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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.

Rare Chronique Anonyme Universelle Now Viewable Online

Posted on July 13th, 2015 by BPL News in Media Releases

Chronique Anonyme UniverselleLate 15th century treasure depicts the history of the world

Today, the Boston Public Library announced that the Chronique Anonyme Universelle, or “Genealogy of the Bible,” a 35-foot scroll and manuscript dating from approximately 1470-1479 is now available online. The ornate manuscript depicts the history of the world from Creation to 1380, tracing the genealogy of individuals from the Bible to the royal houses of France and England, and weaving in biblical stories alongside Roman and Greek history. Users can view the scroll at the BPL’s Digital Commonwealth portal, zooming into the piece to see the historic writing and colorful images of castles, medieval sword fights, and the Garden of Eden. (more…)

Boston Public Library Unveils New Collections of Distinction

Posted on February 3rd, 2015 by admin in Media Releases

Collections include historical works detailing American and European history

gleasonBoston Public Library unveiled its newest Collections of Distinction, adding six to the initial 18 collections that represent the most outstanding, expansive, and renowned of its holdings of more than 23 million items. The collections include Massachusetts Newspapers, Boston Artists, Boston Pictorial Archive, the Book of Common Prayer, works by Daniel Defoe, as well as the Mellen Chamberlain Collection of Autographs. Within the collections is an array of books, prints, letters, drawings, and other original works dating back as early as the 14th century.

“It is our privilege to share these distinguished collections; from manuscripts to modern art, they bring stories and culture of the past and present to life for the world to view,” said Amy E. Ryan, President of the Boston Public Library. “We invite the community in to discover the rich history these collections hold.”

Among the historical items from Massachusetts are works of Boston artists from the 1940s to the present, a collection of photographs and lithographs of Boston scenery from the 18th through 20th centuries, and an archive of Massachusetts newspapers dating back to 1706. Additionally, the Mellen Chamberlain Collection of Autographs contains 20,000 letters, engravings, and documents highlighting American and European history, including documentation of the Salem Witch Trials, the American Revolution, and correspondence from famed authors Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and John Singleton Copley. (more…)

Meet Gregor Smart, Electronic Resources Specialist

Posted on January 6th, 2015 by admin in General

IMG_5369What do you enjoy about working for the BPL?
The Kirstein Business Library has been providing business and company research information since 1930. Our patrons come to us with dreams, whether it’s to start a business, a new career, or they have a desire to reach their financial goals for retirement. I love being a part of helping them reach those dreams by showing them the research tools to get them there. And, these resources are free.

What are some of the most popular electronic resources people use?
Our AtoZdatabases resource contains profiles on over 30,000,000 companies. This resource helps those looking to start a business find competitors, research a given industry, and create targeted mailing lists. Our Career Transitions database is a very popular resource for our job seekers. It offers a resume wizard and gives tips and advice for job searching. For those who need help researching stocks and mutual funds, the Morningstar Investment Research Center is a great resource. You can screen for funds, look at analyst ratings or download their investing newsletters. Small business guidance, employment searching, and personal finance research are some of the most popular kinds of assistance we provide.

How does technology enhance library service?
Technology makes our resources much more accessible to people. Now people can access many of our directories online without having to visit us in person or having to wait for someone to return the printed version. There are so many ways to access the data — via tablets or phones, and much more.

How do you assist users in using digital services?
I do a lot of one-on-one support — if someone wants to start a business, I can help with their market research, find similar businesses, or point them to various associations that might be beneficial. I have also taught a variety of technology workshops such as conducting an online job search, creating a budget, resources for researching stocks and mutual funds, and how to build a web page.

What electronic resources do you use?
I love using our Ancestry Library Edition resource for genealogy. It’s been fun to find out more about where my grandparents worked and lived. It is also a helpful resource if you want to look at historical Massachusetts city directories.

Boston Public Library Reveals Top Titles of the Year

Posted on December 15th, 2014 by admin in Media Releases


Boston Public Library shared its list of the ten most-borrowed titles of 2014. This year’s list features fiction titles in a variety of genres ranging from romance to mystery to science fiction. Boston Public Library’s number one most-borrowed title in 2014 was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

Top 10 Most-borrowed Titles in Boston

  1. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  2. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  4. The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
  5. Inferno by Dan Brown
  6. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
  7. And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
  8. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  9. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
  10. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins