Category Archives: Adults

Program Series: Taking One’s Freedom

February Program Series on Freedom

Explore with Us:

Exhibit / Collage Making / Lecture / Book Discussion / Resources

In February, we will be taking a closer look at the notion of freedom, primarily through the lens of Frederick Douglass’ journey to his own freedom. Take some time this month to explore the meaning of freedom through our programs. Visit our exhibit, participate in an intergenerational art program and a special lecture, and contribute to a book discussion. You’ll be sure to come away with some new ideas and insights about freedom!  Our Library Resources can help you continue your exploration of the life and work of Frederick Douglass.

All events are listed below, with links to register where needed.


From Slavery to Freedom: The Journey to New York City



The Library will host Frederick Douglass From Slavery to Freedom: The Journey to New York City, a traveling exhibition, from Saturday, February 10 through Wednesday, February 28. The exhibit is provided by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Drawing upon Douglass’ own words from his autobiography and materials from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, the exhibition will look at Douglass’ life under slavery and his daring journey to freedom. It explores the question, “What aspects of his youth shaped his determination to be free?” Visitors may gain a deeper understanding of Douglass’ quest for freedom and the difficult choices he made. These choices can resonate for Americans today who are facing great challenges in achieving their goals and dreams.



Make a Freedom Collage

FEBRUARY 10 from 9:30am to 11:30am


Creating a collage can be a powerful means of self-expression for young and old.  We welcome artist, photographer, teacher and mentor Mansa Mussa , who will lead an intergenerational program creating Freedom Collages from 9:30-11:30am. Completed collages will be displayed in our Gallery space throughout the month.

Please register your group if you plan to attend.

“Collage is use to explore ideas, [and] advocate concepts…But just as often it is the consummate means of personal visual expression and distinct visual vocabulary…”

-Gerald Brommer in Collage Techniques Book

Collage Techniques, a Guide for Artists and Illustrators




Frederick Douglass: Reader, Preacher, Orator

FEBRUARY 10 at 2pm


Professor Douglas Jones, Rutgers UniversityDr. Douglas Jones of Rutgers University will present Frederick Douglass: Reader, Preacher, Orator, a lecture about Douglass’ public speaking career, which ranged from local preacher to world-renown orator.  Professor Jones will discuss the religious and secular contexts that gave shape to Douglass’ rhetorical style and helped make his speaking career so memorable. Light refreshments will be served following the lecture.

Please register if you plan to attend.

Read some of Douglass’ speeches in our database African-American History Online (Scotch Plains Library card required to log in.)

Frederick Douglass Speaking
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division, The New York Public Library. “Frederick Douglass, the escaped slave, on an English platform, denouncing slaveholders and their religious abettors.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1852.




Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave

FEBRUARY 15 at 7pm


Book cover: Never CaughtOn Thursday, February 15 at 7:00pm, Dr. Linda Caldwell Epps returns to the Library to discuss the book Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. A limited number of copies of the book will be available to borrow beginning February 1.  Stop by or call the Reference Desk at 908-322-5007 x 204 to reserve a copy.  Registration is required as well.

Further reading:

In Search of the Slave Who Defied George Washington.”  New York Times article about Ona Judge and Erica Armstrong Dunbar’s determined quest to bring her story to light.


“There’s a myth of the North as free, but her story shows how complicated that was…”


Additional Resources at the Scotch Plains Public Library

Books (Print) – all are available to borrow:


In the Words of Frederick Douglass: Quotations from Liberty’s Champion


“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.”

“There is no negro problem. The problem is whether the American people have loyalty enough, honor enough, patriotism enough, to live up to their own constitution.”

“Frederick Douglass has left one of the most extensive bodies of significant and quotable public statements of any figure in American history. In the Words of Frederick Douglass is a rich trove of…nearly seven hundred quotations by Douglass that demonstrate the breadth and strength of his intellect as well as the eloquence with which he expressed his political and ethical principles.’  (From the publisher)


Book Cover: Giants : the parallel lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham LincolnGiants : The Parallel Lives of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln


“…long before they ever met, they read, virtually memorized the same six books or authors, and that was central to their self-making.” -NPR interview with author John Stauffer, 2009

 “Stauffer manages the nifty trick of reinterpreting the familiar story of Lincoln, the Civil War and slavery by introducing Douglass as an important character in this narrative. Douglass was disappointed with Lincoln at first, but grew to become friendly with the president. This fascinating book will be of interest to popular audiences and academics alike.” -Star Ledger 


The Radical and the Republican BookThe Radical and the Republican: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln and the Triumph of Antislavery Politics

