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Since 1992, we celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month in May to acknowledge the accomplishments and contributions of the AAPI communities to the United States. With the unacceptable rise in anti-Asian violence both here and abroad, it is especially vital for us to bring well-deserved attention to these amazing books written by AAPI writers of the past and present. Crying in H Mart: A Memoir by Michelle Zauner: Zauner, a biracial Korean American musician otherwise known as Japanese Breakfast, shares her moving and witty story of growing up Asian in Eugene,...


"Hands Handing Money to Invest" by 401K 2012 The recent GameStop-Robinhood stock-trading frenzy reflects a trend among investors using commission-free trading apps. Individuals lurking on r/wallstreetbets and TikTok, convinced that a bet on a hot stock might solve their money woes, have contributed to a false concept of possibile outcomes for novice investors. As a business librarian, I would never recommend that you head to Atlantic City or Las Vegas to pay your rent, repay student loans, or retire, so it pains me to think that you would gamble away your hard-earned money...


Your Library, Your Planet Each year we take a moment to celebrate our environment on Earth Day. Our little ones come home from school with plants and ideas for recycling and we think about how our behaviors impact our planet. But now, Brooklyn Public Library has a new branch where every day is Earth Day: The Greenpoint Library and Environmental Education Center (GEEC).  But why is this new branch in Greenpoint? Greenpoint sits at the confluence of the East River and the Newtown Creek, at the Northwest edge of Brooklyn. In the nineteenth century, Greenpoint became the...


"Botanical Drawing" by various brennemans Are you feeling dusty? Yes, I said: dusty. When I say dusty, you might hear dull, muted, staid, or uninteresting, but when my southern grandmother calls you dusty, she means raggedy child, you have work to do. Now, she doesn’t necessarily mean this as a putdown, but rather as an invitation to pull yourself up and rise again. I believe that once we shake off the detritus of last spring—that wretched spring, we can live abundantly. If you overslept and forgot the first day of spring—perhaps still recovering from spring forward, now is exactly...

Vegetables the Ultimate Cookbook by Laura Sorkin book jacket image

I’m someone who wants to be emotionally invested in the well-being of fictional characters. I enjoy worrying about them when I’m not reading and pining for them when the book has ended. And usually, I avoid short stories because I struggle to connect with the characters in so few pages. However Deesha Philyaw and her debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, changed my opinion entirely. Deesha's book contains nine short stories about black women, their sex lives and their varied relationships with the church, examining her tenderly-wrought characters at their most...


When people ask who my all-time favorite writer is, I never hesitate. "It’s Laurie Colwin, absolutely," I say. More often than not I’m met with a blank stare: Colwin died tragically young and her final books were published posthumously in 1993. For years, it’s been up to Colwin’s passionate fanbase to introduce new readers to the food and fiction writer’s books. But lo! This spring, the publishers Harper Perennial and Vintage Contemporaries are reissuing Laurie Colwin’s five novels, three story collections and two cooking memoirs with fresh, beautiful covers designed and illustrated...

Olivia McGiff, Book Designer, in her studio

Passover with the CookMobile BKLYN CookMobile is a cooking program for teens and other beginners. We cook our way through Brooklyn’s diverse cultural heritages, with an eye to scientific inquiry and food justice. Naturally, we relish holiday ceremony and celebration! Here’s what we recommend for Passover: Leave Me Alone with the Recipes: The Life, Art, and Cookbook of Cipe Pineles by Cipe Pineles Peneles was the first female art director at Condé Nast. If her style looks familiar, it’s because food illustrators are influenced by her work to this day, often without knowing it....


March is a very special month, especially for me. We celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th, and Women’s History Month for all thirty-one days. Additionally, my kind and loving mother was born in March. As a staunch queer and intersectional feminist librarian, and former women and gender studies major in college, I am forever passionate about centering ALL women’s stories and experiences. If you, too, are itching to read about the fascinating lives of three incredible women of...


Somehow, March 20—the first day of spring—has crept up on us. This means that “spring cleaning” is in full effect. To be honest, since the increase of remote work, it feels like 2020’s spring cleaning never really ended. It’s a bit cliche but having a clean and clear space has made it easier to concentrate on work during this extended work/life mashup. However, this isn’t going to be a post on tips and tricks to keep your bookshelves dust free. I’m going to be writing about podcasts! A bit random, but bear with me, I'll tie it all together soon. Outside of picking up a few bad habits (...


We can’t give you a parade or a pub crawl, but we can offer you a celebratory booklist! Butter your soda bread, drown the shamrock and discover the history and traditions of St. Patrick’s Day with the BPL catalog.  Holiday history lessons Celebrating 250 years of the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade by John T. Ridge  NYC’s annual parade started in 1762!  The Wearing of the Green by Mike Cronin & Daryl Adair A thoroughly researched history of March 17.   Dagger John by John Loughery The story of Archbishop John Hughes, builder of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and...


