It's Germane

The John Jermain Library's Weblog

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Tick Season is Here

Don’t be caught uninformed… The Tick-Borne Disease Resource Center of Southampton Hospital is sponsoring a free event – “All About Tick-Borne Diseases” – Saturday July 15th at 10 a.m. at the Southampton Arts Center, 25 Jobs Lane (Old Parish Museum.) For more information call 631-726-TICK.

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What Are Your Favorite Mystery Series?

topfivebooks.fwtoptenbooks.fwI read a lot of mysteries. Not as many as some aficionados, but still, quite a few. In fact, I’d say of all the works of fiction I read, about 70% are mysteries. And, of all the mysteries I’ve read, most belong to a series, meaning that they feature recurring characters…usually the detective. Of course the “detective” is not always a professional policeman, or private eye. Many great mystery series feature characters who are ostensibly normal people who just happen to be good at solving crimes, and seem to be frequently in the neighborhood when one takes place. Think Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. (Alas, none of Agatha’s many series made my top ten.)

As a devotee of the mystery series genre, I’m always looking for a new author, character, or series in which I can immerse myself for a while because  eventually I either catch up with the author’s output and am stuck waiting for his or her next book (Elizabeth George, Sue Grafton), or I just outlive the author, (Rex Stout, Robert Parker, Steig Larsson). Occasionally, although I can’t think of a current instance, an author will just get tired of writing about the same characters and stop. The most famous instance of this was when Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes. But, of course, he was forced by the public and, no doubt, his publishers, to bring Holmes back to life.

So, in order to feed my habit, I’m offering you a swap: I’ll tell you my ten all-time favorite mystery series, and also share five on-going mystery series that I’m reading now. In return I’d appreciate it if you would share your favorites by adding a comment to this post.

My criteria for “All-time Favorites” is simply the number of hours of pleasurable reading provided.

The criteria for current favorites is:

  • Am I engaged in reading the series now?
  • Have I read at least three books in the series?
  • Am I looking forward to reading more?
  • Would I recommend the author to other mystery lovers?

Oh, there’s one exception: the aforementioned Sherlock Holmes.  I’m going to make the not-so-rash assumption that almost everyone has heard of Holmes, and that he will appear on many people’s “All-time Best” lists. He would certainly be on mine, but since he’s already so overexposed, lets just consider him a given and move on from there.

My Ten All-Time Favorite Mystery Series (Author/Main Characters)

  1. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe
  2. Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Milhone (Alphabet series)
  3. Elizabeth George’s Inspector Thomas Linley
  4. Faye Kellerman’s Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus
  5. Josephine Tey’s Inspector Alan Grant
  6. Reginald Hill’s Andrew Dalziel and Peter Pascoe
  7. Dorothy L. Sayer’s Lord Peter Wimsey
  8. Steig Larsson’s Lizbeth Salander & Mikael Blomkvist (Millennium trilogy)
  9. Marcia Muller’s Sharon McCone
  10. Ngaio Marsh’s Inspector Roderick Alleyn

As you can see, I tend to like female writers, writing stories that take place in Great Britain or California, with Rex Stout (New York), and Steig Larsson (Sweden) being the exceptions that prove the rule.

Five Mystery Series I’m Currently Reading


  1. Louise Penny’s Inspector Armand Gamache (Three Pines series)
  2. Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway
  3. Carol O’Connell’s Kathleen Mallory
  4. Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar
  5. Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan

Certainly there are other great mystery writers with outstanding series including PD James, Henning Mankel, Raymond Chandler, Ellis Peters and more. And there are great mystery writers who did not or do not chose to write a series about one character including the excellent and very creepy Minette Walters, and Dashiel Hammett (well, he wrote two books each about Nick and Nora Charles, The Continental Op and Sam Spade, but two is not a series). But, to make a top ten list requires making choices, so I did.  My list is just that…my list. Who’s on yours? (Let us know in the comments…just click on “Leave a comment” at the top of the page, or if you see the comments box below, you can just start writing.)

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Book Recommendation…

…. for those who care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.  Words of comfort and support can be found in a little book of poetry recently added to the library’s collection: “A Voice for the Caregiver” by Jean Wood. Check it out for yourself or be a good friend and lend it to a friend.

