Library News

From Broadway to Brazil: A Live Music Matinée

Saturday, September 30, 2:30 p.m. at the SML.

Join us as acclaimed musician Benji Kaplan takes us from Broadway to Brazil and beyond with his enchanting music in both Portuguese and English! His singular take on Tin Pan Alley’s most cherished love songs combined with the interplay of guitar and vocals in his covers and originals make for a delightful afternoon of musical pleasure.

Library Card Sign-up Month

Get in Your Element this September—sign up for a library card! From borrowing books, e-books, and museum passes to learning new skills or joining a book club, a library card helps you do more of what you enjoy. Get a library card and dive into a new hobby! A library card is elemental, really—and everyone should have one. Please visit the SML’s Borrowing Desk to sign up for yours today! 

“Chris Picks” for September: Classics

Here are this month’s great recommendations from staff member Christopher Jennings Penders! Click on a title to place a hold. You can find previous Chris Picks through the “What to read” link at the bottom of this page, or type “Chris Picks” into the search bar on our homepage.

Getting ready for school in September seems to be a perfect time to discuss classic literature. Here are my favorite classic literature books in no particular order:

The Scarlet Letter
I wouldn’t say I liked The Scarlet Letter when I read it in high school. In fact, I don’t think I finished the book. I have since re-read it multiple times, and the book has become my favorite classic ever.

Wuthering Heights
I can’t say the same for Wuthering Heights. From the first page, I wanted to discover how the story would end.

Lost Horizon
I think I had help finding Lost Horizon as a book to read in the eighth grade. Like The Scarlet Letter, Lost Horizon has become a favorite.

The Old Man and the Sea
Hemingway is a fantastic writer. Everyone regards The Old Man and the Sea as quintessential Hemingway. I have another favorite that doesn’t get the same attention. For me, The Sun Also Rises is my pick.

The Alchemist
Paulo Coelho tells the story of Santiago, a shepherd who wants to travel. Through his voyages, he finds greater gifts, like finding one’s place in the world and following one’s dreams.

Though written years apart, both Siddhartha and The Alchemist tell parallel stories.
–Both tell of a quest to become men from boys.
–Both require journeying far from home.
–Both protagonists have fathers who are apprehensive about their sons leaving.

The two books diverge in surprising ways, however, and Siddhartha differs in a human way from the spiritual quest of The Alchemist. Both books are well-written, and I recommend reading them together, starting with The Alchemist and then moving on to Siddartha.

“Chris Picks” for August: Local Authors

Here are this month’s great recommendations from staff member Christopher Jennings Penders! Click on a title to place a hold. To find previous Chris Picks, click on the “What to read” link at the bottom of this page or type “Chris Picks” into the search bar on our homepage.

August will feature local and SOME independent authors:

Dana Buckmir
I discovered Dana two months ago when someone mentioned that Dana had been writing for some time. Her book Everything Will Be Okay is a tough book to read, but only because of the subject. Dana is a deft storyteller, and that shines through in her writing. Despite the topic of domestic abuse, I still found myself turning the pages, wanting to discover the outcome.

Christine Falcone
I’ve known Christine Falcone since September 1990 when we both started out in the same writing class in Madison. Ex’d Out is her first novel, and it looks to be a series with the same character, Melanie Bass, a visiting nurse who in this first book helps solve a murder.

Jason Marchi
Jason Marchi is a writer of many genres. His two books that are available are both children’s picture books. The legend of Hobbomock, the Sleeping Giant tells the story through a young Native American boy of how the Sleeping Giant in Hamden, Connecticut came to be.

The Growing Sweater is a humorous look at a sweater that grows with each cycle through the wash. For those of us who grew up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, there is an ode to a beloved television series.

Juliana Gribbins
Juliana Gribbins is a columnist for Shore Publishing; a news company producing several newspapers throughout Connecticut. Date Expectations is a collection of sixty essays Ms. Gribbins wrote detailing her return to the dating scene after her divorce. As you may be able to tell from the title of the book, all the essays in the collection of wildly hilarious.

