2018 Book Lists

I have primed the staff at Topsham Public Library to get their Staff Picks of 2018 list done. Dave has already submitted his to me with the caveat that he may add one or two titles before the midnight on December 31 deadline. But below I have added a few lesser known sources (wink, wink) and their best books of 2018 lists.

For the Washington Post Best Books of 2018:

The New York Public Library has released their Best of 2018 list:

The New York Times’ list is 100 Notable Books of 2018:

For Sci-Fi and Fantasy fans, Barnes & Noble have released their list of favorites from 2018:

And last, but not least, Time released a list of books you may have missed this year:

This is just a sampling of lists that are out there. Take a look. See what you think. They are a great source of suggestions. And don’t worry, come January the much anticipated Topsham Public Library Staff Picks of 2018 will be released. I know that’s what you’re all waiting for.

Our Annual Appeal

The following is a letter from David Mosley, Development Coordinator for Topsham Public Library

Can you believe it? It’s that time of year again. Dreary, post-fall/pre-winter weather with seemingly “shorter” days with less daylight and a colder climate. However, I always find myself a little excited about the Thanksgiving holiday, when good food and time with family and special friends come together. It brings to mind nesting at home, reading a good book and drinking something warm with my pets snuggling with me on the couch. This, in turn, makes me think about Topsham Public Library and how additions to the collection is funded. Especially now that I am, as the new Development Coordinator, charged with finding funds to make this happen!

Most likely you have, or will shortly, receive the annual letter from our volunteer Topsham Public Library Board asking for your financial help so we may continue operating our library with its current level of services. Sometimes people do not realize the library is responsible for raising 15% of its funding to augment monies provided by Topsham taxpayers. You may ask yourself, since I already contribute as a taxpayer, how can they ask for more? We ask because there is real need. Our 15% share of our budget this year is almost $130,000. We raise money many ways including grants, business support and from the Friends of Topsham Public Library. Even after this generous support, our remaining need and goal for this fiscal year is still $90,000!

Recently I finished one of my favorite books of 2018, The Library Book, by Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief. Ostensibly, it discloses the tragic event where the Central Library of Los Angeles burns on April 29, 1986. As with most other books by Orlean, it is a more complex account. She brings readers along from the beginnings of the LA Library through today where it has become one of the largest library systems in the world. Not much in common with Topsham Public Library you may think, but you would be incorrect. Like all public libraries, LA’s is much more than a repository of books. Yes, it has a large and diverse collection managed by professional staff but it is also a place where people gather for community, education, job searches, tax preparation, art shows, crafts, general information, all this while being part of the greater social safety net. Our collection may offer a small slice of what LA’s does, but the Topsham Public Library staff of professionals provide all these services too, but only with your financial support.

I have had the pleasure of working at the circulation desk for the three years prior to my new role here at Topsham Public Library. I have had the pleasure of getting to know many of you in the community and I have always been struck, and thankful for, your support. I am sure you will agree that Topsham Public Library is a true community jewel.  As we begin celebrating our 15th anniversary in our “new” building, and our board, staff and residents begin looking at what the next 15 years may bring, the enthusiasm makes my new role even more exciting. Please join me in financially supporting a place we in Topsham cannot do without—our beloved public library!

Great American Read Reveal

Did you watch it?!? On Tuesday, October 23 PBS aired the final episode of The Great American Read and revealed America’s favorite book. And the winner is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee! Lee’s book took and kept the lead right from the beginning. There were a few close calls: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier was bumped out of the 24th spot by The Stand by Stephen King and Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry edged past Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett to claim the 22nd spot. The ranking of each title is listed below:

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  2. Outlander (Series) by Diana Gabaldon
  3. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  5. Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  6. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  7. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  8. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  9. Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  10. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  11. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  12. Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  13. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  14. Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
  15. Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  16. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  17. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  18. 1984 by George Orwell
  19. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
  20. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  21. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  22. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  23. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
  24. The Stand by Stephen King
  25. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  26. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  27. Color Purple by Alice Walker
  28. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  29. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  30. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  31. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  32. The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
  33. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
  34. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  35. Dune by Frank Herbert
  36. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
  37. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  38. The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
  39. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  40. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  41. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
  42. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
  43. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  44. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  45. Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
  46. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  47. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
  48. Game of Thrones (series) by George R.R. Martin
  49. Foundation (series) by Isaac Asimov
  50. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  51. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  52. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton
  53. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  54. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  55. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  56. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
  57. The Shack by William P. Young
  58. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  59. The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
  60. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  61. The Martian by Andy Weir
  62. The Wheel of Time (series) by Robert Jordan
  63. Siddhartha by Herman Hesse
  64. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  65. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  66. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon
  67. A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  68. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  69. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  70. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  71. Hatchet (series) by Gary Paulsen
  72. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  73. The Twilight Saga (series) by Stephanie Meyer
  74. Tales of the City (series) by Armistead Maupin
  75. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  76. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  77. Left Behind (series) by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
  78. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  79. The Watchers by Dean Koontz
  80. The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
  81. Alex Cross Mysteries (series) by James Patterson
  82. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  83. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  84. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  85. Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews
  86. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  87. The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut
  88. This Present Darkness by Frank E. Peretti
  89. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  90. Another Country by James Baldwin
  91. Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
  92. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  93. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  94. Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon
  95. Mind Invaders by Dave Hunt
  96. White Teeth by Zadie Smith
  97. Ghost by Jason Reynolds
  98. The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
  99. The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead
  100. Doña Bárbára by Romulo Gallegos

Though I still haven’t read all the books on the list, I have made progress and I do intend on getting through it. So far, my favorite book on the list that I had not read until I saw the list is The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. What about you? Are you reading through the list? Any pleasant surprises?

Let’s Talk About It!

The Topsham Public Library has been selected by the Maine Humanities Council to offer “Let’s Talk About It”, a free reading and discussion group with copies of books available through the library. This program is provided by the Maine Humanities Council’s Maine Center for the Book in cooperation with the Maine State Library.

The series, Re-Imagining the American Family, begins 6pm, Thursday, November 1 at the Topsham Public Library in Topsham, and continues for 5 sessions, through March 14.

Books to be read and discussed in this series include: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast, What the Living Do by Marie Howe and Brothers and Keepers by John Edgar Wideman.  A scholar provided by the Maine Humanities Council will facilitate the discussions. Rebecca Nisetich, PhD of USM will facilitate this group.

“Exploring ideas and issues through literature has a unique and fun way of creating community,” said Nicole Rancourt, director of Let’s Talk About It. “We find that there is great interest among adults in getting together to discuss what they’ve read with others. Having a discussion leader who is both excited about the readings and skilled in facilitating can help to deepen this experience.”

Books for the program are available for loan at the library. Please call the library at (207) 725-1727 to register and come in to pick up the first book of the series.

Latest Rare Reads Discussion

Image result for the state we're in ann beattie

Last night the Rare Reads book discussion talked about The State We’re In: Maine Stories by Ann Beattie. Have you read it? What did you think?

Dave Mosley Takes on New Role as Development Coordinator

You may have noticed lately that Dave has not been behind the circulation desk as much as usual.  As well as Volunteer Coordinator, and Suggestion Source Extraordinaire, he is now adding Topsham Public Library Development Coordinator to his list of duties.

As you know, if you have ever engaged with Dave, he strives to do his best to provide quick, pleasant, and accurate service. That’s exactly what he wants to do as Development Coordinator: to continue to do what we do, and strive to do it better. As well as building those bridges with businesses, he wants to maintain and grow the relationship with our patrons and volunteers.

Dave’s biggest concern is that he will lose touch with our patrons. He enjoys working at the circulation desk and getting to know you. He wants those bonds to remain, so do not hesitate to speak to Dave about any concerns or ideas you have or about things you need or to tell him what a great job Topsham Public Library is doing.

