Long Range Planning for our meetings

Here are the meeting dates with subjects selected for the next few months.

January 10 – when we’ll be talking about classics and as always we will define the category loosely.

February 14 – books about the Mideast (heart shaped cookies guaranteed)

March 14 – historical fiction – from the cave men to about 50 years ago (which puts history well within my life time)

April 11 – Great religions – this will be a new opportunity for me since I don’t think I have read any (well certainly not many) books in this category

We have in the past decided not to keep the group going once the weather beckons us outside but that was when we were meeting on Saturday morning when there is so much to do.  If we want to continue for a couple more months this year – on Tuesday afternoons – the next subjects on deck are non-fiction and biographies/memoirs (a special kind of non-fiction)



How do you choose your mysteries?

On Tuesday, Dec 13 at 2:30 in the Trustees Room at the Maynard Library (77 Nason St) we’ll be talking about mysteries we have read and loved, enjoyed, hated, found frustrating….For many people the joy of mysteries is that they are often series which means that you can revisit old friends as you read.  That is fun but occasionally you’d like to branch out.  So how do you do that?  Do you depend on recommendations from friends, check out websites, browse library shelves and book stores?  Do you like to read books that have won awards?

Well – even that can be confusing.  A quick google of mystery awards brings up a list of 14 different awards for mysteries and thrillers.  Perhaps the best known are the Agatha Awards – given at Malice domestic, Ltd and focused on traditional mysteries; the Anthony Awards given at Bouchercon selected by attendees of the conference and the Edgar Awards given by the Mystery Writers of America.

You can see some of the other awards listed at

Even if you wanted to check out the big three there is still a lot to choose from since those awards are given for several categories – it just gets more complicated. Here are the three 2016 winners of best book of the year category

Agatha – Best Contemporary Novel – Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron, Best Historical Novel – Dreaming Spies – Laurie King

Edgar – Best Novel – Let Me Die in His Footsteps – Lori Roy

Anthony – Best Novel – The Killing Kind – Chris Holm

Want to continue looking?  Here’s a website with lots of recommendations and information


AND – going forward – some suggestions from the group for the December meeting

when we will be talking about mysteries.  Do you like your crime dark or do you prefer a gentler mystery (often called cozies which were defined as a book in which more tea than blood is spilled), a thriller, a spy story, a humorous romp, a police procedural?  and I am sure there are more categories.  Whatever you like, plan to join us on December 13 at the Maynard Library (Trustees Room) at 2:30 to wallow with us in some murder.

To get us started, Lynette offered some suggestions:

  • Peter May:   Has 3 series: Lewis Trilogy set in Scotland, Enzo Files set in France, China Series set around Beijing.   My favorites are the Lewis Trilogy and the China series. He also has standalone books with the latest being Coffin Road released in October. Note, series are best read in order
  • Ann Perry – 2 series William Monk; Charlotte and Thomas Pitt both set in London before 20 th century with lots of interesting history
  • Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino; just released with great reviews; started reading; always interesting to try setting in Japan
  • If John Grisham fan, The Whistler that was just released is entertaining


While several of our regulars weren’t able to be at the meeting, the ones there had some very interesting suggestions and a nice mix of fiction and non-fiction.


Hotel on Corner of Bitter and Sweet   by Jamie Ford

The Nightingale  by Kristin Hannah

The Cloud Atlas by Liam Callanan

The Oriental Life by Evelyn Toynton

The Gustav Sonata Rose Tremain

The German Girl  Armando Lucas Correa

The Amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay  by Michael Chabon

The One Man  Andrew Gross

The Lilac Girls  Martha Hall Kelly

Mischling  Affinity Konar


Hong Kong Holiday by Emily Hahn

To Hell and Back   Audie Murphy

The Train to Crystal City: ShowFDR’s secret prisoner exchange program and America’s only family internment camp during WW II   by Jan Jarboe Russell

Showa Japan by Hans Brinckmann

Hitler: a biography   by Ian Kershaw

Hitler, the Germans, and the Final Solution by Ian Kershaw

In the Garden of the Beasts by Erik Larson

Berlin Embassy by William Russell

The Winter Fortress-the epic mission to

Sabotage Hitler’s atomic bomb. By Neal Bascomb

The Mathews Men: seven brothers and the war against Hitler’s Uboats By William Geroux

Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal

The Lost: The search for six of six million by Daniel Mendelsohn

The Lady in Gold: the extraordinary tale of Gustav Klimt’s masterpiece by Anne Marie O’Connor

The Winter Fortress-the epic mission to Sabotage Hitler’s atomic bomb. By Neal Bascomb


We decided that since December tends to be a busy hectic month we’d choose to read and talk about mysteries – pretty much always my default setting.

There is a blog called Maine Crime Writers that I enjoy following – because I really like a lot of the authors.  One of my favorites is Kate Flora and today it was her turn on the blog.  I found what she wrote so comforting that I want to share it.  Thanks to Kate for giving me permission.


