GARDENS NEAR AND FAR

A Way to Garden: A Hands-On Primer for Every Season 

Margaret Roach 

I’m a beginning gardener, and could not be more glad to have been given this book recently. Roach guides you through the gardening year (flower and vegetable) two months at a time. Among the variety of information and tips I’ve enjoyed on first read is the author’s suggestion that you step back inside your house and consider the view from there as you decide what to plant and where. And I’m grateful for a section titled “Taxonomy Lite” on the basics of botanical Latin. Roach’s own enthusiasms, as for gold foliage, are catching, and have me considering plants I might not otherwise. Her book is a blend of practical advice, idiosyncratic opinions, and stories of hard-earned gardening wisdom, such as you might be told on a private tour with a master gardener. It’s also lavishly illustrated with photographs of Roach’s Hudson Valley garden, featuring not only plants but creatures too. A number of frogs all but wink at you as you turn the pages. 

The Natural Shade Garden 

Ken Druse 

I didn’t realize when I came by this book simultaneously with Margaret Roach’s that the authors are longtime friends, but I’m not surprised to learn it; their books are simpatico. Here the topic is more focused, but again the text offers a blend of practical guidance and inspirational musings. And then there are the photographs—the photographs! Almost five hundred of them. You will wish you had more shade, not less, in which to plant this astonishing array of plants. Shade here is not a problem but an opportunity: to work closely with nature to create places of calm and refuge and even magic in your yard. Druse inspires me to give foliage its due, to look past flowers (though there are plenty of plants that flower in the shade) and consider more closely leaves and the structures of plants, to study the woodlands as I hike our area trails and let my observations inform my garden making. A shade garden might include fallen logs, moss-covered rocks, or a little pool, and native plants and wildflowers will always be welcome.  

Watch Monty Don's Paradise Gardens on Acorn TV

Monty Don’s Paradise Gardens: Planting Heaven on Earth 

(available on Acorn TV via RB Digital Streaming Video) 

If you are not yet acquainted with Monty Don, you cannot start getting to know him soon enough, I say! Monty is a major celebrity in the UK, due to his being the lead presenter of a BBC gardening show; he’s also produced a vast array of other gardening programs which you can access on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and just by searching YouTube. This particular program is accessible via the Howe’s access to Acorn TV. I am an unabashed fan of Monty’s. He is a gardening guru like no other—a most erudite imparter of gardening wisdom and knowledge, of unassuming manner, yet with unquestionable command of his subject. And he cuts rather a dash with his unfussy elegance and his ubiquitous scarves. I’m not his only admirer: in 2018, the Queen made him an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his horticultural broadcasting and promotion. In this program, Monty tours the paradise gardens of the Islamic world, beginning in Spain and traveling on to Morocco, Iran, Turkey, and India, ending back in the UK for a look at the influence Islamic gardens have had there. Paradise gardens are rich with symbolism, scent, and cooling waters. I dare you to watch this and not be intrigued by them—and by the fabulous Monty! 

-Kirsten G.

Three From Carlo Rovelli

Carlo Rovelli is an Italian physicist who has worked in Italy, the U.S., and France.  He is one of the founders of loop quantum gravity theory, and fortunately, for us, he is also the author of three books for the layperson on physics, Seven Brief Lessons on PhysicsReality is Not What it Seems, and The Order of Time.  The first was translated into over 40 languages, and all have been named best science books and won awards.  Rovelli has the gift of putting impossibly abstruse concepts into words and images of startling clarity.  Again and again one’s perspective on the universe shifts, and one “aha!” moment follows another.  At times there is an almost poetic quality to his prose, whether he is exploring the universe on a vast scale or a microscopic one, or discoursing on our realm, the human realm, somewhere in the middle.  These books take us outside our usual vantage point on the world and snap us into a different perspective.  They are lucidly written, illuminating, and well worth the modest extra effort required to read them.

-Jared J.

Howe Library catalog link.

E-Audiobook available from the New Hampshire Downloadable Books Consortium.

Pandemics on Kanopy

Graffiti (2015)

Graffiti is the Oscar nominated short film by director, Lluis Quilez. In it we enter some sort of post apocalypse, where the last survivor, Edgar has learned to survive in a world without others, avoiding other contaminated areas, until one day he discovers some new graffiti on his wall. A name, “Anna”, is all that is written. They exchange messages back and forth until they decide to meet. It’s a commentary on how we connect today online, often confiding and trusting in those we know nothing about. This film, though in many ways a love story, is also a statement about our digital connection. 

It Comes at Night

It Comes at Night – A strange plague has decimated the world’s population. A family has fled into the countryside and barricaded themselves in an old house to protect themselves from the sickness. When another group arrives, the family must decide if it is better to take them in (strength in numbers), or if they risk getting sick themselves. When the family suspects one of the others of being infected, the tension rachets up. It Comes at Night is a horror film without monsters, or zombies, or a deranged murderer. Rather, It Comes at Night posits that it is us, human beings, who are the monsters. This isn’t a hopeful movie, but it was original, suspenseful, and unlike anything I’ve seen in a while. 