Banned Books Week

It’s Banned Books Week! Every year the American Library Association promotes a campaign to raise awareness of the freedom we have to read what we want to read. In the past, Topsham Public Library has highlighted banned books that we like to read or that have been challenged, but this year, I thought it would be nice to share a brief history of how the Banned Books Week Campaign got its start.

The following is from the American Libraries Magazine article written in 2017 titled “50 Years of Intellectual Freedom,” written by Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF) staff celebrating the office’s anniversary.

“Banned Books Week was launched in the 1980s, a time of increased challenges, organized protests, and the Island Trees School District v. Pico (1982) Supreme Court case, which ruled that school officials can’t ban books in libraries simply because of their content.

Banned books were showcased at the 1982 American Booksellers Association (ABA) BookExpo America trade show in Anaheim, California. At the entrance to the convention center towered large, padlocked metal cages, with some 500 challenged books stacked inside and a large overhead sign cautioning that some people considered these books dangerous.

Drawing on the success of the exhibit, ABA invited OIF Director Judith Krug to join a new initiative called Banned Books Week, along with the National Association of College Stores. The three organizations scrambled to put something together by the September show date and ended up distributing a news release and a publicity kit, hoping that with their combined membership of 50,000 people, they could continue to spark a conversation about banned books.

The initiative took off. Institutions and stores hosted read-outs, and window displays morphed into literary graveyards or mysterious collections of brown-bagged books. Major news outlets such as PBS and the New York Times covered the event, and mayors and governors issued proclamations affirming the week.

ALA is currently part of a national coalition to promote Banned Books Week, along with 14 other contributors and sponsors. Krug led the Banned Books Week efforts as OIF director until her unexpected death in 2009. Her legacy lives on in the Freedom to Read Foundation’s Judith F. Krug Memorial Fund, a grant awarded to nonprofits to host Banned Books Week events.

Today, Banned Books Week coverage by mainstream media reaches an estimated 2.8 billion readers, and more than 90,000 publishing industry and library subscribers. The Banned Books page remains one of the top two most popular pages on the ALA website.”

Every time you visit Topsham Public Library you are practicing your right to read what you want. Stop on by and pick up your next read!

TV Shows Set in Maine

Castle Rock. Emma gets practically giddy when it is mentioned, and then when you get her together with  Dale and Lynne (outside of work time, of course) the chatter is non-stop. The three of them are either talking all things Castle Rock or one or the other is shushing the others because they are an episode or two behind. If you’re not familiar with Castle Rock, as I wasn’t, it is a new horror show on Hulu based on a fictitious town in Maine that appears in a variety of Stephen King books. A number of other Stephen King’s works have been adapted for television that are set fictitious Maine towns. They include: The Dead Zone, Haven, The Mist, Storm of the Century, and Under the Dome.

This got us thinking about other TV shows that are set in Maine. Do you remember Murder, She Wrote with Angela Lansbury? Set in Cabot Cove, Maine, the plot involved an author, Jessica Fletcher (played by Lansbury), who happens to be around whenever someone is murdered. It aired for twelve seasons on CBS and Lansbury received four Golden Globe Awards for her role in the series.

More recently, the show Once Upon A Time which aired on ABC from 2011-2018, is set in Storybrooke, Maine. The premise of this show is that fairy tale and folk tale characters are confined to present-day Storybrooke due to a curse cast on them by the Evil Queen Regina. They are exiled and their memories lost until a young boy, with the help of his mother (who may or may not be the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming), set things in motion to free them all.

There’s also Olive Kitteridge which is a four-hour mini-series based on the book by the same name by Elizabeth Strout. Set in Crosby, Maine, this follows the life of Olive, a retired schoolteacher who is married to the man who runs the local pharmacy. They have one child, a troubled son Christopher, who is a podiatrist.

