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Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!

“Laissez les bon temps rouler!”

Or, if your Cajun is a little rusty, “let the good times roll!” This phrase captures the joie de vivre, or joy of living, carefree attitude characterizing the culture of New Orleans. Known as Nollins or Nawlins, NOLA, The Crescent City, The Big Easy, The City that Care Forgot, and Mardi Gras City, New Orleans is truly unique.

I had the great pleasure of visiting NOLA this past spring. Whether your interest lies with cuisine, music, history, folklore, nature, art and architecture, or vice, there is something for everyone in New Orleans. The number of attractions and pastimes is almost overwhelming; I spent a week in New Orleans and only saw a fraction of what the city has to offer. Luckily, NOLA is such a popular tourist destination that there are lots of guidebooks and websites to help you plan your trip.

Firstly, I advise that you prepare yourself for a culture shock. The culture of NOLA is a very far cry from our New England Puritan roots. Massachusetts was settled by English colonists, while Louisiana was largely settled by the French and Spanish. New Orleans has historically had its own unique Creole dialect, and even as recent as 50 years ago, there were lifelong residents who exclusively spoke French. In addition, New Orleans is influenced by Southern hospitality culture and the slower pace of life necessitated by a hot climate.

The daily rhythm of the city was a shock to this New Englander: the middle of the day is so hot that few people venture outside until the sun starts to set, and then the city comes alive. NOLA is known for its vibrant nightlife, and as a result, many businesses are open late and do not even open until 10:00 am or later. Mind you, I was visiting in May, and while the weather was sunny, in the 80s, and quite humid, I was assured by every native local I met that New Orleans was actually cool and pleasant compared to the temperatures and humidity levels of August and September. As a Northerner, I advise visiting in early- or mid-spring.

As I said, there are many resources available for tourists, but I’ll discuss the guidebooks I found most helpful. I’m not the sort of traveler who likes to account for every minute of time in a rigid itinerary, but rather I identify some things I’d like to see and do at some point, and let the journey take me from there; I didn’t start looking at guidebooks until a week before departure, and didn’t plan in earnest until I was at the airport. Even so, I had a full and rewarding trip.

I recommend “New Orleans: a Lonely Planet City Guide” as a general guide. It offers detailed maps of sections of the city with points of interest, and is a good way to help get your bearings and learn about the city in broad strokes. I used it daily to plot my route. “Discovering Vintage New Orleans” by Bonnye E. Stuart was hands down the book I found most valuable for finding unique attractions, including the Beauregard-Keyes House and the New Orleans Pharmacy Museum in the French Quarter, the Southern Food & Beverage Museum and Museum of the American Cocktail in Central City, Lafayette Cemetery No. 1 and Commander’s Palace restaurant in the Garden District, and the Camellia Grill in Audubon.

Another great resource for finding out-of-the way attractions is “New Orleans: The Underground Guide” by Michael Patrick Welch with Brian Boyles. While this book does cover sites in the more touristy areas of the city, it is perfect for the traveler who wants to get out into other neighborhoods and live like a local.

If you know you want to focus your visit around music or food, pick up copies of “Hear Dat New Orleans” and “Eat Dat New Orleans.” Two words for music fans to remember: Frenchman Street. I heard five different genres of music in a single evening, and only paid a cover charge to see Kermit Ruffins, a jazz musician being hailed as the new Louis Armstrong. Speaking of jazz, I didn’t actually like jazz before my trip. New Orleans taught me there are many varieties of jazz, and the music is alive and growing. If you’re not a jazz fan, give it a try in New Orleans: you just might be surprised.

No matter what you decide to do in NOLA, there are a few practicalities to keep in mind. NOLA hosts many festivals year round, and can be fantastic free, authentic New Orleans entertainment. Be aware that there are a high number of muggings in NOLA, so plan accordingly. Don’t pay for anything in NOLA without looking for coupons online first – there are TONS.

