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My Random Thoughts on Winter

I love Maine. I am from Maine. I can’t imagine living anywhere that does not have four seasons but winter is my least favorite season. I know, I know. There is skiing, and sliding, and snowmobiling, and snowshoeing, and smelting, and making snow angels, and hockey, and ice skating. There is also cold and wet and snow and more cold and wet and snow, and mud and salt all over my kitchen floor, and hats and mitts without their mates all over the place. And boots, I’m constantly tripping over boots!

I begin the winter loving it, and by the time February comes around, I’ve had enough. So what do I do to help myself get through it? I think happy thoughts. What kind of happy thoughts? Well, I think of all the bugs dying. I know we need bugs, and I know we will have bugs, but I believe everything in moderation is a good principle, so winter helps to keep the bug population in check.

Then I think about the snow melting in spring and how the land needs that water. The gardens need it, and I particularly think about strawberries. I love strawberries and I pick them every year. Those strawberries need the spring melt, so we need that snow. Perhaps I should take some strawberries out of the freezer for some shortcake or cheesecake or muffins.

And my children like those foods which makes me think about my kids. I love my children. I also love sitting on my couch in our warm, cozy living room and watching through the window as my children snow blow and shovel out our driveway and walkway. I feel like a good parent when I listen to them sigh and grumble about the injustices of the world as they head out the door to shovel. Gives me goosebumps all over.

Then there is the daily game of make-it-to-your-car-without-falling. Snow is a great covering for ice and it can be very deceiving and you think you have it conquered and then you don’t which you only discover when your feet are suddenly in the air and you are on your back wondering what the heck just happened. Then you have words with your spouse and kids and they don’t seem to see what the problem is, and you’re not quite sure, but they might be trying to hide a chuckle or two.

So I think about how nice it would be to fly to my car (I suppose, if I could fly I probably wouldn’t need a car, but that’s not the point right now) which makes me think about birds and that leads me to think about the cardinals in my neighborhood that visit my feeder. There is something so striking when I watch the male cardinals, just as red as can be, sitting on the snow covered bird feeder. I marvel at it every time. That red on white is crisp and fresh and right. To watch black-as-night crows as they sit on the branches and the squirrels try to outwit my bird feeder is a delight. There really is a rhythm to nature’s ways, and the more you watch the more you see. It’s funny how it works that way.

And I think about how lucky I am to work at Topsham Public Library. It is fun, as storms approach, to help everyone find the items they are looking for so they can snuggle in for the duration of the storm. Suggestions are given and received, and we discuss what we will binge watch (if we don’t lose power), and what snacks and food we make sure we have on hand, and kids are hoping for school cancellations, and everyone is bustling to get home before the first flake falls.

And that makes me think about roads, and I cannot help but feel thankful for Topsham Public Works and the Department of Transportation employees who are out in the storms and bad weather clearing our roads and highways. Thank you! It is certainly something I would not want to be responsible for and they all do a great job handling snow, lots of snow, and the drivers that drive in it. They do it in the morning, during the afternoon, and in the middle of the night while I am tucked in under my warm covers. Thank you!

Stay safe, Everyone! And remember only 33 days until the first day of Spring! We can do it!

 

School Vacation 2017 To Do List

School vacation is fast approaching, and if you need some help planning your week, look no further than Topsham Public Library.

Get the party started at our teen event, Chocolate Wars on Saturday, February 18 at 1pm-2pm. Bring your sweet tooth and try to best your buddies with a little friendly combat! Events include: Chocolate Pictionary, Stack & Sort Races, Chocolate Shuffleboard and more. Ages 11-18 only, registration is required and closes at noon on Thursday, February 17th. Make sure you tell your friends—we need 10 people to run this program!!

The fun continues on Wednesday, February 22 from 10am-2pm with Teen Drop-In Craft. Let your creative juices flow! We provide raw materials. You make great things! Stop by the YA room between 10am-2pm for our casual teen crafts program. Spend as little or as much time as you like. No registration required, ages 11-18 only.