If you were to scour the twitter account of best-selling YA author Tiffany D. Jackson (Grown), you’d surely come across a few readers who adamantly cuss her out for ripping through their emotions with her characters and plot twists (see: Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming, especially). You’d also notice that she revels in the reactions. But more than that, you’d notice that, since her first novel debuted (and even before), Jackson has been a champion, advocate, and vocal supporter of Black stories and their right to be heard. I met her about a decade ago in a writing workshop she was...


Do you miss having access to amazing software resources here at the library? We’ve got you covered! Prior to the pandemic, software at BPL branches helped Brooklynites be productive and supported their creativity. At the Central Library’s Info Commons, additional software was available, including Adobe Creative Cloud design applications, as well as other audio and video production software–not to mention a recording studio. Since the start of the pandemic, how the Info Commons provides service has been altered dramatically. Reference services and programs have moved entirely online. These...


I think most people imagine a writer’s trajectory is a straight line but I’ve gone up and down...writing is a game of endurance. Like many of you this past summer, I read Mexican Gothic by the award-winning Silvia Moreno-Garcia and absolutely loved it. You clearly agree. At the time of this interview, 929 Brooklynites await their turn to read Mexican Gothic. It has all the bells and whistles of a classic gothic thriller: a once-grand estate, a misty cemetery, ghostly occurrences, a wealthy and peculiar family (complete with eligible bachelors), a beautiful young...

Author Photo Silvia Moreno-Garcia by Martin Dee

When a healthy winter snowfall blankets our city with its chill, some of us long for warmer landscapes: sunny beaches, tropical islands. Some of us, however, loop on another of Granny's knitted mufflers and say to winter: Bring it on! This post is for those readers who still love to tromp around in snowdrifts (at least for an hour or two) and who can't help but think: what if it were really cold? Antarctica, aka The Frozen Continent, where temperatures this time of year average 36 below, is a fine setting for books meant to inspire a pleasant chill in your bones. So if your vision of a...

Terra Incognita by Sara Wheeler (Book Jacket Image)

We’re coming up on the end of Black History Month, and this is usually the time when all the performative allyship starts to wane: people post one last Martin Luther King, Jr. quote or recycle a few facts about Harriet Tubman or Frederick Douglas. It’s the perfect time to remind our audience that Black history is American History, and as such, something that should be studied/brought up/shared throughout the year, not just in the shortest month. So, as we tiptoe into March, let’s keep our momentum going and read up on a prominent revolutionary organization (and one of its more known...


While February is the month of love, it was the love we were feeling in December that was keeping us warm when we watched Netflix’s wildly popular, Bridgerton. The TV show is based on Julia Quinn’s series of the same name and while it was published 20 years ago, it’s getting some new love with the popularity of the show. If you’re looking to continue the fun you’ll find something to love on this list if you loved Bridgerton.  Plus, the warm fuzzy feelings you get from reading a romance novel are just the thing to get you through the rest of winter.  The Duke Who Didn’t by...


There are some presidents that—for better or worse—dominate the headlines decades after they’ve been in office, and others that fall into obscurity with every generation that passes. And it’s hard to pinpoint who our descendants will choose to still talk about (although I have a pretty good idea on a couple). But whatever the outcome, it’s good to know that for every random, “oh yeah, that guy was a president,” we encounter, there’s a historian willing to write about him. Here are five books about the men history likes to forget. Happy President’s Day! The Forgotten Presidents: Their...


It's early February and we finally got hit with our first snowstorm. It's the perfect time to wrap yourself up in a cozy blanket, sip a hot drink and crack open a book that will transport you to magical land, or scenic wintry destinations. Here are five picks to get you started! Beartown: A Novel by Fredrik Backman A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, the junior ice hockey team of Beartown is about to compete in the national semi-finals, and they actually have a shot at winning. All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys, and...


When I was a lonely teenager the local library was a sanctuary for me—there was one librarian in particular who linked me with public creative writing programs and offered to read stories I’d written...now that I’ve worked in libraries and know how busy librarians are, I’m especially grateful that she took the time to read my writing—it was above and beyond. I was thrilled by Micah Nemerever’s debut novel These Violent Delights and am so pleased to introduce him to Off the Shelf readers! This fresh thriller is hailed as The Secret History (Donna Tartt) meets Call Me by Your Name (Andre...

Author Photo Micah Nemerever, Photo by Rafael Soldi

What You Read in 2020

Liza Katz
January 15, 2021

This tumultuous start to 2021 notwithstanding, we can all agree that 2020 was a year unlike any other. Brooklynites masked up and quarantined for months on end; we showed our support for frontline workers at 7pm; we took to the streets in support of Black Lives Matter; we voted in a controversial presidential election. We also read—even when the libraries and bookstores were closed. With our doors mostly shut, it’s no surprise you started checking out eBooks and eAudiobooks more than ever before—forty-nine percent up from 2019 and still climbing! But to what books does the County of...