Also, you can’t visit NOLA without being conscious of Hurricane Katrina. The city was forever changed by that disaster, and tensions still run high around Katrina and the aftermath. Many buildings were never rebuilt or repaired, and outside of the French Quarter, vacant buildings (including vacant skyscrapers and malls) are a common sight.

There’s no way I can capture in a single article the vibrant spirit and unique mixing of cultures of New Orleans and its people. Regardless of which name you call it, the city is a truly special, indomitable place.

Liz Reed is an Adult and Information Services Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Liz’s column in the August 4, 2016 edition of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

Book Reviews Summer 2016

This is the page where you can find book reviews from other readers taking part in Adult Summer Reading 2016 with the Morrill Memorial Library.

To submit your own review, please click here.

Court-of-mist-and-fury-book-cover“A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas
YA Fantasy – 5 stars

This book is overwritten and overwrought and I love it. The characters feel all the feelings truly madly deeply. And I’m in.


Plum-pudding-murder-book-cover“Plum Pudding Murders” by Joanne Fluke

Murder Mystery – 5 stars

A young woman, Hannah, who is also owner and baker of “The Cookie Jar” in Lake Eden, Minnesota, discoves the corpse of an acquaintance and she sets her mind to find the murderer. I really enjoyed this book. As an added bonus, the author includes all of the recipes for the treats sold in Hannah’s shop. I intend to read all of the books in this series and try out many of the recipes!

Tell-No-One-book-cover“Tell No One” by Harlan Coben
Suspense/Mystery – 5 stars

I saw a book review for a recent Harlen Coben book called “Missing You”. It intrigued me so I read it. I liked it so much I decided to read all of his books. “I just finished Tell No One”. Evidently, many of Coben’s books involve an incident in a character’s past that comes back to “haunt” them. This book recalls the disappearance and murder of a respected doctor’s wife that occurred 8 years previously. But is she really dead? Who is sending the doctor cryptic emails? Why are his home and office bugged? Who is watching him? Find out by reading this novel! Hold onto your seats for the surprising plot twists!

Man-called-Ove-book-cover“A Man Called Ove” by Fredrick Backman
Contemporary Fiction – 5 stars

It’s been a long time since I’ve a read a book this funny. Not just funny like “this made me feel amused” but funny is in “my spouse is giving me dirty looks because I’m laughing so hard and it’s preventing him from falling asleep” sort of way. Ove is a man out of time and his persistent belief tha he and others around him should be functional and useful is hilariously at odd with our modern yearning for freedom from responsibility. Chapters are poignant little vignettes with a background story that ties them all together. Amazing and insightful.

Gorilla-my-love-book-cover“Gorilla, My Love” by Toni Cade Bambara
Fiction – 5 stars

Underrated female African American writer from the 70s-90s. Absolutely incredible to experience.


Ms-Marvel-volume-3-crushed-book-cover“Ms. Marvel, Volume 3: Crushed” by G. Willow Wilson
YA Graphic Novel – 5 stars

I am really enjoying this series.


Ms-Marvel-volume-4-last-days“Ms. Marvel, Volume 4: Last Days” by G. Willow Wilson
YA Graphic Novel – 5 stars

I would totally recommend this it got really good towards the end.


Apple-turnover-murder-book-cover“Apple Turnover Murder” by Joanne Fluke
Murder Mystery – 5 stars

This is the second Joanne Fluke book I have read. I liked it very much and can hardly wait to try the recipe for Apple Turnovers. I was happy that this murder “victim” met his demise! Hannah eliminates her suspects one by one until she is trapped in a scary predicament near the end of the book. Read it to find out what happens!

Among-the-mad-book-cover“Among the Mad” by Jacqueline Winspeare
Mystery/Historical Fiction – 5 stars

Among the Mad is the sixth Maisie Dobbs mystery and, as with the preceding volumes, Winspeare excels at sensitively and intelligently handling the violent fallout of the first World War. Maisie is nearly killed by a suicide bomber in downtown London and is pulled into a Scotland Yard investigation of a threatening letter sent to the Prime Minister shortly thereafter. The reader learns with Maisie about the history of chemical warfare and the manufacture and testing of gasses that left men dead, blind, or gasping for air while bombs fell in the trenches around them.