Creativity abounds with ArtLab for kids on Thursday, February 23 at 3pm. Experiment with different tools and techniques to create unique works of art! Exercises taken from the book Art Lab for Kids will encourage participants to explore mixed media and their own creativity! Materials will be provided, Art Lab facilitated by Mariah. Ages 6-13, REGISTRATION REQUIRED!

And you don’t want to miss the finale on Friday, February 24  at 1pm-2:30pm as Friday of the Force returns! Start practicing your Jedi skills now! Join us for Star Wars themed snacks, crafts and activities! Wear a costume for extra fun! All ages.

Roses are Red, Violets are Blue

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
at Topsham Public Library,
we love you!

 

It’s February, and do you know what that means? That’s right! It’s Love Your Library on Saturday, February 11, 2017 starting and 10:00am and continuing through 11:30am.

Come see what your library card can do for you and why Topsham Public Library is your community center for all ages! There will be crafts, tours, and free raffles. Explore the world of virtual reality with our Google VR cardboard glasses. Gelato Fiasco and Wicked Joe are providing refreshments. Come and share the love!

 

 

Top 5 of 2016 Part 3

The following completes 2016’s top picks.

Cyndi’s Top 5 with some honorable mentions:

If you know Cyndi, you know she is intrigued by the workings of the body and how it’s intertwined. Do No Harm: Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery by Henry Marsh, a leading neurosurgeon, delves into the working of the brain and the good and bad of brain surgery.

 

 

 

Idiot Brain: What Your Head is Really Up To by Dean Burnett continues the inner workings of the brain theme.

 

 

 

Part of a series, Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews, takes place in post-Shift Atlanta and follows the adventures of shape shifter Kate Daniels.

 

 

 

Gemina, the sequel to Illuminae (one of Julie’s top picks), finds Hannah and Nick teaming up to save the space station from enemy attacks.

 

 

Using her sharp-shooting skills to help her leave her dead-end town, Armani joins up with Jin a mysterious rebel running from the Sultan’s army, and this leads her to uncover truths about her nation and herself. Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton is the first in a new series that you definitely want to try.

 

Cyndi’s Honorable Mentions are:

Their Fractured Light (Starbound #3) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, Abraham Verghese (Foreword)

Visual Intelligence: Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life by Amy E. Herman

Essential Maps for the Lost by Deb Caletti

Patient H.M.: A Story of Memory, Madness, and Family Secrets by Luke Dittrich


Mariah was able to find some time to read while finishing her master’s degree. Her Top 5 plus:

Replica by Lauren Oliver is two stories in one – read one, then flip the book and read the other!  An unsettling story wrapped up in a cool format.  The only bad thing: it’s a series…come on second book, I need to read you now!

 

 

The Watch That Ends the Night by Allan Wolf  is about the sinking of the Titanic from multiple points of view, written in verse format.  I loved this book!  The iceberg’s verses are incredibly creepy, and the musician verses made me cry.  If you are interested in the Titanic, you should definitely read this!

 

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates. Read this and be angry!  Seriously though, I would recommend this book to all adults, required reading!

 

 

 

Witches of America by Alex Mar is a fascinating look at the lives and rituals of practicing witches – this may be my FAVORITE favorite book of the year!

 

The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau is an enchanting story of a life-changing friendship between Teo, a young Mixtec boy in Mexico, and Esma, the self-proclaimed “Gypsy Queen of Lightning” who arrives in his village as part of a traveling Romany caravan.  This is a beautiful book that has just as much adult appeal as kid appeal, so don’t let the juvenile tag fool you grownups – read this book!

 

Icebreaker by Lian Tanner is part of a planned trilogy, this book imagines a future where humans have turned completely against technology, and now live by superstition and fear in starving raggedy villages.  I’m all for turning off the computer sometimes, but this book is downright creepy!  Exciting and very original!

 

Mother Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins was the picture book I read to every grade in the elementary schools this year.  Funny on so many different levels, Mother Bruce is about a bear who finds himself adopted by some very persistent baby geese.  Hilarious!

