216 N Marshall Ave

Litchfield MN 55355


All Pioneerland

While all Pioneerland Library System buildings remain closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Curbside Pick-up of library items is available. You may place items on hold using the online catalog. Library staff will call you to schedule a pickup time once your hold is ready. Pickup days/times vary by location. Please contact your library if you have questions or need assistance in using this service.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Advice from Five Wise Women for the New Year

By Jan Pease

Litchfield is a town of many book clubs.  Someday I should call around and make a list of all of the book clubs in our community.  We have two book clubs for adults that meet here at the library, the Mystery Book Club and the Noon Book Club.  We have two book clubs for children: the Beginner Book Club, for grades 1-3, and Book to Movie club, for grades 4-6.  I’m involved with Dragon Lunch Bunch at Wagner school. But my personal favorite is a book club that we refer to as Classic Book Club (or the Bluestockings, depending on mood.)

Jane Austen
Classic Book Club is not a library-sponsored book club, but many of its members have close ties to the library.  We haves read various well-known authors of the past. We’ve tackled Austen, the Bronte sisters, Dickens, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Elliot, and I don’t remember who all.  We meet a bit  irregularly at Cricket Meadow Tea on a Saturday most months. As I said, it’s a bit irregular. 

I treasure the time spent with these women.  They are wise and witty, with varied life experiences.  The conversation flows as quickly as the coffee.  I recently polled them for advice for the New Year.  Here are five savory thoughts that I’m adopting for 2015.

Be Kind.  First and foremost, if this characterizes every day of our new year, it will be a great year.

Be Mindful.  The moment to live in is now, not regretting the past or putting off for the future.  Eat, breathe, and live mindfully.  No one knows what tomorrow will bring.  There might not be a tomorrow.

Be Forgiving.  All is well, all is well.  Just let go of betrayals, anger, sadness and guilt.  Forgive yourself. Forgive others.

Choose Life.  Every life matters.  No matter the age or color, gender, or belief system.   Every life matters.

Rise Above.  More than forgiving, rise above whatever is bogging you down.  Don’t let the darkness grind us into the lowest common denominator.  Rise above.

Classic Book club will get together January 17 at 8:30 a.m. at Cricket Meadow.  The book for January is “Death Comes to Pemberley” by P.D. James.  A modern author!  This book is her loving homage to Jane Austen, and we agreed that it would be a good book for beginning a new year. 

Anyone who would like to read a great book, enjoy wonderful conversation and sample Cricket Meadow’s delicious menu is welcome.   Jane Austen herself stated: “Men were put into the world to teach women the law of compromise.” 
So of course a male person would be welcomed. 

I resolve to make these simple statements part of my life in the coming year.  Be kind, be mindful, be forgiving, choose life, and rise above. 

                                          Happy  New Year!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday schedule

We will be closed on Wednesday, December 24, and Thursday, December 25.  We will close at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, December 31, and be closed on Thursday, January 1.  We will be open our regular hours all of the other days these weeks.  Happy holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Fun flicks for winter days

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Christmas is almost here!  As you enjoy days off from work and school, I know many of you will be looking for some movies to watch.  Following are some of our newest additions.  Look for them on our new releases shelf or place a hold to make sure you get them, since new usually means popular.

Dolphin Tale 2 is a family-friendly story about an aquarium that needs to find a new companion to share a pool with Winter, the dolphin from Dolphin Tale.  While the reviews aren’t as glowing as they were for the original, critics say it’s a good old-fashioned movie that adults can enjoy with kids.  It stars Harry Connick, Jr., and Ashley Judd.

 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the sequel to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, continuing the story of Caesar and the other genetically-modified apes.  The human population has been nearly killed off by the virus that made the apes intelligent, and the fight is on to see which creatures will dominate the earth.  Critics were overwhelmingly positive, calling it intelligent and emotionally rich.  It’s a special effects-laden movie that isn’t all about the special effects.

