Game of Thrones in Real Life

by Spencer Stevens

This coming Sunday, the TV series and cultural phenomenon Game of Thrones, based on the incomplete book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin, comes to an end. Martin drew inspiration from real world history (mainly English history) to create his characters, places, and events. Here are a few books available at our library that reveal the reality behind the fantasy.

Cover for The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir

The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir – One of the show’s main plotlines, the tension and ultimate war between the Lannisters and the Starks, is inspired directly by the 30-year series of English civil wars known as the Wars of the Roses. Two rival Houses, the Lancasters (represented by a red rose) and the Yorks (represented by a white rose), vied for control over the English throne. The events of this War influenced the power struggle between the Starks and Lannisters and the War of the Five Kings.

Cover for Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy by Frank McLynn

Genghis Khan: His Conquests, His Empire, His Legacy by Frank McLynn – You’ve probably heard of Genghis Khan and the Mongols, the nomadic horse-riding people of the Eurasian Steppe who created the largest land empire in world history while instilling fear in anyone who fought against them. These fierce horse warriors likely inspired the Dothraki, the nomadic horse lords of the eastern continent of Essos. Khal Drogo’s character and personality draw from the exploits of Genghis Khan and his descendants.

Cover for the Norman Conquest by Marc Morris

The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England by Marc Morris – Aegon the Conqueror is never shown onscreen, but everyone in Westeros knows his story. Three hundred years before the start of the show, Aegon, his Targeryen army, and his dragons came to Westeros from his homeland of Valyria and forced the rulers of the Seven Kingdoms to bend the knee. This conquest of multiple kingdoms by a foreigner is not unlike the invasion of William the Conqueror and the installation of Norman French rule over England in the 11th century.

Cover of Northmen by John Haywood

Northmen: The Viking Saga, 793-1241 by John Haywood – The people of the Iron Islands, like Theon Greyjoy and his sister Yara (Asha in the books), are reminiscent of the seafaring Norsemen (Vikings) of Northern Europe. For centuries, the Viking fleets raided villages and eventually established settlements in modern-day England. The Ironborn in Game of Thrones are similar in their fierce, stubborn personalities and coastal raids.

Cover for Venice by Joanne Marie Ferraro

Venice: A History of the Floating City by Joanne Marie Ferraro – The city of Braavos resembles the city of Venice in Italy at the height of its power as an independent maritime republic in the 7th-18th centuries. Braavos was built on a lagoon and has canals and bridges, like Venice. Braavos’ other features include a colossus, a large treasury, a dominant trade network, and mercenary armies, which further its similarities to a Mediterranean city-state like Venice.

Disaster in the Bay State!

The cover of the book Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo showing a crumpled building in the aftermath of the Great Molasses Flood.

One hundred years ago today, a tank of molasses in Boston’s North End burst. An eight-foot wave of molasses rushed through the streets, destroying buildings and killing 21 people and several horses. 150 people were injured. Today, we know this event as the Great Molasses Flood and consider it one of Massachusetts’ most horrible disasters.

Massachusetts is no stranger to disasters, from tragic accidents like the Great Molasses Flood to natural disasters such as blizzards, tornadoes, Nor’easters, and hurricanes. Here are 5 books about disasters in the Bay State.

The cover of the book Dark Tide by Stephen Puleo showing a crumpled building in the aftermath of the Great Molasses Flood.

Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 by Stephen Puleo
Massachusetts resident Stephen Puleo covers the events of January 15, 1919 in detail in this book, explaining how the Flood occurred and what happened in its aftermath.

Tornado!: 84 Minutes, 94 Lives by John M. O’TooleCover of the book
The 1953 Worcester Tornado lifted houses from foundations, destroyed Assumption College, and left thousands of people homeless. O’Toole’s book follows the event from start to finish and shares personal stories of those affected.

Cover of book The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger
In October 1991, a nor’easter swallowed a hurricane and created a “perfect storm.” Junger’s book details the daily lives of fishermen from Gloucester and covers the final hours of the Andrea Gail, which sank during the storm with its entire crew.Cover of book

The Blizzard of ’78 by Michael Tougias
Record-breaking amounts of snow shut down New England in the winter of 1978. This massive blizzard caused millions of dollars in damage and left nearly 100 people dead.