Lynn Sheft
The Deadly Game may be a case of mistaken identity. While Lauren and Michael Casey bike through Miami’s Coconut Grove, Michael races ahead with his wife preoccupied with changing gears. When she gets up to speed, Michael is out of sight. She anticipates he will surprise her by coming up from behind and tapping her on the shoulder. It doesn’t happen. After a fruitless search, she reports him missing. Later that evening, she is shocked to learn he was murdered.

Paige Classey
Everything You Left Me is a young adult book written in verse. Marybeth is alarmed when police knock at her door, wondering what they are there to inquire about. Told in poems, the story becomes clear that the police are not there to arrest anyone, but simply to ask about Marybeth’s father. This was compelling as a story in verse.

“Chris Picks” for July: Recent Favorites

Here are this month’s great recommendations from staff member Christopher Jennings Penders! Click on a title to place a hold. To find previous Chris Picks click on the “What to read” link at the bottom of this page or type “Chris Picks” into the search bar on our homepage.

No theme for my July books. Just a collection of a few of my favs over the past several years. Enjoy:

The 37th Parallel
We are NOT alone! In the vastness of the Universe, how can anyone believe that humanity is the only living thing to have taken hold? For a number of people, that is the only thought that is relevant, that we ARE alone. It is a particularly egotistical belief.

Ben Mezrich, author of many books, Bringing Down the House probably the one that put him on the map, has written an engaging new book called The 37th Parallel. The story bounces back and forth between a UFO-obsessed husband (and father, ostensibly) and his family. Mezrich begins his latest story centered on Chuck Zukowski as he travels to an animal mutilation case. From there we learn that Chuck has been chasing down UFO leads for most of his adult life. He flirted briefly with MUFON, a UFO group searching for answers to the phenomena as well. Zukowski didn’t initially join the group, citing differences of opinion about the way the group was managed.

In between the chapters about the Zukowskis are actual events that have occurred involving UFOs and animal mutilations. Mezrich does a fine job of not coming down on one side or the other. He lets his readers decide what they believe. Of course, I don’t think anyone without an interest in this topic will find the book compelling. An easy read, I believe this SHOULD be picked up and read. I didn’t learn anything new but that’s no reason not to read this engaging book.

Out of Captivity
In February 2003 three American contractors, Marc Gonsalves, Tom Howes, and Keith Stansell were traveling to South America when their plane went down. They survived the plane crash only to be captured and held hostage for over five years, by FARC. At just under 500 pages, this book, written by Marc Gonsalves, held me in its spell from the first page. Out of Captivity is more than a story of these three people. What initially drew me to their story was the tale of their rescue: A team of rescuers had infiltrated FARC and spoken with FARC members who were holding 15 hostages including Marc, Tom, and Keith. The rescuers had made plans with FARC to meet and take the hostages to another location. Even the hostages were unaware of the plan and it wasn’t until everyone was in the air aboard helicopters that the infiltration team had taken off their masks and revealed that the hostages were now free and were being taken to a secure location.

I can’t imagine going through what any hostages go through, let alone the three people who crashed in the South American jungle: to not only survive the crash but also survive for over five years in captivity.  Even reading about the experience can’t hold a  candle to the ACTUAL experience of going through it.

There are several books about this story. And as with all books written about actual events, there are going to be people who disagree with the way the story is presented in each book.

Law of the Jungle by John Otis is another book written about the same subject. At some point, I want to pick that one up so I can do a compare and contrast.

Graham Joyce is another favorite slipsteam/magic realism/speculative writer I’ve read.

Some Kind of Fairy Tale
For twenty years, Tara Martin has been missing. Her family has given up all hope of ever seeing her again. Then on one Christmas day, she reappears, looking not a day older than the day she vanished.

Dark Sister
Maggie, a mother and housewife, discovers an herbalist’s journal while cleaning. The journal, it turns out, belonged to a powerful witch, and as Maggie delves deeper into the book she too begins to realize that she possesses the same power to heal and harm those around her.

