed it so much through much of last year. We're feeling the joy it can bring this summer and we're grateful.

It is December 31, 2020. A date that resonates with everyone right now because it's the last day of a year that most of us would never want to repeat. Living through a pandemic is not something that we ever thought we'd have to do. Our lives, our community, our country, our world...all of it was turned upside down through this past year. And those gathering places in our cities and towns...the cafes, restaurants, bars, stores, schools and yes, libraries, took a strong hit from the effects the pandemic dealt us. Suddenly, the places that brought communities  together were becoming a threat to public health. It was stunning and heartbreaking. As we moved through the phases of mitigation we all had to learn to switch gears quickly and it was not easy. Here at Sturm Memorial Library we closed the physical building in March, April and May but we kept the library open in other ways and kept our connection to the community going. On the first day we were allowed to do so we had staff in the building offering curbside service. We moved to in person appointments as soon as we had safety protocols in place. We started online programming and offered a summer reading program in the only way we could. We opened up access to inside services a little more and were reassured by seeing familiar and new faces. With a dedicated board we developed policies to deal with the pandemic more effectively and we revised them and revised them and revised them again. All of the staff remained working and decided as a team that we would see the pandemic through to the other side in the hopes that the post Covid library would continue to be a gathering place much like it was pre-Covid. 

Through all of the changes and uncertainty our patrons have remained steadfast. Adapting quickly to varying levels of access, dealing with the disappointments of limited services gracefully, recognizing that no one was alone in their uncertainty about things to come, our patrons have continued to let us serve them by using the library.  There are trying times ahead - the pandemic is not over, the new year  brings the same virus still trying to spread, still making our communities vulnerable. But there is some light at the end of this seemingly endless tunnel. We don't know what the future is going to bring, but the library is still here, still serving, still being used and appreciated...and right now that's enough to get us through each day. 

The new year brings hope but it's our resilience that will see us through it, through this. People are resilient, libraries are resilient, communities are resilient. Happy New Year.

Image of the book cover for My Dear Hamilton

Our Books Show & Tell group met a couple of weeks ago and discussed what we’ve been reading this spring. This is a free for all discussion and it’s a great way to get new title suggestions to add to your list. Members also bring copies of their favorite books,or articles about books and authors they have read recently, or share websites about the reading life that they enjoy. It’s an hour of talking about books and what could be more fun? Here is the list from some staff and some patrons…everyone is welcome to join this group!

Carol has been reading…

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks.

            Yes, THE Tom Hanks. He has written a book of short essays and it got great reviews when it came out. Carol listened to the book and Mr. Hanks himself was the reader. She said he did a great job.

My Dear Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie

            A fiction version of Eliza Hamilton’s life with her husband Alexander. With the musical Hamilton taking the country by storm this novel seems timely and Carol’s enthusiasm for it resulted in most of us adding it to our list.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

            Another book that has had a record number of holds in our system. Carol listened to this book too and Ms. Obama was the reader and did a great job. The book chronicles the author’s life growing up in a middle class family on the south side of Chicago, getting scholarships to attend Princeton and Harvard and meeting a future president of the United States.

 I Eliza Hamilton by Susan Halloway Scott

  Another novel about Eliza Hamilton – this one more in the romance genre and indeed the Hamilton’s appear to have had quite the romance

Judy has been reading…

 Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

  Another page turner by the popular writer Picoult who takes on today’s complex issues and fleshes them out in fiction. This one deals with same sex couples and custody of embryos and along the way explores all complicated feelings that bubble to the surface.

Fran has been reading…

Wallis in Love: the untold life of the Duchess of Windsor, the woman who changed the Monarchy by Andrew Morton

  A nonfiction (but coming from Morton probably a little gossipy too) account of Wallis Simpson and her relationship and marriage to the former King of England. Contrary to popular myth that theirs was a relationship so tuned to love that the King abdicated for her, Morton tells a story of an unhappy liaison but one that persisted nonetheless.

Mary has been reading…

Presidents of War by Michael Beschloss

  An eminent historian covers the “war presidents” in rich detail. Mary reports the book covers the reasons each president covered in the book decides to wage war in engaging detail.