The secondary thread of the narrative centers around evolving attitudes towards mental illness or “war neuroses” that we would today call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. While the target of the police investigation may well be “Among the Mad,” Maisie also confronts the effects of loss and depression on her own personal friends. Engaging characters and brilliantly researched details about life in the 1930s make this one of the best mystery series out there.

weefreemen“The Wee Free Men” by Terry Pratchett
YA Fantasy – 5 stars

The first of Terry Pratchett’s series about aspiring witch Tiffany Aching, The Wee Free Men will appeal to lovers of young adult fantasy like the Harry Potter or Percy Jackson books. Tiffany lives in a small rural village with lots of sheep where she helps her large family around the farm, looks after her perpetually sticky younger brother, and excels at making cheese. When strange monsters start appearing, and small, angry blue men think that Tiffany can stop them, she’s determined to follow in the footsteps of her grandmother and solve everyone’s problems using ill-fitting boots, a large frying pan, and a brilliant mind.

The-shack-book-cover“The Shack” by William P. Young
Fiction – 5 stars

Loved the book. It was at once somber and light-hearted, made me think about some heavy topics without feeling too bogged down.


Wicked-boy-book-coverThe Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale
True Crime, nonfiction – 5 stars

Not only does the author tell the story of the 13-year-old Victorian boy who commits the crime of matricide, but she explains the psychological traumas that turned the child into a “wicked boy.”

This book has educated me about childhood in Victorian times and about the abuses and stresses that cause crimes.

Louisa-book-cover“Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams” by Louisa Thomas
Biography – 5 stars

An excellent account of a fascinating woman in American history.

Through-the-woods-book-cover“Through the Woods: Stories”  by Emily Carroll
YA Graphic Novel, supernatural – 5 stars

Phenomenal illustrations, the artwork is beautiful. The stories are good and creepy, all five having something to do with the woods. One or two reminded me of traditional fairy tails but were actually their own unique stories. Recommended for teens and adults alike.

Lit-up-book-cover“Lit Up” by David Denby
Nonfiction – 5 stars

Through observing great teachers teaching great books, “Lit Up” makes apparent the benefits of reading and why it’s important that we encourage kids to become avid readers.

Look-at-you-now-book-cover“Look at You Now” by Liz Pryor
Nonfiction – 5 stars

Great read! I couldn’t put the book down. I was so drawn into the life of the author, and wanted to know what happened to her.

south-on-highland-book-cover“South on Highland” by Liana Maeby
Memoir Fiction – 5 stars

“South on Highland” is a truly beautiful and breath-taking story of a young narrator succumbing to drug addiction. Leila Massy is a rising Hollywood writer who spirals into a deep depression, disconnection, and addiction to a wide range of substances. The line between reality and the imaginative world captured in the words of an author is often blurred, but nowhere else is that line more difficult to distinguish than in “South on Highland.” It is evident that there are major aspects of Ms. Liana Maeby’s life intertwined with fiction in her first novel. The account takes after a “memoir fiction” genre of books. Simply the fact that Liana Maeby is so close to the fictitious name of Leila Massy is just a surface-land connection. “South on Highland” is gripping, lyrical, and haunting. It’s a masterpiece of the fictitious memoir genre and a triumphant first publication.

what-in-gods-name-book-cover“What in God’s Name?” by Simon Rich
Fiction – 5 stars

What if God was real? What if Heaven exists? What if Heaven is simply a typical bureaucratic corporation in the sky with God as its CEO? That is the amazing premise of Simon Rich’s novel “What in God’s Name?” It’s hilarious and a quick, fun read full of angels, boardrooms, college students, and miraculous gusts of winds. Simon Rich offers a compelling alternative to the afterlife and the reader can’t help but get sucked into this capitalist view of Heaven. It’s a romantic comedy, philosophical address, and an apocalypse-centered action adventure in one short novel. Some serious fun!

Summer-secrets-book-cover“Summer Secrets” by Jane Green
Fiction – 4 stars

It was pretty predictable at times but overall I enjoyed it.


