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Author Picks: Jennifer De Leon Top Ten Books

Posted on October 6th, 2015 by BPL News in General

Jennifer De Leon is not only the Associates of the Boston Public Library’s Writer in Residence, but she is also the author of the Boston Book Festival’s 2015 One City One Story selection “Home Movie.” In anticipation of the Book Festival (October 23-24 in Copley Square), we asked her for a list of her top ten favorite books.

  1. ZenzeleZENZELE: A LETTER FOR MY DAUGHTER, by J. Nozipo Maraire: The whole book is a series of letters from a mother in Harare, Zimbabwe, to her daughter, Zenzele, Harvard-bound. When I was 16, I spent a summer in Zimbabwe with the program Global Routes. I lived in a village and helped build a medical clinic and paint a world map at a primary school. I picked up this book in the capital, Harare, and it has stayed with me ever since. The mother’s message(s) to her daughter are so poignant and beautiful.
  1. AMERICANAH, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: One of the best books I’ve ever read. A true masterpiece. I’ve been reading work by Adichie for years but this big book really made an impact on me as a writer and a reader. The way she takes the reader by the hand through so many settings—from Princeton, New Jersey, to Victoria Island in Lagos, Nigeria—it is something to admire, and study.
  1. GROWING UP POOR: A LITERARY ANTHOLOGY, edited by Robert Coles: I return to this anthology again and again, as a reader and as a creative writing teacher. I first came across this book when I was house-sitting for a successful author in the Boston area. He had it on his ceiling-high bookshelf, right between Tolstoy and How to Train Your Dog, or something like that or other. I picked up the anthology and immediately I knew I had to buy it for myself—Helena Maria Víramontes, Langston Hughes, Sherman Alexie. I love this book.
  1. EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU, by Celeste Ng: A page-turner. A gorgeous novel. A sad and powerful story. A mystery. There are so many ways to describe this magnificent book. From the first line—“Lydia is dead”—I was under the spell. I can’t wait for Ng’s next novel!
  1. DrownDROWN, by Junot Díaz: I never knew a book could be so well written, so sad, so funny, and so close to home. It took years for me to be able to relate to books on a cultural level. Until high school, I’d only read white authors. In fact, it wasn’t until college that professors and mentors started gifting me books by Julia Alvarez or Sandra Cisneros (which I loved). Yet, when I first read the stories in Drown by Junot Díaz, I was breathless. He can condense worlds—entire worlds—into well-chosen details, perfectly sliced lines of dialogue, a single description. To then have the chance to study with Junot at the VONA (Voices of Our Nation Arts Foundation) for several summers from 2006–2009, was a blessing. I learned so much from him.
  1. THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS THAT HEAVEN BEARS, by Dinaw Mengestu: This is a book I have on my shelf in my office at home. This is a book with many pages folded over. This is a book I return to when I am stuck with a scene, when the writing is clunky, when I am feeling less than motivated to keep going. I read one paragraph of this exquisite novel set in Washington D.C., and Ethiopia, and I am back to the magical world that is literature. I owe Dinaw so much.
  1. THE CIRCUIT, by Francisco Jímenez: This book is a gem. I have lost count of how many times I have read it. The autobiographical novel—twelve mini stories, really—is narrated by Francisco as a boy soon after he and his parents and two brothers crawl through a wire fence in a Mexican border town at night. So begins their journey on the “circuit” as migrant farmworkers in California in the 1940s. I have taught this book in many of my classes—ranging from a third grade classroom in San Jose, California, where I taught in the Teach For America program, to college creative writing classes, to adult memoir classes, and, currently, in my 7th and 8th grade classes at the Boston Teachers Union School in Jamaica Plain (Boston Public Schools). I return to this book for many reasons—among them, figurative language, exceptional dialogue, imagery, characters in conflict, and others—but above all, this is a good book because it tells a good story. People want to know what happens next. And even though I know how the story ends, each time I return to this book, I find something new.
  1. AGAINST LOVE POETRY: POEMS, by Eavan Boland: I love Eavan Boland’s poetry. I first heard her read “Quarantine” when I was a waiter scholar at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in the summer of 2007. I was in tears by the end of the poem. That had never happened. Ever. The poem tells the story of a young couple that died of cold and hunger in Ireland in the 1940s. The lines that kill me:

         “In the morning they were both found dead.
Of cold. Of hunger. Of the toxins of a whole history.
But her feet were held against his breastbone. The last heat of his flesh was his last gift to her.”