Cover of book Thirty-Eight: The Hurricane that Transformed New England by Stephen Long – One of the most devastating hurricanes in U.S. history swept through New England in September 1938. Hundreds of people died and homes and infrastructure were destroyed. Stephen Long’s book explores the impact and aftermath of this terrible storm.


A photograph of the Northborough Free Library with a downed tree in front of it. Aftermath of 1938 Hurricane.
Northborough, Fall 1938 – The New England Hurricane claimed the tree in front of the Gale Library Building, as shown in the photograph above. Based on photographs in our library’s collection, the tree was at least forty years old. Taken from the Library’s Local History Collection.



Staff Picks Best of 2018

If you find yourself with a bit of leisure time after the holiday rush, consider one of the following suggestions.  At the end of every year, the Library staff presents their most memorable read, listened or viewed experiences to share with all of you.  Here’s what we came up with for 2018: Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens Set in suburban Florida, this thriller exposes the secrets of three generations of neighbors whose lives intersect in the aftermath of a murder. The characters are likable and relatable, and the story line is engaging and suspenseful. Complete with a satisfying ending, this one is a real winner! — suggested by Deborah Robin (2018) does a masterful job of recreating the tone of the original Winnie-the-Pooh stories.  Christopher Robin is all grown up but he has lost his way in the world. Pooh and his friends travel from the Hundred Acre Wood to London to rescue their childhood friend from dreaded corporate world of lies and greed. This is not an animated feature, it is the Disney combo of live actors and a computer generated Pooh and company. All of the joy and magic of the original Pooh stories is here for the taking – if you will only believe.– suggested by Jackie. 

Join us for a screening and discussion of the film Christopher Robin Saturday, January 5th from 2 – 5 in the Library Meeting Room. by Madeline Miller is an engaging, emotional, enjoyable read! The Greek goddess Circe, daughter of the sun god Helios, is least loved by her parents until she disfigures her rival Scylla and becomes something the world has never seen–a witch. The Gods exile Circe to an island, where she crosses paths with the ruthless Minotaur, the infamous Medea, and the greatest hero of them all, Odysseus.  A brilliant, beautifully written imagination of Greek mythology. — suggested by Spencer Wrinkle in Time written and performed by Madeline L’Engle. This book has been a classic since it was first published in the early 60s, but clearly it was a story way ahead of its time. Meg, the heroine, is a teenage girl and her mom is a PhD working for NASA. The three characters who help Meg travel through time and space to rescue her dad, who is also a scientist at NASA, are the very mysterious, magical and delightfully eccentric Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which. Madeline L’Engle’s voice adds so much atmosphere to an already engaging story. This is a Young Adult novel, but like Harry Potter, it is meant for all ages. — suggested by Jackie. Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towley. This novel follows the 30 year saga of Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov a Russian noble who is placed under house arrest inside the Metropol Hotel in Moscow in 1922 by the Bolsheviks. Although imprisoned in the servent’s quarters in the attic of the hotel, the Count maintains his aristocratic ways.  Over the decades, we share the Count’s adventures with Nina, his beloved “adopted” daughter who is also in residence, and hotel staff and guests as they confront the societal changes of communism. Two features to recommend this read: the many opportunities for “casting” the characters in books in your mind’s eye for future movie roles, and a terrific ending. —  suggested by Rick Wander by Leif Enger A new novel by Leif Enger is a welcomed treat and his latest is one to savor.  Set in a small town on the shores of Lake Superior we follow Virgil, the main character of the book’s title, as he recovers from an accident that left him with an unreliable memory, and visions of a black figure no one else can see.  At the same time, a visitor named Rune arrives in town to learn about the son he never knew he had who had mysteriously disappeared in a small plane years before.  Beautifully written and enchanting, this heart-warming tale of family and community is a perfect companion for a cold winter’s night. — suggested by Deborah

