More than just a backdrop, sometimes houses in fiction take on lives of their own. Here is a list of some of my favorite picks in which the house is a character in the story.
The Dutch House, Ann Patchett The Dutch House is to be the feather in Cyril Conroy’s cap-the final expression of his wealth and standing. Instead it becomes the talisman of a broken childhood for his children.
The Fall of the House of Usher, Edgar Allen Poe In this deeply layered short story, the House of Usher is slowly disintegrating, as are its inhabitants.
The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne Can a house’s curse destroy a family? In the beginning of the this early Gothic novel, it appears to be that way. But the entrance of a new character may yet change the family’s fate.
Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier Manderley is full of reminders of Rebecca. Can the new Mrs. Winters ever be free of her memory?
The Shining, Stephen King Jack’s new job at the Overlook Hotel seems too good to be true. Time to write, connect with his family, and get paid while doing it–except when things start to go wrong. One of Stephen King’s best novels!
The Sweetness At the Bottom of the Pie, Alan Bradley It is 1950 and Buckshaw Estate is crumbling, England is recovering from the War, and her sister’s are awful; but that is all fine with the precocious 11 year old chemist Flavia DeLuce. The man she discovers a man dying in the cucumber patch, may not be though.
The Turner House, Angela Flournoy The Turner House has raised 13 children, welcomed home grandchildren, survived the loss of the family patriarch, and withstood the ravages of Detroit. Can the Turner children bring themselves to finally say goodbye?
The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman When they arrive at the grand summer house where she is to spend her summer vacation, our narrator is full of hope. But as the summer continues and the walls of her room begin to close in, the situation changes.
Did I miss your favorite? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment on social media to let us know!
Has quarantine made you realize the need to redecorate? Maybe you’ve cleaned out your closet and have a stack of old clothes to sell? Did you start a garden and need additional plants? Whether you are buying or selling there are a number of options for shopping second hand online!
Started way back in 1995 in San Francisco, Craigslist is the classic forum for online sales. It features everything from apartment listings, to personal ads, to sale items and savvy users still swear by it! You’ll need to arrange pick-ups, but many sellers and buyers are using Paypal and Venmo for contactless transactions. Personally, I love it for plants.
If you have a Facebook account, you have access to the Marketplace. Find clothing, kids items, and housewares. Marketplace also remembers your location and prior searches so the more you visit the more it will cater to you interests. And contactless pick-up is common here too!
LetGo is another local pick-up sales site. They recently took over OfferUp and are looking to create a more user-friendly and intuitive online selling experience. Their app is a great addition to the local sales options.
If you love estate sales and auctions, Everything But the House (EBTH) might be for you! Careful, shipping can get pricey, but the low auction prices may make it worth it. You can also usually pick-up for free at the auction site.
ThredUp is a great choice for second hand clothes shoppers. This online consignment store allows you to limit by brand, size, and color and will remember your preferences to help you shop. Items are shipped to your home. Or you can order a Clean Out Kit and ThredUp will help you sell that closet full of clothes that no longer spark joy.
Looking for more clothes? Try Poshmark. Answer some questions about your favorite brands and sizes and get a curated collection of items you might like. If you chose to sell, you’ll need to set-up the listings yourself, but Poshmark’s app makes it easy to do with just a smart phone.
If you have discerning taste and a love of fine home goods, Chairish is your site. Lovingly curated, it is the online equivalent of a high-end antique shop. So although you may not find any hidden treasures, you also won’t have to scroll through pages of Poangs. If you have design classics to sell, this is also a great place to get a fair price.
Looking for outdoor gear? REI offers used clothes, equipment, and more! The company buys items from REI Co-op members and resells them to help keep them in use and out of landfills.
All the sites listed above have COVID-19 policies and procedures in place to help assure your safety.
Got a favorite site for buying or selling second-hand? Share it with us at email@example.com or tell us in the comments on social media!
Meditation can be simple, and there are so many different ways to try it.
The most common way to meditate is by finding a quiet space to sit while focusing on your breath and relaxing your mind. Realizing that a quiet space can be difficult to find, here are some other options.
Creative Meditation: Monday Mandala has free Mandala coloring pages that include intricate lines, swirls, and curves of both abstract and nature-based designs. You can also immerse yourself in the creation of flowing digital art using Color Push without printing or using any materials.
Meditative Making: Knit, crochet, or create anything repetitive using your hands while focusing on your breath and feeling the joy that flows from you as you create. Mindful Knitting by Tara Jon Manning contains ten projects complemented by a meditation exercise.