“Douglass’s views on race were essentially modern; the book is really a study through his eyes of the more complex figure of Lincoln….Oakes vividly conveys both the immense distance America traveled to arrive at a more enlightened place and the fraught politics that brought it there.  -Publishers Weekly




Frederick Douglass biographyFrederick Douglass

“…the author presents the known facts of Douglass’s stormy life and reveals the man behind the icon: his complex and ambiguous friendships with William Lloyd Garrison, John Brown and other figures of the day; his gossip-stirring relationships with several dynamic white women; his controversial tenure as U.S. minister to Haiti near the end of his life. McFeely analyzes Douglass’s autobiographical writings, probing insightfully into the complicated psyche of this heroic figure.” -Publishers Weekly





The Portable Frederick DouglassThe Portable Frederick Douglass

The Portable Frederick Douglass includes the full range of Douglass’s works: the complete Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, as well as extracts from My Bondage and My Freedom and Life and Times of Frederick Douglass; The Heroic Slave, one of the first works of African American fiction; the brilliant speeches that launched his political career and that constitute the greatest oratory of the Civil War era; and his journalism, which ranges from cultural and political critique (including his early support for women’s equality) to law, history, philosophy, literature, art, and international affairs, including a never-before-published essay on Haitian revolutionary Toussaint L’Ouverture. –From the Publisher

Research Databases


‘To use our research databases, login with a Scotch Plains Library card number.












  • Bloom’s Literature -find reference sources, literary criticism, the full-text of Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, and more.

Bloom's Literature Database


Spotlight on Norman Rockwell on Display in the Gallery

Need a break from holiday shopping? Visit the library to view Spotlight on Norman Rockwell on display in our gallery this December! The exhibit focuses on the man behind some of the most iconic paintings of 20th century Americana, featuring pieces on loan from the collection of local resident Jack Cassidy.

Items on display include lithographs signed by the artist as well as collectibles, artifacts, and examples of Rockwell’s famous covers for the Saturday Evening Post. Mr. Cassidy began his collection around 1970. He purchased his first piece in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where Mr. Rockwell lived and had his studio.

Please join us for a special reception on Thursday, December 7 at 7 pm.

How Can the Library Serve You? Help Plan for the Future

The Scotch Plains Downtown Redevelopment Committee (SPDRC) has launched a new survey aimed at gathering input from the community on both a new, expanded library and a community center facility. The need for this has been identified through Downtown Redevelopment Committee member comments and public input at several meetings.

Residents are urged to take the survey as their opinions will help shape the future of Scotch Plains. Click here to take the survey.  Paper copies of the survey are also available at the Library.

World War I and America: Fall Program Series

World War I & America Logo








The Scotch Plains Public Library is one of only four New Jersey institutions to have received a World War I and America grant.  This grant, along with a generous gift from the Fanwood-Scotch Plains Service League, enables us to offer original programming to commemorate the centennial of American involvement in World War One, and to explore the ongoing experience of veterans who have served in our lifetimes.

 Presented by The Library of America, World War I and America is a two-year initiative in partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of  American History, the National World War I Museum and Memorial, and other organizations, with generous support from The National Endowment for the Humanities.

The aim of World War I and America is to bring veterans and their families together with the general public to explore the continuing relevance of the war by reading, discussing, and sharing insights into the writings of Americans who experienced it firsthand.

We gratefully acknowledge the active involvement of New Jersey City University and the Union County Office of Veterans Affairs, with special thanks to the Veteran Liaisons for World War I and America:   Richard Thompson and Janna Williams, Union County Office of Veterans’ Affairs, and Ella Rue-Eyet, 52 Reasons to Love a Vet, and New Jersey City University.

Plainfield schoolchildren knitting for the Juior Red Cross, ca. 1917
Plainfield schoolchildren knitting for the Junior Red Cross, ca. 1917
American Library Association poster - books for soldiers program
American Library Association poster, ca. 1918


A chronological list of events is presented below, and all events can be viewed on our monthly calendar.   You can also download a printable flyer of all events.


52 Reasons to Love a Vet



Please be sure to visit this powerful exhibit  from the 52 Reasons to Love a Vet fund, for which world-renowned artists have illustrated their thoughts on either war or veterans.  Contributors include Dennis Dittrich and Victor Juhasz (who will speak here on September 25) and Milton Glaser.  The exhibit will be located on the lower level of the Library.

A closing reception will be held on November 9.  Ella Rue, military mom and  the founder of 52 Reasons, will speak about the organization.

'King of Diamonds' painting by Paul Jennis
‘King of Diamonds’ painting by Paul Jennis


“The name is derived from 52 playing cards in a deck that will show original artwork created by world-renowned illustrators specifically for this cause.”



