by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian
I would like to thank the Friends of the Litchfield Public Library for their donations to the library this past year. They gave generous donations that were used to buy many books for our adult collection and to build a quality children’s DVD collection to replace the VHS tapes that needed to go. They also helped to fund our children’s programming throughout the year, including the summer reading program, preschool storyhour, and children’s book clubs.
Our Friends members have been working hard throughout the year to make the monthly book sale better than ever. New people have taken on leadership roles in the group, making it possible for it to go on being a great source of support for our local library. If you’re interested in getting involved in this wonderful group of supporters, come to our January meeting on the 21st at 7 p.m. in the library meeting room.
One of the things I was able to do with the book funding from the Friends was to buy some of the books that appeared on the lists of the best books of the year. Here are a few examples:
The Luminaries is the novel that won the Man Booker Prize this year. The award is given to the best novel of the year written by a citizen of the U.K., the Commonwealth, or the Republic of Ireland. Author Eleanor Catton, who is not yet thirty, was born in Canada, raised in New Zealand, and earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. “The Luminaries” is a historical mystery about a man seeking his fortune in the goldfields of New Zealand in 1866, who is drawn into a series of unsolved crimes. Despite its length, readers say they can’t put it down.
Author Jesmyn Ward won the National Book Award in 2011 for her novel Salvage the Bones. Her new memoir, Men We Reaped, was named one of the best books of 2013 by Publishers Weekly and others. Ward examines Southern rural poverty and racism after losing her brother and four other young men in her life to drugs, accidents, suicide, and the problems that black men in poverty face. The title is from a Harriet Tubman quotation: “When we came to get in the crops, it was dead men that we reaped.”
The Panopticon made Library Journal’s, NPR’s, and Amazon’s lists of the best of the year. This gritty debut novel by Jenni Fagan seems to be hard to categorize as either dystopian or realistic. Some have compared the 15-year-old main character Anais to Lisbeth Salander and Oliver Twist, and Fagan’s writing to Margaret Atwood and Albert Camus. Anais has spent nearly all of her life in the foster care system and isn’t sure if she beat a police officer into a coma, because she was on drugs at the time. At the Panopticon facility, she befriends other kids who’ve fallen through the safety net, and she becomes convinced she’s being watched as part of a sinister experiment.
Pilgrim’s Wilderness: A True Story of Faith and Madness on the Alaska Frontier is a stranger-than-fiction story of a modern-day homesteading family, listed among Amazon’s best books of the year. Initially welcomed as a wholesome if eccentric addition to a small Alaska community in 2002, the 17-member family became controversial when “Papa Pilgrim” bulldozed his own road across national park lands. Author Tom Kizzia investigated the story for the Anchorage Daily News and discovered that the father had a secret, strange past. As people in the community took sides on whether Pilgrim should have the right to build the road, he became increasingly volatile and was revealed to be a sociopath. The New York Times said, “Not since The Shining has family life off the grid seemed as terrifying.”
If these books or others on the lists of the best of the year interest you, take a look in our catalog or ask a library staff member to help you. We will be happy to put a well-written book in your hands this winter.
Some of the best books of 2013 lists:
NPR (this one is interactive to help you find something you'd like)