Joy of the Pen Writing Competition is Open for Submissions

Are you a writer? Do you have some stories or poems that you’ve been working on? Is there a story hanging out in your mind but you haven’t had reason to get it out on paper? Now is the time! We are accepting submissions for our annual writing competition, The Joy of the Pen, from Saturday, September 7 through Saturday, October 5, 2019. The Joy of the Pen is Topsham Public Library’s annual writing competition open to Maine residents, both amateur and professional.

We accept previously unpublished submissions in the following categories: fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, Maine-related nonfiction and teen fiction and teen poetry. Submit online at

The Joy of the Pen Reception will be held on Saturday, November 16 at 1:00PM to announce the winners. Joy of the Pen is sponsored by The Cryer, Friends of the Topsham Public Library, Just Write Books and the TPL Teen Room.

You won’t know until you try. Polish off the stories, poems, and/or remembrances and submit them. You’ve got nothing to lose!

Awaken Your Senses in the Garden

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”
–  John Burroughs

Have you visited our gardens recently? Some blooms are starting to fade away but there is still plenty of color and interest. Sarah has done a wonderful job designing so that there’s always something in bloom throughout the garden out back and the Topsham Garden Club makes sure you are greeted with attractive plantings each time you visit. The weather has been lovely as of late. Why not take a stroll through our grounds the next time you visit? Before you do, may I share a secret with you? To enjoy the full beauty the garden offers, you must slow down and engage all of your senses. A world of details and sensations will open up for you and you’ll notice things that perhaps you haven’t before.

The more senses you use, the more information you will receive. Since each sensory system utilizes different parts of the brain, you’re also boosting your brain power; combining the use of one’s various senses leads to more and stronger connections within the brain and the result is a more thorough, meaningful experience. In addition, there’s increasing science-based evidence that tells us time spent in nature is good for us. A quick online search will lead you to some of the studies in a promising, growing collection. Benefits being reported include:

  • reduced stress and anxiety and lower risk of depression
  • improved blood pressure and cholesterol
  • better able to direct attention / focus
  • feeling more positive emotions and outlook on life
  • an increase in compassion, generosity and other prosocial behaviors.

I’m guessing that you already know through personal experience that you simply feel better and your mood is improved after spending some time outside. It takes only a few moments of your day to enjoy nature and reap the benefits. Here are some things to try to awaken your senses in the garden:

Before you begin, stand still for a moment to take in the general sights, sounds, smells, temperature, sun and breeze on your skin. Take a few deep breaths and center yourself in the present moment.

Patterns: The gardens are full of patterns! Pause to look at any one plant and you’re sure to notice a variety. Look for spirals & coils, symmetry, fractals & branching, spheres & circles, stars, spots & stripes. I’ve provided a book list below if you’re interested in learning more about patterns in nature.  Some of them are children’s books but I recommend you still take a peek.

Textures: When is the last time you felt a leaf out of curiosity? Chances are likely that is has been a while. It’s so easy for us adults to become indifferent to things we have experienced often enough. Reconnect with your childlike wonder and notice how some of the plants feel. The Lamb’s Ear is a favorite for children and adults alike – it’s so soft and fuzzy! Try contrasting the texture of the stiff Yucca leaves with some delicate and frilly leaves. I recommend you also feel both the top side and under of different leaves. Trust me, the two sides can feel quite different on many leaves.

Scents: You may be surprised to learn which plants in the garden have unique scents and that it’s not just flowers that can smell good. Rub the foliage of the Yarrow and take in the scent left on your fingers. Take a whiff of the flowering panicles of the Prairie Dropseed grass. What do you think it smells like? I’ve heard everything from cilantro to vanilla to buttered popcorn. What other plants can you find that have unique scents? Don’t be afraid… experiment a little and take a sniff.

Sounds: One of my favorite discoveries in the garden is that the dried seed pods of the False Indigo sounds like a rattle when shaken. Now I can’t help give them a shake when I pass by in late summer or fall. I also like how the stiff Yucca leaves sound against one another when I wiggle my hand back and forth among them. Notice other sounds around you – the breeze through tall grasses, birds calling, crickets chirping, etc. Closing your eyes can help you focus more when listening.

Color & Light: Compare and contrast the shades of green. You’ll find deep greens with a red or purple tint, pale yellow-greens, blue and silvery greens. Watch how foliage colors change throughout the seasons. Notice how light and shadows play on the plants highlighting certain features, changing the tone of a color, adding depth and contrast.