Book Collage: Most Popular Books for 2020

Romance, Cookbooks, and More! December is chock full of holidays like Hanukkah, Christmas, Solstice, and Kwanzaa. Although 2020 has been A LOT and the holidays are looking a lot different than we’re used to, these cozy romances and fun nonfiction titles are ideal for making you smile as you sip a nice nog or chocolatey cocoa. Dolly Dingle, Lesbian Landlady by Monica Nolan is a light and saucy homage to classic mid-century pulp novels. Dorian (aka Dolly) lives at the Magdalena Arms, a building full of swell Sapphic gals of all ages. When her landlady’s hip hits the floor with a bang...


To many, the patchwork of red and blue states building up on the electoral map in early November—and especially the televised rancor that followed, revealed afresh the badly frayed state of our politics and led to worry what it might spell for our country. With each party facing existential choices over what they will stand for going forward, the mixed election results have prompted soul-searching among Republicans and Democrats alike. Yet, according to a slate of recently published books, our political divisions are deep and have been widening for some time. And while it'...

Why We're Polarized by Ezra Klein (book jacket image)

Growing up, my favourite places were my town’s public library and my school libraries. I still love these spaces for the sense of possibility they offer.... Brooklyn Public Library is delighted to welcome award-winning author Farzana Doctor to Off the Shelf as our latest guest. A true Candian triple threat, she’s a psychotherapist and activist as well as the author of a new book Seven hailed by Ms. Magazine as “fully feminist and ambitiously bold.” I couldn’t agree more. Seven follows Sharifa, a middle-aged wife and mother, on her trip to India where she begins an ancestral...

Author Photo: Farzana Doctor

Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder in 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder—like most anti-transgender murder cases—has yet to be solved. (TDOR.info) These deaths are the ones that have been reported and recorded. Due to data not being systematically collected in most countries, added to the constant misgendering by families, authorities and media, it is not...


Each fall, the Brooklyn Public Library Literary Prize recognizes an outstanding work of both nonfiction and fiction with an award and a $5,000 prize. The 2020 awardees will finally be announced on Friday, November 20th at the Brooklyn Classic–the signature fundraising event of the Brooklyn Eagles. To pick the winners, a volunteer team of two dozen librarians spend the better part of a year evaluating titles submitted by staff from across the borough. The committee looks for books published after June 1, 2019 that push boundaries, bring light to unheralded stories, or give voice...


By Leah Golubchick, Hasina Islam, and Elizabeth Willse Indigenous Peoples Day is a celebration of the original inhabitants of America, and of New York. It is a day to acknowledge their history, to celebrate their customs and contributions to culture. And it is a day to learn more about indigenous people, and to carry that process of learning forward into a more ongoing project of discovering and honoring their contributions.  Indigenous People in New York The original inhabitants of New York and its surrounding areas were the Lenape. Lenape territory extended from what is now...


I have a complicated relationship with Harry Potter. I read the first three books back-to-back-to-back at the very beginning of the Harry Potter craze, then proceeded to fall in love with Harry, Hermione, and Ron over the next decade. As I was about to enter my senior year of high school, Harry was battling Voldemort for the last time. I quite literally grew up with Harry. Harry Potter taught me that girls could be smart and capable (even more so than the boys), that friendship and love and determination can defeat evil, and that evil isn’t always obvious (remember Dolores Umbridge?) and...


Women’s Equality Day deserves your attention, especially now. In the midst of a major social awakening in America, it’s become clear that so much more can be done in our nation’s fight for true equality.  The Women’s Suffrage Movement began in the 1800s, as women organized and rallied for civil rights. In the face of well-financed political opposition, women began to push back, state by state, for what they deserved. In August of 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was signed, 42 years after it was introduced to Congress, granting American women the right to vote and...


A little birdie told us that, when our collective quarantine happened, many avid readers just couldn't focus on books anymore. We're sure it's quite scary to suddenly find the thing that felt like home, now feels as if it's 'too much'. If this sounds like you, fear no more! In an effort to help you jumpstart a new love affair with the written word, Off the Shelf editors asked our book-obsessed colleagues: What books made you fall in love with reading? Below are some selections for anyone looking to revisit some childhood classics, or if you're in need, possible inspiration. Happy...


Among the myriad of issues and system breakdowns exposed by our national COVID-19 problem, the mental health of our citizens hovers near the top of the list. Add in the current social and political unrest and a daily struggle with generational trauma, and you’ll uncover that our Black, Indigenous, and PoC communities have had an extra helping of stress and strife on their collective plates. Before the pandemic, I often struggled with leaving the house. Now? Fuggedabouit. I have to literally only have crumbs and memories in the fridge before I step out to buy groceries, and I know I'm not...


