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Staff Picks

December 2020

Sara C. recommends:

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

From goodreads.com: For Milo, everything’s a bore. When a tollbooth mysteriously appears in his room, he drives through only because he’s got nothing better to do. But on the other side, things seem different. Milo visits the Island of Conclusions (you get there by jumping), learns about time from a ticking watchdog named Tock, and even embarks on a quest to rescue Rhyme and Reason! Somewhere along the way, Milo realizes something astonishing. Life is far from dull. In fact, it’s exciting beyond his wildest dreams…

Children’s

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Queen’s Gambit (2020 TV miniseries)

From rottentomatoes.com: Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, the Netflix limited series drama The Queen's Gambit is a coming-of-age story that explores the true cost of genius. Abandoned and entrusted to a Kentucky orphanage in the late 1950s, a young Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy) discovers an astonishing talent for chess while developing an addiction to tranquilizers provided by the state as a sedative for the children. Haunted by her personal demons and fueled by a cocktail of narcotics and obsession, Beth transforms into an impressively skilled and glamorous outcast while determined to conquer the traditional boundaries established in the male-dominated world of competitive chess.

Drama

 

Cassie S. recommends:

Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I'm reading Daisy Jones and the Six and it's exactly what I need right now: a gripping and deliciously dramatic easy read, the perfect distraction. 

From amazon.com: Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock ’n’ roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

Fiction

 

Keara B. recommends:

Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne by Arina Tanemura

From Publisher’s Weekly: Kusajabe Maron, the heroine of this manga series, will remind Americans of television's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer": both are high school students who secretly combat supernatural evil by night. But the concept behind Tanemura's series is more convoluted and downright wacky. As Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne, Maron is the reincarnation of Joan of Arc, a historical version of the warrior woman archetype that is now widespread in pop culture. Just how reincarnation can fit Joan of Arc's Catholicism goes unexplained. The devil has dispatched demons to enter into paintings, whose beauty "enslaves" onlookers' hearts, enabling demons to possess them. As God's agent Jeanne must exorcise these demons despite opposition from the police, who think she is vandalizing art.

Manga

 

Brigitte H. recommends:

The Bookwoman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

The hardscrabble folks of Troublesome Creek have to scrap for everything—everything except books, that is. Thanks to Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project, Troublesome's got its very own traveling librarian, Cussy Mary Carter.

Cussy's not only a book woman, however, she's also the last of her kind, her skin a shade of blue unlike most anyone else. Not everyone is keen on Cussy's family or the Library Project, and a Blue is often blamed for any whiff of trouble. If Cussy wants to bring the joy of books to the hill folks, she's going to have to confront prejudice as old as the Appalachias and suspicion as deep as the holler.

Historical fiction

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Harry's Trees by Jon Cohen

Thirty-four-year-old Harry Crane works as an analyst for the US Forest Service. When his wife dies suddenly, Harry, despairing, retreats north to lose himself in the remote woods of the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania. But fate intervenes in the form of a fiercely determined young girl named Oriana. She and her mother, Amanda, are struggling to pick up the pieces from their own tragic loss of Oriana’s father. Discovering Harry while roaming the forest, Oriana believes that he holds the key to righting her world.

Harry reluctantly agrees to help Oriana carry out an astonishing scheme inspired by a book given to her by the town librarian, Olive Perkins. Together, Harry and Oriana embark on a golden adventure that will fulfill Oriana’s wild dream—and ultimately open Harry’s heart to new life.

Fiction

 

Stacey J. recommends:

Calypso by David Sedaris

If you've ever laughed your way through David Sedaris's cheerfully misanthropic stories, you might think you know what you're getting with Calypso. You'd be wrong.

When he buys a beach house on the Carolina coast, Sedaris envisions long, relaxing vacations spent playing board games and lounging in the sun with those he loves most. And life at the Sea Section, as he names the vacation home, is exactly as idyllic as he imagined, except for one tiny, vexing realization: it's impossible to take a vacation from yourself.

With Calypso, Sedaris sets his formidable powers of observation toward middle age and mortality. Make no mistake: these stories are very, very funny--it's a book that can make you laugh 'til you snort, the way only family can. Sedaris's powers of observation have never been sharper, and his ability to shock readers into laughter unparalleled. But much of the comedy here is born out of that vertiginous moment when your own body betrays you and you realize that the story of your life is made up of more past than future.

Memoir

 

Stacy C. recommends:

The Beauty in Breaking: A Memoir by Michele Harper 

From amazon.com: Michele Harper is a female, African American emergency room physician in a profession that is overwhelmingly male and white. Brought up in Washington, D.C., in a complicated family, she went to Harvard, where she met her husband. They stayed together through medical school until two months before she was scheduled to join the staff of a hospital in central Philadelphia, when he told her he couldn’t move with her. Her marriage at an end, Harper began her new life in a new city, in a new job, as a newly single woman.

In the ensuing years, as Harper learned to become an effective ER physician, bringing insight and empathy to every patient encounter, she came to understand that each of us is broken—physically, emotionally, psychically. How we recognize those breaks, how we try to mend them, and where we go from there are all crucial parts of the healing process.

The Beauty in Breaking is the poignant true story of Harper’s journey toward self-healing. Each of the patients Harper writes about taught her something important about recuperation and recovery. How to let go of fear even when the future is murky: How to tell the truth when it’s simpler to overlook it. How to understand that compassion isn’t the same as justice. As she shines a light on the systemic disenfranchisement of the patients she treats as they struggle to maintain their health and dignity, Harper comes to understand the importance of allowing ourselves to make peace with the past as we draw support from the present. In this hopeful, moving, and beautiful book, she passes along the precious, necessary lessons that she has learned as a daughter, a woman, and a physician.

Memoir

 

Sandra K. recommends:

The Tommyknockers by Stephen King

From amazon.com: Something was happening in Bobbi Anderson’s idyllic small town of Haven, Maine. Something that gave every man, woman, and child in Haven powers far beyond those of ordinary mortals. Something that turned the town into a deathtrap for all outsiders. Something that is buried in the woods behind Bobbi’s house. With the help of her friend, Jim Gardener, they uncover an alien spaceship. And as they learn more about this strange discovery, the citizens of Haven begin to change: The townspeople are being welded into one organic, homicidal, and fearsomely brilliant entity in thrall to the Tommyknockers, who piloted the alien ship.

Horror

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Brave New Worlds edited by John Joseph Adams

From goodreads.com: From Huxley's Brave New World, to Orwell's 1984, to Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, dystopian books have always been an integral part of both science fiction and literature, and have influenced the broader culture discussion in unique and permanent ways. Brave New Worlds brings together the best dystopian fiction of the last 30 years, demonstrating the diversity that flourishes in this compelling subgenre.

This landmark tome contains stories by Ursula K. Le Guin, Cory Doctorow, M. Rickert, Paolo Bacigalupi, Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, and many others.

Science fiction