“Nature will bear the closest inspection. She invites us to lay our eye level with her smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its plain.”
–   Henry David Thoreau

If you have only a few brief moments or want to start with a limited amount, I suggest the following plants as you’ll be able to explore through most, if not all, of your senses.

  • Yarrow
  • Russian Sage
  • Wooly Thyme
  • Lamb’s Ear
  • Dianthus
  • Catmint
  • Salvia
  • Mullein

Be sure to visit regularly. You’ll notice something different each time you do and you’ll be well on your way to developing keener observation skills and awareness of the natural world.

Until next time, stay curious & get outside to notice nature!

(your friendly library nature nerd)

Resources to cultivate your curiosity:

What Happens to Damaged Items?

When an item is returned to Topsham Public Library it is not just checked in and placed on the cart to be shelved. Each item is inspected to see if anything like a bookmark, or a credit card, or a check, or an airplane ticket – you get the drift – is left in it. DVDs and audio books are checked to ensure the correct number of discs are there. It is not uncommon for us to call a patron and ask them to check their dvd player or cd player because an item was returned missing a disc.

And each item is checked for damage. Depending on the item and the type and extent of the damage, the item might need to be paid for, but if the damage is minor and/or is normal wear and tear and is a part of our collection, it might be able to be mended. (As a side note, please don’t try and fix anything for us. We have special tape and glues we use to repair books. If a library dvd or audio book is skipping and/or unplayable, please don’t clean it or buff it. We have equipment to use on the discs and staff who will tend to it. We only repair items that belong to Topsham Public Library. We do not repair items from other libraries or items from the public.)

We have a special spot for those items that need to be repaired: The Island of Misfit Items. There are a number of shelves and each is dedicated to a particular issue. There is a spot for discs that don’t play, a spot for new cases for audio/visual materials, a spot for books that need new covers, a spot for books that have binding issues, a spot for cataloging issues, and a spot to hold the books that we are weeding out of our collection.

Though the items are labeled with “Topsham Public Library” these are not our items. They belong to the community, and the resources that go into the purchase of these items we do not take for granted. It is our responsibility to care for what the public has entrusted to us and The Island of Misfit Items is one way we handle that responsibility.

It’s Grilling Season!

You know her as the Barefoot Contessa. She has a series of cookbooks, and I had heard of her, but I had never tried one of her recipes and the way Dave talks about her, I knew it should be sooner rather than later. Garten, not only has written numerous cookbooks, but also hosts cooking shows on the Food Network.

Because it’s summer I wanted to find something for the grill. I love grilling. (I don’t do the actual grilling – Dwight does that – I’m not good with flames, fire, extreme heat, and not burning things. You have to pay attention when you’re grilling and well, he’s better at the detail kind of stuff…) We don’t grill year round, but pretty close to it. Anyway, in Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics I found a perfect recipe: Herb Marinated Loin of Pork.

Garten’s cookbooks are appealing to the eye, and include a picture for every recipe which I appreciate immensely. In an attempt to describe her recipes, the best way I can come up with is to say that they are an un-intimidating touch of fancy. Back to Basics includes menus in the back consisting of the recipes in the book. There is also a FAQ section that answers questions about everything from eggs to how to adjust recipes if you don’t like cooking with certain ingredients or if you don’t have certain equipment how that might or might not effect the recipe. But what I enjoyed, and what took me by surprise, is the page of tips that begin each section of her cookbook. For example, the soup section begins with a page offering tips on how to “arrange flowers like a pro”, the dinner section begins with “10 things not to serve at a dinner party”, and the vegetable section starts things off with tips on how to “set a table like a pro”.

(Of course, I wanted a side dish of some type of grilled vegetable. Not long ago I shared with you my great experience with The Homemade Pantry by Alana Chernila. Well, she has another cookbook Eating From the Ground Up. I chose the recipe for Grilled Summer Squash with Basil Ricotta. As I expected, after using The Homemade Pantry, Eating From the Ground Up is a beautiful book – almost a picture for every recipe – and a wide variety of vegetarian recipes are included.)


The pork was a hit, and it disappeared quickly. I marinated it overnight, so the only thing we had to do was throw it on the grill. My daring eaters tried the Grilled Summer Squash and were pleasantly surprised. The squash was also marinated and is delicious alone, but the recipe included a Basil Ricotta topping that you kind of just plop on top and that is what was a delightful addition to the already delicious dish. It had a light basil/lemon flavor that went so nicely with the squash.

(As a side note: my pictures aren’t the best quality because we were in the midst of a family poker tournament. Mayhem was ensuing.)

But I was not done with Back To Basics. I decided the Baked Blintzes with Fresh Blueberry Sauce would be a perfect recipe to try on my unwitting guinea pig who was coming over because we needed to catch up. I was just taking it out of the oven when she arrived, so we gabbed while it cooled. It worked out well, too, because the recipe called for ricotta cheese so I was able to use up the ricotta cheese that I didn’t use in the summer squash recipe. We were not disappointed and my friend was delighted I experimented with her. We finished our visit because I had to run off to a staff meeting at Topsham Public Library. I thought I’d take the rest of the dessert with me because I knew if it stayed at my house, I’d eat the whole thing. My co-workers were happy that I shared.

The Baked Blintzes are like a crepe sandwich filled with a slightly sweet cheese filling that’s baked and topped with a blueberry sauce. How can that not taste yummy?! (Yes, I may have added a little too much sauce, but oh my goodness! It was yummy!)

The recipes were such a success that I’m duplicating the menu for our guests who are coming in September. Back to Basics  is a source for delicious, get me out of the rut recipes.



She’s Back!

You may remember, in the fall of 2018, we introduced you to Lindsey who, at the time, was a University of Maine Augusta student completing her internship at Topsham Public Library as she was earning her Bachelor of Science Degree in Information and Library Science. But now she’s back as a staff member!

When Lindsey isn’t at Topsham Public Library, she is enjoying Korean TV which she streams online. She enjoys the romance or comedy shows they offer. When she isn’t watching Korean TV or listening to K-Pop, you might find her at an anime or comic book convention. So it might not surprise you that if money were no object, Lindsey would begin a company that specializes in 2-D animation. That or be a pastry chef.

One thing I noticed about Lindsey when we were speaking with each other is how quickly she responds. For instance I barely had the question, “What’s your favorite book or genre” out of my mouth when she answered, “Jane Eyre [by Charlotte Brontë], Tuck Everlasting [by Natalie Babbitt] and anything Victorian supernatural or drama.” She knows what she likes!

She was also quick to say that if she could sit down with anyone (dead, alive or a character from a book) she would love to sit down with Judy Garland, Stevie Nicks, and Jimmy Stewart. Lindsey prefers pie over cake, summer over winter, mountain over ocean, and chocolate over vanilla. And when I asked whether she was an early bird or a night owl, she immediately replied, “Both!”

Lindsey is eager to help you find what you’re looking for, so stop by and say hi!

Neat Nature at Topsham Public Library

The following is the first of a new blog series from Monique, one of our new staff members. She will be writing once a month about all things nature that you can find at Topsham Public Library and its environs. It’s packed full of  fun facts and resources where you can learn more. Enjoy!

Hi! Monique here, one of the newest library staff members and a bit of a nature nerd. If you ever see someone partly enveloped in some tree, that’s probably me. There are so many amazing things to notice in nature and I’ve made a bit of a habit of it. I can’t help but notice nature wherever I happen to be – viewing a gorgeous sunset from the Hannaford parking lot, listening to Fish Crows at the Tontine Mall green, or taking in the endless wonders at the Cathance River Nature Preserve.

Whether cultivated or wild, there’s plenty of nature to notice around Topsham Public Library and I will be sharing some interesting finds with you on occasion. We’re going to jump right in with something weird but wondrous that I’ve been observing over the past month.

What would you think if I told you that there’s an organism on the library grounds that is slowly moving about yet it has no appendages? It’s alive but it’s not an animal, plant or fungus. It lacks a nervous system but can solve mazes and remember the shortest route, problem solve and habituate. It changes its appearance so much that you might not recognize it hours later. And… it was most likely the inspiration for the 1958 movie, The Blob (borrow our copy if you’ve never seen it).

It’s a type of slime mold called Fuligo septica, more commonly know as “scrambled egg” or “dog vomit” slime mold. You can probably see why. It starts off in this bright yellow, amoeba-like stage and slowly creeps in search of food. This video does a good job explaining how it moves and has some cool time-lapse footage. When it has exhausted the food supply or conditions become unfavorable, it transforms into its fruiting body form seen below.

This type of slime mold is often found in bark mulch and despite what the movie would have you believe, it is harmless. It won’t bother you or nearby plants. In fact, it’s not even a mold but a plasmodial member of a family of single-celled organisms. Have you noticed it at the library or seen it elsewhere? Perhaps you’ll be curious enough to stop and inspect it a bit more closely next time. I won’t think it odd at all to see you crouched under the tree.

Resources to cultivate your curiosity:

Until next time, stay curious & get outside to notice nature

Neat Note: Have you heard the term biomimicry or biomimetics? It is “an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies” (source: Biomimicry Institute). Because slime mold is so good at optimizing routes to food sources, it is being studied for efficient ways to create networking and transportation systems. It’s fascinating what we can learn from nature!