Prelude to War: The Events that Drew the U.S. into World War I


Tim White, Associate Professor of History, New Jersey City University


Professor White’s lecture will orient the audience to the period of time (April 1917 through November 1918) that will be covered in the subsequent lectures, readings, discussions and films.  The focus will be on the major events of the war up to the time of U.S. entry, and the developments that led up to U.S. involvement in the war.

       No registration is needed.

Sinking of the Lusitania, 1915
The Sinking of the Lusitania


War Illustration: A Straight Unbroken Line


  • Dennis Dittrich: Propaganda Posters of  World War I

  • Victor Juhasz: Observations from an illustrator embedded with warriors in training and on the front lines


Navy Recruiting Poster

Dennis Dittrich will speak about the work of illustrators during World War I. Dittrich served as Society of Illustrators President from 2008 to 2014.  He is an active member of the Society’s Air Force Art Program with work in the USAF art collection. Currently an Associate Professor at NJCU, Dittrich also teaches ‘The History of American Illustration’ at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC.




Victor Juhasz illustrationVictor Juhasz has been active in Troops First Foundation tours, drawing soldiers and Marines. Victor is a member of the USAF Art Program in conjunction with the Society of Illustrators, and his work is part of the permanent collection of the USAF in the Pentagon. His assignments have included documenting, through drawings and the training of Special OPs Combat and ParaRescue Jumper units.  He has collaborated with The Joe Bonham Project, drawing and painting wounded soldiers as part of an artist documentation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In August of 2011, Victor embeded as a combat artist with the 1-52nd Arctic Dustoff, an Army helicopter MEDEVAC unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan for two weeks accompanying the medic teams on missions recovering the wounded. In an article titled, “An American Artist in the Combat Zone” the illustrations, along with his writing, were featured in a GQ app for iPad and later for GQ online in July, 2012.


Our work with the U.S. Air Force Art program is part of the Society of Illustrators Government Service committee, which was established to aid the war effort in the early days of the 20th century. The connection is a straight, unbroken line and we are always happy to talk about it.”  

-Dennis Dittrich on his and Victor Juhasz’ participation in the U.S. Air Force Art program.


No registration required.


Combat Paper and Frontline Arts



Veterans who have created written word and visual art pieces through this project will share their work and their stories with attendees.

“Our specialty is the transformative process of making handmade paper from military uniforms – Combat Paper. Through public workshops, this handmade paper creates a platform for veterans and non-veterans to come together and share stories, providing a “new language,” and much needed discourse between veterans and society.”

Work from Combat Paper project
View an online exhibit of works

No registration required.



The Experience of War


Naim Shaw and Janna Williams


Naim Shaw, actor, and Janna Williams, USAF veteran and Coordinator of the Union County Office of the Veteran Success Center, will read selections from World War I and America, and introduce the evening’s film.

The readings will be followed by a screening of the documentary film Thank You for Your Service (I hour, 28 minutes).

No registration is needed.


All Quiet on the Western Front


Mike Spatoro, U.S.M.C, Ret.


All Quiet on the Western Front Movie Poster
By Universal Pictures – site, Public Domain


We will show movies about World War I each Friday in October.  Our first film will be All Quiet on the Western Front.  USMC veteran Michael Spatoro will lead a discussion immediately following the screening.

No registration required.





Race and World War One


This discussion will be led by Linda Caldwell Epps, Ph.D.

Dr. Epps is a historian as well as President and CEO of 1804 Consultants, an organization dedicated to the advancement of educational and cultural organizations.

The readings for this facilitated discussion should be read in advance and interested attendees must register.


War Horse



War Horse movie poster


We will show movies about World War I each Friday in October. Our second film will be War Horse (PG-13, 147 min) – Albert Narracott enlists to serve in World War I after his beloved horse Joey is sold to the cavalry.

Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo.

No registration required.




Home Front New Jersey and World War I: Civil Liberties and the War within the War


Mark Lender, retired Chair, History Department, Kean University


'Must Liberty's Light Go Out?' Print
‘Must Liberty’s light go out?’ by Winsor McCay
About the Espionage Act of 1917



Most New Jersey residents went willingly to war in 1917–but some did not. This talk explores the home-front experience of the state, with a special focus on the tension between the civil liberties of those who opposed American participation in the conflict and the military needs of a country at war.

No registration is required.






In Love and War



In Love and War movie posterWe will show movies about World War I each Friday in October.

Our third film will be In Love and War (PG-13, 115 min) – the epic love story about Ernest Hemingway and the romance which inspired him to write his masterpiece A Farewell To Arms. A story of desperate love and imminent danger, it chronicles the relationship between the 18-year old Hemingway and Agnes von Kurowsky, the medical aide who nursed him back to health after a devastating battlefield injury.