Have you seen the Golden Globe-nominated movie The Theory of Everything about Stephen Hawking? It will be a long time until that comes out on DVD, but you can check out A Brief History of Time, the 1991 motion picture that was just re-released on DVD.  This documentary examines how Hawking has lived with ALS while doing pioneering work in astrophysics.

 Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the huge hits of the year.  Marvel has done it again, this time with superheroes that most of us had never heard of: Star-Lord, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot.  The movie begins on a sad note and then turns into a wacky space adventure.  Audiences and critics loved it.  If you like funny action movies, don’t miss it. (Grove City Library also has Awesome Mix Vol. 1 on CD.)

The Hundred-Foot Journey is based on the novel by Richard C. Morais.  This romantic comedy tells the story of a young Indian immigrant in France.  He is a naturally talented chef who plans to open an Indian restaurant near a classical French restaurant.  The owner of the French restaurant vehemently opposes it.  Naturally he falls in love with one of her employees.

Love Actually isn't a new movie, but it’s a new addition to Litchfield’s collection.  It’s a 2003 cult classic that many people watch at Christmas time.  As you watch it, you might wonder if every British actor is in the star-studded cast.  It’s like a short story collection, with nine different storylines that intersect.  Some are funny, some are sweet, and some are sad.  Nearly all are preposterous, but fans of the movie don’t care.

The Maze Runner is the movie adaptation of the James Dashner YA novel.  The first book in a dystopian series for teens, it’s been compared to The Hunger Games and the Divergent series but with a boy as the main character.  In fact, nearly all of the characters are boys.  The consensus seems to be that the movie is reasonably faithful to the book, and a good movie on its own. 

The Pioneerland libraries will be closed December 24-25 and January 1.  We will close at 5 p.m. on December 31.  We will be open regular hours all of the other days around the holidays.  Go online or give us a call to request the movies or books you’d like to find, or stop in to see what’s on the shelf.  Have a very merry Christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Oh the weather outside is frightful! Let Us Read! Let Us Read! Let Us Read!

By Jan Pease

It’s the season of buying last-minute gifts!   If you could give your child or grandchild a gift that would practically guarantee their success in school, what would be a reasonable price to pay?  $250.00? $500.00? $10,000.00? The Litchfield Library is in partnership with a national organization, Read Aloud 15 Minutes, which, according to their website, is “working to make reading aloud every day for at least 15 minutes the new standard in child care.”

What if reading out loud was just a part of everyday activity?  What if every family with children or grandchildren made sure that reading aloud is as common as brushing teeth?  Can you remember when the campaign to get children to brush their teeth every day was part of life?  I remember the 1958 commercial in which a child says, “Look, Ma, no cavities!”  In my childhood everyone had fillings in their teeth, even in baby teeth.  Now children routinely have perfect checkups. 

The website also states that “ when every child is read aloud to for 15 minutes every day from birth, more children will be ready to learn when they enter kindergarten, more children will have the literacy skills needed to succeed in school, and more children will be prepared for a productive and meaningful life after school.” This is quoted from the website.

The goal is to engage parents, grandparents, and caregivers in reading aloud 15 minutes a day with children from birth.  That seems to be the magic number that helps children be ready to enter kindergarten.  Their statistics show that 1 in 3 children aren’t ready for kindergarten.  I asked local kindergarten teachers who reassured me that here, with a high percentage of children in preschool programs, it’s about 1 in 4 or 1 in 5.  I think we can do better.

 Some libraries are part of the 1000 Books before Kindergarten initiative.  We are very supportive of that program, but it might seem daunting for parents to keep track of that 1000-book goal.   It   may be difficult to be consistent in keeping track of that many books.  But just like brushing teeth, anyone can make sure that 15 minutes of reading aloud will happen. 

If you need a little help, we have parent handouts and reading charts available at the library, or visit and download copies of their handouts and reading charts.   It’s free.  It’s fun. It’s easy.  Just add reading into your routine.   Every day.