 


And to finish of the Top 5 picks of 2016, here are my suggestions:

I had not read any of Kent Haruf’s works until this year. A friend of mine insisted that I read Our Souls at Night. I’m glad I did. The story is about two people who are left alone after the death of their spouses. The writing is simple but lasting and the emotions explored are real. It’s short, but you will savor every word.

 

Another new-to-me author is Sharyn McCrumb, and her book Prayers the Devil Answers was suggested by one of our patrons. She returned the book and gave it such reviews I snatched it up. The story is about a female sheriff in rural Tennessee and the unexpected task set before her. This story is based on historical events. McCrumb is known for her Ballad Series and I’m going to read through that this year.

 

Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is a book I picked up at the annual Friends of Topsham Public Library Book Sale. It was not until I had begun reading that I realized it was part of a series. I did not feel lost or that I was missing anything as I continued to read it. By the time I was done, I wanted to dive into the other books in this series. It also had challenged me to find out more about Spain’s history. The story is about mysterious and dangerous strangers, books, and love all set in 1957 Barcelona.

 

 

The Battle of Hastings is a major event in England’s history and I thoroughly enjoyed Helen Hollick’s retelling of the political intrigue that led to the battle in I Am the Chosen King.

 

 

A lighthouse on a small island off Australia’s coast is the setting for The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. It’s about love and loss and the small acts performed in the name of love that can lead to the greatest pain experienced.

Top 5 of 2016 Part 2

And the hits just keep on comin’!

As always Linda is on top of the mysteries, and coming soon to her web page, Mysteries Abound, will be a link to an archive of Linda’s Top 5 picks from previous years.

Once again Ms. Penny hits one out of the park with A Great Reckoning. This is the twelfth in the Inspector Gamache series and does not disappoint. Does Armand also have secrets he does not wish revealed? In this installment the inspector is the Master Chess player, moving characters around in ways that will reveal their best, and worst selves. This book was a delight to read. After twelve books Louise Penny still excels at inspiring and surprising her readers. If you have read this far into this series you will certainly enjoy this episode. If you have not read these, it will serve you well to start at the beginning and read them in order. It’s a delightful, complex, and fulfilling journey full of action, excitement, and twists that will keep you guessing throughout the series.

 

Poison Flower by Thomas Perry is a great thriller. I couldn’t put it down, read it in one day. Jane Whitefield, Seneca Native, helps people disappear when they are in danger using finely honed gifts and techniques passed down through the centuries by her ancestors. In this story, Jane attempts to rescue a wrongly convicted man from the courthouse, but this time she makes a mistake. Would she pay for it with her life? See Jane run. Run, Jane, run!

 

It is the middle of winter and brutally cold, when a frozen body is found in the trunk of a car at the Portland Fish Pier. It’s a well-known young attorney hoping to make partner in a high-powered local firm. On the night of the murder a young woman, known to be mentally unstable, shows up at the small police station on a nearby island, telling the tale of a grisly murder she witnessed, but the cop on duty doesn’t believe her. Now she is missing too. Portland Police Detective Michael McCabe is on the hunt, hoping to find Abby Quinn before the killer does. The Chill of Night by James Hayman is a fast paced, suspense filled mystery that will keep you reading in front of the fire right up to the last page.

 

Flavia is a precocious (but not obnoxious) child of the manor born. Her life hasn’t been easy though. Her mother died giving her birth and her two older sisters tease her mercilessly. Flavia has gained the upper hand, ever since she discovered her uncle’s chemistry lab in the attic and learned how to create her own diversions. She also discovers bodies all over town. She and her trusty bicycle, Gladys, travel the county following the clues wherever they take her. With her unwitting ally, Chief Inspector Hewitt, and her father’s man, Dogger, no criminal is safe. Now a teenager, Flavia is growing into a young woman, but as astute as always, she solves the crime. Flavia is a delightful character who will capture your heart and keep your attention with her fearless attitude and her sleuthing skills. Mr. Bradley does a phenomenal job of bringing this child to life and describing the essence of a growing girl. And man can he turn a pretty phrase. Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d is Bradley’s newest installment and you don’t want to miss it!