The Comforting World of Crime

by MCWriTers


Kate Flora, here, and yes, I really did mean that crime can be comforting. Let me beginwith a story.img_5493

Several years ago…fifteen, to be more precise…we suffered a terrible national tragedy on a day in September when terrorists flew airplanes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. Shortly after that event, my friend Hallie Ephron had a book launch planned. She arrived at the book party a little bit late, and a little bit frustrated, having just come from doing a radio interview. In the course of that interview, the interviewer had challenged the legitimacy of holding the launch of a crime novel at such a terrible time. Didn’t Hallie feel guilty, the interviewer inquired, about promoting fiction that profits from violence and death?

Hallie’s reply was brilliant, and correct. She said that we should all wish that the real world was more like the world of a crime novel, where good guys triumph, bad guys get caught, and moral order is restored to the world.

I don’t know about you, but I am feeling a great need for order and comfort and morality right now. Which is why I am suggesting that you join me in taking refuge in reading crime novels.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-7-40-09-pmIt really doesn’t matter which corner of the big crime-writing tent you choose. Maybe you lean toward romantic suspense, with that double happy ending of crime solved or dastardly deed averted and a bit of happy ever after. Or perhaps you like the shoot ‘em up, beat ‘em up, casual violence of a Paladin like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, books which provide a reliably American hero to root for who will always step up for the underdog. Maybe you like the mind-game contests between the investigators and the diabolical bad guys in one of Jeff Deaver’s brilliantly plotted thrillers? Or feel comforted by the idea of having Robert Crais’s Joe Pike watching your back? Personally, I’d like to hang out with Sara Paretsky’s V.I. Warshawski.

Perhaps your cup of tea is more in the vein of Agatha Christie? Less blood, more social norms. Right now, it can be very comforting to spend time with people who have good manners and obey social conventions. A bit of Margery Allingham, perhaps, and the very proper Albert Campion and his manservant Lugg, or the charmingly bumbling Lord Peter Whimsey, with his impeccable servant and the insightful and witty Harriet Vane? Even when we learn that Harriet has committed the shocking act of cohabiting before marriage, she is still a model of good manners and decorum.

Maybe the wearying cycle of bad news just makes you want to get out of town. Go someplace different where you can steep yourself in the landscape and forget about the state of the country. For that, you could go west with Tony Hillerman, or into the wilds of Wyoming with Craig Johnson’s Sheriff Longmire, or up to the wilds of Minnesota with William Kent Krueger. Or you could spend more time in Maine with Barbara Ross’s Clam Bake series or Lea Wait’s Shadow’s series.

If you really need to get out of town, there are mysteries set all over the world, and you could just set up a twelve-month calendar and visit a different venue every month.

Personally, right now, I would love someone to have my back…one of those kick-ass sidekicks who do bad stuff and break laws and compel cooperation and answers from the reluctant? If you’d like to explore sidekicks, we did a blog post here a while back on the subject. Here’s the link: Stephanie Plum, perhaps? She might loan you Ranger. Or you can make up your own sidekick, which might be a fun way to spend another afternoon avoiding the news.

Feeling dystopic? How about Ben Winter’s The Last Policeman?

Or if you want to be transported by descriptive prose, go back to an old Mary Stewart romantic suspense, or make your way through John D. MacDonald. Both will have some dated social conventions, and some rather old-fashioned versions of the male/female relationship. But right now, that doesn’t seem half bad.

imageAnd guess what?

The good guys win.

So, dear reader, if you are going to escape into crime fiction, what will you be reading? (I am so hoping it is my new Joe Burgess)

Between now and December 9th, folks who leave comments will be eligible to win a bag of goodies perfect for your mystery reading escape–tea and biscuits! (Actually including Effie’s Oatcakes, which are perfectly heavenly. And perhaps some shortbreads?)

WWII is such a complicated subject

The next Bagels and Books meeting will be on Tuesday Nov 15 at 2:30 in the Trustees Room of the Maynard Library.  It’s open to everyone and this month the group will be discussing WWII stories.  As always, any kind of book that touches on the war in any way is open to discussion.


Jim Shepard was a guest at the Concord Festival of Authors breakfast to introduce his novel The Book of Aron, set in Poland as the country is being invaded and as the holocaust is taking shape.  The story is told from the viewpoint of an 8 year old boy whose lack of concern for the law becomes an asset when his Jewish family is imprisoned in the ghetto.  One of the other main characters is the real life doctor, children’s rights advocate, and radio host who ran a Jewish orphanage in the ghetto and who – it is believed – died at Treblinka with the children he was caring for.

What happened was horrible and the author does not turn away from that horror but it is also the story of how one individual can be the personification of integrity, bravery and morality.  The Jewish tradition says that there are 36 righteous people in each generation who save the world – Janusz Korczak must have been one of them.

This book was the winner of the Sophie Brody Medal for excellence in Jewish literature and was chosen as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post, The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.  It is not an easy read but it is an important one.

In case you are not stressed enough by your unread pile…

President Obama has given his list of required reading – the books that he used to formulate his view of the world.  Get ready for some intensive reading.  (I have read two so maybe I can cut the hours down to 75)

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