Donna suggests a Helen Mirren double feature: In the Sky (2015) has lingered in my thoughts since I watched it earlier this year. The film’s premise focuses on geographically separate officials (UK and US military leaders, a British foreign secretary, US Secretary of State, and Kenyan undercover agents), linked by phone calls and video conferencing as they argue the pros and cons of launching a drone on a branch of the al-Shabaab terrorist group that is hiding out in Nairobi. Through airborne surveillance, the military leaders witness members of this terrorist group preparing for a suicide attack. The story unfolds in what feels like real time, keeping you on the edge of your seat and features a stellar cast with Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman, and Barkhad Abdi playing major roles. This film’s portrayal of modern drone warfare and collateral damage is thought provoking. I’m sure Eye in the Sky will linger a long time with you too! in Gold (2015) is based on the true story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) and her lawyer, Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) and their attempt to reclaim ownership of an extremely valuable Gustav Klimt painting from the Austrian government nearly fifty years after it was stolen by the Nazis.  The film moves back and forth in history, going from young Maria’s life in pre-war Vienna, to her flight from the Nazis to the US, to her legal actions in the early 2000’s.  A captivating movie that nicely blends art history, drama, and justice. 

8 Graphic Novels We Recommend for Adults

By Spencer Stevens

Graphic novels bridge the gap between comics and novels. Cartoonist Will Eisner popularized the term “graphic novel” in the 1970s, but the true heyday of graphic novels began in the 1980s with books like Maus, Watchmen, and darker, lengthier Batman comics. Today, the graphic novel genre is diverse: authors still write fictional stories, but rising in popularity are graphic memoirs, biographies, and general nonfiction reads. Here are eight graphic novels from the Northborough Free Library’s Adult Collection that we recommend (click the pictures for links to the catalog!):

by Art SpiegelmanMaus recounts the experiences of Spiegelman’s father, who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. Maus depicts the Nazis as cats and Holocaust victims as mice. Spiegelman’s graphic novel is a haunting reimagination of one of history’s darkest periods. Maus remains the only graphic novel to receive the Pulitzer Prize. Maus, alongside earlier graphic novels by Will Eisner, marked graphic novels as a legitimate, respectable form of adult literature.


Fun Home by Alison Bechdel – Alison Bechdel’s relationship with her father is central to the plot in this “tragicomic.” We explore this complex relationship from Alison’s point of view as a child, as a young adult, and as an older adult. Bechdel reminisces about discovering her homosexuality, discovering her father’s concealed sexuality, and her father’s early death. Fun Home is a moving, heartbreaking exploration of the relationship between father and daughter.


Fire!!: The Zora Neale Hurston Story by Peter Bagge – Zora Neale Hurston is best known for her book Their Eyes Were Watching God and the recent posthumous publication Barracoon. In this colorful, cartoonishly illustrated graphic biography, Peter Bagge shows us Zora’s vibrant personality and the tragedies that she overcame before becoming one of America’s most well-known authors of the Harlem Renaissance.



Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green – In this hand-drawn graphic memoir, Katie Green relives her experience of suffering and recovering from an eating disorder. Her memoir combines text and simple yet striking illustrations to show her battle with her body image and the rising threat of the “shadow” within her.


MarchBookOneMarch, Volumes 1-3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell – In this trilogy, Congressman John Lewis recounts his days in the Civil Rights Movement. March covers Lewis’ participation in various sit-ins, the Selma to Montgomery march, and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Lewis also covers the influence of people like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and President Barack Obama on Black people in America. With illustrations based on historic photographs, March is a modern, accessible look at Civil Rights in the 1960s.


My Favorite Thing is Monsters by Emil Ferris – Set in 1960s Chicago, My Favorite Thing is Monsters is a gripping murder mystery told in illustrated form. Ten-year-old Karen attempts to solve the murder of her neighbor, and we follow her story and those of people around her. With illustrations inspired by 1950s-1960s B-movies, My Favorite Thing is Monsters was nominated for several awards and has become a modern classic.

SabrinaSabrina by Nick DrnasoSabrina came out earlier in 2018 and is the only book ever to be nominated for the Man Booker Prize. A Chicago woman named Sabrina goes missing, only for a video of her murder to surface and become viral on the internet and the news. Conspiracy theories about her murder erupt: people claim the video is fake and that Sabrina’s grieving family members are crisis actors. This important and timely graphic novel questions the influence of fake news on our society and the power of the internet to amplify conspiracies.