 

Malice at the Palace by Rhys Bowen is a light, charming British mystery that takes place in the 1930s. Lady Victoria Georgiana Charlotte Eugenie Rannock, is 34th in line to the throne. As nobility, she is expected to live up to royal standards, but hasn’t a penny to her name. Forced to live on her own, thanks to her selfish and greedy sister-in-law, Georgie, as her friends call her, finds enterprising ways of providing for herself. She has a dashing Irish suitor who disappears and reappears under very suspicious circumstances and friends who help her keep up appearances. Still, the Queen seems to favor her and gives her assignments but somehow they always seem to lead to murder. This is the ninth in this series that I find fun and amusing whenever I need a quick amusing book.

 


Emma’s Top 5 is actually Emma’s Top 6!

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson is hard to categorize: a work of “autotheory,” a blend of memoir and critical theory, Nelson explores her marriage with Harry Dodge, a transgendered female to male artist and her experience of having a child. Interrogating the fluidity of love, identity, sexuality, parenthood and language with uncompromising honesty, this is a fascinating piece of work.

 

 

I’m not usually a science fiction fan but I became hooked on The Saga Series by Brian K. Vaughan. It tells the love story of two soldiers from warring factions in an intergalactic war told from the point of view of their child. This is a sweeping, subversive tale for adults.

 

Monstress by Marjorie Liu, a fantasy/horror graphic novel, is in turns beautiful and monstrous. Set in an alternate 1900’s Asia with art deco/steampunk inspired graphics, its tells the story of a teenage girl, maimed by war, who is “infected” by an unknown dark force that alternatively gives her great power but causes her to harm innocents.

 

 Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix genuinely gave me nightmares! A book about a haunted Ikea-style store formatted like an Ikea-style catalog. It sounds gimmicky but was absolutely horrifying.

 

 

This is perhaps my favorite book that I read in 2016. Bizarrely, it is a tale of civilization’s collapse that is…heartwarming. A pandemic wipes out most of the population and twenty years later, a nomadic band of actors and musicians travel through what used to be North America performing Shakespearean plays. The book switches back and forth between these two time frames to tell the story of what happens when everything we know ends. I found Station Eleven by Emily St. Mandel spellbinding—I couldn’t put it down.

 

Author, Kelly Link, recommended Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt to me on Twitter and I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s often described a contemporary gothic but it is stranger and more transcendent than that. There are definite echoes of Flannery O’Connor in the story of two women walking through New York state on a pilgrimage that is a complete mystery to one of them.

 

 


Julie also has an overabundance of hits, so here are her Top 9 of 2016. (And really, can there ever be too many suggestions? I think not.)

 

This is a popular title this year! Beware, this harmless looking story will frighten you!

 

 

 

Saga Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughan involves time jumping, kindergarten, and as in real life, hard lessons for all.

 

 

 

Illuminaeby Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff, is an inter-stellar adventure that has Kady and Ezra fleeing the enemy, but their ship’s artificial intelligence system may finish them off first.

 

 

 

Based on a Russian folk-tale, Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter, is set in Brooklyn and Vassa is needed to use her magic, from her dead mother, to rid the local convenience store of the witch Babs Yaga.

 

 

When “Father” dies, in The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins, the children whom he raised fight over his library which they believe holds the power over all Creation.

 

 

You think saving the world is easy? Try doing it with six outcasts that want to kill each other. Read Six of Crows by Leigh Barduga to find out if Kaz can get them to cooperate long enough to save the world.

 

 

Kiss of Deception by Mary Pearson has everything fantasy lovers desire, so you want to make sure and check this one out!

 

Amanda is in a new school and has a crush on Grant. As she gets to know him, she must choose whether to keep her secret or to tell him that before she was Amanda, she was Andrew. Read If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo to find out what she decides to do.

 

 

 

In Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff, perfect Waverly dream visits a boy she could never be with, but the experience makes her decide what matters to her most in life.

 

 


In 2016, Dale started a graphic novel book group, Read Between the Panels, so it is no wonder that 4 of his Top 5 picks are graphic novels. (And if you want to get in on Read Between the Panels, call Topsham Public Library at 725-1727 for more information!)

