Thursday, April 30, 2015

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: Five Nights In Paris

 Five Nights in Paris: After Dark in the City of Light

by John Baxter
Armchair travel at its best. The preeminent expat writer on Paris and author of The Most Beautiful Walk in the World takes you on an unforgettable nocturnal stroll through five iconic Parisian neighborhoods and his own memories.  John Baxter who lived in the City of Light for more than twenty years, introduces you to the city's streets after dark, revealing hidden treasures and unexpected delights.  As he takes you through five of the city's greatest neighborhoods, Montmartre, Montparnasse, the Marais, and more. 

Baxter shares pithy anecdotes about his life in France, as well as fascinating knowledge he has gleaned from leading literary tours of the city by dark.  His stories are grouped by a tantalizing focus on sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch.

With Baxter as your guide, you will discover the City of Light as never before, walking in the ghostly footsteps of Marcel Proust, the quintessential night owl for whom memory was more vivid than reality; Hungarian photographer Gyula Halász, known as Brassai, who prowled the midnight streets, camera in hand, with his friend Henry Miller; Louis Aragon and Philippe Soupault, who shared the Surrealists' taste for the city's shadowed, secret world; and Josephine Baker and other African-American performers who dazzled adventurous Parisians at late-night jazz clubs. 

 A feast for the mind and the senses, Five Nights in Paris takes you through the haunts of Paris's most storied artists and writers to the scenes of its most infamous crimes in a lively off-the-beaten-path tour not found in any guidebook.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Nora Webster

by Colm Toibin

If you enjoyed Brooklyn and The Master and The Testament of Mary,  please join us at the Wellesley Friday Morning Book/Movie Group on May 15 at 10AM when we will discuss Colm Toibin's newest literary achievement. Nora Webster is the beautifully rendered character portrait of a young widow struggling with grief set in mid 20th century Ireland. Both the book and audio are available for checkout at the Reference Desk. 

Waiting for Superman

Is our education system broken?
Last Thursday the Non-Fiction Book Group had a great discussion about schools. We read Real Education by Charles Murray. The author contends that IQ rules all. Children should be tested early for their general intelligence and then educated according to their measured abilities. Lower performing students would not have to read Shakespeare and learn algebra and would not be encouraged to go to college. Needless to say, we were not in agreement.
In May, we're continuing the debate on schools. We're watching (and/or) reading Waiting for Superman. The movie won awards, received great reviews and sparked a national discussion about bad teaching. Waiting for Superman traces the struggle of several families from poor neighborhoods to find good schools. Finding a completely dysfunctional system, the filmmakers find some heroes and some villains and plenty of victims. We're anticipating another lively discussion and invite you to watch the movie and come participate in the debate about schools.
The Non-fiction Book Group meets every 4th Thursday at 10am in the Arnold Room. May's meeting will be on the 28th. If you have any questions about the group contact Rob Lerman (

Friday, April 24, 2015


 Target Tokyo: Jimmy Doolittle and the Raid That Avenged Pearl Harbor
by James M. Scott

In December 1941, as American forces tallied the dead at Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt gathered with his senior military counselors to plan an ambitious counterstrike against the heart of the Japanese Empire: Tokyo. Four months later, on April 18, 1942, sixteen U.S. Army bombers under the command of daredevil pilot Jimmy Doolittle lifted off from the deck of the USS Hornet on a one-way mission to pummel the enemy's factories, refineries, and dockyards and then escape to Free China. For Roosevelt, the raid was a propaganda victory, a potent salve to heal a wounded nation.

In Japan, outraged over the deaths of innocent civilians, including children, military leaders launched an ill-fated attempt to seize Midway that would turn the tide of the war. But it was the Chinese who suffered the worst, victims of a retaliatory campaign by the Japanese Army that claimed an estimated 250,000 lives and saw families drowned in wells, entire towns burned, and communities devastated by bacteriological warfare. 

At the center of this incredible story is Doolittle, the son of an Alaskan gold prospector, a former boxer, and brilliant engineer who earned his doctorate from MIT. Other fascinating characters populate this gripping narrative, including Chiang Kai-shek, Lieutenant General Joseph "Vinegar Joe" Stilwell, and the feisty Vice Admiral William "Bull" Halsey Jr. Here, too, are indelible portraits of the young pilots, navigators, and bombardiers, many of them little more than teenagers, who raised their hands to volunteer for a mission from which few expected to return. 

Most of the bombers ran out of fuel and crashed. Captured raiders suffered torture and starvation in Japan's notorious POW camps. Others faced a harrowing escape across China, via boat, rickshaw, and foot, with the Japanese Army in pursuit. Based on scores of never before published records drawn from archives across four continents as well as new interviews with survivors, Target Tokyo is a harrowing adventure story that also serves as a pivotal reexamination of one of America's most daring military operations. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Wolf Hall Read-Alikes

Do you love Wolf Hall on PBS?  These books will satisfy your craving for more from Tudor England.