The Life of a Book

We are a library. Books are our business. (Certainly not our only business, but quite a bit of what we do centers around books.) Have you wondered about the life of a book at Topsham Public Library? How do we decide what titles to buy? What happens after we order the books? What happens if a book is damaged? And how do we decide to withdraw a title? You can find the answers below as I walk you through the life of a book at Topsham Public Library.

There are three different staff members responsible for ordering our titles. Emma, Adult Services Librarian, orders for the adults, Cyndi, Teen Services Librarian, orders for the teens and Mariah, Children’s Librarian, orders for the children’s department. The decision to buy certain titles is based on a number of factors: what titles have a long wait list in the inter-library loan service, a look at a variety of top 10 lists like the New York Times Bestseller List, what titles people are talking about, what review materials like Kirkus are saying, what is heard in the media from sources such as NPR, and what our own library trends are, for example, at Topsham Public Library books written by Paul Doiron are automatic, no-brainer orders. And you, our patron, may certainly request an item be added to the collection.

After the orders are placed, we wait for the UPS delivery. If you are in the staff room, you might hear someone exclaim, “UPS is here!” as the big brown truck pulls up to our door. And then we all seem to find something that needs to be done at the back desk trying to peak over the shoulder of the lucky one unpacking the box. (Then the race is on to request that new title that piques our interest. FYI – Helen has the quickest fingers in the building.) As the books are unpacked, each item is checked for damage or missing pages, and checked to see if the cover has the protective plastic cover already on it.

The books that don’t pass inspection are sent back to the publisher. The books that pass the inspection, and most of them do, are placed on the processing shelves. Each department has their own section. For example, YA books go on the YA section of the shelf, audio books go on the audio book section, etc, etc. The books wait there to be cataloged.

Helen and Lynne are the cataloging experts and are tasked with cataloging the hundreds of items that we receive each month. DVDs, music CDs, books, audio books, graphic novels, magazines, large print, children’s books, young adult books, and non-fiction books – all of them need to be cataloged.

Cataloging is a system by which we can find the item you are looking for. There is a record that exists for each item. Helen and Lynne must find that record and examine it to make sure that the item we have matches it exactly. If it matches exactly – no problem. If it doesn’t match it exactly, then a record must be found or created. Why does it matter? If you are looking for the fifth edition of a title, you don’t want the fourth edition. If you don’t have a blue-ray player, you don’t want a movie on a blu-ray disc. The details matter when you want a specific item and cataloging ensures you find the specific item you want.

Lynne and Helen assign a barcode to each item and affix the spine label to the item. The barcode is what is scanned when you check out a book and it is how we keep track of the book. The spine label is what staff and volunteers use to shelve the item. You may also notice other labels on the spine. Those labels are to help you. The most used label is the orange dot you will see just above the spine label and that orange dot signifies it is a large print book. There are also labels that say Graphic Novel, or YA for Young Adult, or Mystery, or Horror, or Fantasy, etc. Those labels are to help you find something you might be interested in. Looking for a new mystery writer? Look for the mystery label. Looking for something to scare your socks off? Look for the Horror label. (Of course, you may always ask staff for a suggestion, but sometimes you just want to browse and the labels are there to help.)

Once the item is cataloged, it is put on the “In Processing” shelf. Any staff member is able to finish the processing of books. The date slips are placed in the front of a book. These are the slips on which we stamp the due date. Staff also stamps “Topsham Public Library” on the first end page and on the title page which helps identify it as one of our books. If it is a new item, we stamp the month and year on the first end page so we know to display it in the appropriate “New Items” sections throughout the library. Also, if a book was delivered that did not have that protective plastic cover, staff would add it at this time.

Sometimes a book gets damaged. It will happen inevitably. It happens to us all. One day, you come to Topsham Public Library and you check out a book and take it home. Once you get that book home, your morning coffee or after dinner wine might get spilled on it. Or Fido your lovely dog decides that book is a chew toy. Or the kids get in a tug-of-war over who gets to read it. Or it gets left out in the rain, or dropped in the pool, or ends up on the floor of the van and the kids in snow covered boots tromp all over it on their way to their car seat. We understand, it happens. Bring it in. Let us know at the desk, and we will let you know what the replacement cost is. If need be, we can work something out to help you repay the amount. Please, do not buy a replacement and bring it in. We have procedures in place when something like this happens and an item needs to be paid for. If the book belongs to another library, the procedure for paying for it is different, so if that occurs we will let you know how that needs to be handled. Once it has been paid for, the item is yours.