GraphicCanonThe Graphic Canon, Volumes 1-3 edited by Russ Kick – If you don’t have the patience to read Homer’s Odyssey or can’t find the time to work through the complete works of Shakespeare, this graphic novel trilogy is perfect for you! The Graphic Canon is a three-volume set of the world’s most beloved novels, poems, epics, and plays in graphic novel form. Each entry has a different author and illustrator. From Gilgamesh to Homer to Voltaire to Emily Dickinson to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Graphic Canon offers a little bit of world literature in an updated, artistic form.


5 Novels in the Spirit of the Season

by Deborah Hersh

Halloween has become one of the most popular and widely celebrated holidays in the contemporary America.  Many scholars trace the roots of our modern celebration back to the 2,000 year old Celtic new year festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in) . The Celts believed this was the time spirits came out to haunt, and they would appease these spirits by giving them treats.  When Christianity was introduced to the Celts, the observance of the Christian celebration All Saints Day (November 1)  became incorporated into the Celtic festival of Samhain (October 31st), and called All Hallows’ Eve, or Halloween.  Explore more about the history, folklore, and significance of these celebrations in this collection of essays called Halloween and Other Festivals of Death, and be haunted by these five ghostly tales:


Grief Cottage by Gail Godwin. Moving in with his reclusive artist aunt after his mother’s death, 11-year-old Marcus learns the story of a local cottage from which a family disappeared during a hurricane half a century earlier, a tragedy that compels him to explore the cottage, where he meets a ghost with a mysterious agenda. A spellbinding supernatural novel that explores the many forms of  different forms of, strength and survival.’s Point by Richard and Billy Chizmar.  Longtime residents of Harper’s Cove believe that something is wrong with the Widow’s Point Lighthouse. Originally built in 1838, three workers were killed during the lighthouse’s construction.  In the decades that followed, additional deaths occurred in or around the lighthouse, eventually causing the lighthouse to be shuttered and the property surrounded by security fencing.  Thomas Livingston is the acclaimed author of thirteen books about the supernatural and this evening he will enter the Widow’s Point Lighthouse, Searching for material for his next bestseller, acclaimed supernatural author Thomas Livingston will be locked inside for the weekend with no way of contacting the outside world. And although no human has stepped foot inside the structure in nearly three decades, Livingston will not be alone.  A classically chilling illustrated ghost story by a father and son team. Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger.  After they inherit a London flat near Highgate Cemetery from their aunt Elspeth Noblin, two American twin teenagers move in, but they soon discover that much is still alive at Highgate, including, perhaps, their aunt, who can’t seem to leave her old life behind.  This is a profoundly unnerving tale of the way love can be both a radiant and a malevolent force.
 by Alan Lightman.  Three months after being unexpectedly fired from his banking job, David takes a temporary position at a local mortuary, where he experiences an inexplicable encounter with the unknown that transforms his relationships with everyone around him, forces him to confront the shifting nature of reality, and explores the boundary between the physical world and the spiritual one.  A gripping tale that dramatizes fear, fantasy, and faith. Beloved by Toni Morrison.  Set in rural Ohio several years after the Civil War, Paul D. finds his old slave friend Sethe and moves in with her and her daughter Denver.  Then, a  strange girl comes along by the name of “Beloved.” Sethe and Denver take her in and then strange things begin to happen. Part ghost story, part history lesson, part folk tale, Morrison’s profoundly affecting chronicle of slavery and its aftermath is spell-binding.

Oh My Goth! 6 Modern Gothic Novels

by Deborah Hersh

Crumbling castles with hidden doors, dark cellars, secret passageways, an isolated protagonist, an evil villain, a creeping sense of doom and foreboding.  Named for the medieval style of architecture of the same name, Gothic fiction has been haunting readers for more than 200 years.  Today’s Gothic novel can take place in any kind of eerie setting, but will still evoke the high emotions of fear and suspense.  If you like reading spooky, atmospheric stories with a touch of romance, mystery and the supernatural, here are seven modern Gothic novels to raise the hair on the back of your neck: by Daphne du Maurier.  English author Dame Daphne du Maurier first published Rebecca in 1938.  This creepy tale of psychological suspense find the second Mrs. de Winter isolated on the windswept Cornish coast in the fictional estate of Manderley.  Her new husband Max seems haunted by the memory of his glamorous first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy is lovingly tended by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers.  Increasingly burdened by the shadow of her predecessor, the second Mrs. de Winter become determined to uncover the dark secrets that threaten her happiness, not matter the cost.  For fans of Gillian Flynn and Diane Setterfield.

