Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Pearls of Wisdom: Books

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

Nancy Pearl has written half a dozen bestsellers, has appeared on national television and can be heard regularly on National Public Radio. Her appearances at local and national conferences and bookstores often draw standing-room only crowds. She certainly is not a household name, yet you could say that she’s a ‘rock star’ among her following of librarians and readers across the country. This year Library Journal, the publication for everyone involved in any aspect of libraries, chose her as the 2011 Librarian of the Year.

So who is Nancy Pearl and why does she have an action figure doll in her likeness?

Ms. Pearl is a voracious reader, an infectious and enthusiastic speaker, a bestselling author and a now-retired librarian. That description might be too simple, however, for such an amazing woman.

Ms. Pearl was a 48 year old librarian in Tulsa, Oklahoma when the Seattle Public Library lured her to Seattle, Washington to become deputy director. She had already earned two master’s degrees, had raised two daughters, had worked at a book store and as a librarian both in Detroit and in Tulsa. Nancy’s husband, in fact, did not join her in the Northwest until he retired four years later but they both knew she had made the perfect career choice.

In her fifth year in Seattle, and as Director of the Washington Center for the Book at the Seattle Public Library, Nancy became well-known for developing and implementing the popular and successful “If All Seattle Read the Same Book” project. At the time, Pearl’s dream was deemed a pie-in-the-sky idea. 47 book discussion groups across the city were planned. 10,000 buttons were purchased and distributed to participating readers.

In the end, the project was a huge success, mainly due to Pearl’s hard work and enthusiasm. (Granted, the Center for the Book had received an $180,000 grant from the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund to carry out its plan.) With the exception of the year 2000, Seattle has participated in what is now called Seattle Reads each year. This year they are reading “Little Bee” by Chris Cleave. The one-city, one-book scheme has now spread across the nation; it was Pearl’s original idea that has been copied and modeled in community after community.

Nancy Pearl won many awards for spreading the love of reading across the country, including the Humanities Washington Award in 2003 and others from the Women’s National Book Association and the American Library Association.

In 2003, Accoutrements, a Seattle company specializing in novelty products, designed an action-figure doll of their local celebrity, Nancy Pearl. (Accoutrements makes other quirky action figure dolls such as the Crazy Cat Lady complete with feral felines and the Lunch Lady complete with counter.)

With its hair in a bun and its ‘shushing’ finger, the doll was both loved and hated at the same time. Some librarians disliked the stereotypical representation of the Pearl, the quintessential librarian. Yet, the doll was a hit. Nancy herself commented that “the shushing aspect of the action figure would determine which librarians have a sense of humor”. Humor notwithstanding, 100,000 of the Nancy Pearl dolls have been sold.

Ms. Pearl’s appearances in libraries, book stores and at workshops and conferences are filled with laughter and smiles. Most important, however, they are filled with her love of reading and books. Her message is simple and that is that everyone should be reading books that they enjoy and everyone’s reading should be pleasurable and infectious. Pleasurable is the key word. At a conference I attended, Nancy shared with us all her Rule of 50: "If you still don't like a book after slogging through the first 50 pages, set it aside. If you're more than 50 years old, subtract your age from 100 and only grant it that many pages."

Ms. Pearl herself actually confesses that she starts 15 books for every book that she actually reads.

Pearl wrote her first book, “Book Lust: Reading Recommendations for Every Mood, Moment and Reason” in 2003 while she was still working for the public library. The book includes lists covering reading for every occasion and personality including lists of Techo-Thrillers to a list of those books Too Good to Miss. Her first book was a success because readers are hungry for recommendations.

In 2004 Pearl retired from the Seattle Public Library and began appearing more often across the country. She now continues to teach courses at the Information School at the University of Washington where she has endowed a scholarship for library students who will become public librarians.

In 2005, Pearl followed her earlier success with “More Book Lust” and in 2007 with “Book Crush For Kids and Teens”.

I love travel writing so late last year I was thrilled that she published “Book Lust to Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers”. What you’ll find in this book, however, are recommended reads for everyone who wants to travel the world in an armchair at home. These books either do the traveling for you, taking you on adventures or journeys around the world or accompanying you on your trip.