As each item is returned, whether through the outside drop box or the inside drop slot or through inter-library loan, the staff checks them for any damage. If we notice a ripped page, a broken spine, or a broken disc case, we mark it in the system and put it “In Repair”. If a movie or audio book is skipping, we rely on you, our patron, to let us know when you drop off the item. Please, do not try and clean an audio disc or a movie DVD yourself. Sometimes that might cause more damage than actually fix the disc. When we know the disc is skipping we place that “In Repair” as well. Once the item is noted as “In Repair” in the system, we place it on Julie’s island in the staff room. This is where Julie works her magic. Julie buffs discs, tapes pages with special tape, and fixes bindings with special glues. Once an item is fixed, the “In Repair” status is cleared and the item is placed back in circulation.

There does come a day in every book’s life when the decision must be made whether to keep it or whether to get rid of it. Sometimes the decision is easy due to its condition. It might be damaged beyond repair, or it might be so old that the pages keep falling out or the binding is not worth repairing. Sometimes the decision is more difficult. Due to space issues, Topsham Public Library does not have enough room to house every single book. Every year, the appropriate staff look through their department looking for titles to withdraw in order to make room for new titles. It can be difficult, but if a book hasn’t been checked out in years it may be withdrawn. In the case of non-fiction if the information is out of date – like what might be found in medical books – those items will be withdrawn as well. As library staff, it’s always difficult to get rid of books, but it is a reality.

That is the life of a book from ordering to check out to withdrawal. We take seriously the care and upkeep of the items as we are mindful that the resources to purchase these items are entrusted to us.



Orcs and Dragons and Elves Need to Eat, Too!

This month’s cookbook review is by Lynne Morgan. Lynne is the Circulation Manager at Topsham Public Library and enjoys all things food. 


So who would have thought when my son was battling orcs, elves, dragons and mages online that it would lead to cooking!!  Well, that’s exactly why The Elder Scrolls: The Official Cookbook by Chelsea Monroe-Cassel piqued my interest.  I have watched (by his request) the computer screen and witnessed the fantasy world of these “faraway” scenarios.  To my surprise, the graphics were very detailed and elaborate and I found myself drawn into these strange lands (I’m a sucker for Tolkien)!

So, whenever a new cookbook arrives at the library for us to add to our collection, many of our staff members peruse the pages hoping someone will jump up and say “I’ll make that!”  When this book arrived, it looked like it came right from the kitchen of Gandalf.  Chock full of great illustrations and photographs, there is a brief background of “The Elder Scrolls” world.  Recipes begin with the basics (spices and seasonings) to sides, breads, main courses, desserts and more.  Selections such as Stormcloak Seasoning (which now resides in my spice cabinet), Lavender and Honey Bread to Seared Nordic Barnacles (a scallop recipe) followed by Sheogorath’s Strawberry Tarts and a good Honningbrew Mead are just a few samples.  Each of the recipes begins with a short description of the item and how it relates to the Elder Scrolls world. I decided to try my luck at Baked White River Salmon, a delightful puff pastry stuffed with salmon, carrots and leeks.  It was a hit!

One of the features I thought was unique were the seasoning recipes. There are several that you can make up to use in many of the recipes in the book and store for further use.  Also, you’ve gotta love that there’s a photo for each recipe!

I think this is a fun and creative format for a cookbook. I may try the The Lavender and Honey Bread next and come the holiday season, a little Sweet Nog or Imperial Mulled Wine would hit the spot!

If you enjoy this selection, you may want to check out her other cookbooks and travel to World of Warcraft: The Official Cookbook or A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook.  Happy Travels and Happy Cooking!

Staff Picks Top 15 Part 4: Julie, Susan, Lynne, and Mariah

As part of Topsham Public Library’s 15th anniversary on Foreside Road, the staff has chosen their Top 15 picks of all time. The staff was allowed to choose the Top 15 in all or the Top 15 in up to three categories. Have fun with the lists!

