Archive for December, 2017

C is for Cuba

Let’s warm up a little and do some armchair traveling in Cuba; the average temperature is about 73° in January – a nice change from the cold and snow we usually experience.

Cuba is the largest island in the Caribbean, and is considered part of Latin America. Its native inhabitants were colonized by the Spanish in the 15th Century, though the U.S. helped to end that during the Spanish-American War of 1898. After a fragile republic led to unrest in the 1950s, Fidel Castro took power and ushered in an era of Communist rule, which is still in place in Cuba today.

Cuba has a vital, multi-ethnic society, and is often known for its style of music, its baseball players, and its famous cigars.

Learn more:



The Distant Marvels – Chantel Acevedo

  • A professional storyteller imparts the incredible tale of her youth during the Third War of Independence to eight women who need hope to survive Hurricane Flora in 1963 Cuba.

Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba – And then Lost It to the Revolution – T.J. English

  • Draws on previously hidden historical sources and survivor interviews to profile mob-infiltrated Havana in the 1950s, in an account that traces the relationships between President Batista and such mafia leaders as Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano.

Last Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba’s Last Tycoon – John Paul Rathbone

  • Documents the career of an influential Cuban sugar magnate whose life mirrored the turbulent course of post-independence Cuba’s republic, discussing his celebrity affairs, brushes with death, and strained relationship with Che Guevara.

Mi Moto Fidel: Motorcycling Through Castro’s Cuba – Christopher P. Baker

  • The author recounts his three-month, seven-thousand-mile odyssey through Cuba, discussing Cuba’s troubled history and politics and offering profiles of the colorful people he encountered along the way.

Reef Libre: Cuba, the Last Best Reefs in the World – Robert Wintner

  • A closer look at the pristine coral reefs around Cuba, as well as life in the coastal cities and villages.

A Simple Habana Melody (From When the World Was Good) – Oscar Hijuelos

  • Returning to Havana after years in Europe where he was tormented by people who believed him to be Jewish, Cuban composer Israel Levis remembers his love for singer Rita Valladares, for whom he wrote a song that has become the most famous rumba in the world.

Tower of the Antilles: Short Stories – Achy Obejas

  • Obejas’s stories of contemporary Cuba explore how history and fate intrude on even the most ordinary of lives.

Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuba Boy – Carlos M.N. Eire

  • Carlos Eire’s National Book Award-winning memoir of his childhood in 1950s Havana and the overnight upheaval of his world in January 1959, when the Batista government was toppled.



Buena Vista Social Club (Soundtrack)

Papa: Hemingway in Cuba



Encyclopedia Brittanica: Cuba

WikiTravel: Cuba

World Music Guide: Cuba – Son and Afro-Cuban Music


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Take 10: Short Stories for the Shortest Day of the Year

It’s the winter solstice today, which (finally) means that the days will start to lengthen from this point until June 21. With this being the shortest day of the year, then, it’s a good excuse to hibernate a little with a good book. And what’s more appropriate on the shortest day than to read a book of short stories? Here are a few we recommend from 2016/2017:


The Best Place on Earth – Ayelet Tsabari

  • A collection of eleven short stories, the protagonists of which are mostly Israelis of Mizrahi background (Jews of Middle Eastern and North African descent). In illustrating the lives of those whose identities swing from fiercely patriotic to powerfully global, the author explores Israeli history even as she reveals the universality of war, love, heartbreak and hope.

Children of the New World – Alexander Weinstein

  • A collection of short stories explores the near-future world of social-media implants, immersive virtual reality games, and frighteningly intuitive robots.

Bad Dreams and Other Stories – Tessa Hadley

  • A collection of stories by the award-winning author of The Past explores a theme of the exceptional nature of seemingly mundane things, depicting such characters as sisters who quarrel over an inheritance and new baby, a child who explores her home in the middle of the night and a housekeeper who uncovers an elderly charge’s secrets.


