The acclaimed book and movie Hidden Figures brought to light the stories of the African American women whose mathematical skills were crucial to the success of the early space program. In honor of Women’s History Month, our current display by the New Books section features additional books highlighting women’s overlooked contributions to science, sports and the arts.
Prior to the women of ‘Hidden Figures‘, the ‘Rocket Girls’ worked behind the scenes of California’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Performing complex calculations with only paper, pencils and slide rules, they “transformed rocket design and enabled the creation of the first American satellites.” (And pioneered the wearing of pant suits!)
Like the women of the space program, these nineteenth century workers at the Harvard Observatory were referred to as “computers.” Hired to interpret the findings of the (male) astronomers, they included Williamina Fleming, “a Scottish woman originally hired as a maid who went on to identify ten novae and more than three hundred variable stars.” Their work revolutionized the field of astronomy.
Seaman reveals the lives and work of unsung women artists, such as Joan Brown, who specialized in self-portraiture; Gertrude Abercrombie, who produced surrealist paintings; and Lois Mailou Jones, a member of the Harlem Renaissance. Identity Unknown “speaks to all women about their neglected place in history and the challenges they face to be taken as seriously as men no matter what their chosen field”
Initially an Instagram account, Game Changers brings you the faces and stories of women who overcame pre-Title IX barriers to find fulfillment in sports of all kinds. These “founding mothers” receive the “attention and recognition they deserve, featuring rare and never-before-seen photos and stores, along with new conversations between the next generation of heroines.”
While’s there’s nothing quite like getting lost in a long, epic saga, you can’t deny the satisfaction of finishing an entire book in less than a week! February is a short month – so why not pick up short book? Give yourself a sense of accomplishment without committing to weeks in the company of the same book!
Here are a few books from our shelves that are short on pages but not merit:
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (120 pages)
“When her corgis stray into a mobile library parked near
Buckingham Palace, the Queen feels duty-bound to borrow a book.
Discovering the joy of reading widely…she finds that her view of the world changes dramatically….the Queen comes to question the prescribed order of the world and loses patience with the routines of her role as monarch.”
Any common reader will enjoy a good laugh from British playwright Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, which can be consumed in a few spare hours.” –Bookmarks Magazine
Amsterdam Ian McEwan (140 pages)
“On a chilly February day, two old friends meet in the throng outside a crematorium to pay their last respects to Molly Lane… In the days that follow Molly’s funeral, Clive and Vernon will make a pact with consequences neither has foreseen. Each will make a disastrous moral decision, their friendship will be tested to its limit…”
In Amsterdam, a contemporary morality tale that is as profound as it is witty, we have Ian McEwan at his wisest and most wickedly disarming.”
The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide (140 pages)
“A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways…The novel brims with new small joys and many moments of staggering poetic beauty, but then something happens….”
A rare treasure, beautiful and profound; whether you’re a cat lover or not, don’t pass this one up. ultimately, it’s about what it means to love and to lose. Even dog lovers will relate.” (Juan Vidal – NPR)”
Sulaby Toni Morrison (174 pages)
“In this brilliantly imagined novel, Toni Morrison tells the story of Nel Wright and Sula Peace, who meet as children in the small town of Medallion, Ohio. Their devotion is fierce enough to withstand bullies and the burden of a dreadful secret. It endures even after Nel has grown up to be a pillar of the black community and Sula has become a pariah. But their friendship ends in an unforgivable betrayal—or does it end? Terrifying, comic, ribald and tragic, Sulais a work that overflows with life.”
Set in England and Hong Kong in the 1920s, The Painted Veil is the story of the beautiful but love-starved Kitty Fane. When her husband discovers her adulterous affair, he forces her to accompany him to the heart of a cholera epidemic. Stripped of the British society of her youth and the small but effective society she fought so hard to attain in Hong Kong, she is compelled by her awakening conscience to reassess her life and learn how to love.”
Sanditon & The Watsons (unfinished) by Jane Austen (97 pages)
They’re unfinished…but they’re Jane Austen! “The beloved author left behind two tantalizing unfinished novels: The Watsons, which revisits Austen’s customary milieu of courtship; and her last work, Sanditon, a venture into new territory, amid guests at a seaside resort. More than literary curiosities, these stories are worthy of reading for pleasure as well as for study.”
Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer (195 pages)
“World Fantasy Award winner VanderMeer turns in a dystopian story with literary overtones that’s winning comparison to works by Margaret Atwood. According to the first expedition to Area X, which has been cut off from civilization for decades, the land there is an unspoiled Eden. But subsequent expeditions have met with catastrophe, and members of the 12th expedition simply hope to stay alive while mapping the terrain.”
A gripping fantasy thriller, Annihilation is thoroughly suspenseful…VanderMeer weaves together an otherworldly tale of the supernatural and the half-human. Delightfully, this page-turner is the first in a trilogy. –Publishers Weekly
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (149 pages)
It’s short – but don’t expect an easy ride! “The highly original satire about Oedipa Maas, a woman who finds herself enmeshed in a worldwide conspiracy, meets some extremely interesting characters, and attains a not inconsiderable amount of self knowledge.”
The work of a virtuoso with prose…akin to that of Joyce’s Ulysses.” Chicago Tribune
What’s your favorite short read? Let us know!
(Review text provided by publishers except where noted.)
Did your New Year’s Resolutions involve a pledge to learn something new, improve your brain fitness, or save money? Language learning with the Library’s resources can offer all of this!
Studying a language has many benefits, such as improving overall memory and decision-making skills!
Our online language resource Mango Languages makes it easy to start a new language (or to brush up on the one you studied in high school but can’t remember anything except “Hello! What color is your cousin’s notebook?”)
Mango provides instruction in over 70 languages.* Learn to converse about real-life topics in small steps, while learning the cultural context needed to use a language properly. Pronunciation technology helps you achieve a proper accent. Mango also offers instruction for English language learners, with programs in 21 languages. Try one of their foreign-language movies with special interactive content to help you learn grammar and culture while being entertained. (And don’t forget the Library’s own extensive collection of foreign film DVDs!)
Another great online option is Rosetta Stone, which offers 30 languages. (Access is made possible by the New Jersey State Library).
Mobile apps are available for both programs, so you can learn where and when you want!
Enjoy your language-study journey! And if you’re interested in some thoughtful -and sometimes humorous- real-life stories of adult language learners, check out these books:
“Do people have different personalities in different languages? Every exchange student and maker of New Year’s resolutions hopes that the answer is yes. More than any juice cleanse or lottery win or career switch, a foreign language adumbrates a vision of a parallel life…Could I, would I, become someone else if I spoke French?”
Beat holiday stress – let the Library’s e-resources bring you help where and when you need it most! Out shopping and need ideas? With your smartphone or tablet and your Scotch Plains library card number you can access our digital magazine service Flipster on-the-go. View cooking and lifestyle magazines for recipes and gift suggestions, or consult Consumer Reports latest Buying Guide for sound advice on a range of popular gifts. Planning to make decorations or other crafts? Clearly display instructions from Craft Ideas on your computer or tablet!
Learn more about accessing our digital resources on Monday, December 16 at 10am – we’ll help you make the most of your particular device. Please register for this workshop. You can also schedule one-on-one help by calling the Reference department at 908-322-5007, x204. We’re here to help to enjoy and make the most of the holiday season!
To mark the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor and United States involvement in WWII, we extend an invitation to the entire community to attend a talk given by Paul E. Zigo, Director of the New Jersey-based World War II Era Studies Institute. A reception honoring veterans and active duty military members will follow. Click here to register.
The attack on Pearl Harbor marked the entrance of Japan into World War II on the side of Germany and Italy and the entrance of the United States on the side of the allies. The presentation will cover what happened on December 7, 1941 and why the attack was truly a surprise.
The Institute is dedicated to furthering knowledge about the WW II era and the war’s impact on history. He is a graduate of Temple University and the United States Army War College. He authored and edited in 2009 Witnessing History: The Eisenhower Photographs, a publication featuring all the photographs of General Dwight D. Eisenhower taken by his personal wartime photographer, Al Meserlin, 1944-1945. Recently, Zigo authored and published the book The Longest Walk, the amazing story of the 29th Infantry Division in Normandy France, June 6 – July 18, 1944. Zigo is also the executive producer and narrator of the cable network series Triumphant Spirit: America’s World War II Generation Speaks, a series that can be seen on cable television channels and YouTube.