Nancy Pearl is a regular contributor to NPR and can be heard recommending books for summer, for the holidays or those that are “under the radar.” Her podcasts can be listened to or read at She also has a website and blog at

Nancy admits that many of the books recommended on her Book Lust lists, are out of print. This makes for a great opportunity to visit your library. For help searching in the Minuteman catalog for these titles or for placing requests for all library materials please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website,

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nothing Too Cheesy about Cheese

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her weekly column in the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.
I’m lucky that my youngest daughter works in Manhattan. I’m lucky enough to have another wonderful reason to visit one of my favorite cities and several times a year.

My shopping excursions in New York City always include a trip to the West Village and Murray’s Cheese Shop on Bleeker Street. Murray’s is a cheese lover’s Mecca. The store sits over a subterranean cheese cave where experts (or the French word, “fromageres”) are creating, checking, aging and storing cheese. (You can arrange for tours and classes at Murray’s and you can also visit their Grand Central Station store.)

A visit to Murray’s can’t be quick and there are several reasons why. A crowd of customers swarm in a relatively small space and there is nearly always a line at the cashier. The main reason, though, is that you need to take your time. Choosing and tasting a cheese or two or three can never be rushed.

Murray’s cheesemongers, or those who sell and advise about cheese, stand behind the cases and listen intently. You won’t find an impatient store clerk at Murray’s. Each of them will good-naturedly ask you if you like your cheese crumbly or soft, punchy or mild, firm or buttery. An example might be a choice between twenty odd blue cheeses which range from American Black River or Irish Cashel Blue.
Only after you are satisfied with a type and taste do you leave the cheese counter at Murray’s. On your way to the door you can choose olives, fruit, jams and crackers as perfect companions for your cheese.

On one my trips to Murray’s this year I picked up a 30-Minute Mozzarella Kit. We’ve been making fresh mozzarella every week in our house and there is nothing like it. Don’t plan on a rubbery chunk of grating cheese if you are making it fresh. This mozzarella is soft but sliceable and it also melts in your mouth. It will lose its shape within days, however, so it needs to be eaten on a regular basis. In the summer it melts yummingly over fresh garden tomatoes and basil when left to sit at room temperature. In the winter it can be baked on top of mushrooms or added to your favorite Italian dish. Homemade mozzarella is buttery, soft and sweet.

In “The Cheese Lover’s Companion: The Ultimate A-to-Z Cheese Guide” (2007), author Sharon Tyler Herbst explains that mozzarella was traditionally made from water buffalo’s milk and the cheese originated in southern Italy. Of course, immigrants from Naples and Rome did not find water buffalo milk plentiful in the United States but mozzarella made from cow’s milk became very popular in the US and has been known as “pizza cheese”. Herbst’s book contains over 1000 listings for cheese and even includes a pronunciation guide.

“The Cheese Bible” by Christian Teubner is coffee-table sized and includes hundreds of photographs, encyclopedic entries and recipes. I was given the book as a gift from my husband last Christmas and I searched for a copy for our library. It is a wonderful sourcebook. Another recent addition to the Morrill Memorial Library’s collection is the “World Cheese Book” edited by Juliet Harbutt. She includes tasting notes and suggestions for how to enjoy 750 cheeses.

“The Murray’s Cheese Handbook” written by Rob Kaufelt (owner of Murray’s Cheese) includes a description of my favorite blue cheese, Great Hill Blue, made nearby in Marion, MA. (You can get it locally in the gourmet cheese sections of the large supermarkets.) Try it topped with warmed fig jam on crackers. You’ll have a brand-new appreciation for blue cheese but be careful because it is addictive.

Love of cheese has turned many “cheese enthusiasts” into cheese makers. “Cheesemonger: A Life on the Wedge” (2010) is Gordon Edgar’s started out not knowing much about cheese (other than that people loved and would pay dearly for it.) He became an expert, selling it in a cooperative grocery in San Francisco. “The Cheese Chronicles: A Journey Through the Making and Selling of Cheese in America, from Field to Farm to Table” (2009) by Liz Thorpe is another definitive source and it is also enlightening and fun to read. Thorpe is second in command at, you guessed it, Murray’s Cheese in NYC.

A very funny read is “Immortal Milk: Adventures in Cheese” (2010) by Eric LeMay. LeMay and his girlfriend, Chuck, traveled the world appreciating cheese including fondue and Parisian chic. LeMay also includes explanations of the slang term, cheesy, which slowed up in the 19th Century to mean something “less than the best” or even “cheap” and “nasty.” Today it is used to mean “tacky” or “corny” among other things.