 I agree with Read Aloud that this is the single most important thing a parent or caregiver can do to improve a child’s readiness to read and learn.  By making 15 minutes of daily reading aloud the new parenting standard, we will change the face of education in this country.  Instead of worrying about the perfect gift or party, please invest your time in your children and grandchildren.  

Monday, December 8, 2014

No gaming in December

Our regular Monday gaming night will not be held in December.  People are so busy!  Gaming will resume in January.

Santa Claus came to town!

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Santa visited the library on Thursday, December 4, at 6:30 in the evening.  He was very popular!  Mrs. Pease stopped counting people at 207 and she thinks she must have missed a few who came in the door.  That may be our record for the largest number of people to come to an event at the library. 

The whole children’s department was full of excited young faces.  Mrs. Pease led them in chanting “Santa! Santa!” before the man himself emerged from the back room of the library, ringing his jingle bells. 

Santa sang his own version of “Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer”.  He read the book Is It Christmas Yet? by Jane Chapman.  Then the crowd divided up to make Christmas crafts and eat cookies in the meeting room or to take turns telling Santa what they want for Christmas.  Even with the huge crowd, everyone was very patient and polite in waiting their turn.  We have such nice families here. 

We did see new faces in the crowd, as well as library regulars.  We even set up a number of new library cards that night.   If you were visiting the library for the first time but had your hands full with little ones, stop back another day to apply for library cards and take another look around.

We're down to our last few storyhours of the month.  On Wednesday, December 10, we'll have our baby and toddler storytime at 10:15.  On Friday, December 12, we’ll have our preschool storyhour at 10:00.  And on Saturday, December 13, we’ll have our 2nd Saturday storyhour at 10:00, as well.  Mrs. Pease is planning on holiday themes for those.  Then we’ll take a break from storyhours until January, since the holiday season is such a busy time.

We will be holding our monthly family movie night on Monday, December 22, at 6 p.m. in the children’s department.  We’ll be showing a kids’ Christmas movie about an army of elves.  It’s rated G and it’s just a little more than an hour and a half long.  Call the library if you’d like to know the name of the movie.

The monthly Friends of the Library book sale will be held on Saturday, December 20, from 10 to 4, with potential gifts for all ages.  Most of what we have for sale is donated by members of the community, and there really are some nice books and movies available.

The library will be closed on December 24 and 25 for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  We will be open our regular hours the rest of that week.  We will close at 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve and be closed on New Year’s Day.

Thank you to all of you who came to our Santa event and made it such a success.  We wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Popular books for the people on your shopping list

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

As you work on your Christmas shopping, are you looking for some book ideas for people on your lists?  I can tell you which new titles are popular in our library system.  One of these might be just the right thing for someone you know
Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General is the latest in the Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard “Killing” series.  In this one, the authors question whether the general’s death from injuries sustained in a car accident was really accidental.  It’s the in-demand book in our library system right now.  For the history buffs and conspiracy theorists on your list.

The last book in Nora Roberts’ Cousins O’Dwyer trilogy has just come out.  Blood Magick wraps up the series about the Dark Witch gift shop in County Mayo, Ireland, and the owner’s forbidden romance.  For fans of Nora Roberts and paranormal romance.

John Grisham has a new novel out, Gray Mountain.  This is his 27th to be published.   A young lawyer is laid off from her comfortable New York job and ends up working in legal aid in Appalachia.  This is the first time Grisham has had a female main character.  For fans of legal thrillers and those who care about environmental causes. 

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s autobiography has just been published and is expected to be available from booksellers this month after a couple of delays this fall.  Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography is a project of the South Dakota State Historical Society, which is a very small publisher.  This is Laura’s first draft of her life story, written in 1930 before she began her novels.  This book contains new background research by the historical society that gives context to Laura’s story.  It should be interesting to see which stories were left out of the eventual series because they were too mature for children, as well as to find out what Laura’s original writing was like.  This book is on my Christmas list, and I keep hearing that other people are asking for it, too.  For Little House fans, obviously.