Difference-engine-book-cover“The Difference Engine” by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling
Science fiction/steampunk – 4 stars

Classic sci-fi book. More like a collection of vignettes than a novel, but it works. Heady and somewhat dense writing. Recommended if you enjoy novels with words made up for that fictional world, or books about Victorian England.

Jacobs-folly-book-cover“Jacob’s Folly” by Rebecca Miller
Fiction, Magical Realism – 4 stars

Very unique premise for a book – a man from 1700s France is reincarnated as a fly on Long Island in the present day, and he tries to influence the lives of two people he encounters. The book flashes back to his previous life, so there are several story lines unfolding through the book. I enjoyed Miller’s writing style, she was dryly witty. The pace of the book sped up dramatically at the end and didn’t match at all the book’s earlier pacing, and in fact the ending felt rushed. Overall a good read though, recommend.

Welcome-toNight-vale-book-cover“Welcome to Night Vale” by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor
Magical Realism – 4 stars

Highly recommended for fans of the “Welcome to Night Vale” podcast, but it would be pretty hard to jump into this for someone who hasn’t listened to at least a few episodes. I prefer the podcast to the book, but in the book we get a view into different parts of Night Vale that are only alluded to in the podcast. Instead of focusing on Cecil and his radio broadcasts (though there are a few radio segments providing backdrop to the story), the book follows two characters as they try to figure out the mystery of the man in the tan jacket with the deerskin suitcase. Part of their journey leads them into the library, which we’ve only had horrific hints of in the podcast, and reading the book is worth it just to learn more about librarians (the most fearsome creatures in the world). The reductive pedantic style went on a little long, but if you enjoy the podcast, don’t miss this book. Definitely listen to the audio version, which is entirely narrated by Cecil.

The-last-policeman-book-cover“The Last Policeman” by Ben Winters
Mystery/Sci-fi – 4 stars

Hank Palace is your stereotypical up-and-coming police detective. He has a photographic memory, a tragic past, unusual living arrangements, and a burning desire to prove himself on his first big case – it looks like suicide, but he’s convinced it’s murder. There’s only one big problem. A giant asteroid is going to crash into the Earth in about six months and nobody really cares that much about law enforcement, or anything else, anymore.

Set in Concord, New Hampshire, The Last Policeman puts an intriguing spin on a traditional mystery by using the end of the world scenario to see how people live with that. Some people commit suicide, some throw endless parties or go on one last vacation, and some, like our protagonist, buckle down and do their jobs.

The-fireman-book-cover“The Fireman” by Joe Hill
Science Fiction – 4 stars

When men and women all over the world start to spontaneously combust, fear and panic spread, well, like wildfire. Joe Hill’s apocalyptic thriller follows nurse Harper Grayson as she tries to navigate this new and dangerous world. People infected with the spore called Dragonscale are rounded up and persecuted, but enclaves of survivors face infighting and suspicion.

Tautly written and anxiety-inducing, The Fireman follows Hill’s other novels including Horns and NOS4A2 in keeping the reader on the edge of their seat. Like his father, Stephen King, Joe Hill knows how to make the pages fly by as the reader has to find out what happens next, fearing the worst and still hoping for the best.

Bunker-Hill-book-cover“Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution” by Nathaniel Philbrick
History nonfiction – 4 stars

Nathaniel Philbrick provides an excellent bridge between books that cover the ideological fervor of the Boston patriots and those that focus on the hard, years-long fight of the Revolutionary War. During the sixteen months between the Boston Tea Party of 1773 and the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, key figures in Boston society worked hard to find a middle ground between the Patriots and the Loyalists. The book pays particular attention to the efforts of the president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, Dr. Joseph Warren, to avoid open conflict and to the restraint and indecisiveness of Loyalist Governor Thomas Hutchinson. While the opening chapters can be slow at times, readers will welcome the nuanced re-introduction to familiar figures like John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Paul Revere, and the slow building of tension pays off with the dramatic events that began in April of 1775.