If you enjoy non-fiction, you’ll also like “The Year of the Goat”. Author Margaret Hathaway and photographer Karl Schatz leave the big-city behind and travel 40,000 miles across the United States in a “quest for the perfect goat cheese.”

Perhaps you’d like to try your hand at cheese making like me. Start with the simple recipes and borrow Ricky Carroll’s “Home Cheese Making” with instructions for delicious mozzarella and ricotta. (Carroll, or the Cheese Queen, lives in Western Massachusetts and teaches cheese making in day or weekend workshops in Ashfield. She also produces the kit that I bought in NY City.) Other great instructional books are “The Joy of Cheesemaking” by Jody Farnham and Marc Druart (2011), “Making Artisan Cheese” (2005) by Tim Smith and “The Complete Guide to making Cheese, Butter and Yogurt At Home” (2010) by Richard Helweg. Yogurt is another very easy and delicious dairy product that doesn’t have to be purchased at the grocery store but can be made daily or weekly at home.

For help searching in the Minuteman catalog for these titles or for placing requests for all library materials please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website,

Friday, August 12, 2011

Riding the Rails to the Boston Public Library

Margot Sullivan is a reference librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin this week.

I am frequently amazed at the reluctance of some people to take the commuter rail train into Boston. It is so easy and provides a quick (about 22 minutes) ride into Back Bay or South Station. The upcoming stations are loudly announced so you won’t get off at the wrong stop (one excuse or fear I have heard). I suppose you would if you fell asleep!

I love looking at the people on the trains and being a librarian I am checking what they are reading or doing! My most recent trip included two magazine readers, several real book readers, computer users, a kindle reader, a knitter, and me! Young kids are great on trains and ask wonderful questions! A young boy was intrigued by the screeching of the brakes as the train pulled into each station. ”What is that?” he inquired. His father replied “those are the air brakes”. From then on every time the train stopped the little boy asked “How come I keep hearing the air brakes?” I loved the conversation between a mother and her young son. He constantly asked “Is this our station?” as each station was named. His mother patiently said no we have several more to go. When the conductor announced “Readville Station, Readville Station” the little boy said “Mom is that where all the people go to read?” I kid you not! I will admit I am totally annoyed listening to cell phone conversations on the train about just anything - shopping, mental health, gossip, and whatever. Everything under the sun is discussed often in a loud voice. Isn’t it ironic we are so concerned about privacy issues but so many could care less what the world hears while on their cell phones!

I get off at Back Bay. What a wonderful area of Boston to walk around in. A few blocks up Boylston Street and you are in the public gardens and during the summer I just sit on a bench and watch the swan boats – a Boston institution. People watching also goes with the territory! Trinity Church and the Old South Church welcome you to just come and rest and contemplate. Newbury Street is bustling with shops and some art galleries where I usually find some paintings of Maine! My target is always the Boston Public Library. I worked there many years ago and have great memories of the pre-computer/network/internet days when the huge card catalog was the source for locating books in the collection and reference departments housed many reference materials. The original McKim building is magnificent – a real Boston treasure. The building itself has been cleaned and the murals cleaned and restored. The courtyard is a cool oasis. The Map Room CafĂ© has luncheon items and beverages. The attached Johnson building opened in 1972 and houses most of the circulating materials and a lot of computers for public use. I sat for several hours reading a novel I was finishing for our summer Beach Reads session here at the Norwood library. Both buildings had interesting exhibits commemorating the 150 anniversary of the Civil War. I especially liked the Winslow Homer prints in the Wiggin Gallery. Homer did the prints for illustrated weeklies and they show rural life, the brutality of the Civil War, pastimes, and women’s roles all during the time period 1858-1873. The exhibits are still on display this summer!

Treat yourself to a day in Boston! It’s easy! It’s affordable! It’s fun!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

For the Love of a Good Dog

Charlotte Canelli is library director of the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood. Read her column in the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin this week.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love my granddog as much as any grandparent would. I’ve proudly posted her photos in my Facebook updates. Her Christmas stocking hangs by our chimney with care. She cuddles with me on the couch even in shedding season. And I’ve watched her proudly play well with others at the dog park.

However, I admit that when one of our other children mentions bringing a puppy into their households I grimace. I mention the expensive veterinary visits that can absolutely break the budget. I introduce them to our hardworking rug shampooer. I advise them about the insane amount of money I’ve invested in doggie day care over the years to avoid using the rug shampooer. I advise them to think long and hard about getting a puppy.