Stolen from the Garden: The Kidnapping of Virginia Piper is the true story of a wealthy socialite who was kidnapped for ransom in Orono in 1972.  Author William Swanson reviewed documents about the case and interviewed many of the people who were closely involved.  In the end, Swanson makes his case for what he thinks really happened.  For fans of true crime.

James Patterson books are always popular, and this is true for the latest Alex Cross novel, Hope to Die.  Patterson has a new book out every other month or so, pairing up with other writers to pump them out.  This one appears to be written by Patterson himself, and the reviews are good.  Detective Alex Cross is battling a psychotic genius to get his family back.  This isn’t the place to start reading the series, so it would be for people who are already fans of these thrillers.

Lila is the latest novel from Pulitzer Prize-winner Marilynne Robinson.  It tells the story of the minister’s wife from Robinson’s novel Gilead, who is the mother of the main character of her novel Home.  It isn’t necessary to have read the other two books, however.  This novel tells of Lila’s difficult years of abuse and homelessness and how she adjusts to her new life with such a past.  For literary readers. 

One good thing about library books is that you can check them out for free before you decide if you want to buy a copy for yourself.  The titles I’m covering here have waiting lists because they are so popular, so you may or may not have the chance to borrow these before Christmas.  But we have shelves full of so many other things that you can preview before you make your Christmas list or do your shopping.  Have a happy holiday season!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Ho! Ho! Ho!

By Jan Pease

It’s early Christmas at the library with the arrival of new books that have come in the “nick” of time. 

Little Blue Truck’s Christmas, by Alice Schertle, is a Christmas tree counting book for very young children.  It includes twinkle lights, always fun in a book.  At least the batteries are replaceable, but there seems to be no off switch.  Now I just hope the lights will twinkle until I can use the book at story time.  I think this would be a great gift book for a child just discovering the magic of books.

“Here Comes Santa Cat,”  by Deborah Underwood, stars a cat named Cat who communicates by holding up signs, like the very talented animals do on Facebook.    Cat needs to get off of Santa’s naughty list, and how he succeeds makes for a very funny, nearly wordless book. 

Rick Walton and Nathan Hale, who collaborate under the pen name of Ludworst Bemonster, have written a parody of “The Night Before Christmas” that they titled “Frankenstein’s Fright Before  Christmas.”  While you may not be shrieking with laughter, this is a book with an entirely different look at the visit from Santa Claus, who arrives at an orphanage  for monsters with a resounding Boom!

“A Chick ‘n’ Pug Christmas”   was written and illustrated by Jennifer Sattler.   My favorite scene from the book is the last page, showing Chick and Pug flying through the air on a snow shovel, silhouetted against the moon as little children say “Santa!”   This is a very funny book. 

“And Then Comes Christmas”, by Tom Brenner, is one of those sweet holiday books that make me feel like drinking hot cocoa in front of a gentle fire.  I’ve read a lot of holiday-themed books, but never one that uses the phrase, “Lo and behold it’s Christmas morning!”

If animals could talk, and if a llama somehow joined a horse, cat, dog, spider and a few more traditional stable animals in Bethlehem, and if the animals spoke in short rhymes, they might produce “Manger,” poems selected by Lee Bennett Hopkins.  Perhaps this book also needs the gentle fire, hot cocoa, and a small child looking at the animals and imagining them speaking. 
“A Little Women Christmas,” adapted from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women by Heather Vogel Frederick, is another book that needs to be shared in front of a cozy fire.  The illustrations are warm, lit by candle light and fireside, and the adaptation is a bit easier to understand than the original.  After reading this adaptation, I’m in the mood to re-read “Little Women”

Many of the legends about Santa Claus have their roots in the stories about Saint Nicholas, a real person who was also known as Nikolaos of Myra.  He was a historic 4th-century Christian saint and Greek Bishop of Myra in Lycia, now part of Turkey.  Several legends about Saint Nicholas are included in “The Legend of Saint Nicholas,”  a lovely book  written by Anselm Grun, a Benedictine monk who lives in Germany.  Whether you’re waiting for Saint Nicholas or Santa Claus, try reading something new this holiday season.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Which books are the best of 2014?