Julie’s Top 15 Picks in no particular order:


Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White


The Wisdom of Linus by Charles Schultz


The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien



Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini



Little Snake by A. L. Kennedy



The Murderbot Diaries series by Martha Wells



DI Jack Caffery series by Mo Hayder



The Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J. R. Ward



To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and movie starring Gregory Peck



Old Yeller by Fred Gipson and the 1957 movie with Tommy Kirk



Anne of Green Gables (1985)



Galaxy Quest (1999)



Mary Poppins (1964)



The Fifth Element (1997)



Star Trek (1966)



Susan’s Top 15 Picks in no particular order:


A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness



Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness



The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness



The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey



Being Mortal by Atul Gawande



The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker



Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda



Weasel by Cynthia DeFelice



Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand by Helen Simonson



The Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka



The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry and the Big Hungry Bear by Audrey and Don Wood



The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling



A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness



We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


A Discovery of Witches  TV show (2018)


Lynne’s Top 15 Books in no particular order:


A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle



Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier



Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck



The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt




The Help by Kathryn Stockett



Santa Claus and His Elves by Mauri Kunnas



Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern




Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire



Tangerine by Christine Mangan



We Were Liars by E. Lockhart



To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee



State of Wonder by Ann Patchett



The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway



A Secret History by Donna Tartt



Slade House by David Mitchell


Lynne’s Top 15 Videos in no particular order:


Death in Paradise series (2011)



To Have and Have Not (1944)



The Birds (1963)



Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001)



Signs (2002)



The War of the Worlds (1953)



It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)



American Graffiti (1973)



The Outsiders (1983)



Top Gun (1986)



Fargo (1996)



Jaws (1975)



Home Alone (1990)



Stand By Me (1986)



The Shining (1980)


Mariah’s Top 15 Books in no particular order:


Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh



Tenth of December by George Saunders



Comfortable With Uncertainty by Pema Chődrőn



The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo



The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt



Secret Pizza Party by Adam Rubin



Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling



Collected poetry by Rumi



Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss



Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding



A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket



House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski



We Were Liars by E. Lockhart



Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut




The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle



Mariah’s Top 15 Videos in no particular order:


The Darjeeling Limited (2007)



The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)



New Girl (2011)



Star Wars (1977)



Bridesmaids (2011)



Moulin Rouge (2001)



Wonder Woman (2017)


All the Marvel movies


Stranger Things (2016)



I Love You, Man (2009)


Roma (2018)


Away We Go (2009)



The Simpsons (1989)



The Office (2005)



Saturday Night Live (1975)



Mariah’s Top 15 Music Artists in no particular order:

Enter the Haggis

Gillian Welch

Bob Dylan

Punch Brothers


I’m With Her

Brandi Carlile

Lady Gaga

Imagine Dragons

Grateful Dead

Okay Go

Taylor Swift


Dave Matthews Band

Alanis Morissette


And so ends Topsham Public Library Staff Picks Top 15 edition. We hope you have enjoyed them! What are your top picks? If you were stranded on an island what Top 15 books would you want with you?


Staff Picks Top 15 Part 3: Jen, Dale, and Linda

As part of Topsham Public Library’s 15th anniversary on Foreside Road, the staff has chosen their Top 15 picks of all time. The staff was allowed to choose the Top 15 over all or the Top 15 in up to three categories. Have fun with the lists!

Jen’s Top 15 Picks:

When I began thinking about my top fifteen picks, I was giddy with excitement, but the more I thought about it, the more I grew nervous. Sharing your favorites of anything can be scary because it is so personal. Thoughts of what others may think of you seep into your selection process. How much of yourself do you want to reveal by the choices you make?

I started my lists over again numerous times, so I finally had to ask myself the age old question – if I was stranded on an island, what book, audio book, movie would I want with me? Some of my picks may seem silly and/or passé, but each one I chose contains characters or ideas I think about often. Some of them I have enjoyed since I was young, some are my favorites because my children and I discovered them together (and, yes, we still talk about and quote from them years later), some are challenging and make me uncomfortable, and some are new to me, but all of them I love. So, here we go.

Jen’s Top 15 Books in no particular order:


The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis




Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien




Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier




Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë




The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis




The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde




Inkheart by Cornelia Funke – This is the first in a trilogy, but I prefer it as a stand alone.



The Holy Bible




All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot




The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom




Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig




A Time to Kill by John Grisham




The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas




Jacob, Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson




Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafόn



Jen’s Top 15 Audiobooks in no particular order:


Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce




The Book Thief by Markus Zusak



The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp by Richard Yancey



Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard



Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage




The Giver by Lois Lowry




Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling




Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay




The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown




Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys




This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash



The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley




The Help by Kathryn Stockett




Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle




Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith



Jen’s Top 15 Movies in no particular order:


The Sandlot (1993)




Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001)




King Arthur (2004)




Lady in the Water (2006)




Penelope (2006)




Rear Window (1954)




Braveheart (1995)




Star Wars Episode 4 (1977)




The Bourne Identity (2002)




A Knight’s Tale (2001)




Last of the Mohicans (1992)




3:10 to Yuma (2007)




The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)




Princess Bride (1987)




A Few Good Men (1992)




Dale’s Top 15 Graphic Novels in no particular order:


30 Days of Night by Steve Niles




Nailbiter by Joshua Williamson




The Collected Essex County  by Jeff Lemire



Outcast by Robert Kirkman



Birthright by Joshua Williamson



Here by Richard McGuire



Locke & Key by Joe Hill



Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan



Head Lopper by Andrew MacLean



The Cape series by Joe Hill



Fragments of Horror by Junji Ito



Dept H by Matt Kindt



Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire



Southern Bastards by Jason Aaron



DMZ by Brian Wood



Dale’s Top 15 Albums in no particular order:

Ice Nine Kills. Every Trick In the Book

We Came As Romans. Tracing Back Roots

Goldfinger. Open Your Eyes

Boston. Boston

A Day to Remember. What Separates Me From You

August Burns Red. Constellations

The Amity Affliction. Let the Oceans Take Me


We Came As Romans. Cold Like War


If I Were You. The Sleepless


Nas. Illmatic


Friends Will Be Friends. Welcome to the Backstage

Villain of the Story. Wrapped in Vines, Covered in Thorns 


Led Zeppelin. Early Days: Volume 1


Blink-182. Take off Your Pants and Jacket


Linkin Park. Hybrid Theory



Linda’s Top 15 Books in no particular order:

Inspector Gamache Series by Louise Penny– I highly recommend this series and cannot possibly choose one volume over the others. Ms. Penny creates a place where everyone feels safe, and at home, juxtaposed against murder, police corruption, and every sort of evil. Her characters are complex and sometimes unpredictable. Each book is full of suspense and can stand alone. However, a subplot winds like a snake among the individual stories until it explodes onto the forefront to change everything for our favorite characters. Because of that this series must be read in order to get the full effect. The writing is beautiful, the plots engaging, and the characters lovable (or hateable?) It’s my FOAT! (Favorite Of All Time)

Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn – first book in a series which could be all five of my favorites! Lady Julia Grey and her husband Edward are having a dinner party when her husband suddenly becomes very ill and dies. His whole family is of poor constitution so this is hardly unexpected. Enter the dark, brooding, enquiry agent recently contracted by her husband, who declares that Edward has been murdered. He and Lady Grey do not exactly hit it off and the sparks fly. This Victorian mystery is satisfyingly complex with many a twist and a surprise ending. Some swashbuckling adventure and romance add to the mix to create a fun and satisfying result.

The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill – Meet Chief Inspector Simon Serrailler and his whole family in a character driven mystery series written by British author Susan Hill. The first book is called The Various Haunts of Men. Ms. Hill is a writer in the same league with P.D. James or Elizabeth George and her exploration of human nature and complex issues is superb. This book is more than just a mystery, though the mystery itself is compelling. A middle age woman is missing but the police do not seem overly concerned. After all she has no ties that bind and could be off on a jaunt. Only Freya Graffam, the new transfer in from London, seems to be convinced there is a crime to pursue; until someone else turns up missing. Then the game is on. The suspense will keep you reading into the night and the ending will keep you up even later. I highly recommend this book, but it comes with a warning. It’s definitely not a cozy.

A Cold Treachery by Charles Todd – Ian Rutledge, inspector in Scotland Yard has returned from WWI, wanting to pick up right from where he left off before the war. But he knows he is not the man he used to be. Can he keep his ‘shell shock’ a secret and get the job done? This case kept me guessing right up to the end. The mother-son writing team offers a great study in human nature along with an engrossing mystery.


House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz – Brilliant! is the one word description I would give to Anthony Horowitz’s House of Silk. The characters came to life through Mr. Horowitz’s pen; and his descriptions of the lavish and indulgent life of the privileged juxtaposed against the desperation of the poor and the orphaned provided the perfect setting; all wrapped up in the dirt and fog of a raw English winter. I was there with Sherlock Holmes and Watson in Victorian London. But it wasn’t only the weather that chilled me to the bone. The subject was so shocking to Watson that he ordered the manuscript not to be published for 100 years. With two very different murders to investigate the plot is deliciously complex. While some answers seemed obvious, others took me by surprise. This mystery was fulfilling on every level. The writing was beautiful, the descriptions vivid, and the puzzle engaging right to the end. Written as a reflection by Dr. Watson, some years after the death of Sherlock Holmes, the characters were completely true to the originals. It’s no wonder that this was the first Sherlock Holmes novel written by another author to receive the authorization of the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate.