Philbrick’s attention to detail in the movements and actions of the British Regulars and the Colonial Militia, and the popular responses to the events on both sides, is masterful. The narrative climaxes at the Battle of Bunker Hill, with an impressive description of the bravery and the mistakes of militia leaders, British officers, and common soldiers. The book would be a success if it ended there, but it continues with an engrossing account of the arrival of George Washington and his efforts to lead and to shape the Continental Army throughout the Siege of Boston. Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution is a must read for lovers of American history, offering excellent insight to the political motivations, the military efforts, and the people who began the Revolutionary War.

My-notorious-life-book-cover“My Notorious Life” by Kate Manning
Fiction – 4 stars

As a nurse, and fan of “Call the Midwife”, I thoroughly enjoy the history/issues in this book. They are still relevent today! 


Beat-to-quarters-book-cover“Beat to Quarters” by C. S. Forester
Historical Fiction – 4 stars

The first of the Hornblower novels to be written, but the sixth chronologically, this is a classic naval adventure set during the Napoleonic Wars. Captain Horatio Hornblower is the most competent officer you’ll ever read about, but his self-doubt and shyness make him think the worst of himself even as he conducts his missions with steely resolve and earns the admiration of his crew. This book follows Hornblower on a secret mission the Pacific coast of Central and South America where he demonstrates his resourcefulness and diplomacy and introduces the Lady Barbara Wellesley, who forces him to rethink his misogynistic attitude towards women.

Mapping-of-love-and-death-book-cover“The Mapping of Love and Death” by Jacqueline Winspear
Historical Fiction / Mystery – 4 stars

The seventh Maisie Dobbs mystery is an interesting mix. From the standpoint of character development, there’s a lot happening in the novel and longtime readers will be thrilled and emotional about the shifts taking place around our heroine. The mystery starts with a strong concept, but the focus of the story drifts and the suspects’ motivations and the case building which are usually so detailed, don’t get the attention Winspeare usually gives them. If you’re not starting with the first book in the series, you could comfortably jump in with any of the next few, but Among the Mad and The Mapping of Love and Death are really for veteran Maisie readers.

Echoes-book-cover“Echoes” by Laura Dockrill
Fairy tales, short stories, poetry – 4 stars

Wow, this book was really well done but it’s not for the faint of heart. This mix of short stories and poetry takes classic fairy tales, and some obscure tales, and retells them in a modern light. Gruesome details are not spared. Fairy tales tend to have an abrupt style in their telling to help the plot move quickly in a short space of time, and in these stories that style lends a callousness or brutality that makes the tales even more disturbing. But if you can handle it, this book is really quite beautiful. Neat pen and ink illustrations accompany all the stories and poems. The editing was not great however, and I found a lot of typos.

Brain-maker-cover“Brain Maker” by David Perlmutter
Health – 4 stars

This was the kick I needed to get more proactive about my health. Today I didn’t eat a cupcake and had probiotic rich fermented vegetables with my meal. Too soon to tell if the advice will improve my health but it seems reasonable enough to give it a try.

curse-of-the-pharaohs-book-cover“The Curse of the Pharaohs” by Elizabeth Peters
Cozy / Historical Mystery – 4 stars

This is the summer of re-reading the Amelia Peabody series and I’m loving it. One star off for being a bit long but otherwise, these books are old friends.


The-invoice-book-cover“The Invoice” by Jonas Karlsson
Fiction – 4 stars

Quite a cute read!


chesapeake-blue-book-cover“Chesapeake Blue” by Nora Roberts
Romance – 4 stars

A great conclusion to the series.


Open-road-summer-book-cover“Open Road Summer” by Emery Lord
Sappy YA Romance – 3.5 stars

Great build up, eh ending.