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

I love lists of the best books of the year, but I can’t believe how early they’ve come out this year.  Library Journal had their list published online on October 22!  I’m looking over that list, as well as Amazon’s and Publishers Weekly’s  lists of the best of 2014.  I like to see where they agree on what was the best, and how many of them I ordered for our library in the past year.  How many of these have you read?

A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James made all three lists.  This is a novel about the attempted assassination of Bob Marley during political turmoil in Jamaica in the ‘70s.  The style is unique, with multiple characters providing an oral history of the events in dialect.  One reviewer said that he didn’t expect to enjoy it but that it was both entertaining and eye-opening, with strong characters.

The Martian by Andy Weir also made all three lists, as well as the New York Times bestsellers list.  This is a science fiction novel about an astronaut who is one of the first people to walk on Mars.  He’s stranded and presumed dead, and he has to try to survive on his own with the equipment left with him.  If you like suspenseful survival stories, this sounds like a book for you.

Margaret Atwood has a new book of short stories called Stone Mattress: Nine Tales.  This collection was included on two of the best-of lists I've seen so far.  The stories are wild, dark, and funny, in a science fiction/horror vein.

Euphoria is a novel by Lily King that has made a couple of the lists of the best, as well.  It’s a story of three anthropologists in New Guinea between the two world wars.  Inspired by but only loosely based on the life of Margaret Mead, the novel is about a love triangle involving a married couple and another anthropologist they encounter in the wild while fleeing from a cannibalistic tribe. 

No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald is a nonfiction book that has been chosen for two of the lists mentioned above.  Greenwald, an investigative reporter for The Guardian, met with Snowden in 2013 and accepted documents from him on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.  He was one of the writers of the series of reports on the controversial matter, winning the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service with others at The Guardian US for that reporting.  Whatever you think of the subject, you can read Greenwald’s further revelations and perspectives in this book.

The Bone Clocks is a literary science fiction novel that is in demand by our library patrons as well as acclaimed by critics.  Author David Mitchell also wrote “Cloud Atlas”.  The plot sounds incredibly complicated, spanning the years from 1984 to the 2030s and involving a secret supernatural war.  Reviewers are practically breathless in the ways they describe the writing.

It’s interesting how some books appear on every year-end list, while another book can be named some publication’s best book of the year but not make another’s top 100.  Even among those who review books for a living, so much depends on taste.  I hope you’ll find some new books to read that will fit your taste.  Browse our shelves or order something particular you’ll enjoy from the library.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Closed for Veterans Day

Pioneerland libraries are closed today for Veterans Day.  Veterans, thank you for your service to our country.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Library closing early today

The Litchfield Library will be closing at 11 a.m. today due to the weather.  Book to Movie Club is rescheduled for next Monday, November 17.  Gaming night is cancelled.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Just Ask Emily

By Jan Pease
A chance encounter with a fellow patient made me think about manners. At the time, it was irritating to receive an unsolicited comment about me. With holidays approaching, I began to think about how we pass good manners along to our family members. 

Emily Post, who gave etiquette advice long before there was an Internet, has a page on her website,, called “Table Manners for the Four to Seven Year Old.”  She states that “The Golden Rule of Parenting” is:  Always behave the way you want your children to behave.

She says you can expect your young children “to  sit at the table with family, help set and clear the table (with assistance), participate in table conversation, use table utensils, serve and pass dishes, and chew with the mouth closed.”

She states that the relevant manners are that the child  “asks to be excused, is quiet during grace, participates in conversation during the meal, uses utensils and napkin,  stays at the table until done, sits up (doesn’t drape over the table), chews with mouth closed, and  doesn’t talk with mouth full.”
Now, with these expectations, what can a parent do?  Emily Post says, “MODEL, MODEL, MODEL, REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT, be patient, have meals together as a family (good for family and a great opportunity for kids to learn and practice table manners), encourage good posture at the table, pick the three most important table rules or guidelines and focus on those, practice at home for meals away from home, MODEL, MODEL, MODEL, and REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT.”