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We Love our New (Temporary) Home

It’s bright and cheery. It’s clean and feels new. It has (limited) water views. It’s air conditioned. It’s in the center of town, near two very busy business: the post office and 7-11. What’s not to like? Our new home at 34 West Water Street (across from and a bit west of the post office) fits us to a tee.

Temporary Library interior

Entryway with seating area (WiFi accessible). Periodical collection on left wall.

Given the compromises we’ve made to fit into a smaller space, almost everything here is better than expected. We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well we fit. And, because it’s fun to be in a new location, everyone – staff and patrons alike – seems to be in a perpetual good mood when they’re here.

Temporary Library Interior

The Main circulation desk at the temporary library. Door to the seminar room is at rear.

Our official sign is not up yet, so some folks have had some difficulty finding us. And, since our phone number has not been moved from our original home at 201 Main St. (see previous blog post for more on this), calling us is a definite problem (temporary number: 631-725-0758). But library users are still coming in in large numbers and using all our services…doing everything from checking out books to making photo copies to surfing the internet on our public computers, or via our free WiFi connection.

Temporary Library Interior

Children's collection, reading and quiet play area and game computers.

The photos will give those of you who haven’t stopped by yet a feel of what our new digs are like. But the best way to enjoy this lovely space is to stop by for an in person visit. What are you waiting for?

Temporary Library Interior

An area near the adult stacks with seating, the online catalog and public photocopier.

Temporary Library interior.

Several tables and chairs, aa well as a couple of comfy armchairs are available in a bright sunny part of the library for quiet reading and laptop use.

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What I Read on My Winter Vacation

Well actually, it was only a snow day, but we’ll call it a mini-vacation for the purposes of this blog post. Like many of you, I spent a hefty part of  yesterday shoveling snow. But, before and after that, I had time for a few other activities as well: watering plants, transplanting a couple of orchids that have been neglected for far too long, scratching the cat’s belly (it’s amazing how much our cat enjoys that), surfing the web, signing up for “Buzz,” Google’s new online social media feature (kind of like Facebook in your GMail inbox), and a few other home-bound type activities, that only seem to get done when I have an unexpected day off.

Unsurprisingly, like many of my colleagues here at John Jermain, I also spent a good part of the day reading. And that got me thinking. Do library staffers typically take a busman’s holiday and spend their day reading when they have time off? Granted, working in a library and reading a book are not the same thing. Still, we do spend an inordinate amount of our lives surrounded by, working with and thinking about books, so when we have some free time, we might be excused if we chose to devote it to other pastimes. Jigsaw puzzles anyone?

So this morning, in an effort to answer this pressing question, I did a quick survey of my fellow employees to find out how many of us spent at least part of our snow day engrossed in a good (or bad, or indifferent) book. I also compiled a list of what we’re currently reading — I just thought you might like to know. Of the ten staffers working at the library this morning, it turns out the nine of us spent at least part of yesterday reading books, and the tenth devoted herself to catching up on old magazines and newspapers.  I can’t say I didn’t expect as much.

Here, in no particular order, is what we’re reading. Each book has been linked to it’s entry in our catalog in case you would like to find our more about it.

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

His Father’s Son by Bentley Little

Mantrap: A Lawton Close and the Locked Rooms Mystery by Joseph F. Hanna (local author)

River of Doubt by Candice Millard (2 readers – This book is the “Long Island Reads” selection for 2010)

The Girl With the Dragoon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Ruined by Paula Morris

Cairo Diary by Maxime Chattam

Shannon by Frank Delaney

The Book of Genisis Illustrated by R. Crumb

For the Roses by Julie Garwood

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill by Mathieu Ricard

Many of you will no doubt have noticed that there are more than nine titles listed here. Which means that some of us read more than one book at a time. (My hand is up here, and I was glad to find out that I’m not the only one.)

In addition to all the worthy titles above, a few of us were also perusing some really fine cookbooks at one time or another throughout the day, either planning the evening meal or a menu for a future gathering.

The Blackberry Farm cookbook: Four Seasons of Great Good and the Good Life by Sam Beall

Arabesque: A taste of Morocco, Turkey, and Lebanon by Claudia Roden

Il viaggio di Vetri: A Culinary Journey by Marc Vetri with David Joachim

A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen: Easy Seasonal Suppers for Family and Friends by Jack Bishop (local author)

The last one is my particular favorite. Last night I cooked up a Sweet Potato and Chick Pea Stew. It did not disappoint.

— Eric Cohen