No registration is required.



An Unintentional Consequence of WWI: American Religious Pluralism and the Jewish Experience


Jessica Cooperman, Assistant Professor, Religious Studies Department/ Director, Jewish Studies Program, Muhlenbuerg College


The American government entered World War I confident in the knowledge that the United States was a predominately Protestant country, albeit one which extended religious tolerance to other faiths. By the end of the war, however, the U.S. military and War Department increasingly depicted Judaism and Catholicism as equal partners to Protestantism in the “three faiths of American democracy.”

World War I marked a period of critical, although not always intentional, transformations in the ways that American religion was defined and supported by the policies and practices of the government. This talk will explore how these changes came about: who advocated for them? And how was it that Americans gradually began to think of themselves as part of a “Judeo-Christian” country that included Protestants, Catholics, and Jews?

No registration required.

Young Irving Berlin in his World War I uniform


The Home Front



This discussion will be led by Christopher C. Gibbs, author of The Great Silent Majority: Missouri’s Resistance to World War I, as well as six crime novels set in the aftermath of the war. He served with the military police in Viet Nam, and has taught history at Rutgers, Middlesex County College, and Union County College. He lives with his wife in Fanwood, New Jersey.

Please review the readings for this discussion in advance, and register here.





Flyboys movie poster

We will show movies about World War I each Friday in October.

Our fourth film will be Flyboys (PG-13, 140 min) – Inspired by true events, Flyboys tells the story of the Lafayette Escadrille, a group of American men who volunteered to fight for the French before the U.S. entered World War I and became the country’s first fighter pilots.

No registration required.




Claims Clinic

MONDAY, OCTOBER 30 from 10AM to 2PM


Representatives of the VA and our series veterans’ liaison Richard P. Thompson, Bureau Chief, Office of Veterans Affairs, Union County will provide assistance with benefits paperwork.

A phone number to schedule appointments will be provided soon.


At Home:The Toll of War



This discussion will be led by Ryan Harty, Active Duty with the New Jersey Army National Guard.  He is currently serving as the Operations Officer for the 1st Squadron, 102d Cavalry Regiment stationed in Westfield, and is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2008-2009.

Please read these selections in advance, and register here.


Reception for Veterans                                          52 Reasons to Love a Vet with Ella Rue



'Queen of Spades' by Bri Hermanson ©
‘Queen of Spades’ by Bri Hermanson ©


“All too often veterans return home and are unable to find or are simply denied services. As a society, we should be compelled to rectify this situation.  The 52 Reasons to Love a Vet restricted fund aims to do just that.  This fund solely benefits veterans by financially assisting them in furthering their education and/or assisting with medical, dental or mental health resources.

52 Reasons founder and military mom Ella Rue will speak about the organization.




“The name is derived from 52 playing cards in a deck that will show original artwork created by world-renowned illustrators specifically for this cause.”


Related Resources


Local History


The New Jersey State Archives maintains a database of descriptive cards, photographs, and correspondence of World War One casualties from New Jersey, searchable by name and town of residence.

Scotch Plains resident Lacy Tuck, a WWI casualty












Song Hits of World War I album cover


Scotch Plains cardholders can listen to popular songs of WWI on the Library’s digital music service Freegal.




Research at Scotch Plains Public Library


Photo of U.S. Marines leaving for Europe in 1917
U.S. Marines Leave for France in 1917


Scotch Plains cardholders who would like to learn more about this time period can connect to History Research Center.   This database offers background information, primary sources, images, videos, maps, timelines and more.

View our catalog for books on World War I and America.

Please feel free to contact a librarian for help with finding additional resources!


Veterans Writing and Art Groups


  • Veterans Writing Project – “At the Veterans Writing Project we believe that every veteran has a story. But we know that some of us need a little help telling that story. So we provide no-cost writing seminars and workshops for veterans, service members, and their adult family members. We’re also building an archive of writing by members of the military community. We publish a quarterly literary review and an ongoing scroll of writing by our friends on our sister site, O-Dark-Thirty.
  • Veterans Writing Workshop – “The Veterans Writing Workshop helps veterans tell their stories by providing professional-level writing workshops in the NYC-metro area free of charge to U.S. veterans.”
  • Warrior Writers – – Warrior Writers is a national non-profit. Our mission is to create a culture that articulates veterans’ experiences, build a collaborative community for artistic expression, and bear witness to war and the full range of military experiences.” See Events for information on the Warrior Writers New Jersey Workshop
  • Veteran Artist Program -“VAP takes artists who are also veterans, and propels their works and careers into the mainstream creative arts community…We are based in New York City but are currently creating programming across the country to expand the network and visibility of veteran artists. VAP focuses on: Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Writing/Literature, Film/Video, and New/Interactive Media.”