I read “Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World’s Worst Dog” as soon as it was released in 2005. I was between dogs at the time. I had had to say a terribly painful goodbye to our ten-year old family dog in 2001. Perhaps it was because she was the perfect dog who was my constant companion for a decade of shuttling children from ballet to soccer. Or perhaps it was because it was concurrent with the last stages of my divorce and right before my youngest child left for college. It was the ultimate empty nest syndrome.

And so, four years later I braved John Grogan’s book about his lovable, laughable and untrainable Yellow Lab, Marley. I chuckled like an idiot throughout the story. During the last chapters I sobbed huge Labrador tears.

I should have known I was in deep trouble when I insisted we see the movie over the Christmas holiday in 2008. I’d read the book, after all! We had a new four-legged family friend in our own home. The movie teasers and trailers were hilarious and duhhhh! I already knew the ending. How sad could it be?

Sad. I was transfixed during the last five minutes of the movie on the big screen. I tried holding in the sobs in the dark of the theater. Tears streamed down my face. When I realized that there wasn’t a dry eye around me I finally succumbed. And it was a deluge of gut-wrenching sobs.

This weekend when I had a few minutes to bond with my television and household chores I found “Marley and Me” on one of our premium channels. This time I told myself that I really, really knew the ending. I’d been through this already. How bad could it be?

Bad. My own dog can’t stand to see me cry. She made the mistake of settling in with me that Saturday afternoon and she abandoned me and my tears. She only ventured near me when she heard my more happy voice speaking on the phone sometime later.

“Marley and Me” wasn’t the first dog story to make the big time. Dog stories have been a hit for centuries. John Grogan’s stories about Marley did reap an entirely new harvest of them. One of those is Dean Koontz’s “A Big Little Life: a Memoir of a Joyful Dog” (2009) which proves again that endings always come too fast for families and their dogs. Their dog, Trixie lived only twelve years even while teaching them a lifetime of lessons.

In “What the Dog Did: Tales from a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner”, Emily Yoffe’s favorite friend is a rescued beagle, as neurotic as they come. She writes of the appealing wretchedness of Sasha and chronicles the tale of saving her just hours before a scheduled euthanasia. Her story includes tales of other rescued beagles and her conversion from apathetic dog-avoider to lifetime dog-lover.

Julie Klam’s “You Had Me at Woof: How Dogs Taught Me the Secrets of Happiness” convinces us furry creatures can often steal your heart as much as the human ones. Her first dog, Otto, a Boston Terrier taught her more about love and loving than any of her first thirty years had.

Stephen Foster’s “Walking Ollie: Or Winning the Love of a Difficult Dog” (2006) and “Fetching Dylan: The True Tale of Canine Domestication in Leaps and Bounds” (2008) are two more stories of the irresistible nature of dogs. Their aggravating antics are nearly always forgiven and their crazy appeal is universal.

In “Adventures with Ari: A Puppy, a Leash and Our Year Outdoors” (2009), Kathryn Miles chronicles her amazing year spent discovering both the love of her new best friend and the nature around her, from “roses to roadkill.”

I was planning to lecture you and those of our children who remain dog-less in this column.

I was going to warn you about the downside of owning dogs and mention “One National Under Dog: Adventures in the New World of Prozac-Popping Puppies, Dog-Park Politics and Organic Pet Food.”

I was going to educate you, at the very least, by mentioning books that could prepare you such as “Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know” (2010) by Alexandra Horowitz or Stanley Cohen’s “Why Does My Dog Act That Way?: A Complete Guide to Your Dog’s Personality” (2006). Cohen is also the author of “Why We Love the Dogs We Do: How to Find the Dog That Matches Your Personality” (1998) and “Born to Bark: My Adventures with an Irrepressible and Unforgettable Dog” (2010). Yet, the numbers of books that retell the stories of dogs who love and are loved far outnumber the books that warn us about the pitfalls or possible pain of dog ownership.

In the end, I’ll just quote Agnes Sligh Turnbull who stated it perfectly. “Dogs’ lives are too short. Their only fault, really. “

For these and more titles about our love of dogs please visit the Morrill Memorial Library, call the Reference librarians (781-769-0200) or visit the Minuteman Library Catalog on our website,