After trying to kill himself numerous times and by various means, Jimmy Yee decides to figure out why he cannot do himself in, no matter how much chaos his task unleashes. If you’re into graphic novels, try Demon by Jason Shiga.

 

 

While Alaska experiences their thirty days of darkness, Vampires wreak havoc on its citizens, in 30 Days of Night by Steve Niles.

 

 

In Outcast by Robert Kirkman, all his life Kyle has struggled as he is demon-possessed. When he goes looking for answers, it could be the end of the world.

 

 

What if World War II hadn’t ended the way it did? Manhattan Projects by Jonathan Hickman is an alternate ending to World War II involving science fiction themes.

 

 

 

Good Luck Have Fun by Roland Li is an unveiling of the multi-million dollar world of eSports.

 

 

 

 

 

Top 5 of 2016 Part 1

I’m not sure how it happened, but we are now into 2017!! Happy New Year! And as we do every year, I am happy to present the Top 5 picks of Topsham Public Library staff members. Drum roll, please.

Dave feels sure of his Top 5 as he submitted his list in November. In no particular order:

 

A neurosurgeon is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi is a thoughtful memoir dealing with issues of life and death that will stay with you long after you have finished the book.

 

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly, set during World War II, is a fictional account of real events. The story  is about the Ravensbrück “rabbits,” 74 women who were the subjects of medical experimentation while prisoners at Ravensbrück concentration camp, and a New York socialite that comes to their aid.

 

One of our Maine authors, Paul Doiron’s Widowmaker is a page turner. Book seven of the Mike Bowditch series, this story follows Bowditch, a Maine Game Warden, as he tracks down a vigilante targeting sex offenders.

 

 

Louise Penny is one of Topsham Public Library’s most checked out authors and A Great Reckoning is her newest release. Set in a small town in Quebec, the mystery begins with the discovery of an old map.

 

 

From the star of Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston’s memoir, A Life in Parts, delves into creativity, his childhood acting, and being abandoned by his father.

 


Lynne couldn’t limit herself to five:

 

Nothing about the cover suggests that it will scare, but Horrorstörby Grady Hendrix, is spine chilling. Make sure all the lights are one when you read this one.

 

 

Some invitations you should just ignore. Slade House, by David Mitchell, draws you in and never lets go.

 

 

While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man’s Descent into Madness by Eli Sanders is a true crime story that covers a 2009 murder that shook Seattle.

 

 

What is hidden in the woods at the end of the lane? Read Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt to find out.

 

Written by Japanese author Mariko Koike, The Graveyard Apartment is a psychological horror story about a young couple and their daughter and the “perfect” home they move into.

 

 

Born in the U.S.A. the Land of Hope and Dreams, Bruce Springsteen has entertained millions, now in Born to Run he shares his struggles that shaped his life and music. Even if it means you have to Drive All Night in a Pink Cadillac through the Streets of Philadelphia to get your hands on his memoir, it’s worth it.

 

Someone is posing as Rebecca Winter, a missing person, but the person stealing Bec’s identity realizes whoever caused Bec’s disappearance is still in her life. Try Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra for your fix of intrigue.

 

 


Helen’s picks of 2016:

 

Helen also chose The Graveyard Apartment as one of 2016’s best reads.

 

 

An old woman whose eyes and mouth are sewn shut, elders who try to keep things quiet, and teenagers tired of being quarantined. What could go wrong? Everything. Hex, by Thomas Olde Heuvelt, is a horror story that spans generations of a small Husdon Valley town.

 

 

 

Of course, Helen’s list features a Stephen King novel. Book two in the Bill Hodges novels, Finders Keepers is full of twists and turns.

 

 

Son of Stephen King, Joe Hill is a successful author in his own right and The Fireman will not disappoint.

 

 

 

Lost and Gone Forever by Alex Grecian is book five in a mystery series that follows Inspector Walter Day through 19th century London.

 

 


Susan’s top picks are:

 

Maine author Monica Wood’s collection of short stories, Ernie’s Arkis one that you should not miss.

 

Monsieur Perdu heals people by suggesting literature that is exactly what their soul needs. He, however, cannot heal his own heart that was broken years before by the loss of his own great love. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George is a title that is always crossing the circulation desk. Check it out!