Adult Summer Reading Bingo

This summer, libraries across the country are encouraging people to Build a Better World. At ScotLib, we are again hosting a bingo game for Scotch Plains and Fanwood adult cardholders designed to better the world around them in a variety of ways. Here are just a few of the things that you can do with our bingo game:

• Try out library resources such as Flipster or Freegal.
• Find new book ideas by starting a new series, selecting a book from award lists, or attending one of our book discussions.
• Explore the world around you with a museum pass, a documentary, or a travel book to plan an exciting vacation.
• Learn something new with our Great Courses DVDs (examples include The Art of Travel Photography, How to Master Outdoor Cooking, and Our Night Sky).

Once you’ve completed enough activities for a good bingo, stop by the Reference Desk to submit your card. Feel free to pick up another one so you can try even more activities. Let us know which books you’ve enjoyed reading this summer (giving us a short review is also one of the squares!). Have an idea for next year’s bingo game? We’d love to hear that too!

The game ends on August 28, at which point one “good bingo” will be drawn for a summer reading giveaway set, which includes a canvas totebag, travel mug, notepaper cube, notebook, and stylus pen.
However you spend your summer, we hope that you’ll make the library, whether in person or online, a part of it.

Introducing Qello Concerts!

Qello is only place to watch over 1700 of the most amazing live moments in music. It’s the world’s largest collection of full-length concerts and music documentaries streamed on-demand to just about any digital device. It’s like a never-ending concert ticket.

  • Discover: Qello carefully curates the live performances that matter. The greatest concerts and music documentaries are right here. With new releases every week, from iconic stars to today’s best artists, you’ll never run out of amazing shows to watch.
  • Anytime and Everywhere: Wherever you are, the live music experience follows. Watch Qello Concerts on your big screen with Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Sony, and more.
  • Music for All: From the 1920s to today’s hottest artists, Qello Concerts spans over 30 genres, from classical to rock, reggae to country. Watch the greatest performances on film from Queen, Pink Floyd, Lady Gaga, Metallica, Nirvana, Tiësto, Tupac, Slipknot, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Who, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Stevie Wonder, Pavarotti, Celine Dion, Eagles, David Bowie, Eric Clapton and so many more.
  • Experience: Qello gives you those special music moments when they matter most. Whether you’re throwing a holiday party, just having some people over, or need some quiet time, Qello has the greatest performances by the greatest artists.
  • Personalized for You: It’s all about you and the moment. You choose what concerts you want to watch or let us guide you to the live music to suit your mood.
  • Availability for Everyone: Patrons can log in at the library, at home, and on multiple devices.

Click HERE to create an account and get started!

Women’s History Month: Hidden Heroines

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.

Rise of the Rocket GirlsRise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars by Nathalia Holt

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!)




The Glass Universe by Dava SobelThe Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars by Dava Sobel

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.




Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists

Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists by Donna Seaman

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”

"Family Portrait" by Joan Brown
“Family Portrait” by Joan Brown






Game Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports HistoryGame Changers: The Unsung Heroines of Sports History  by Molly Schiot

Initially an Instagram accountGame 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.”


Betty Robinson
Betty Robinson was the first woman to win a gold medal in track and field (at age 16) for the 100 yard dash – she also loved baseball!









Quoted text provided by publishers.

It’s a Short Month – Try a Short Book!


1,016 pages vs…





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)

amsterdam“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)

guest“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)”


Sula by Toni Morrison (174 pages)

sula“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, Sula is a work that overflows with life.”




The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham (246 pages)


Today’s hits like The Girl on the Train’ can trace their lineage back to Maugham’s work:  “the very first recorded use of the term “psychological thriller” was in an admiring review of The Painted Veil in 1925.”

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)

sanditonThey’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)

jeff“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)

cryingIt’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.)


Language Learning is Good for You!


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!

Mango LanguagesOur 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!)

Rosetta Stone language learning programAnother 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?”

-Lauren Collins, from When in French.

*One of these is Pirate – so now you can be prepared for International Speak Like a Pirate Day!

Holiday Stress? E-resources to the Rescue!

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!

You can listen while you make and bake! Choose a bestseller or a holiday classic from OneClickDigital’s selection of e-audiobooks,  or stream holiday music on Freegal.  And at the end of the busy day, wind down with selections from Freegal’s ‘Relaxation‘ albums.

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!