If this doesn’t sound like your family, you have about two weeks to help them with a few basic things.  Choose what’s most important – maybe your young child doesn’t use table utensils.  You may not have a four year old who can eat at Emily Post’s table, but it’s a start.
Litchfield Library has many books about manners and children, and here are a few that might help get you through the holidays.   Monster Knows Table Manners, by Connie Colwell Miller,  Manners Mash-up: A Goofy Guide to Good Behavior J395.122 MAN,  Manners in Public, by Carrie Finn and   Whoopi's Big Book of Manners, by Whoopi Goldberg.  

If as an adult you need a quick manner fix, try One Minute Manners: Quick Solutions to the Most Awkward Situations You'll Ever Face at Work, by  Ann Marie Sabath.   Join us at Friday Story Hour this month to have some fun learning about ... manners.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Feather your nest this fall

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

The weather is getting colder and our opportunities to play and work outside are dwindling.  Maybe it’s time to turn our focus to the inside of our homes.  Our library has some new books on decorating that might inspire you to update your space.

Flea Market Fabulous: Designing Gorgeous Rooms with Vintage Treasures is a brand-new, popular book by Lara Spencer, an anchor on Good Morning America and host of “Flea Market Flip” on HGTV.   Spencer shows readers how to go through the steps of identifying the problems of a room, coming up with a decorating plan, and then finding items at flea markets that can be re-done to create the look. 

Color: The Perfect Shade for Every Room is a new House Beautiful book by Lisa Cregan.  The book is organized into ten chapters, each focusing on one color.  It features over 400 photos that demonstrate how to use various shades in bold and subtle ways for different effects.  I expected the book to be about wall color, but it demonstrates the use of color in furniture and accessories, as well.

Tricia Guild: Decorating with Color is another book to help with color selection.  Guild is a London-based interior designer who works all over the world.  Her style is dramatic and glamorous, with combinations of bold patterns.  This book explains her framework of five color families and shows how she combines colors and patterns.

Love Where You Live: At Home in the Country is an interior decorating book by Joan Osofsky and Abby Adams.  Osofsky owns a well-known “lifestyle store” in upstate New York, and she is known for a modern country style.  If you like a cozy but sophisticated country look, this book may give you some inspiration.

How to Hang a Picture: And Other Essential Lessons for the Stylish Home is a guidebook for hanging, framing, and displaying art.  Jason Sacher and Suzanne LaGasa lay out simple, practical rules for making your photos and prints look classy in your home.  They even explain how to avoid ruining your walls depending on what they’re made of: drywall, plaster, brick, and so forth.

 A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to Painting, Crafting, and Decorating a Cheerful, More Inspiring Space is a long title that tells you almost everything you need to know about the book.  Authors Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman are sisters who have a home decorating blog called “A Beautiful Mess”.  They also have a bestselling app for photos with the same name.  Reviews for the book have been mixed, even from those who enjoy their blog.  Some find it fun and inspiring, while others think the directions for projects are lacking and the results strange or not durable.  One great thing about checking a book out from the library is that you can read it and decide if it’s something you’d like to buy to actually use for projects in your own home. 

In addition to books, our library subscribes to magazines that you can use for home d├ęcor inspiration.  Country Living, House Beautiful, Midwest Living, Real Simple, and Martha Stewart Living are all available in our magazine area.  You can even check out issues to bring home and read at your leisure. 

If your home is ready for a makeover this fall, stop in to the library for some books that can help you find your style.  As Jane Austen said, “There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Riding the Range

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

Readers of Westerns are always looking for something new.  The popularity of this genre peaked in the 1960s along with Western television shows.  Unfortunately for some of our regular library users, not as many Western novels are being published these days.  But there are still some good Western novels coming out. 