 

 

Monstress is the first volume in a new graphic novel series by Marjorie Liu.

 

 

If you find yourself stuck in the Land of Confusion, try Not Dead Yet: a memoir by Phil Collins. Strangers Like Me may not get Both Sides of the Story, but even if it takes you One More Night you will feel like you spent Another Day in Paradise. 

 

 

Have you ever wondered how our brains work? Idiot Brain: What Your Head is Really Up To by Dean Burnett explains it all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Behind Closed Doors Part 6: The Administrators

Topsham Public Library is blessed to have two of the best library administrators in the State of Maine. Director Susan Preece and Assistant Director/Teen Services Librarian Cyndi Burne are great women to work for and are passionate about what they do.

In July, 2005 Susan was named Director of Topsham Public Library. Susan does it all and more. She reports to the Board of Trustees concerning the operating of Topsham Public Library. She is responsible to the town for how we utilize our resources, and she works closely with our Development Coordinator to encourage fundraising goals and opportunities. She works closely with all staff members to make sure we are living up to Topsham Public Library’s mission to be a community center for people of all ages, to communicate and receive input on any policy changes and operating standards, and to check-up on us and make sure we are doing well in all aspects of our lives. She must be a public relations master, financially accountable, and someone who can work well with others. Susan is all that.

Even though Susan spends a lot of her time working on reports or attending meetings, she can still cover the circulation desk. Susan also holds a book discussion group that meets monthly at the Highlands. She enjoys the more personable side to her work when she gets out of her office and visits with patrons and especially the children.

It is vital that a Director and Assistant Director get along with each other, and Susan and Cyndi have such a chemistry between them. Even though they don’t see eye to eye in every situation, they have a mutual respect for each other’s experience and point of view that makes them a great team.

Cyndi’s responsibilities are just as varied: she supervises staff on the director’s behalf, assists the director in implementing Topsham Public Library’s long range plan, keeps informed of developments and participates in activities of professional and community organizations, manages library operations in the absence of the director, works the circulation desk, assists with the formulation and administration of library goals, policies, and procedures; she prepares reports and manages special projects, represents the library in the community, attends meetings, serves on the interview team, participates in budget development, formulates and maintains staff scheduling, submits payroll, processes bills for town payment, handles patron billing and problems, tracks utility usage, orders supplies and tax forms, handles vendor inquiries, schedules meeting room use, organizes staff safety training, oversees all things wi-fi and internet, and much more.

Not only is Cyndi the Assistant Director, but she also is the Teen Librarian. In that capacity, Cyndi develops and organizes teen programs, maintains mail chimp and a website for teens, is a reference resource, and is in charge of collection development for the Young Adult Room.

There is so much more to libraries than just checking out books, and this series of blog posts sheds a little light on what goes on behind closed doors.

 

Behind Closed Doors Part 5: Development

On a grand scale, Sharon’s job as Topsham Public Library’s Development Coordinator is “to create community where everyone feels welcome and connected to the world around them.” On a basic level, she raises funds through opportunities like the Business RoundtableWhitten Society memberships and grant applications, so that staff can continue to create and build a community center for all ages; a center where all are welcome and have access to information, entertainment, lifelong learning, and community. These funds also help the library build a collection that meets the interests of our users, sparks enlightenment, and cultivates new ideas.

When asked about her favorite part of her job, Sharon says, “I get to witness my neighbors find new friendships, escape loneliness, and discover new things. I get to watch our staff help patrons feel welcome, find the information they are looking for, and create programs that are engaging and enlightening. I feel so lucky that I work in a place where people of all ages and backgrounds walk in wearing smiles because they’ve come home, and where the staff sing while they work because they love what they do.”

Binge Watching Suggestions

We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming to bring you great binge watching suggestions. Dave, staff member at Topsham Public Library, wrote a post suggesting binge watching ideas in case you find some extra time on your hands this holiday season. Enjoy!


binge watch·ing
noun
The practice of watching multiple episodes of a television program in rapid succession, typically by means of DVDs or digital streaming.