The Secret Diary of
Anne Boleyn
By Robin Maxwell

"Anne Boleyn was the second of Henry's six wives, doomed to be beloved, betrayed, and beheaded. When Henry fell madly in love with her upon her return from the French court, where she was educated, he was already married to Catherine of Aragon. But his passion for Anne was great enough to rock the foundations of England and of all Christendom."

BOOK JACKET. Summary provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Wolf Hall
By Hilary Mantel

Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe oppose him. Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell: a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, master of deadly intrigue, and implacable in his ambition.


The Lady in the Tower:
The Fall of Anne Boleyn
By Alison Weir

 Anne's ascent from private gentlewoman to queen was astonishing, but equally compelling was her shockingly swift downfall. Charged with high treason and imprisoned in the Tower of London in May 1536, Anne met her terrible end all the while protesting her innocence.

Thomas Cromwell:
The Untold Story of
Henry VIII's Most
Faithful Servant
By Tracy Borman

Born a lowly tavern keeper's son, Cromwell rose swiftly through the ranks to become Henry VIII's right hand man, and one of the most powerful figures in Tudor history. The architect of England's break with the Roman Catholic Church and the dissolution of the monasteries, he oversaw seismic changes in our country's history.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

BOOK SPOTLIGHT: The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong

The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong: The Dalai Lama, His Family, and Their Secret Struggle for Tibet

by Gyalo Thondup and  Anne F. Thurston

In December 2010 residents of Kalimpong, a town on the Indian border with Tibet, turned out en masse to welcome the Dalai Lama. It was only then they realized for the first time that the neighbor they knew as the noodle maker of Kalimpong was also the Dalai Lama's older brother. The Tibetan spiritual leader had come to visit the Gaden Tharpa Choeling monastery and join his brother for lunch in the family compound. 

Gyalo Thondup has long lived out of the spotlight and hidden from view, but his whole life has been dedicated to the cause of his younger brother and Tibet. He served for decades as the Dalai Lama's special envoy, the trusted interlocutor between Tibet and foreign leaders from Chiang Kai-shek to Jawaharlal Nehru, Zhou Enlai to Deng Xiaoping. Traveling the globe and meeting behind closed doors, Thondup has been an important witness to some of the epochal events of the 20th century. 

Indeed, the Dalai Lama's dramatic escape from Lhasa to exile in India would not have been possible without his brother's behind-the-scenes help. Now, together with Anne F. Thurston, who co-wrote the international best seller The Private Life of Chairman Mao , Gyalo Thondup is finally telling his story. 

The settings are exotic-the Tibetan province of Amdo where the two brothers spent their early childhood; Tibet's legendary capital of Lhasa; Nanjing, where Thondup received a Chinese education; Taiwan, where he fled when he could not return to Tibet; Calcutta, Delhi, and the Himalayan hill towns of India, where he finally made his home; Hong Kong, which served as his listening post for China, and the American Rockies, where he sent young Tibetan resistance fighters to be trained clandestinely by the CIA. 

But Thondup's story does not reiterate the otherworldly, Shangri-La vision of the Land of Snows so often portrayed in the West. Instead, it is an intimate, personal look at the Dalai Lama and his immediate family and an inside view of vicious and sometimes deadly power struggles within the Potala Palace, that immensely imposing architectural wonder that looms over Lhasa and is home to both the spiritual and secular seats of Tibetan power.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House
by Kate Andersen Brower

The Residence offers an intimate account of the service staff of the White House, from the Kennedys
to the Obamas. America's First Families are unknowable in many ways. No one has insight into their true character like the people who serve their meals and make their beds every day.

Full of stories and details by turns dramatic, humorous, and heartwarming, The Residence reveals daily life in the White House as it is really lived through the voices of the maids, butlers, cooks, florists, doormen, engineers, and others who tend to the needs of the President and First Family. 

These dedicated professionals maintain the six-floor mansion's 132 rooms, 35 bathrooms, 28 fireplaces, three elevators, and eight staircases, and prepare everything from hors d'oeuvres for intimate gatherings to meals served at elaborate state dinners. Over the course of the day, they gather in the lower level's basement kitchen to share stories, trade secrets, forge lifelong friendships, and sometimes even fall in love.

The Residence also reveals the intimacy between the First Family and the people who serve them, as well as tension that has shaken the staff over the decades.
  •  The Kennedys - from intimate glimpses of their marriage to the chaotic days after JFK's assassination.
  •     The Johnsons - featuring the bizarre saga of LBJ's obsession with the White House plumbing.
  •     The Nixons - including Richard Nixon's unexpected appearance in the White House kitchen the morning he resigned.
  •     The Reagans - from a fire that endangered Ronald Reagan late in his second term to Nancy's control of details large and small.
  •     The Clintons - whose private battles, marked by shouting matches and flying objects, unsettled residence workers.
  •  The Obamas - who danced to Mary J. Blige on their first night in the White House.
The Residence is full of surprising and moving details that illuminate day-to-day life at the White House.