For book lovers in search of a silver lining, here’s one: even in these unprecedented times, it’s still safe to read on the beach! Find your outdoor oasis, practice social distancing and take a dip into these recently published books. The offerings below, handpicked to provide a much-needed escape, range from steamy rom-coms and domestic dramas to literary thrillers and personal histories. And always remember: if it's a book and you’re reading it on a beach, it’s a beach read.  And they lived happily ever after… Beach Read written by Emily Henry The title says...


We are pleased to announcethe return of Climate Wednesdays at Brooklyn Public Library! This series, presented by 350 Brooklyn, examines how Brooklynites can face the climate crisis and features experts and activists sharing their ideas and practical solutions to combat climate change. Launched in the fall of 2019, past events have explored how energy use, parenting, food, and our health are impacted by rising temperatures, pollution and natural disasters.  The next event on fossil fuel-free transportation (Wednesday, July 22, 7 pm) looks at sustainable...


Grandmother and grandchild interacting during a Telestory program. Photograph by Gregg Richards When the COVID-19 pandemic closed Brooklyn Public Library’s branches in March 2020, our outreach services to underserved populations closed along with them. For the Justice Initiatives workgroup, this meant that the vital connections we maintain between incarcerated New Yorkers and their communities and families were severed, leaving some of our most vulnerable patrons more vulnerable than ever. A bit of background, Justice Initiatives (JI) is a component of BPL’s network of...


These past few months have been very strange, indeed, as we’ve adapted to staying apart but working together on library projects virtually. One of the ways the staff of DeKalb Library has been able to feel connected is through having virtual meetings with our colleagues on Zoom and nurturing the friendships that are very strong in the branch. In between talking about important library matters, we’ve found ways to talk about what we’re reading, watching and listening to, and the other ways we’ve been trying to take care of ourselves and feel "normal". Some of us find that we’re reading...


Brooklyn Daily Eagle photographs, Brooklyn Collection I think you better join with me to agitate and agitate for justice and equality we can eat and pay the rent with NOW. June Jordan, "Jim Crow: The Sequel" On July 9th, 2020, we celebrate what would be the 84th birthday of June Jordan, whose writing is as relevant as ever. When the library closed in mid-March, June Jordan’s poetry took refuge in my apartment along with Mary Oliver, Maggie Smith, Gwendolyn Brooks and me. I’m not sure how many days I surrendered in this manner, looking at poetry while...

Some of Us Did Not Die by June Jordan (book jacket image)

Independence Day is approaching quickly in the US on Saturday, and it will be an interesting one in the Age of Donald Trump, COVID-19, Social Distancing, Asian American discrimination and harassment and a resurgence of protests demanding that Black Lives Matter. But many of us don’t think about the Fourth of July’s legacy and how freedom did not come to everyone in 1776, the repercussions of which are still being felt today. My vision for 2020 was to have it be the year of my holistic healing, until the pandemic interrupted me. And then the social and racial unrests began. The police...


The history of Black music in America is essentially the history of American music. From blues, ragtime and gospel, through jazz, soul, rock and roll, funk and reggae, to hip hop, house, techno—not to mention the significant contributions of African-Americans to traditional genres such as musical theater, opera, classical symphony, and choral music—the African diaspora originated and shaped the development of all of the wonderful and diverse music enjoyed here and across the world today. This incredible heritage developed, moreover, despite facing legal and societal injustice and a scandalous...

Can't Stop Won't Stop by Jeff Chang (book jacket image)

From General Order Number 3: "The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired laborer." And thus Juneteenth was born (in 1865) when Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, arrived in Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved Africans were now free....


Celebrate Pride with These Poetry Collections!

Leigh Hurwitz, School Outreach Librarian
June 11, 2020

Here is a brief list of books from the last year-ish that transcend Pride Month, and presents a more nuanced, representative and resonant experience of queerness than what is often front and center this time of year. Homie by Danez Smith (Graywolf) These are poems for and about queer black community, friendship, and queer black poet elders. Crossfire: A Litany for Survival by Staceyann Chin (Haymarket) The first full-length collection of Chin’s poems spanning 21 years of work, with a subtitle that references Audre Lorde. NDN Coping Mechanisms: Notes From the Field by Billy-Ray...


I discovered goth music about the same time I discovered Anne Rice. I was in the sixth grade and spent much of my time listening to Siouxsie & the Banshees on my portable record player and summoning ghosts with my Ouija board, then I found the paperback of Interview with the Vampire on my parents bookshelf and never gave it back. I still have it. I still have the Ouija board too but now it’s mostly for decorative purposes. Mostly.  That’s the interesting thing about goth. For a music-based subculture it has a remarkable longevity that spans generations from Elder Goths to Baby...


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