Hector is a Parisian psychiatrist who has a bit of a crisis of psychiatric faith; his patients and their trivial complaints have begun to wear on him. The novel Hector and the Search for Happiness by Francois Lelord is the story of Hector’s travels around the world (China, Africa and the United States). From each experience he learns something more about happiness. His list includes, “Making comparisons can spoil your happiness” and “Happiness is doing a job you love.”

This follows the study-of-happiness trend set by Eric Weiner’s  travelogue, The Geography of Bliss(see previous blog post).

And more recently, Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way. Dan Buettner, like Weiner, searches the world (Denmark, Mexico, Singapore and others) for secrets to happiness. San Luis Obispo, California is singled out as a city that made conscious decisions about favoring pedestrians, no smoking zones and building a greenbelt  years ago. This  has produced a healthier, happier city (ranked first in well-being according to a recent survey).

No excuses then for being down in the dumps, when there’s a wealth of research telling you how (and where) you can be happy.

So much has been written about Anne Frank and her two years hidden in the Secret Annex during World War II, but little has been written about the woman who hid the family, Miep Gies.  Anne Frank Remembered, by Miep Gies and Alison Leslie Gold, tells the story of the woman who not only helped the family to survive in hiding, but was also the person who discovered Anne’s diary after the family was arrested.

The book begins with Miep’s own desperate childhood in Vienna during World War I and how she was sent to the Netherlands with many other Viennesse children in order to live with families who could temporarily take care of them.  Years later, Miep decides to stay in Amsterdam after accepting a secretarial job with a company who produced kits so women could make jellies and jams from the comfort of their home – her new boss was a man named Otto Frank.  Her recollections of meeting his family, especially Anne, are charming and the long friendship she shared with the Frank family is vividly recalled.

The book follows the progression of World War II and the eventual occupation of the Netherlands.  Even though this story is one that has been written about frequently, Miep’s first hand account of the lives of the Frank’s and their friends is an invaluable historical story.  The co-author, Alison Leslie Gold, wanted to capture Ms. Gies and her husband’s own thoughts and remembrances – the first edition of the book was published when Ms. Gies was nearly 80 years old.  She died this past January at the age of 100.

It’s the cold and flu season again – what do you do to combat that “achy, sniffly” feeling? Do you get a flu shot? Swear by chicken soup? Stock up on vitamin C and zinc? Get more ideas in The Secrets of People Who Never Get Sick by Gene Stone which reveals the favorite tricks of people who stay healthy all winter long.

A lot of the “secrets” are pretty common sense – wash your hands, reduce stress, get enough sleep – and some are grounded in tradition – chicken soup, eating garlic, keeping a positive attitude. However, there are a few that are, shall we say, unusual – dunking your head in hydrogen peroxide every morning for instance, or eating dirt. No matter what the secret is, Stone takes a non-judgmental look at it, examining both the scientific and anecdotal evidence for each. And he tries each of these secrets on himself – some have become part of his daily life, some not so much. In the end, Stone asserts that you need to do what’s best for you – what works for one person may not work for another. Your key to success (and good health) lies with two important factors – belief that what you’re doing is working, and consistency. Armed with those facts and some new ideas, you can look forward to your healthiest winter yet!

Do you like to read the newspaper at one of our branch libraries? What could be better than sitting in front of the fireplace at the Fairmount branch and catching up with news around the world? Or enjoying the view of the north woods at the Eastern branch?

Not only do we carry the local and regional papers, but also The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and more.

Please take one of our surveys (actually a small bookmark) the next time you’re at one of the branches and make a checkmark next to the newspapers you read.

We’d also like to know if there are titles that you wish the library carried. We look forward to your feedback!