Who hasn’t yet been party to binge watching? The pleasure that is derived from staying in one’s pajamas, eating food one probably shouldn’t (my personal favorite), postponing important chores while being engrossed in watching episodes of a series all in one sitting. I have to say it is one of the activities I look forward to, especially during the winter season. I find myself hoping for snow days where the dog, cat and I can curl up on the couch and ignore the world around us.

There is something different about the experience of binge watching from the usual weekly episodic fare that we grew up with. Today I am going to tell you about my favorite binge watching experiences this year, most from the BBC.

The Crown, Season 1—This has to be my favorite television programming in years! This series written by Peter Morgan (The Queen) is a lavishly produced look at the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II starring Claire Foy, looking strikingly like the young Queen, and Matt Smith (Dr. Who).

Happy Valley, Seasons 1 & 2—In a role written specifically for her, Sarah Lancashire (Last Tango in Halifax, Mr. Selfridge) shines as Catherine Cawood, a hard-working police sergeant who works her patch of Yorkshire using her many skills to guide her. Catherine’s work and personal life are already complicated in crime-riddled Happy Valley when Tommy Lee Royce (played by James Norton of Grantchester fame) wanders into town, freshly released from prison. Was he responsible for Catherine’s daughter’s death, as she believes? And will her suspicion cloud her judgment when another young girl goes missing? Also starring the great Siobhan Finneran (Downton Abbey) in a completely different role proving she cannot be typecast.

Waking the Dead, Seasons 1 thru 9—Another British import about a Cold Case Unit, led by quick-tempered, no-nonsense copper DS Boyd (Trevor Eve-Heat of the Sun), have assembled to re-examine “unsolvable” crimes with cutting-edge detection techniques. But the pressure is on for this mix of forensics, psychology and detective investigation to yield results. It also stars Sue Johnston, another Downton Abbey alum.

Vera, Seasons 1-6—Based on the popular Vera Stanhope mysteries by Ann Cleeves, this series stars the amazing, twice Oscar nominated actress, Brenda Belthyn (Little Voice, Saving Grace) who portrays the title character with such verve, the author commented that she only hears Brenda Blethyn’s voice as Vera when she is writing new books in the series. If you finish this, catch Cleeves’ Shetland series of DVDs bases on her detective inspector Jimmy Perez, played by Douglas Henshell, also a worthy series.

Line of Duty, Series 1-3–Detective Chief Inspector Tony Gates (Lennie James, The Walking Dead) is an exemplary cop. He’s got the best crime stats on the force and a loyal team working under him. But the head of the police anti-corruption unit, Superintendent Ted Hastings (Adrian Dunbar, Ashes to Ashes), has his doubts about Gates. Is he really that good? And more importantly, is he really that clean? Hastings decides to find out and calls on a new arrival to his department, Detective Sergeant Steve Arnott (Martin Compston, Monarch of the Glen), to help him do it. As the net tightens around Gates, reputations are on the line—and lives are at risk.

Critically acclaimed for its taut plotting and remarkable performances, this high-stakes thriller also stars Vicky McClure (Broadchurch), Gina McKee (The Forsyte Saga), Kate Ashfield (Shaun of the Dead), Craig Parkinson (Misfits), and Neil Morrissey (Waterloo Road). Series 2 & 3 stars the great Keeley Hawes (Durrells of Corfu).

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life (Netflix). Anyone who misses the rapid fire dialogue from the late, great Gilmore Girls and all the crazy, eccentric people that make up the fictional (Although I choose to believe it actually exists!) Stars Hollow—you have to see this quite wonderful four-episode addition. All of the episodes are 90 minutes and each one takes place in another season. The ending leaves one hanging, so I hope more are planned. It stars almost all of the original cast including Lauren Graham (Parenthood) and Alexis Bledel (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and much centers around the real-life loss of Richard Herrmann who portrayed Richard Gilmore.

And there are all kinds of other series or multiple-part movie/TV events, from Doc Martin, Downton Abbey, Bletchley Circle, The Closer, Foyle’s War, Prime Suspect

…do I have to come to work?