Lauren R. on Moody Bitches by Julie Holland: The title is fun “read-bait” and yet the content shines with wisdom. On the one hand, we learn to appreciate our rhythms in all their forms, even coming to harness them to our advantage. On the other hand, we learn the importance of striking the balance and living in harmony with those cycles, in ways more and less obvious. And all the way, the science and writing are fascinating!
Rohan P. on A Burning by Megha Majumdar: An amazing and surprisingly incredibly relevant book to America right now! As a first generation Indian immigrant this book acknowledged feelings I have had but never been able to verbalize.
Himani S. on On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong: Amazing poetic literary work. This writer’s words are powerful and piercing. Even his nightmares are poetic. Once you have read it—look up his website and listen to his interviews on PBS and NPR and in the New Yorker. I wanted to keep listening to what he has to say. If there is a moment in history that is a platform for the “other voices”—that moment is now. He has a timely message at many levels—as an outsider, as an son of a refugee, as a gay man growing up brown and black in America, as an artist whose words and imagery and experiences are impactful.
Nayantara B. on The Bride Test by Helen Hoang: …The Bride Test is a poignant novel that will make you believe in both love and the American Dream if current circumstances have you a bit down. At heart it is a story about discovering new possibilities and taking risks just as both Esme and Khai do. It also explores the experiences of living with Asperger’s especially in an immigrant community that does not really understand what it means to be autistic and how the love a family can help you find true happiness in unconventional ways.
Join the fun! For a chance to win fabulous prizes in the Adult Summer Challenge, create a free Beanstack account and log each book you finish between June 17 and August 31.
Due to the pandemic, you can’t visit us in person in the Maryland Department at the moment. But there’s another place to get your history fix while getting a bit of fresh air and exercise—your local cemetery. Far from being morbid reminders of death, cemeteries are beautiful places, full of art, history, and nature. If you visit, you’ll be using them as they were used in the past, because cemeteries were our first parks.
The first resting places for the dead in America were “burial grounds,” located on the grounds of churches and meeting houses. Gravestones were carved with skulls and other symbols reminding the visitor of their inevitable death. Attitudes toward death began changing in the nineteenth century, which had an impact on cemetery design.
As cities grew, burying grounds became too crowded to accept more interments, and the public health implications of overcrowding meant that cities had to find other places for their dead. Thus the “rural cemetery” movement was born. Rural cemeteries were located on the outer edges of cities. Their pastoral landscapes encouraged the living to enjoy the quiet and picturesque beauty of nature, while paying respect to the dead. The first rural cemetery in the United States was Boston’s Mount Auburn Cemetery, built in 1831. Others soon followed: Laurel Hill Cemetery, built in Philadelphia in 1836, and Green-Wood Cemetery, built in Brooklyn, New York, in 1838.
These were not burying grounds connected with any particular church; they were nonsectarian, open to any family who could afford to purchase a plot. Both the wealthy and the middle class found these new cemeteries a gratifying respite from the congestion and noise of the city. Rural cemeteries became a sought after tourist destination. Some cemeteries allowed carriage rides and picnics, and all allowed strolling and space for rest and contemplation.
Baltimore tobacco merchant Samuel D. Walker began a campaign to build a rural, nonsectarian cemetery after visiting Mount Auburn in 1834. The site selected was at the city’s northern edge, an estate called Green Mount, once the home of the merchant John Oliver. The layout of the cemetery was designed by Walker and architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, Jr. They built winding paths and incorporated an elm-lined lane, “Oliver’s Walk,” a remnant of the original estate. The magnificent stone entrance gate was designed by architect Robert Cary Long, Jr.