Walking Meditation on a Local Labyrinth: This type of meditation is perfect for people who don’t like to sit still. You don’t need to think as you walk a labyrinth because there is only one path to the center, and you follow the same path back out to the begining. Unlike a maze, there are no wrong turns, you simply follow the path.
While walking the labyrinth focus on the three R’s – Release-Receive-Reflect. While slowly walking along the path to the center focus on releasing any tension or stress, once in the center pause to receive good energy, and while you are tracing your steps back to the beginning reflect on your experience in the labyrinth.
The Homestead Labyrinth at the Pump House is situated just across the Monongahela River from the Carrie Blast Furnaces along the Great Allegheny Passage, the Pump House was once part of the U.S. Steel Homestead Steel Works. Created by artist Lorraine Vullo in 2009, the labyrinth features more than 250 triangular stones, labeled with the names of steel mills, foundies, and blast furnaces from our region.
Book Recommendation: The Best Meditations on the Planet – 100 Techniques to Beat Stress, Improve Health, and Create Happiness in Just Minutes a Day by Dr. Martin Heart and Skye Alexander.
The most important thing is finding a way to meditate that feels right for you. Do you have any resources that help you to meditate? Share with us on social media or email us firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the perks of working at the library is when our patrons share what they are reading with us. Until we are back together, we thought we’d share our current reads as well as some other favorites.
Henry, Himself by Stewart O’Nan is a beautifully written prequel to his earlier novels, Wish You Were Here and Emily, Alone. In Emily Alone, we meet Emily Maxwell, newly widowed and adjusting to life without Henry. In this current novel, we get a chance to walk with Henry, a seventy-five year old retired Pittsburgher, through the rhythm of an ordinary year in the life of an ordinary man. There are no heart pounding scenes, no cliff hangers to be found here, just the steady beat of someone living out his final years to the best of his abilities. Henry’s character will resonate with many who may recognize their own fathers, grandfathers, or husbands in him, men who worked hard at their jobs or careers and in their homes, making a better life for their families. Henry, like many men of his era, possess a fierce love for his family and willingly sacrifices his own wants and desires for what he perceives as a good life. Like so many men of his time, Henry isn’t comfortable with expressing his love with words and he struggles to understand his children and their life choices, but his love is always there, quiet, steadfast and enduring. While Henry reminisces and may long for times past, he nevertheless soldiers on and tries his best to adjust to changing times.
It is in the relationship between Henry and Emily, married for forty-nine years, where O’Nan’s writing truly shines. We witness time and time again, without sentimentality or preaching, what it takes to stay faithful and committed in a marriage. The give and take, the finishing each other’s sentences, the need for physical space apart (the kitchen is strictly Emily’s domain; the basement workshop, Henry’s) make these characters feel like they live right next door. Or maybe that is because of the many references to Pittsburgh. You get to ride the Incline up to Mount Washington for the Maxwell’s Valentine’s Day dinner, attend a funeral at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Oakland, and make a few trips to the Giant Eagle (actually referred to as the Jyggle more than once) in East Liberty. Though local in flavor, the message is far reaching. Aging is inevitable, but life and how you live it at any stage, is up to you.
Here’s a potpourri of other titles you may enjoy during social distancing:
Similar in theme to the above pick,Akin by Emma Donoghue brings us the story of Noah Selvaggio, a retired New York City professor and recent widower. Heartbreaking circumstances require that Noah take his eleven year old street-smart great nephew, whom he has never met, on his much anticipated trip to the French Riviera, to delve into his family’s history. The two generations struggle mightily to form a bond against the backdrop of quaint French towns and hidden family secrets.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is a great read if you’re feeling confined by the quarantine. You’ll empathize with the students at Hailsham, a lovely boarding school in an idyllic country setting. While the school seems to provide the students with an ideal education tailored to each individual, a few students get restless with the constraints placed on them and start exploring outside their school walls. What ensues will leave you with memories of this novel and many points to ponder long after you turn the last page. If you are not in the mood for contemplation, let this one wait until later.
For a quick read, you may enjoyMy Sister, The Serial Killer, by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Part mystery, part satire, part character study, this delicious book set in Nigeria can be devoured in one sitting. It takes the bonds between sisters to a whole new level.
For anyone you may have missed it,A Gentleman in Moscowby Amor Towles is a personal favorite. If you have to live out your life under house arrest, you may as well do it in style! Follow the story of Count Alexander Rostov, aristocrat and all around true gentleman, as he is sequestered at the Metropol Hotel in Russia beginning in the 1920s. This would make a great movie!
Non- fiction fans who enjoy delving into social issues should read Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American Cityby Matthew Desmond. Especially timely now, this book is an education into issues of affordable housing, fair pay, and homelessness. The real life struggles of ordinary people, renters and building owners, trying to get by and get ahead, are eye and heart openers.
While it may be hard to currently sympathize with the self imposed social distancing of the agoraphobic protagonist in Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, this book is an entertaining read. While poking fun at suburban social climbing and over achievers in Silicon Valley, it also lays bare the lengths a parent is willing to go for a shot at their child’s happiness.
Growing up in the late 70s everyone had that neighbor who had a window full of houseplants and macrame. Ours also wore wooden clogs and ate whole grain bread. It turns out she was onto something. Houseplants (and clogs and whole grain) are back in big way and have become a staple of fashionable homes all over social media. And why not! Houseplants help clean the air, increase contentedness, and give you someone to talk to over these long months in quarantine. Whether your thumb is black or green here are some tips to get you growing!
Hilton Carter has become legendary on social media for his plant packed home. In his new series, The Plant Doctor, he talks about caring for specific types of plants, as well as giving tips on general plant care.
CleverBloom is not only pretty, but also packed with care tips, tricks, and fun projects for plant parents.
Old school in style, Houseplant 411 is one of the best sites for identification and care tips.
Proving that truth can be better than fiction, tune into the bizarre Milli Vanilli-esque (I really dated myself with that reference) scenario featured in Sounds Like Titanic by Jessica Chiccehitto Handyman. (A Memoir)
Delve into the intricacies of the lethal forces at play on Everest ranging from the egos of individuals, pushes by the tour guides toward a successful summit for the betterent of their business record, and communication failures among different groups with Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.
You will feel as if you are living through every moment of this local tragedy as you soak up the incredible descriptions of the unfolding events in The Johnstown Flood by David McCullough.
Feeling confined? You may relate to Elizabeth as she observes a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand while she is bedridden due to an illness. Join her as she gains greater understanding of her own restricted place in the world in The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey. (A Memoir)
Exceptionally written and powerfully poignant, this is a must read. Know My Name by Chanel Miller. (A Memoir)
Travel beneath Earth’s topsoil into caves, catacombs, sinkholes, mines, meltwater moulins, and whirlpools in Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane.
Looking for an informative book you can read in short bursts? Each informative chapter focuses on an extinct or critically endangered species and the scientists who study them. You will never look at the world the same way after reading The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert.
Due to COIV-19, we will be cancelling this years’s North Region Battle of the Books. We hope you enjoyed this year’s picks and we look forward to seeing in 2021! Visit Battle of the North to learn more about refunds.
Unsure of how to talk to your kids about what’s going on with the COVID19 pandemic? If you’re looking for some answers, PBS for Parents is ready to help.
This site is a great resource for tips on how to talk to your kids on an age appropriate level about the current situation, while offering reassurance and guidance on how they can do their part to keep themselves and their family safe. Involving children on a level they can understand and engage in, is an important step in managing stress.
In addition, the site offers timely advice on how to manage and make the most of your child’s screen time, how to support children on the autism spectrum, and tips for parents who are new to home schooling. Self care for parents, an important topic, is also highlighted.
Of course, the kids will enjoy the links to their favorite PBS shows, downloadable activity sheets and games. There are art, science, and math activities to explore. You can even filter content by ages two to eight years old.
As the beloved Mister Rogers said, “Look for the helpers.” Thanks PBS.
Popular with book clubs, historical fiction takes readers into the past. Often featuring famous figures, the genre requires authors not only have plenty of imagination, but also a solid grasp of facts. Here are some of the most popular authors in the genre.
Marie Benedict looks at history from the perspective of the women behind the great men. In Carnegie’s Maid the reader is taken into the world of the famous steel baron through the eyes of an imagined maid. The Other Einstein provides the perspective of Mileva Maric, Einstein’s brilliant wife.
Fiona Davis‘ books use an iconic address to explore the lives of women. In The Address the Dakota Building takes center stage for two women separated by a century. In The Masterpiece, Grand Central Terminal is the backdrop.
Lisa See is the perfect choice for reader’s interested in Asian history. Snowflower and the Secret Fan takes readers into nineteenth century China and introduces them to the secluded lives of women. The all-Asian Revues of the 30s and 40s are the subject of China Dolls.