As someone who is not a history buff at all, I was hesitant to pick up The Partly Cloudy Patriot.  But at the urges of my best friend, I gave it a shot, and I am so glad that I did.  Sarah Vowell makes her nerdiness wholly endearing in this series of humorous essays with topics ranging from the Salem Witch Trials to Buffy the Vampire Slayer to the 2000 election of George W. Bush.  Vowell fully embraces her nerdiness, especially when describing her “nerd voice” and her various vacations to (often depressing) historical landmarks.  Though I always found myself bored in history class, Vowell’s book taught me some things I didn’t know all while making me laugh.  She makes the information simultaneously humorous and personal; one of my favorite chapters was about Al Gore speaking to a group of high school students and having his remarks taken wildly out of context by the media, changing his message of hope into something egotistical.  Not all her stories are aimed at those interested in politics and history; she also has some gems about how to deal with her parents visiting  for the holidays and her fear of Tom Cruise.

Just for a taste of her dry wit, here’s one of my favorite passages:  “I was enjoying a chocolatey cafe mocha when it occurred to me that to drink a mocha is to gulp down the entire history of the New World. From the Spanish exportation of Aztec cacao, and the Dutch invention of the chemical process for making cocoa, on down to the capitalist empire of Hershey, PA, and the lifestyle marketing of Seattle’s Starbucks, the modern mocha is a bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top. No wonder it costs so much.”

‘Tis the season for hooky, sentimental, wonderful Christmas movies on ABC Family Channel, Lifetime Channel and Hallmark Channel. Over the years these three channels have produced their own movies for the holiday season. If you are like me, you love watching these made for TV movie classics. If your holiday becomes too hectic or you have missed your favorite movie, check our catalog as we have quite a few of the made for TV Christmas Movies.

Christmas Blessing ( 2007) – Neil Patrick Harris, Rebecca Gayheart, Rob Lowe

When a medical resident loses a patient, he moves back home with his father to rethink his career. His world is turned upside down when the lives of the woman he loves and an innocent young boy are in crisis. Will a Christmas miracle save them all?

Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey – Tom Berenger, Joely Richardson

When a boy loses the wooden nativity set that links him to his deceased father, his mother persuades a reclusive woodcarver to make a replacement. As Christmas approaches and the boy demands more, will the gift be finished in time?

Santa Baby – Jenny McCarthy, George Wendt

When Santa Claus gets too sick to run the toy shop, his workaholic daughter Mary leaves behind her high-powered job in the city and heads north.

Christmas Story Lady – Jessica Tandy, Stephanie Zimbalist

An elderly lady has a gift for storytelling that brings a troubled family together and envelops them in a world of imagination.

I feel a little bit silly now realizing that Alias:  Season One began airing almost ten years ago, and yet I am only now getting into this awesome series.  It stars Jennifer Garner as Sidney Bristow, a grad student who is part of what she thinks is a covert branch of the CIA called SD-6.  After getting engaged, she decides she has to come clean to her fiance about being a spy.  Unfortunately, since her status has now been compromised, the head of SD-6 orders that Sidney’s fiance must be killed.  This is when Sidney learns the horrible truth about SD-6:  they’re not really part of the CIA.  Rather, they’re part of an organization that the real CIA has been fighting for years.  At the end of the pilot episode, Sidney goes to CIA headquarters and offers to be a double agent and help them bring down SD-6 once and for all.

So far I’ve only gotten through season one, but I’m definitely interested in seeing more (I just checked out Alias: Season Two and I’m dying to go home and watch it!).  It’s hard to not keep watching, especially since almost every episode ends with a cliffhanger!  One of the things I have found most interesting about the series is the relationship between Sidney and her father, Jack Bristow.  After finding out that her father has also been working for SD-6 for years, she is surprised once again to find out that he’s also a double agent for the CIA.  The two have never had a close relationship, so through their double agent work, they’re getting to know each other once again.  It’s a really interesting dynamic and I’m enjoying watching it develop.  The cast is great and gels together well, and the series is well-written and has a lot of exciting action sequences.  I highly recommend it, especially if you like other J.J. Abrams series such as Lost or other dramas where women kick butt, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Dear Mrs. Fitzsimmons: Tales of Redemption from an Irish Mailbox is the autobiography of comedian/writer Greg Fitzsimmons.   Arguably, he’s the most cerebral and grounded working comic out there.  Unfortunately, the reward for this distinction within the current media dungscape is relative obscurity.