An Unrestored Woman – Shobha Rao

  • A collection of intense tales of turmoil and tragedy that explores the reverberations of Partition through generations, from a mapmaker’s gamble to a grandfather who cannot speak of what he escaped as a young boy.

The Virginity of Famous Men – Christine Sneed

  • This intimate, psychologically astute story collection from the winner of the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction asks the question, what compels two people to fall in love?

Homesick for Another World – Ottessa Moshfegh

  • A highly anticipated first collection by the award-winning author of Eileen features protagonists who stumble on their own base impulses in their unsettling and laugh-out-loud pursuits of fulfillment.


Her Body and Other Parties – Carmen Maria Machado

  • In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

The Refugees – Viet Thanh Nguyen

  • While the stories, mostly set in the Vietnamese community in California, represent Vietnamese refugee experiences in the US, the topics they explore — relationships, grief, the desire for fulfillment — speak to the human experience. Check them out if you’re interested in sympathetic characters, cultural dislocation, or the experiences of refugees.

What Is Yours Is Not Yours – Helen Oyeyemi

  • A collection of stories by the award-winning author of Boy, Snow, Bird features entries about literal and metaphorical keys that open or shut the fates of lovers, the heart of a puppeteering student and the doors of a house of locks that holds unobservable developments.


For a Little While – Rick Bass

  • Rick Bass is unparalleled in his ability to evoke the enduring verities of the human heart amid astonishing portraits of wilderness both within and without. In his world we encounter larger-than-life characters–a couple that escapes from a sudden blizzard by traversing a frozen lake beneath the ice, or a young boxer who flees from a charging horse as a means of training for bar fights–each attempting to triumph against fate and time, in rugged landscapes that both save and destroy.

In Sunlight or in Shadow: Stories Inspired by the Paintings of Edward Hopper – edited by Lawrence Block

  • A newly commissioned anthology of 17 stories inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper is complemented by quality full-color reproductions and includes contributions by such forefront authors as Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King and Lee Child.

What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky – Lesley Nneka Arimah

  • In these twelve powerful stories that embrace magical-realist elements while deploying a powerfully empathetic understanding of character and circumstance, Arimah explores how parents and children, husbands and wives, lovers and friends, navigate conflicting cultures and struggle to reconcile conflicting desires, wants, and needs.


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The Way Back Machine – Best Sellers 1981

Brr… it’s a little cold out there – let’s warm up with a spin in the Way Back Machine. We’ll take a ride back to 1981, a year known for the release of the U.S. hostages in Iran shortly after the inauguration of Reagan. Of course, you might also remember 1981 for:

  • The flight of Columbia in April – which was the first of the Space Shuttle launches, and the first “reusable” spacecraft.
  • The video game Donkey Kong – it was released in July, providing hours of entertainment for Gen X at the arcade.
  • Sandra Day O’Connor – she became the first female Supreme Court Justice in September.

What were we reading 36 years ago? Here are the New York Times best sellers from the week of Dec. 13, 1981.