Erik Larson
I’ve read most of Erik Larson’s books and Thunderstruck hooked me from the first page. About the invention of wireless, this book takes place primarily on the open water. Thunderstruck tells the story of Guglielmo Marconi, a man obsessed with finding a new way to communicate while away from all known communication devices.  As with Larson’s Devil in the White City, he uses murder as a side story here and he incorporates said murder in this story as well. Larson moves the story along at a rapid pace but never so quickly that you lose track of what’s happening. I like that Larson interweaves two disparate stories as he does with Thunderstruck as well as Devil in the White City. In another author’s hands, this device may seem unwieldy, but in Larson’s capable hands, it works flawlessly. If you enjoy Erik Larson’s style and you haven’t yet read Thunderstruck, I think it’s as good a place as any to start.

A Thousand Naked Strangers
This book by Kevin Hazzard is graphic, yet graphic is too light a word to use. It’s laugh-out-loud funny, though nothing that happens in this book is funny.  A Thousand Naked Strangers is a complex contradiction. The author, Kevin Hazzard, brings us inside the medic’s world and inside his head.  Sometimes what you see and hear makes you want to turn your head away in disgust. Sometimes those same images make you laugh out loud. It’s what I mean when I say the book is a contradiction. I know paramedics and one of the things that drew me to this book is the fact that I do know people in this field. After 9/11 happened, Kevin Hazzard decided he needed to shake up his world so he enrolled in EMS training. He had no idea what to expect as he was hired by his first ambulance company. Big surprises were in store. When he finally landed a job somewhere else he settled in and became more than competent. A Thousand Naked Strangers was fun, horrific, and graphic all rolled into one. Don’t miss the opportunity!

“Chris Picks” for June

Here are this month’s great recommendations from staff member Christopher Jennings Penders! Click on a title to place a hold. To find previous Chris Picks, click on the “What to Read” link at the bottom of this page or type “Chris Picks” into the search bar on our homepage.

Since we are coming up on the height of summer tourist season, I thought June would be an excellent time to devote my book choices to area tourist locations. I hope you will excuse a bit of shameless self-promotion with this latest crop of books. Under “Block Island,” you will see one of the books I have written. Of all the places I have visited, Block Island remains my favorite place ever.


Philip Craig writes mysteries that take place on Martha’s Vineyard.

Alice Hoffman
llumination Night


Rose Connors
I have read all of Rose Connors’ books and having spent some time in Sandwich, Cape Cod, I can say that Ms. Connors describes the area perfectly, so much so that place and setting become a character itself.

Henry Beston
The Outermost House
Being a writer myself, I have often fantasized about going away by myself, cutting myself off from everyone and spending time writing all day. It’s one reason The Outermost House resonates so deeply with me.


As I mentioned above, Block Island is my favorite place to visit. I love reading and writing about it as well.

C. Jennings Penders
Arrivals and Departures: An Etheric Tribute to Block Island

Karen E. Olson

“Chris Picks” for May

Here are this month’s great recommendations from staff member Christopher Jennings Penders! Click on a title to place a hold. To find previous Chris Picks click on the “What to read” link at the bottom of this page or type “Chris Picks” into the search bar on our homepage.

Nathaniel Philbrick
I love history, having minored in it at Southern CT State University. Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick is another masterpiece by the same author of In the Heart of the Sea.

What Dreams May Come
Richard Matheson
I have said it many times over. What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson should be on the top of everyone’s reading list. The book may change how you look at life and death. It did so for me.

Saint Maybe
Anne Tyler
Saint Maybe is my favorite book by Anne Tyler and I have read most of her published books. Burdened by guilt from a tragedy, teenager Ian Bedloe finds peace and forgiveness at a storefront church. One of the reasons this book resonates so deeply with me is that I feel everyone deserves a second chance and that’s a theme running through this entire book.

Julian May

  1. Jack the Bodiless
  2. Diamond Mask
  3. Magnificat

I have read several of Julian May’s books and this science fiction trilogy is my favorite.