99-days-book-cover“99 Days” by Katie Cotugno
YA Romance – 3.5 stars

People are horrible…



Quick-book-cover“Quick” by Lauren Owen
Fantasy – 3 Stars

Vampires in Victorian England



“Spark Joy” by Marie Kondo
Self-help, Nonfiction – 3 Stars

For those who have the time and space to gather each specific category of items in one place, touch each item to judge joy-fullness, discard those not sparking joy (after thanking each for a job well done), and then carefully store the remainder, this book offers guidance. The author establishes clothing as the first category to attack. Realizing that there are clothes in my attic, basement, 4 closets, various bureau drawers and bins, I quickly concluded my assignment would not be quick and painless…particularly considering I would then have to move on to do the rest of the family’s clothing before proceeding to the books/papers/kitchenware, etc. The book has been returned.

The-house-of-the-scorpion-book-cover“The House of the Scorpion” by Nancy Farmer
YA Science Fiction – 3 Stars

This is my son’s assigned summer reading, so I decided to read it as well. It was pretty heavy for a young adult novel. The book revolves around a young boy who was created (cloned) for spare parts and organs of a powerful drug lord. I read a lot and this was unlike any book I have read before. I love dystopian themes (Hunger Games, Divergent), but this took it to a whole new level. The morality of cloning was questioned; the class system was a constant theme; despotism and communism were introduced. As far as assigned reading goes, this was an interesting choice (much more interesting than Siddhartha), but would I pick it up and read it on my own volition, probably not.

The-rosie-effect-book-cover“The Rosie Effect” by Graeme Simsion
Fiction – 3 stars

I came in to this expecting to love it as much as the Rosie project. I didn’t. But that doesn’t mean that there weren’t parts that made me laugh so hard people asked if I was ok.

Glory-over-everything-book-cover“Glory Over Everything” by Kathleen Grissom
Historical Fiction – 3 stars

To be fair, I listened to the audiobook and the unnatural sounding dialogue and almost patronizing depiction of slaves may have entirely ruined the book for me. The story was “meh” at best and there were so many points when I just wanted to shake the author. Too many coincidences, unrealistic characters, and plot stretches for me to recommend this book. Too bad, The Kitchen House was a decent book.

Hyperbole-and-a-half-book-cover“Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh
Humor – 3 stars

The language was off-putting but some parts of it made me laugh really hard. I also found her story of depression very poignant.

What-if-book-cover“What If? : Serious scientific answers to absurd hypothetical questions” by Randall Munroe
Nonfiction, science – 3 stars

Some of it was interesting and entertaining while some of it made me zone out.

Silent-girls-book-cover“The Silent Girls” by Eric Rickstad
Crime Thriller – 2 stars

The mystery itself was good, but the author was heavy-handed in insinuating what are clearly his own biases into the story. For some reason he has a serious chip on his shoulder about the criminal justice system, and another chip about anyone who is not from the Northeast Kingdom in VT, especially people who dare to visit the NE kingdom and earn a livable income. The writing style was overly self-conscious and try way too hard to be a gritty man’s-man book. I can appreciate hyperbole, but this was just so clumsy – don’t use the same clearly hyperbolic simile twice in the same paragraph! Also, the ending was just not good. He may be setting himself up for a sequel, and for his sake I hope he is – otherwise his ending is truly sloppy. Where was this guy’s editor?

invisible man cover

Invisible Man

Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Joyce, and Dostoevsky.

Curious Minds

Reserve August & September Best Sellers and Sneak Peeks

Reserve Best Sellers and Sneak Peeks of Books Being Published in August and September

2016 August Prepub

Download or view August Fiction and August Non-Fiction. Click on the links for the complete list with titles (in blue) linked to the Minuteman Library catalog. You may also pick up a complete list in the library and ask librarians to request them for you.

Great Bllue heron

From the Library Column: “For the Birds”

When I wrote several columns about birds in 2011 and 2013, I shared the many new books that you’ll find in our library’s collection. (For anyone hoping to read a past column, you can find all of our nearly 400 columns archived online or organized annually in spiral books that are available from our adult services librarians.)

I wrote about my experiences as a non-birding wife; that is, one who is married to a man who stops conversations, meals, and eyes-on-the-road to stare at, point out, or listen to birds. I used to find it particularly annoying when I was interrupted. Gerry would excitedly stop everything to exclaim about the long lines of black cormorants on the electrical wires. When he spied the trail of a circling hawk spotting an unfortunate prey, all other words and thoughts went out the window.