Minnesota author Lin Enger has a novel coming out later in September called The High Divide.  Amazon has named it one of its best books of the month, and it has gotten fantastic reviews.  Publishers Weekly magazine called it a “Western reinvention of Homer’s Odyssey” and says it will also remind readers of the book and movie The Searchers.  Lin, a professor in Moorhead, is the author of Undiscovered Country.  His brother Leif wrote the modern classic novel Peace Like a River.  I worked with Lin’s wife Kathy at the Augsburg College library back when the brothers were writing and publishing the Gun Pedersen mystery series together as L.L. Enger, so it’s exciting for me to see the national buzz about Lin’s new book.

Backlands: A Novel of the American West is the 2014 sequel to Hard Country by Michael McGarrity.  These novels are set at the end of the frontier West, in the Twenties through World War II.  They are actually a prequel series to the Kevin Kearney mystery novels.  In Backlands, eight-year-old Matthew takes on adult responsibilities to try to save the drought-stricken family ranch in New Mexico during the Depression.  Reviews are good, with the novel compared to the style of Lonesome Dove.

Glorious: A Novel of the American West is the first in a planned trilogy from Jeff Guinn.  The main character is Cash McLendon, a St. Louis street urchin who climbed his way to riches and connections without worrying about what it took to get there.  When he loses it all, he flees to the mining town Glorious in the Arizona territory. Can he hide there from the powerful father-in-law who’s out to get him?  Reviewers say it’s a good old-fashioned Western.

Larry McMurtry has a new book out: The Last Kind Words Saloon.  McMurtry tells his version of the Wyatt Earp/Doc Holliday story.  It’s not a romanticized or historically accurate version.  Reviewers describe it as darkly humorous, almost parody.  If you’re a fan of Lonesome Dove, this may not be your cup of tea.

Candace Simar’s Abercrombie Trail series has been locally popular because it’s about Scandinavian immigrants in Minnesota during the Dakota Conflict.  The series was published by North Star Press of St. Cloud and was recently picked up by a national large-print publisher.  The book titles are Abercrombie Trail, Pomme de Terre, Birdie, and Blooming Prairie.

We continue to get the Ralph Cotton and Ralph Compton paperback novels (even though Ralph Compton is dead and other authors are writing his books), as well as the Wagons West series.  We also get two new large print Westerns every month at Litchfield.  Most of them are re-releases of vintage titles, like The Brass Man by Max Brand and A Bullet for Billy the Kid by Will Henry.  Our patrons still check them out as though they were newly published.  If they’re new to you, it doesn’t matter, right?

 I know we have a demand for Westerns from our patrons here in Litchfield, so even though the choices are thin in the publishing world, I add them to the collection whenever I can.  I hope that some of the nontraditional Westerns that are coming out will make our traditional Western fans happy, too.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Five New Young Adult Titles - Check Them Out!

Some of the best new young adult fiction is piled on my desk.  Here are some highlights - check these out!

Sometimes true stories are more interesting than anything an author could invent.  One example of this is the new book by Katherine Paterson, Stories of My Life.  Ms. Paterson is a writer I’ve recommended for years. She has received many awards, and each one is richly deserved.  Her life has gone from being the child of missionary parents in China, interrupted by the Second World War, to being a missionary in Japan by herself.  Her writing is not preachy or didactic, but her faith infuses her books.  I am inspired by what she says about faith and writing:

Self-consciously Christian (or Jewish or Muslim) writing will be sectarian and tend to propaganda and therefore have very little to say to persons outside that particular faith community. The challenge for those of us who care about our faith and about a hurting world is to tell stories which will carry the words of grace and hope in their bones and sinews and not wear them like fancy dress.”  (From Ms. Paterson’s website,

James Patterson continues his “Confessions” series with Confessions: The Paris Mysteries.  This series centers on a wealthy family whose parents have been murdered. The only suspects are the four orphaned children.  The other books in the series are Confessions of a Murder Suspect and Confessions: The Private School Murders.