Watch The Black Death: The World's Most Devastating Plague | Prime ...

The Black Death (The Great Courses) – When bad things happen some folks like to escape to other worlds: fantasy, science fiction, beach-reads. Others like to engage the subject in one way or another. If the latter is your preference, The Great Courses’ The Black Death is a great way to touch on the subject matter, while keeping yourself at a distance from the constant flow of bad news. It’s long. 24 half hour episodes. You might learn too much about the digestive system of fleas, or graphic firsthand descriptions of symptoms, but it’s worth it. Dorsey Armstrong, professor of English and Medieval literature at Purdue University presents the lectures in detail, with a great knowledge of the world at the time, the factors that contributed to the Plague and its spread, and how it changed the world. It’s the last part that is the most interesting. Though it devastated Europe and many parts of the world, Dorsey Armstrong explains how The Black Death left a better world in its wake.

Access all of these videos using Howe Library’s access to Kanopy. If you have any further questions email reference@thehowe.org.

-Mike M.

Three Great Books for Children

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate – Somehow I missed reading this Newbery Award book. I have since noticed that several children’s authors have had characters in their books mentionThe One and Only Ivan as their favorite book. Quite a recommendation, so I dove in!

Ivan is a silver back gorilla who is a major draw in a shopping mall in Georgia. There are other animals in the mall’s habitat – an elephant and a mutt dog. The gorilla’s main attraction is that he can draw, and his human “owner” sells these illustrations. Ivan decides to make a big drawing, showing that he can communicate. Ivan’s illustration draws significant attention.

Beware of reading this book aloud with sensitive children, though. I don’t want to give away any plot developments but please know that there are a few examples of abusive language and the death of an animal character.

Also, The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate will be published in early May 2020.

Link to downloadable formats.

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman – For those of you who have read the trilogy His Dark Materials, you definitely want to add this book to your reading list.   This trilogy starts with Lyra’s infant beginnings.        

The title La Belle Sauvage refers to a boat owned by main character Malcolm.   Malcolm becomes involved in safeguarding young Lyra, meeting along the way characters who were very well established in the trilogy.   

Pullman has created a wonderful fantasy.  Malcolm navigates through so many varied obstacles that by the end, you’re exhausted– for and with Malcolm.   

We also own Book 2 in this new series, next on my reading list.

Link to downloadable formats.

Max Einstein: the Genius Experiment by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein (Book 1 in a series of hybrid graphic novels) – Max starts out as a homeless kid in NYC who’s being watched because she’s a genius.  She goes through a process of tests (which she hates taking) in order to be participate in a contest between genius kids from around the world.  Eventually she is chosen as the top genius, but after the contest, she does this really cool thing of including all the other genius contestants. Then, as a team, the genius kids go to an African city to help fill a need for cheap electricity and to stop mines from employing children as miners.         

Not my top choice of literature but it has merits for younger readers making the transition from early readers to series reading.

– Gary B.

Anne Lamott Is Good Company

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life – I would recommend Bird by Bird to anyone who writes, has written, aspires to write, or who doesn’t even have any particular plans to write anything but loves to read. This is a book, first and foremost, for readers. Especially readers who like to laugh. And like to be told stories. And like being reminded of how mysterious and funny and enormous life is. Each chapter is about some aspect of writing, which I think could be just as illuminating for those who who want a glimpse of what goes into the making of their favorite books as for those who write. And since, for Anne Lamott, writing and reading the world are also about living, the book lays out a life philosophy along the way. Wonder is big for her, and she wants writers to help us see things anew. “When this happens,” she says (as though she’s in the room talking to you), “everything feels more spacious. Try walking around with a child who’s going, ‘Wow, wow! Look at that dirty dog! Look at that burned-down house! Look at that red sky!’ And the child points and you look, and you see, and you start going, ‘Wow! Look at that huge crazy hedge! Look at that teeny little baby! Look at the scary dark cloud!’” Wow! Look at Anne Lamott! She’s a wonder-infuser. 

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith: Lamott, Anne ...

Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith – Similar to Lamott’s book about writing, this book is about more than its ostensible subject (“faith” in this case). As in Bird by Bird, she’s writing about life—her own life, as this is memoir, but she manages to convey much about Life with a capital “L,” life as we all recognize it, at the same time. Lamott writes about what have been her particular challenges, from struggles with alcohol and drug abuse, and failed relationships; to the agonies of being a mother, a daughter, a friend; to the searing pain of losing two of her most beloved people. Each chapter is an essay that could stand on its own, and each of them illustrates that life, for Lamott, is about love, awe, and gratitude. That, as well as her abundant and often self-deprecating humor, is what makes her such good and comforting company. The San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle pays her this tribute: “Anne Lamott is walking proof that a person can be both reverent and irreverent in the same lifetime. Sometimes even in the same breath.” 

-Kirsten G.