Hawthorn in Concord by Philp McFarland

  A well-crafted tribute to the noted author and his life in Concord where he spent some of the best years of his writing life.

Mary: A Flesh and Blood Biography of the Virgin Mother by Lesley Hazleton

 ; This biography brings the saint and mother of Jesus to life in a sensitive historical portrait of her life.

Ellen has been reading…

The Mars Room by Rachel Kushner

  A novel about a young woman who lives life on the edge in 1980s San Francisco only to end up in prison serving a life sentence for killing her stalker. Prison life is described in rich detail as are some of the denizens the main character spends her life with.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

            The book version includes many photographs to accompany the amazing story of Michelle Obama.

Spinning by Tillie Wilden

            A book in comics form about the author’s growing up years in the ice skating circuit. Tillie was never going to be an Olympic skater but for years she applied discipline to her practices and competitions and basically did it on her own. While she never outright condemns her parents for their lack of interest, their absence is obvious and painful.

The Unwinding of the Miracle: a memoir of life, death and everything that comes after by Julie Yip-Williams

            The author was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer at 42. She begins writing a blog to record her medical journey and her life – one that includes almost being put to death as an infant and being part of the “boat people” exodus from Viet Nam when she was very young. The book begins “if you’re reading this that means I am gone”.


If any of these titles look interesting to you, click on the link to go to where you can place a hold on them using your account. Or, you can call us to do it for you if that works better for you.

Books Show & Tell meets every other month on the 1st Wednesday of the month at 4pm. The next one will be July 3rd.






Image of "No Apologies" for reading tastes

Our golden rule around here is that we never have to apologize for our reading tastes. We like what we like so why wouldn't we read what we like to read? Serving all of our readers and finding vastly different things for them is one of the best things about working in this library. And we never let anyone apologize for what they like to read. We have another rule too...reading before housework & yardwork... all the time. We wish we could help our users put reading before paid work but we know that's not in best interest of anyone. Talking with library users of all ages about what they just read is a very fun part of our work - so go ahead...tell us about the book you just read - we'll be all ears.


Our next book club discussion will take place on Wednesday December 5th when we’ll be discussing Stranger in the Woods: the extraordinary story of the last true hermit by Michael Finkel. This amazing story is almost unbelievable and we expect that the discussion will be flowing. Anyone is welcome to attend the book discussion – call the library if you want us to reserve a book for you or place a hold on the title in infosoup by clicking here.

Our book discussion group meets every other month so on the off months we meet and share the books we’re reading on our own. We sometimes bring the books for Show & Tell too. It’s great fun and it is another way to add more books to our list of “must reads”. The November book sharing highlighted the following titles: (If you want to borrow any of them through the library click on the title to link to infosoup or call the library at 920-596-2252)


Epic Hikes of the World

            Beautiful photographs, four page sections on places to hike. Includes logistical information and recommendations for similar hikes at the end of each section.

Mountaintop School for Dogs and Other Second Chances by Ellen Cooney

           A novel about dogs and humans saving each other.


House Rules by Jodi Picoult

            Main character is obsessed with crime scene detective processes. Is high school age and has Asperger’s.

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

            A continuation of the series started by Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. The author takes old photographs and develops characters around them.

Prairie School by Lois Lenski

            An older book that Fran read as a child and re-reads every few years. Ten-year-old Dolores Wagner and her older brother Darrell attend a one-room prairie school. Miss Martin is their dedicated teacher, living in a bleak apartment behind the classroom. When a sudden blizzard traps the children at school they first find it a great adventure, but when Dolores falls seriously ill, Miss Martin must find a way to get her to the hospital in town.


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

            Elinor had a tough beginning and keeps to herself and her tightly conscripted life. Until fate throws her together with a couple of people.

Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving

            A father and son are on the run after an accidental tragedy. The book spans decades and has story within the story. Carol’

Listen, Liberal, or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the Peoplel by Thomas Frank

            How the Democratic Party is abandoning the working class and why it will be its demise.

America: the Farewell Tour by Chris Hedges

            A study of civilizations that fail and why America is on that path.