Image of itemWe Have Always Lived in a Castle by Shirley Jackson.  American writer Shirley Jackson’s career spanned more than two decades and includes six novels, two memoirs, and over 200 short stories.  Best know for her horror and mystery writing, We Have Always Lived in a Castle was published in 1962 and was her last work.  Eighteen-year old  Mary Katherine “Merricat” Blackwood, lives with her sister and uncle on an estate in Vermont.  Six years before the events of the novel, the Blackwood family experienced a tragedy that left the three survivors isolated from the rest of their small village. Like much Jackson’s work, this story explores the persecution of “otherness” and the psychology of isolation.  For fans of Neil Gaiman and Joyce Carol Oates. of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.  Born in Barcelona, Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind has been translated into more than 35 languages and is the most successful novel in Spanish publishing history after Don Quixote.  Set in Zafon’s native city, Shadow of the Wind is a story about a boy named Daniel who selects a novel from a library of rare books.  Enjoying it so much he searches for the rest of the author’s works, only to discover that someone is destroying every book the author has ever written.  Part detective story, part romance, fantasy, and Gothic horror, this intricately plotted  treasure of a book is a rare gem.  You know that book you think about all day and can’t wait to get home to read?  Shadow of the Wind  is that book. Keep by Jennifer Egan. Best-selling and Pulitzer Prize winning author Egan’s haunting tale of two cousins, Daniel and Howard, reunited after twenty years to renovate a medieval castle in Eastern Europe evokes a horrifying tale of crimes from the past and the present.  The Keep weaves many of best elements in Gothic fiction — a fearsome tower with a sinister secret, an isolated protagonist, a mysterious baroness, a creeping sense of impending doom, a jaw-dropping revelation — into a wholly satisfying modern horror story.  Atmospheric and absorbing. of Puppets by Keith Donohue.  This romantic suspense novel set in the Old City of Quebec is steeped in the supernatural.  Kay Harper takes shelter in a mysterious toy shop late one night, where she is turned into a puppet and placed in a magical circle of similarly transformed puppets who come to life at night and struggle to regain human form.  Her only chance of returning to the real world lies in her husband Theo’s ability to recognize her in a her new form.  A creepy and compelling take on the Orpheus and Eurydice myth. For fans of Audrey Niffenegger and Elizabeth Kostova. Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry.  In late-nineteenth century England, intellectually minded young widow Cora Seaborne and pious vicar William Ransome investigate rumors about a mythical sea creature that has been blamed for a death in coastal Essex. These seeming opposites who agree on nothing soon find themselves inexorably drawn together and torn apart–an intense relationship that will change both of their lives in ways entirely unexpected.  This engaging, complex and suspenseful novel recalls the spirits of Shelly and Dickens. For fans of Sarah Waters and Guillermo del Toro.

Banned Books Week


Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and highlights the value of free and open access to information.  Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

The ALA Office of Intellectual Freedom compiles lists of challenged books as reported in the media and submitted by librarians and teachers across the country.  In 2017, the American Library Association tracked 354 challenges to library, school and university materials and services.  Of the 416 books that were challenged or banned in 2017 here are the top ten most challenged: Reasons Why by Jay Asher.  Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaces as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name.  This YA novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it discusses suicide. Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.  Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such a povery, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit. by Raina Telgemeir.  This Stonewall Honor Award-winning, 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered “confusing.” Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.  This critically acclaimed, multi-generational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”


Image of item

George by Alex Gino.  Written for elementary-aged children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child. is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth.  This 2015 informational children’s book written by a certified sex educator was challenged because if addresses sex education and is believed to lead children to “want to have sex or to ask questions about sex.”



Image of itemTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and it’s use of the N-word.
 Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.  Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched-for on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculum because it was considered “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug use, profanity and offensive language. Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole. Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship. Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas.  This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.