Though we aren’t currently open and don’t have access to e-book copies of these titles, here are a couple of local bookstores where you can obtain physical copies:

Still North Books

Norwich Bookstore

Stay safe!

-Mike M.

Staying Near Home — Northern New England Regional Mysteries

The Poacher's Son: A Novel (Mike Bowditch Mysteries Book 1) by [Paul Doiron]

The Poacher’s Son: (Book, E-Book & E-Audiobook)

The Poacher’s Son – Newly sworn in Maine Game and Fish Warden, Mike Bowditch is thrust back into his dysfunctional family’s past when he receives a troubling message on his answering machine from his poacher father.  The next morning the police call Mike with more bad news:  they’re searching for his father who is the prime suspect in the killing of a well liked local police officer.  With little sympathy, let alone help, from the local community, Mike sets out to discover whether or not his father is, indeed, a murderer.  Will Mike be able to find a balance between his commitment to family and his support for the law?  Will he be able to save his father by finding the real murderer?  The Poacher’s Son is both a thoughtful and tension filled debut in this series.  Mike Bowditch is a skillfully realized character — young, willful, conflicted and likely to grow as this series progresses. 

The Skeleton's Knee - Audiobook

The Skeleton’s Knee: (Book, E-Audiobook)
 
Brattleboro based police lieutenant, Joe Joe Gunther, has a strangely “cold” case to solve.  A local market gardener has fallen victim to a twenty year old bullet wound.  The victim, Abraham Fuller, isn’t well known in the community, having preferred a private existence on his hardscrabble land.  When another body is discovered on Fuller’s land, along with a bag full of money, Joe begins to wonder if his victim has other buried secrets as well, and if someone was willing to kill in order to keep those secrets buried.  As with other entries in this series, the careful attention paid to the development of Joe’s character and those of his fellow officers makes reading this mystery a very satisfying experience. 
 

A Borrowing of Bones: A Mystery (A Mercy Carr Mystery Book 1) by [Paula Munier]


A Borrowing of Bones: (Book, E-Audiobook)
 
Mercy Carr has returned from her last deployment wounded in both body and spirit.  Her boyfriend was killed and his bomb sniffing dog, Elvis, whom Mercy has adopted, are both struggling to regain a sense of normalcy while they recuperate in the Vermont woods.  Rural quiet is short lived, however, when Elvis alerts to explosives during a walk and Mercy discovers an abandoned baby in the woods.  U.S. Game Warden Troy Warner and his search and rescue Newfoundland, Susie Bear, respond to Mercy’s 911 call, and the four combine their skills and resources to track down the missing mother, solve a murder, and restore some calm to their small Vermont community.  Another series debut, A Borrowing of Bones, overcomes some first book awkwardness by introducing readers to engaging new characters, both human and canine. 

-Marilyn B.

Two About Spain, and Much Else Besides

(Read in preparation for a trip to Spain that has been put on hold, but will one day happen!) 

Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell 

I started this to learn something about the Spanish Civil War but soon realized I was at least as interested in Orwell—the human being and the writer. Orwell the human being who went to Spain in 1936 and was so inspired by the fight he saw there against fascism that he joined one of the militias and was wounded (his doctors proclaimed him the luckiest man alive to have survived a bullet through the neck; his rejoinder: “I could not help thinking that it would be even luckier not to be hit at all.”) Orwell the human being, whose conscience dictated that he must tell the truth about the infighting on the Republican side, no matter how little anyone wanted to hear it. And Orwell the writer, with his understated wit and his eye for detail, who shows us so vividly everything from child soldiers whose shouts sound more like the cries of kittens than like war cries, to the coming of spring to the hillsides, where he finds “here and there in the soil … the green beaks of wild crocuses or irises poking through.” Lionel Trilling’s introduction, wherein he proposes that Orwell was a virtuous man, is also an excellent read. 

A Woman Unknown, by Lucia Graves 

Graves tells the story of growing up straddling two cultures: the daughter of British writer Robert Graves (I, ClaudiusGood-Bye to All That), she spent her childhood in a Majorcan village and later married a Catalan and lived for twenty years in Barcelona. In between she went to Oxford and studied literary translation, which became her profession: Graves is the translator of the novels of Carlos Ruiz Zafón into English. As she tells her own life story, beginning with her indoctrination in a Franco-era Catholic school, she weaves in stories of other women’s lives that intersected with hers, among them the village midwife, her family’s housekeeper, and her Latvian-born ballet teacher. Graves shows how the Civil War affected each of these women’s lives, and shows how constricting life could be for women in the Franco era. I particularly liked the glimpses of life in Graves’s mountain village in the late 1940s and early 50s, where the fisherman’s wife would stand outside the town hall on mornings she had fish to sell and blow a conch shell. Everyone heard it, Graves writes, “because those were the days before mechanical noises had invaded their homes, before televisions and telephones closed houses upon themselves, when people’s ears were alert to every sound and could tell what was happening around them.” 

-Kirsten G.