Chance by Joseph Conrad

            A story of a young woman, told by different narrators, who must rely on the kindness of strangers when her father is imprisoned.


Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

            Published in 1812 this classic novel chronicles the ingenuity of a family shipwrecked on an island in the East Indies.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

            In early nineteenth-century England, an orphaned young woman accepts employment as a governess at Thornfield Hall, a country estate owned by the mysteriously remote Mr. Rochester. It’s a love story!


Less: a novel by Andrew Sean Greer

            Arthur Less, a failed novelist about to turn 50 and feeling rudderless, embarks on several journeys to avoid facing his life. He finds out sometimes less is more. Won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2017.

The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein

            Through the eyes of Miss Toklas, Gertrude Stein reviews both of their lives before their meeting and during their years of companionship.

The Card Catalog: books, cards and literary treasures (The Library of Congress)

            A beauty of a book about the history of the card catalog and the Library of Congress.

Image of book cover for Thousand Miler

We have a book discussion group that meets every other month to discuss a common book. This group has been meeting for over 15 years and people come and they go but there is one constant…we read a good book and then get together to discuss it. We meet in the months of February, April, June, August, October and December on the first Wednesday at 4pm. This year we decided to meet in the off months to discuss any books we were reading when we aren’t reading the book club book. This has turned out to be great fun. As a matter of fact, some people come to this discussion even though they aren’t regulars at the other one. The group meets on the first Wednesday of January, March, May, September and November at 4pm. The September meeting was made all the more special because we welcomed our newest member, Haley Brook, who at 1 month old is the youngest person to ever attend one of our book discussions. There is a wide variety of reading interests in this group so the discussions are always fun. Here are the books that were discussed this September:


From Baghdad, with love: a Marine, the war, and a dog named Lava by Jay Kopleman

            When Marines enter an abandoned house in Fallujah, Iraq, and hear a suspicious noise, they clench their weapons, edge around the corner, and prepare to open fire. What they find during the U.S.–led attack on the “most dangerous city on Earth” in late 2004, however, is not an insurgent but a puppy left behind when most of the city's residents fled. Despite military law forbidding pets, the Marines de-flea the pup with kerosene, de-worm him with chewing tobacco, and fill him up on Meals Ready to Eat. Thus begins the dramatic rescue of a dog named Lava―and Lava's rescue of at least one Marine, Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman.

Inseparable: the original Siamese twins and their rendezvous with American history by Yunte Huang

            A portrait of nineteenth-century conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker describes their rise from savvy side-show celebrities to wealthy Southern gentry and discusses how their experiences reflected America's historical penchant for objectifying differences.

I Can’t Date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux

            A timely collection of alternately hysterical and soul-searching essays about what it is like to grow up as a creative, sensitive black man in a world that constantly tries to deride and diminish your humanity.

Salvageable by Jean Baxter

            The trouble with trust is once it's broken, it changes who you are and who you will become forever. If Michael Jarrid thinks the worst has happened when his parents don't believe him over his pregnant ex-girlfriend's lie, he is wrong. feeling alone, he pours all of his heart and soul into a new relationship. what Lacey does to him is even worse ... now he doesn't even trust himself. Is his life salvageable?

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

            A curmudgeon hides a terrible personal loss beneath a cranky and short-tempered exterior while clashing with new neighbors, a boisterous family whose chattiness and habits lead to unexpected friendship.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

            An epic love story and family drama set at the dawn of World War II.

Fly girls: the daring American women pilots who helped win WWII by P.O’Connell Pearson

            A beautifully written account of the remarkable but often forgotten group of female fighter pilots who answered their country's call in its time of need during World War II.   

The Lost Years by Mary Higgins Clark    

            Mariah Lyons risks her life to solve the brutal murder of her father, Dr. Jonathan Lyons, a well-respected academic, who in a stroke of luck comes into the possession of an ancient and highly valuable parchment stolen from the Vatican in the 15th century.