And we can’t forget Dark Shadows that aired on weekdays from 1966-1971. It was a gothic soap opera that was set in Collinsport, Maine and followed the lives of the wealthy Collins family.

I haven’t seen all these shows, but it’s interesting to look at how Maine is portrayed. Is the portrayal of Maine accurate? Has the way “Hollywood” portrays Maine evolved? It’s interesting to see how Maine is projected on audiences that might not know anything about us.


High School Reading Assignments

At Topsham Public Library, when we start getting requests for Tess of the D’Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy, we know school is soon beginning. Students who enroll in AP English classes have summer reading assignments, and, as in true student form, they tend to wait until the last minute to get it done. (Who can blame them?!)

Other trends in summer reading assignments seem to be 1984 and Animal Farm both by George Orwell, Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Slaughterhouse-five by Kurt Vonnegut, and, of course, Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Those are all signs that students are back at it.

Watching these students cramming in those summer assignments causes me to reminisce over my high school reading assignments. I think my favorite book that I read in all my years of high school is another of Vonnegut’s work – Player Piano. It was assigned by Mrs. Maguire my senior year. That book has stayed with me all this time and I think about it often. In the book, Paul Proteus must find a way to live in a world dominated by a supercomputer and run by machines.

I also remember studying Samuel Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner in Mrs. Baker’s class. Actually, I don’t remember the text as much as I remember her playing Iron Maiden’s version in class.

I asked my fellow staff members what their favorite assigned high school reading was. (Some had to really think hard because high school was a lloooonnngggggg time ago for some of us.)

Dale’s favorite was assigned by Mr. Palmer, and it was The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien which is about the Vietnam War. A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote is Dave’s favorite book that he was assigned to read in high school.  This book is about a memory of a Christmas shared between a seven-year-old boy and sixty year old woman. Linda read Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. This story tells of journeys by a ship’s surgeon Lemuel Gulliver, who encounters strange lands and strange beings.

Emma did not connect with much of the assigned reading until about age 16 when, through assigned reading, she discovered the poetry of Samuel Coleridge (and in particular, Kubla Khan), Shakespeare’s plays (especially Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra and A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream) and the novel Emma by Jane Austen which is a humorous look at match-making in nineteenth century England.

Mr. Kingdon assigned The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier in his English class. That’s how Cyndi came to read it. She remembers that book clearly because it was the first book she read where the bad guy wins at the end.  She loved it for the unexpected rush of surprise as she read the last few pages.  She went on to read I Am the Cheese, also by Cormier, immediately after she finished The Chocolate War.

In Sixth grade Julie’s teacher, Billie Howe, let the class pick what they wanted to read. Some of them picked The Lord of the Rings series (which her brother had just read).  She thought the series was awesome. That was also the first time Julie read To Kill a Mockingbird. Sophomore year, Mrs. Young and/or Mrs. Anderson, had us read The Scarlet Letter. She loved it!  Junior year, Ms. O’Neil assigned a lot of interesting books but her favorite was The Great Gatsby. (It was the best paper she ever wrote.)

What did you read in high school? Did you love it or hate it? Does a particular assigned book hover in the back of your mind? Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy a book you have to read, but there are times when those books stick with you for the rest of your life.

And the Music Just Keeps on Playing

Summer is not complete without rockin’ along with a band under the summer sky! Join Off Their Rockers for an outdoor rock concert on Saturday, August 4 at 1pm at Topsham Public Library. Off Their Rockers play an eclectic mix of music from Buddy Holly to Carole King to Old Crow Medicine Show to the Traveling Wilburys and beyond!

In 2016, a talent show at Highland Green was held, and a group of nine residents formed a band Off Their Rockers. It was soon decided to keep the band going, and since that initial talent show they have performed for the People Plus Scoop-a-thon, the Mere Point Yacht Club, Down East Magazine’s Food Truck Friday and Cundy’s Harbor Ice Cream Social. For more information check their Facebook page at