1. Indecent Obsession by Colleen McCullough

2. The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

3. Cujo by Stephen King

4. No Time for Tears by Cynthia Freeman

5. Noble House by James Clavell

6. Remembrance by Danielle Steel

7. The Legacy by Howard Fast

8. Spring Moon by Bette Bao Lord

9. Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike

10. The Cardinal Sins by Andrew M. Greeley

11. Gorky Park by Martin Cruz Smith

12. The Last Days of America by Paul Erdman

13. Masquerade by Kit Williams

14. Bread Upon the Waters by Irwin Shaw

15. The Third Deadly Sin by Lawrence Sanders



1. Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein

2. The Lord God Made Them All by James Herriot

3. Never-Say-Diet Book by Richard Simmons

4. Cosmos by Carl Sagan

5. Pathfinders by Gail Sheehy

6. From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe

7. How to Make Love to a Man by Alexandra Penney

8. The Best of Dear Abby by Abigail Van Buren

9. Elizabeth Taylor: The Last Star by Kitty Kelley

10. Elvis by Albert Goldman

11. The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder

12. A Few Minutes with Andy Rooney by Andrew A. Rooney

13. Miss Piggy’s Guide to Life by Miss Piggy (as told to Henry Beard)

14. The Cinderella Complex by Colette Dowling

15. The Beverly Hills Diet by Judy Mazel

Staff Favorites 2017

We’re almost finished with 2017, and since everyone else is coming up with their annual “Best Of” lists, we know we can’t escape the year without one of our own. So, we surveyed the TFPL staff and came up with some books we loved – and we’d love to share them with you!


Favorites Published in 2017:

Always and Forever, Lara Jean – Jenny Han (Sarah)

Be Quiet!– Ryan T. Higgins (Amy)

Blood, Sweat, and Pixels: The Triumphant, Turbulent Behind How Video Games Are Made – Jason Schreier (Stephanie)

The Boy on the Bridge – M. R. Carey (Sabrina)

Brave – Svetlana Chmakova (Stephanie)

Etched in Bone – Anne Bishop (Kathleen)

Jabari Jumps – Gaia Cornwall (Kasi)

Lincoln in the Bardo – George Saunders (Jennifer)

Magpie Murders – Anthony Horowitz (Susan)

Nadiya’s Bake Me a Story – Nadiya Hussain (Kasi)

Nemesis – Brendan Reichs (Sabrina)

Norse Mythology – Neil Gaiman (Cody)

Racing the Devil – Charles Todd (Jennifer)

Roar – Cora Carmack (Erica)

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking – Samin Nosrat (Jessica)

Strange is the Night – S.P. Miskowski (Jordan)

A Stranger in the House – Shari Lapena (Susan)

This Is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World – Matt Lamothe (Kasi)

To Wager her Heart – Tamera Alexander (Amy)

Worlds Collide – Chris Colfer (Erica)

York: The Shadow Cipher – Laura Ruby (Erica)


Favorite Older Titles:

The Book of Barely Imagined Beings – Caspar Henderson

Briar Rose – Jane Yolen (Sabrina)

Cannery Row – John Steinbeck (Jennifer)

The Christmas Shoes – Donna VanLiere (Bekah)

Darktown – Thomas Mullen (Jennifer)

The Dragonet Prophecy – Tui T. Sutherland (Erica)

Empire of Storms – Sarah J. Maas (Erica)

The Fault in Our Stars – John Green (Bekah)

The Happiness Project: Or Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun – Gretchen Rubin (Amodea)

Kushiel’s Dart – Jacqueline Carey (Sabrina)

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto – Mitch Albom (Susan)

Magworld – Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw (Jordan)

Once Upon a Flock: Life with My Soulful Chickens – Lauren Scheuer (Kasi)

Rejected Princess: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics – Jason Porath (Jessica)

Ross Poldark – Winston Graham (Amy)

Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick (Erica)

Sundays at Tiffany’s – James Patterson (Sarah)

These Broken Stars – Amie Kaufman (Sarah)

Terrier – Tamora Pierce (Stephanie)

This One Summer – Mariko Tamaki (Stephanie)

Tidewater Inn – Colleen Coble (Amy)

We Should All Be Feminists – Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie (Kasi)

Written in Red – Anne Bishop (Kathleen)

Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World – Rachel Ignotofsky (Kasi)

World War Z – Max Brooks (Sabrina)

Last Month for 2017 Reader’s Dozen

This is the last month for 2017’s Reader’s Dozen (but don’t worry, we’re doing another challenge for 2018!). This month your challenge is to read a non-superhero graphic novel and we have several on display inside the Library. Or, check out the Goodreads list of graphic novels I’ve read to get a couple of ideas.

If you’re still trying to finish up November’s challenge – the book less than 200 pages in length – you have until Dec 15 to turn in your slips.

Have fun and get some great reading done this month!