Antiques Roadkill by Barbara Allan

            Moving back in with her eccentric, larger-than-life mother, Brandy Borne finds small-town Serenity anything but serene. It seems an unscrupulous antiques dealer has swindled Vivian out of the family's heirlooms. But when he is found run over in a country lane, Brandy becomes Murder Suspect Number One--with her mother coming in a very close second.

Thousand-miler: adventures hiking the Ice Age Trail by Melanie Radzicki McManus

            While sharing her story of what it was like to hike 1,100 miles of Wisconsin forestland, prairie, wetlands and farmland, McManus also shares the stories of thru-hikers she encounters along the way. Their collective tales shed light on the motivations of thru-hikers, how they accomplish the feat (everyone does it differently), and what the various trail segments and trailside communities are like. (The author will be here at Sturm Memorial Library on November 14th!)

Secret daughter: a mixed-race daughter and the mother who gave her away by June Cross

            June Cross was born in 1954 to Norma Booth, a glamorous, aspiring white actress, and James “Stump” Cross, a well-known black comedian. Sent by her mother to be raised by black friends when she was four years old and could no longer pass as white, June was plunged into the pain and confusion of a family divided by race. Secret Daughter tells her story of survival. It traces June’s astonishing discoveries about her mother and about her own fierce determination to thrive.

The lost vintage: a novel by Ann Mah

            Sweetbitter meets The Nightingale in this page-turner about a woman who returns to her family's ancestral vineyard in Burgundy to study for her Master of Wine test, and uncovers a lost diary, a forgotten relative, and a secret her family has been keeping since WWII.

This is how it always is by Laurie Frankel

            When Rosie and Penn and their four boys welcome the newest member of their family, no one is surprised it's another baby boy. At least their large, loving, chaotic family knows what to expect. But Claude is not like his brothers. One day he puts on a dress and refuses to take it off. He wants to bring a purse to kindergarten. He wants hair long enough to sit on. When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl. Rosie and Penn aren't panicked at first. Kids go through phases, after all, and make-believe is fun. But soon the entire family is keeping Claude's secret. Until one day it explodes.

This cart and its contents on a Monday morning in May epitomize the life of a small town library director. It's everything for the Library that accumulated in my car over the coarse of a week-end. In addition to managing day to day operations of a library, we are working it pretty much all of the time. If nothing on this cart reminds you of anything related to traditional library work you would not be alone in reaching that conclusion. But any kindred library director can probably surmise what the backstory is with the contents in this photograph.

The big rectangular bag, (which I purchased for myself but quickly became “the library bag”) holds old vinyl albums that I talked the owner of Booksellers of Waupaca (thank you John Ryan) into donating to the Library for a DIY program we’ll be doing this summer. Vinyl is making a comeback and it will be making its comeback here at the Library in more ways than one. The bottles of soda were donated by my neighbor (Thank you Laura) who found a deal she could not resist and thought of the Library. The paper bag contains all kinds of things. Visible on top are 10 fleece drawstring bags that we use as “Discovery” bags for our Babygarten program. We take turns taking them home and washing them after they are used a few times. Below the fleece bags are about four books that I’ve spent my evenings and week-ends reading in preparation for the summer reading program. We read a lot of youth books this time of year to get kids fired up about reading over the summer. Below the books are Library Journal magazines that we get as part of a shared subscription with three other libraries. We may be reading them a couple of months after publication but it saves the library over $100.00 a year. Below those Library Journals are some stickers that my sister donated to the Library (thank you Mary) – she herself was a school librarian and knows the value of stickers to any library.

Behind the paper bag you can see the straps of my “mail bag”. It is extra full today because I didn’t get the mail Friday due to the fact that I was at the school district Color Run. (What a fun day that was BTW) I normally pick up the mail every day because if it isn’t picked up daily the box fills up quickly. Picking up the mail often means hauling packages too because some companies won’t ship to our door using UPS. Today there were no packages. Hurrah!

I don’t haul this much stuff into the Library after every week-end but it’s not unusual for us to have get the “big cart” out or to make more than one trip to our cars to unload this and that for the Library.  It’s all part of our normal routine but once in a while the sheer amount of stuff that I haul on a given day makes me pause and take a photograph and write a story about it.