Lately, though, I don’t mind those interruptions so much. I’ve softened over time to the world of birds. In fact, one of Gerry’s and my favorite dawn or dusk pastimes is watching the Blue Herons soar above with fish to feed their young when we are spending our weekends near the water of Buzzard’s Bay. Two pair of eyes are now keenly inspecting the sky and tree lines. My ears are finally fine-tuned to the Eastern Towhee’s “drink your tea-e-e-e-e” or the osprey’s high-pitched whistle above the treetops.

On weekends we sit in our breakfast room on the south coast and admire the birds feeding winter through spring. I’m not sure which of the seasons is my favorite time to birdwatch. Winter is spectacular when the male cardinal stands out shockingly against the white snow. Summer is whimsical when robins lay eggs in a nest in the far-left tree in our front yard. We smile when we spy baby birds just weeks later. What a sight it is to watch a round of twenty robins scurry around the lawn after a rain, searching for every last bite of worm they can swallow.

While I’d love to actually study bird identification or songs, I’ve got many other hobbies that take up my time. I made it my New Year’s resolution several years ago to learn more about birds and I try to read small parts of the many birding books we have in our home.

Several new books that bird lovers will enjoy have been published just within the past few months. One is The Genius of Birds (April 2016) by science and nature writer, Jill Ackerman. Ackerman believes that birds are extremely intelligent and she gives many examples of this in her book. Bird brain has traditionally been a term used to describe someone who is thought to be stupid. However, a bird’s brain is certainly not the smallest we can find and it might, in fact, be packed with more neurons than anyone ever realized. They might, Ackerman writes, have huge brains compared to their body mass.

Ackerman doesn’t just hypothetically suppose this to be true; she journeyed the globe backing up her writing. From Australia to islands in the West Indies and then along Louisiana south coast, Ackerman puts to rest the myth of the bird brain. Ackerman has written many articles for National Geographic and Scientific American, in addition to other books. She is an award-winning investigator of the worlds of biology and nature.

We’ve all read about the fantastic flights of the honeybee – up to 8 miles to find pollen – and the return to the hive to tell their fellow bees where they’ve been. Birds have tales to tell, as well. Think of the bird song and how birds of each species must remember each in order to recognize who is near them. Crows and pigeons are incredibly impressive birds who find their way home or act as engineers, using tools to solve problems.

My family had an African parrot as a family pet about 20 years ago. This parrot played hide and seek with the cat. He teased me incessantly by repeating my admonitions at the cat. He eventually terrorized us because we were no longer paying him the attention he felt he deserved. I often felt that Oz (he was bright green) was the real king of the household. He was, no doubt, a genius in his own right, manipulating and playing with us.

Also published in April of this year, One Wild Bird at a Time: Portraits of Individual Lives by Bernd Heinrich is one about the meeting of the minds – birds and human. Heinrich has written prolifically about the relationships of birds with humankind. The Mind of the Raven is an exquisite introspective of the world’ largest crow, the raven. Heinrich has been birdwatching since he was a child. He studied crows in the woods of his Maine cabin and from his home near the University of Vermont where he taught biology until he retired. He wrote about his relationship with a great horned owl in One Man’s Owl (1987) and has authored many books about nature, including A Year in the Maine Woods, Summer World, Winter World, and the Snoring Bird.

In his latest book, Heinrich writes of his observations of both individual bird behaviors and what birds do when they are together with others of their species. For months at a time, he lives in a cabin deep in the Maine woods and spends his life journaling throughout the year. His book is a memoir of those annotations from his unique vantage point – through his windows, from his porch, and in the surrounding woods and meadows.

If you love birds, or you want to know more about them, there are a plethora of books in your local library. In addition, there are audiobooks and bird song books that can help you learn even more. Call the library for help finding any item you’d like to check out.

Charlotte Canelli is the library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts. Read Charlotte’s column in the July 28, 2016 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

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