Raven Black by Ann Cleeves – This book takes place in a very small village in the Shetland Islands. It is very suspenseful, and somewhat dark, showing the negative side of insular living in a small, isolated village. Outsider Jimmy Perez, a detective that grew up in an even smaller island community, heads up the investigation of a dead teenager. Once before in Shetland, a young girl disappeared, never to be found. There was a prime suspect but neither a body nor the proof was ever discovered. Is there a connection? The locals certainly think so, but Detective Perez isn’t so sure. This one kept me guessing right up to the moment of the arrest.

The Truth of All Things by Kieran Shields – It’s 1892 Portland, Maine, and the body of a young prostitute is found pinned to the earth with a pitchfork and laid out to form a pentagram. Deputy Marshall, Archie McLean is assigned to the case. He is soon joined by noted criminalist, former Pinkerton Agent Percival Gray, who is also half Abenaki. I loved this book for its historical detail and the uniqueness of the story. The characters are engaging and realistic as is the setting.

The Cutting by James Hayman – The set-up is familiar. Big city cop moves to a smaller New England town (Portland) to live a more peaceful, family friendly life with his teenage daughter. A body is found in a local scrap heap, a star athlete with his heart cut out. The adventure begins as Mike McCabe and his partner, Maggie Savage, rush to find this cruel murderer before there is another grisly crime. This is a real page turner with lots of action and suspense. It’s not for the faint of heart.

Poison Flower by Thomas Perry – This 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!


Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan – A down and out young man hangs himself in the attic of the bookstore and is found by Lydia, one of the cashiers. He was one of her favorites and the tragedy hits her hard. Why would Joey do that? Things get really strange when Joey’s landlady finds Lydia and tells her she is Joey’s contact person and she has to come get his stuff. In his belongings Lydia finds a picture of her 10 year old self on her birthday. Lydia has a secret past that no one is supposed to know about. How did Joey get this picture and what did he know about her? These questions lead Lydia on a return journey to the worst moment of her life; the murder of her childhood friend, Carol, which has never been solved. The plot carries this book with plenty of twists to confound and puzzles to unravel. This book reminds us that every action we take sets in motion a ring of consequences, for good or for evil.

Behind Closed Doors by JJ Marsh – This is the first book in a series about Beatrice Stubbs, a British detective. Having been involved in ‘an incident’ Beatrice’s career has been stalling. Her superior knows that she is an exemplary officer and he assigns her to a puzzling case. Four high-powered men have died on the continent and he sends Beatrice to head up the investigation. But can she trust herself? And can she prevent the next murder? This is an exciting romp around Europe after a clever and efficient killer. Beatrice Stubbs is a well-drawn character, flawed though she is, and I found myself rooting for her all the way.

Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen – Cute! Perky! Charming! are the words I would use to describe this mystery series by Rhys Bowen. Meet Lady Georgiana, 34th in line for the British throne. Georgie, as her friends call her, is not interested in an arranged marriage to a foreign prince so she leaves the family castle in Scotland to make her own way in the world. Alone in the family home in London it’s not too long before she finds trouble, in the form of a body in her bath. This is the first in a series. Light and easy to read, these books are the perfect companion for a day at the beach or an evening on the couch.

Dear and Glorious Physician by Taylor Caldwell – This is an in-depth, well-researched fictional account of the life of Lucanus, a Greek citizen, raised in Antioch and trained to be a physician. Ms. Caldwell, in her epic style, tells us what his life may have been like in the times he lived and shares his spiritual journey from simple physician to apostle of Jesus and writer of the Gospel of Luke.

Great Lion of God by Taylor Caldwell – This is the story of Paul of Tarsus who became St Paul. This beautifully written novel shows us a view of the religious and cultural times in which his character and conscience were formed and how he became one of the most influential men in the formation of the early church.

Winterdance by Gary Paulsen – From complete novice at dog sledding to Iditerod racer, this adventurous true story will keep you at the edge of your seat. Full of humor and excitement you may wonder at the sanity of such an attempt. I was astonished that he lived through the experience. Perhaps so was he.


Linda’s Top 15 DVD Mystery Series in no particular order:


Broadchurch (2013)



Brokenwood Mysteries (2014)



Doctor Blake Mysteries (2013)



Endeavour (2012)



Father Brown (2013)



Foyle’s War (2002)



Inspector Lewis (2006)



Loch Ness (2017)



Midsomer Murders (1997)



Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (2012)



Mrs. Bradley Mysteries (1998)




Murdoch Mysteries (2008)



New Tricks (2003)




Silent Witness (1996)



Vera (2011)