The Best of Staff Reading 2013 – by Charlotte Canelli

Read Charlotte Canelli’s column in the December 13, 2013 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

At the close of each year, the media seems to report on the very best of everything every opportunity they get: 100 best books, 50 best movies, 25 significant events.
This week, the New York Times published their 100 Notable Books of 2013. The same day, National Public Radio announced their Book Concierge – or Your Guide to 2013’s Great Reads (an interactive online tool to finding the best book out of more than 200). Huffington Post, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble and Entertainment Weekly have their own lists as 2013 nears to a close.
In fact, lists seem to dominate the Internet these days. Indie Wire, Rotten Tomatoes and Film.com all have lists of the top 10, 20, and 100 films of the year. Billboard has the top 100 hits and Apple lists their top 100 music downloads.
In this week’s column, I will simply share with you a few of the 20 Best Reads of the staff here at the Morrill Memorial Library.
Once a month, members of the library staff meet to discuss the books they are reading. With coffee or tea mugs in hand, (and a sweet breakfast treat on the table), we meet early in the morning in the Trustees Meeting Room of the top floor of the library. There are usually 10-14 of us in the room, and many of the staff have attended at one time or another.
I’ve always invited the staff to rate the book on a five-star scale during these monthly gatherings. Surprisingly, many of the books fall into the five-star rating. I guess we recognize what we like. And we love to read.
Perhaps the most suitable book for this column is one of my favorite 2013 books, Will Schwalbe’s “The End of Your Life Book Club” which was printed in 2012. During Schwalbe’s mother’s fight with a terminal illness, he asked her what she was reading. That question sparked a journey between a mother and son and a private book club that I found incredibly inspiring. I was moved, in fact, to read some of the classics listed in the book: the very short story by John O’Hara, “Appointment in Samara” (1934), and Joan Didion’s memoirs “Blue Nights” (2011) and “Year of Magical Thinking” (2005).
Non-fiction, memoirs and biographies are preferences among the members of staff. One of these this year was “Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake”, a 2012 memoir by Anna Quindlen. Quindlen writes deeply and humorously about her childhood, her womanhood, friends, marriage and family.
Jill Bolte Taylor’s 2006 memoir “My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey” (2006) made the list this year as more and more staff became aware of this astonishing story Taylor, a Harvard-educated neuroscientist. A blood vessel exploded in Taylor’s brain when she was 37 years old. Her journey through the stroke, her recovery, and beyond is simply amazing. Taylor’s TED Talk in 2008 rocketed her to stardom. She is currently the national spokesperson for the Harvard Brain Resources Center.
Another pick was Sonia Sotomayor’s autobiography published just this year in 2013: “My Beloved World.” Sotomayor’s childhood began in a Bronx housing complex. She moved quickly and resolutely through a stellar high school experience to Princeton and then Yale Law School and became the third woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court. A Hispanic, Sotomayor is also a diabetic. She is proof that courage and fight are what dreams are made of.
In Carol Burnett’s 2010 memoir, “This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection”, the comedian, actress and singer shared stories and anecdotes of her prolific and long career. She also reflected on her relationships with the other famous people in her life, specifically Cary Grant and Julie Andrews.
Of course, not all of the five-stars were non-fiction. Stories by Isabel Allende (“Zorro”, 2005), Melanie Benjamin (“The Aviator’s Wife”, 2013), and William Martin (“The Lincoln Letter”, 2012) are based on historical fact. Allende explores the real life of Zorro, or Diego de la Vega born to a Spanish father in Alta California in 1790. Benjamin describes the life of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, a glider-pilot in her own right, who was married to the irresistible and charismatic Charles Lindbergh. Martin examines the intimate thoughts of Abraham Lincoln after the Civil War.
More non-fiction five-star reads included “On Hitler’s Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood” by Irmgard Hunt (2005), “When We Were the Kennedys: A Memoir of Mexico, Maine” by Monica Wood (2012), “Manhunt: The Twelve-Year Chase for Lincoln’s Killer” (2005), and “A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France” (2011) by Caroline Moorehead.
Of course, many of your choice fiction bestsellers are also on the list. “Light Between the Oceans” by M. L. Stedman (2012) is the poignant and tragic story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife who, at first, seem to find the answer to their prayers. Later they find that only that “justice for one person is another’s tragic loss”. Other five-stars were “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry” by Rachel Joyce (2012). The book explores the “what ifs” in an unsatisfied life … until that life finds the acceptance it needs. Other fiction included “The Toss of a Lemon” by Padma Viswanathan (2008).
We don’t stop at adult books, of course. Five-star recommended young adult read and children’s books are “Iqbal” by D’Adamo (2005) and “There Goes Ted Williams” by Matt Tavares (2012). My favorite picture book, “Press Here”, is an amazingly fun delight by Herve Tuillet (2011). Who needs an electronic gadget when you have an interactive reading experience in this book!
Soon after the New Year, we will be posting and highlighting some of the Staff Picks we have loved from 2009-2013. Look for them near the circulation desk and share in our favorite reading. If you need help placing these books listed on reserve, visit our website or call the library, 781-769-0200

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