  1. AlexieTHE TOUGHEST INDIAN IN THE WORLD, by Sherman Alexie: He is a master storyteller. “An Indian Education” is my favorite piece in this collection. I think I have it memorized.
  1. TRAIN TO TRIESTE, by Domnica Radulescu: “It is 1977 and seventeen-year-old Mona Manoliu has fallen in love with Mihai, a mysterious boy who lives in the romantic mountain city where she spends her summers. She can think of nothing and no one else. But life under Ceausecu’s Romania is difficult. Hunger, paranoia, and fear infect everyone. One day Mona sees Mihai wearing the black leather jacket favored by the secret police. Is it possible he is one of them?” Her journey later takes her to Chicago, and finally, back home to discover hard truths about her past. I could not put this book down when I first read it years ago. In fact, I’m going to find it now and read it again.

Cokie Roberts speaks at the Boston Public Library

Posted on July 29th, 2015 by admin in General


On Tuesday, July 21, Cokie Roberts spoke in front of a packed room at the Central Library in Copley Square as part of the free Lowell Lecture series. After an introduction from David Leonard, Interim President of the Boston Public Library (BPL) and Jeff Hawkins, Chairman of the BPLF, Ms. Roberts talked about the importance of women shaping the United States and her new book, Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868.

Afterward, Ms. Roberts joined guests for a book signing and reception in the Map Room Café and Courtyard Restaurant. Attendees included Bill and Angela Lowell, sponsors of the Lowell Institute, and BPLF board members Ray Sullivan and Olive Darragh.

The Boston Globe published a photo of Ms. Roberts and a group of other successful “Dames” from the reception, including Judge Mary E. Heffernan, Beth Israel Deaconess Chief of Radiation Oncology Mary Ann Stevenson, realtor Tracy Campion, and Boston Public Library Clerk of the Board Deborah Kirrane.

Image (bottom right): Jeff Hawkins, BPLF Chairman of the Board of Directors, with Bill Lowell of the Lowell Institute after Cokie Roberts’ Lowell Lecture.

Photo Credits: Paige Brown

Blog post courtesy of the Boston Library Foundation

From WGBHForum Network:


The Lowell Lecture series is generously sponsored by the Lowell Institute, established in 1836 with the specific mission of making great ideas accessible to all people, free of charge.


The Boston Public Library Foundation acts as a partner of the Boston Public Library and encourages philanthropy at all levels to help the library achieve its goals. In recent years, The Boston Public Library Foundation and outside contributors have funded academic and enrichment programs for children, teens and lifelong learners. Supported programming includes summer reading programs, after school programs, senior programming, Concerts in the Courtyard, science programs for children and lecture series. To learn more, visit

Boston Public Library Wins Industry Award for Pathway to Reading Sensory Wall

Posted on July 20th, 2015 by admin in Media Releases

Urban Library Council’s Innovations Celebration Recognizes Early Learning at the Central Library in Copley Square

Desktop225In recognition of the Central Library’s new Pathway to Reading Sensory Wall, the Boston Public Library received an honorable mention Innovation Award from the Urban Libraries Council (ULC). The wall is an interactive feature in the early literacy area of the newly renovated Children’s Library in Copley Square, designed for children under three and youth who have challenges processing sensory information. The ULC Innovations Initiative recognizes libraries that are dramatically enhancing outcomes with their innovative programs, services, and operations.

“Boston Public Library is honored to receive this award and is extremely grateful to the Urban Libraries Council. We are committed to serving our youngest users and providing early developmental opportunities that foster a love of learning, and it begins with this interactive wall at the Central Library,” said David Leonard, Interim President of the Boston Public Library. (more…)

July Literary Events at Boston Public Library Locations

Posted on July 1st, 2015 by admin in Media Releases

Desktop219Central Library and six branches to host

Boston Public Library locations host a variety of author talks for people of all ages this month. Highlights include Revolutionary War-themed talks, children’s story times, Emmy-award winning Cokie Roberts, and more:

  • Author and illustrator Matt Tavares visits six locations in July, speaking about his book Growing Up Pedro and facilitating a drawing session for ages 7 and up.
  • Rosana Y. Wan discusses The Culinary Lives of John & Abigail Adams: A Cookbook on Monday, July 6, at 6:30 p.m. at the West Roxbury Branch, located at 1961 Centre Street. Part of the BPL’s Revolutionary War initiative, which marks the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act crisis.
  • South End author Irene Smalls reads from her books, tells stories, and shows children, parents, and caregivers how to combine reading with healthy exercise on Wednesday, July 8, at 10:30 a.m. at the South End Branch, located at 685 Tremont Street.
  • Alan R. Hoffman, the translator of Lafayette in America in 1824 and 1825: A Firsthand Account of Lafayette’s Farewell Tour of America, brings expert insight into the Marquis and his farewell tour of America on the same week as the historic arrival of the replica of Lafayette’s frigate Hermione to Boston Harbor. Thursday, July 9, at 6 p.m. in the Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at 700 Boylston Street. Part of the BPL’s Revolutionary War initiative, which marks the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act crisis, and the Local & Family History Series, which shares information about the history of Boston and its diverse neighborhoods.
  • South End resident Alison Barnet shares her collection of columns from South End News about the people and places in her neighborhood on Thursday, July 9, at 2 p.m. in the Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at 700 Boylston Street. Part of the Never Too Late Series, one of the country’s oldest, continuously running groups for seniors.
  • Local children’s author Carla Marrero reads from her books and leads the audience in a craft during Family Night Story Time on Tuesday, July 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the South End Branch, located at 685 Tremont Street.
  • Frances Driscoll, author of The Swan Boat Ride, takes children back in time as she remembers when her grandmother took her for a ride on the swan boats in the Boston Public Garden. Monday, July 20, at 1 p.m. at the South End Branch, located at 685 Tremont Street.
  • Cokie Roberts details her books Founding Mothers, Ladies of Liberty, and Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington on Tuesday, July 21, at 6 p.m. in the Abbey Room at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at 700 Boylston Street. Part of the2015 Lowell Lecture Series, which explores social, political, cultural, and economic themes related to the American Revolutionary War era.
  • Dina Vargo brings to light the remarkable stories of audacious reformers, socialites, and criminals who made Boston what it is today in Wild Women of Boston: Mettle and Moxie in the Hub on Thursday, July 23, at 2 p.m. in the Commonwealth Salon at the Central Library in Copley Square, located at 700 Boylston Street. Part of the Never Too Late Series, one of the country’s oldest, continuously running groups for seniors.


Central Library Renovation Profiles: Chris Glass, Reader and Information Librarian, Reference and Reader’s Advisory Department

Posted on June 12th, 2015 by BPL News in General

Chris Glass highlights the features of the new second floor’s Adult Reference area.

What role did your department play in the Central Library’s Johnson Level 2 renovation?

Chris GlassBecause the Reference and Reader’s Advisory department staffs Adult Reference on Johnson Level 2, we got to contribute our ideas for the orientation of the Information Desk, the layout of the area, and the technology in the space, such as the dedicated research computers. We also launched new online library guides to coincide with the renovation opening. The library guides are a collection of online information and resources on particular topics, including Boston history, literary resources for ESL students and educators, and health tips. Not only do the guides help library users navigate specific topics, but they also connect people outside of the building with our resources.

How does the renovation benefit the public and the particular group you serve?

We’ve introduced a new staffing model of having one librarian at the desk and one librarian on the floor assisting users, and this has created more engagement with visitors. Because of the bright windows and open layout of the space, users are better able to navigate the shelves. We were also able to add to our nonfiction collection and replace outdated books – computer manuals, for instance – with up-to-date editions. The teens benefit from now being on the same floor as the adult nonfiction collection, as they often use those books for homework and research.

IMG_05328What is your favorite thing about the Johnson Level 2 renovation?

Visitors to the new floor want to spend time there. Before the renovation, they would grab a book and go, but now they spend all day studying, working, and reading in Boylston Common, the community reading area. I like that the space provides an alternative atmosphere to the McKim building’s Bates Hall. If visitors want a more casual, comfortable environment where they can work with others, they can come to Johnson Level 2; if they want a quiet area for individual reading and studying, surrounded by historical art and architecture, they can go to Bates Hall.

What has most surprised you about the public’s reaction to the renovations?

IMG_05316The feedback from the public has been overwhelmingly positive. People seem to feel comfortable and at home on the new second floor, and they love the bold colors in particular.

What are you most looking forward to about phase 2 of the renovation?

I can’t wait to see what it will look like when it’s done. The new books and media area inside the Boylston Street entrance will provide a great opportunity for interaction and conversation. Our job as a department is not only to help with research and assist people in using the different parts of the library and catalog effectively, but to also connect readers with what interests them. The new space will facilitate both of those goals.