Green Mount Cemetery was dedicated the evening of July 13, 1839, “in the open air, in a grove of forest trees.” Congressman John Pendleton Kennedy urged the visitor to experience “[t]he sanctity and the silence of the place, with its quiet walks, its retired seats beneath overhanging boughs, its brief histories chronicled in stone, and its moral lessons uttered by speaking marble,–all these should allure him to meditate upon that great mystery of the grave…”
Not all came to Green Mount for meditations on mortality. In 1848, a visitor from New York wrote to the Baltimore Sun. He recommended the cemetery as a must-see tourist spot: “[n]o one should fail to visit Green Mount Cemetery. It almost bears comparison to our Greenwood” (September 5, 1848, p. 1). A writer to the Sun in 1842 complained that some visitors picked “flowers which are kept as sacred property” (November 2, 1842, p. 2). The cemetery board tried to quell the throng of visitors by restricting admission to lot holders and their families. Strangers could only enter with a ticket obtained at the gatehouse, and never on Sundays. “A friend to the Ladies” wrote to the Sun that this requirement was too restrictive, warning, “[i]f that edict is not reversed, I think some persons will have the ladies about their ears thick as bees…” (May 27, 1841, p. 2).
After the establishment of parks, cemeteries were largely forgotten as a place for recreation. But Baltimore’s cemeteries are still there for anyone wanting a quiet place to walk, watch birds, or appreciate history and beautifully carved monuments. Rural cemeteries offer a special appeal in this time of pandemic. These “cities of the dead” are home to Baltimore’s quietest residents, who will respectfully maintain their social distance, six feet underground.
Are you searching for a cemetery near you or want to find a grave of your ancestor or a famous person? A good place to start is Find A Grave: www.findagrave.com.
If you need help navigating our online resources, need help with genealogy, or have questions about Baltimore’s history, you can always email us in the Maryland Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. And, of course, make sure to visit us at the Pratt Library once we are again open to the public!
Elizabeth H. on Someone to Care by Mary Balogh: Probably one of the best romances I’ve read this year. Didn’t have a promising start for my tastes, but I LOVED how Violet had a whole tribe of family to care for her and support her, and the MCs are in their 40s which is positively ancient by most historicals’ standards both of which are things I LOVE in my romances. There is also just a deep amount of love and respect between the characters that ughhh I got ALL the swoons with this one!
Amy Y. on The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin: This novel felt EXTREMELY timely (early on a young black man is shown constantly looking over his shoulder in fear of literally monstrous police officers, and a white woman harasses two men of color in a city park). In some ways, the novel felt sort of like a cross between Into the Spider-Verse, Captain Planet, Night Vale, and of course Lovecraft—who is directly referenced but also subverted (imagine racism and gentrification as eldritch abominations). Jemisin centers BIPOC voices and Others whiteness. I think it is good, as a white person, to have this experience. While dealing with heavy topics, the book is a fairly light and often humorous read.
Eileen T. on The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson: …Okay, seriously? I really enjoyed this one! It’s not humorous per se, but it’s definitely entertaining. Some of the stuff he talks about I knew before, some I learned recently, and some I had never heard of. Regardless, I enjoyed listening to all of it! This is something that I think I could definitely get something new out of each time I read or listened. Bill Bryson is also one of those authors who CAN narrate their own work. In any case, this was unlike anything I’ve been reading or listening to lately, so it was pretty cool in that respect as well. Some of the stuff on viruses and bacteria is very relevant as well, lol. Highly recommend this one.
Join the fun! For a chance to win fabulous prizes in the Adult Summer Challenge, create a free Beanstack account and log each book you finish between June 17 and August 12.
Representation and imagination in literature is a powerful tool against the dangers of a “single story,” as discussed by feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The protagonists in these novels are complex, multifaceted Black individuals of various backgrounds and identity intersections. We hope that readers appreciate the journeys of these characters and the stories they tell.
Here is a list of 20 fantasy, science fiction, and contemporary fiction novels to add to your Summer Challenge Reading list!
For more information about Books by Mail and Sidewalk Service, go to Prattlibrary.org! And to find even more books that compliment your reading tastes, don’t forget about the Books and Authors database, accessible for free with your Pratt Library card.