The framework of the narrative from cradle to his own fatherhood is upheld with periodic instances of actual letters recovered from his parents’ drawers charting his emotional development.  Usually, these take shape as disciplinary referrals from teachers and deeply-offended entertainment venues.

The underlying thread of the book is the predestiny of  being a hard-living Boston Irish Catholic.  While felling his friends and family, ultimately, “Fitzdog” breaks the cycle.

Deborah Tannen’s newest book explores the sister dynamic in family relationships. As one of three sisters, it was a relationship she knew a lot about. She also interviewed over 100 sisters of all ages and stages in life to discover more about the double edged sword that is sisterhood.  In this “combination of closeness and competition,” she says “the one constant was comparison.”

When siblings talk, every conversation is weighted by what has gone before. This fosters special closeness but also means that a comment that seems innocuous to an outsider can cause pain that would appear to be unreasonably exaggerated.

As a linguist, Tannen’s expertise is in how language shapes relationships.  Sisters are different from brothers in that they are often the glue keeping a family together – organizing get-togethers to celebrate birthdays, holidays and family reunions. They also foster closer relationships with the male members of the family. Because their conversational style is more personal and emotional, they allow men to be more open.

Tannen reads the audiobook version of You Were Always Mom’s Favorite which seems appropriate when she closes with very personal anecdotes from her own family. She says, “Having a sister adds an extra image in the mirror. Understanding who you are means discovering who you are in relation to her.”

December 4th

Twilight Saga – Eclipse – Robert Pattinson, Kristin Stewart, Taylor Lauber

It all begins with a choice. In the third chapter of Stephenie Meyer’s phenomenal Twilight series, Bella Swan is surrounded by danger as Seattle is hit by a string of murders and an evil vampire continues her quest for revenge. In the midst of it all, Bella is forced to choose between her love, Edward Cullen, and her friend, Jacob Black, knowing that her decision may ignite the ageless struggle between vampire and werewolf.

December 7th

Shrek Forever After – Mike Meyers, Cameron Diaz

Longing for the days when he was a ‘real ogre,’ Shrek signs a deal with Rumpelstiltskin to get his roar back, but turns his world upside down in the process. Donkey suddenly can’t remember his best friend, Fiona is now a tough warrior princess, and Puss in Boots is one fat cat! Together, they have just 24 hours to reverse the contract and restore happily forever after.

Inception – Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt

Dom Cobb is the best there is at extraction: stealing valuable secrets inside the subconscious during the mind’s vulnerable dream state. His skill has made him a coveted player in industrial espionage, but also has made him a fugitive and cost him dearly. Now he may get a second chance if he can do the impossible: inception, planting an idea rather than stealing one. If they succeed, Cobb and his team could pull off the perfect crime.

December 14th

The Other Guys – Mark Wahlberg, Will Ferrell

When two mismatched NYPD detectives stumble into a seemingly dull case that no other detective wants to bother with, it turns out to be New York City’s biggest crime. The two seize the opportunity to step up like the city’s top cops, whom they idolize. But do these two guys have the right stuff?

Despicable Me – Steve Carell, Jason Segel

Gru delights in all things wicked. Surrounded by an army of tireless, little yellow minions, and armed with his arsenal of shrink rays, freeze rays, and battle-ready vehicles for land and air, he vanquishes all who stand in his way. Until the day he encounters the immense will of three little orphaned girls who look at him and see something that no one else has ever seen: a potential dad.

December 17th

The Town – Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall

Doug MacRay is leader of a Boston bank robber gang but not cut from the same cloth as his fellow thieves. When Doug falls into a passionate romance with the bank manager briefly taken hostage in their last heist, he wants out of this life and out of the town. As the Feds close in and the crew questions his loyalty, he has one of two choices: betray his friends or lose the woman he loves.

December 21st

Salt – Angelina Jolie, Liev Schreiber

As a CIA officer, Evelyn Salt swore an oath to duty, honor, and country. Her loyalty will be tested when a defector accuses her of being a Russian spy. Salt goes on the run, using all her skills and years of experience as a covert operative to elude capture. Her efforts to prove her innocence only serve to cast doubt on her motives, as the hunt to uncover the truth behind her identity continues.