Sara Shepard has begun a new series, The Perfectionists.  We meet four girls who are all driven to be perfect, no matter what.    When their common enemy turns up dead, they have a mystery to solve because they are definitely murder suspects. Reviews compare this book to Ms. Shepard’s “Pretty Little Liars” series, which has been hugely popular.
The third book in the “BZRK” series, BZRK Apocalpyse, has just come out.  Michael Grant wrote the very popular “Gone” series, but “BZRK” is something else.  Like other popular series, the story  is about a group of teenagers facing impossible odds to survive, fighting against mind control both in the real world and in the nano world.   Reviews are very positive for this somewhat dark series.

Blackbird begins a new series by Anna Carey.     Her heroine wakes up on subway tracks with no idea of who she is, what she is doing there, or why someone wants to kill her.  Much of the book is written in the second person,an unusual choice of point of view.  Reviews are mixed for this one.

These are all found in the Young Adult section, but many adult readers enjoy young adult novels.  Stop by the library and check out a book! (Pun intended.)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

What is a New Adult book?

by Beth Cronk, Litchfield head librarian

There’s a new category of books in the publishing world called “New Adult”.  You’ve probably heard of young adult books, a term which really means books for teens.  We’re in a golden age of young adult literature.  Many books come out in this category now, selling well and getting checked out in stacks at libraries.  Teens aren’t the only ones reading them; many adults do, too, and I’m one of them. 

So what happens when a teen reader of YA fiction turns into a college student or twenty-something adult?  Of course, they can read any adult fiction.  But YA fiction can be enjoyable to read for its plot-driven writing and intense emotion, qualities that can be absent in quite a bit of general adult fiction.  And young adults may enjoy reading about people going through some of the same life changes as they are.  Enter New Adult, a genre featuring characters in the eighteen to thirty age range.

I attended a session on NA fiction at the Minnesota Library Association conference earlier this month.  I have to thank the presenter, Samantha TerBeest, for getting me up to speed on this new kind of book.  Samantha is a librarian at the Winona Public Library, formerly of the Willmar Public Library.  She was a source for a recent article on the NA fiction phenomenon in Library Journal, a prominent national publication for librarians.  I have her to credit for most of what I can share with you about the new genre.

The marks of the genre are the age of the characters and the topics of the books.  The protagonists are between the ages of eighteen and 25, with the other characters mostly falling between the ages of eighteen and thirty.  The books are about first times, such as going off to college, getting a first job, falling in love for the first time, and sex; and about social issues such as sexual harassment, rape, and cyberbullying.  Like other coming-of-age novels, these books cover a formative stage of life.  The content of these books is more mature, and as such they are considered adult novels. 

In 2009, St. Martin’s Press held a writing contest for “new adult” novels featuring twenty-something protagonists.  Nothing ever came of that contest, but the term was coined.  In 2012, this genre took off in self-publishing, almost entirely in e-books.  At this stage, it was mostly Fifty Shades of Grey for the college set.  But now the mainstream publishers have caught on to the trend, producing books of all kinds that fit into this niche.

One reason this is an interesting growth area is because the 18-29 demographic is the most likely to read but least likely to use a library, according to a new study from the Pew Research Internet Project, just released in September (Zickuhr & Rainie, Younger Americans and Public Libraries). 

Even though NA fiction is only a couple of years old, books that meet the criteria have been around as long as the novel has.  I think Jane Austen’s novels could be put in this category!  Samantha says that The Nanny Diaries and The Devil Wears Prada could be considered NA.  Even The Help could be, with Skeeter falling into the right age group and facing the challenge of launching her career as a writer. 

Some titles that have come out recently as New Adult fiction are Easy, Wait for You, and Maybe Someday, which has a soundtrack you can listen to while you read the book.  The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit is unusual in having a male protagonist.  And Mambo in Chinatown is a literary New Adult title.

Our library system doesn’t have many new adult titles at this point, but I expect it will be a growth area if it continues to be in the world at large, especially in e-books.  If you’re in that age group or young at heart, keep an eye out for these New Adult books that bring to life those first steps of adulthood.