Nantucket Atheneum News

2020 One Book One Island Selection: The Overstory

One Book One Island Program announces that its 2020 selection is The Overstory by Richard Powers.

Winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Overstory spans multiple  timelines and senses of place. It begins with what seems to be a collection of irrelevant short stories, which are later woven together to bring the reader full-circle into Powers’ intended tale; a tale of unassuming strangers, leading totally separate lives, finding each other in the same activist mission against environmental destruction. Redwood forests and born-again activist, Powers uses The Overstory to re-engage the reader with the “why” individuals should fight to protect – a perspective piece with true depth and complexity that is sure to be appreciated by all types of readers.

For a quick review, check out Powers’ website. He has bottlenecked his market well, providing as comprehensive a review an interested person could hope to find.

Calendar of Events

All events are free.

Gallery Opening
Fri., March 6 
5 – 7 pm Artists Association of Nantucket
24 Amelia Drive

Saturday, March 7

Stories & Crafts  (ages birth to 5 years old)
10:30 am
Community School Early Childhood Team
56 Centre Street
Book Discussion & Video
5:30 pm
Nantucket Atheneum
1 India Street

Video: Our Planet – Forests and Jungles
Sunday, March 8
4 pm
Dreamland Theater
South Water St.

Lecture: Matt Largess, Forester and Tree Hugger
Tuesday, March 10
1 pm
Maria Mitchell Assoc. Hinchman House
7 Milk St.

Wednesday, March 11

Bird Walk with Ginger Andrews
8 am
Carpool from town parking lot

Wishes From Nantucket Flag Project (Ages 12 and up)
1 pm
Nantucket Atheneum
1 India Street
Status Report on Nantucket Trees with Town Arborist and Tree Committee.
5:30 pm
Nantucket Atheneum
1 India Street

Thursday, March 12

Book Discussion and Richard Powers video
1:30 pm
Saltmarsh Senior Center
Washington Street Ext.
3D Craft Project (for ages 5 – 10)
3 – 4 pm
Nantucket Atheneum
NCF Botanist Kelly Omand offers a Virtual Walk Through Squam Forest
5:30 pm
Whaling Museum
15 Broad Street

EVENT CANCELED “Wood, Sound – The Art of Crafting A Violin.”
Friday, March 13
5:30 pm
Nantucket Community Music Center
56 Center Street
Presentation and brief performance.

Saturday, March 14

EVENT CANCELED Nature Walk With Rachel Freeman
9:45 am
Nantucket Land Bank Reyes Property
231 Polpis Road.
Children’s Plant-Based Cooking Class
10 am
Nantucket Culinary Center
22 Federal St.
(registration required, contact the culinary center).
Nature Field Trip With Peter Brace
10 am
Meet at the Atheneum, 1 India Street.
Register by emailing

EVENT CANCELED Finale Celebration: Music, Food and Conversation
Sunday, March 15
2 – 4 pm
Whaling Museum
15 Broad Street

The Top 12 Most Requested Atheneum Books Of 2019

By Daniel Griffin

Now that winter has come and the holidays are upon us, it’s time for a little reflection on the books to catch up on before the New Year arrives.

But what’s that, life passing you by, don’t have time to keep or stay relevant with all that is new in the world of literature? Feeling insecure at your local roasting establishment as visiting family and friends flex their nuanced perspectives on all that is trendy among the true, devoted readers? You’ve come to the right place.

But what will it be this holiday break: fiction or nonfiction? What’s your preferred escape? Here at the Nantucket Atheneum, we give you both options.

Nantucket Atheneum staff members understand what it takes to stay relevant as reader; there are a lot books out there. The library staff has created a list of the Nantucket Atheneum’s top six requested books in 2019 in fiction and nonfiction.

All of the books listed are available at the Nantucket Atheneum. As always, come by in person or feel free to utilize the online resources provided to all Nantucket Atheneum patrons.


Where The Crawdads Sing

One of 2019’s most popular, not only here at the Nantucket Atheneum, but across the country as well, Delia Owens novel was published in 2018 and  remained one of the most popular novels for all of this year. A New York Times Fiction Best Seller for 20 non-consecutive weeks, Where The Crawdads Sing was selected for Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club in September 2018 and for Barnes & Noble’s Best Books of 2018.

If a sense of place is what you’re after, this is the book for you. Owen’s takes the reader into the life of a young girl named Kya as she grows up isolated in the marsh of North Carolina from 1952-1969, while intertwining another timeline that follows a murder investigation of Chase Andrews, who hails from the fictional coastal town of Barkley Cove, North Carolina.

This novel is a must read for those wanting a conversation piece; chances are the other person has read it too.

Disappearing Earth

One of the more emotional investments on the list, Julia Phillips’ Disappearing Earth depicts the effects an abduction of two girls has on the women of a tight-knit community located on the Kamchatka peninsula. After a failed police investigation turns up nothing, the women within the isolated community must deal with the vulnerabilities brought to light by the disappearances.

Spanning a year on Kamchatka – currently a trendy place for adventure seekers, think Alaska, but even more remote in terms of population – the novel takes place in an ethnically diverse population with racial tensions, where the “Natives” are often suspected of the worst. Phillips takes the reader through the complexities of a tightly bonded community, using suspense to drive home the emotion, while wrapping the mind’s eye with densely wooded forests, open tundra, eclipsing volcanoes and mirroring seas.

The New York Times Book Review named Disappearing Earth one of the top ten books of 2019. Again, this novel is not your heart felt, wrap yourself up next to the fire piece; but rather a, “don’t bother me, I’m anxious and have to finish this chapter,” selection.

The Silent Patient

Ahhh, The Silent Patient, not a “who done it,” but a “why’d she do it?”

Depictions of English society both past and present tend to be popular with Nantucket Atheneum patrons. If this is true for you, and you also like a good psychological thriller produced through a murder mystery, Alex Michaelides’ novel won’t disappoint.

Michaelies begins by taking the reader into the life of Alicia Berenson, who lives a privileged life of all that society tells us we should want; the trophy partner paired with the envy invoking house that has the eight figure view dreams are made of. But one day, Alicia’s husband, Gabriel, comes home only to unexpectedly receive five shots to the face from none other than Alicia herself, starting the psychological thriller decent intended by Michaelies.

“An unforgettable—and Hollywood-bound—new thriller… A mix of Hitchcockian suspense, Agatha Christie plotting, and Greek tragedy.”

—Entertainment Weekly

City of Girls

Elizabeth Gilbert is heralded for her ability to express a nuanced perspective on human connectivity and desires. Narrated by an 89-year-old Vivian Morris, City of Girls is a love story woven with one young woman’s self-discovery during 1940s New York.

An outcasted, 19-year-old Morris arrives in New York to work at her Aunt peg’s Manhattan theater, the Lily Playhouse, where she encounters eccentric and captivating characters, who prove to be the catalysts to her own rebirth as a woman unbound.

A Sunday Times Top Ten Bestseller, selected as a summer read by the Independent, Grazia, Vogue, Cosmopolitan and ES Magazine, City Girls is the rare love story that inspires its readers to question the norms of society.

“At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time,” she muses. “After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is.” – City of Girls.

The Most Fun We Ever Had

Having lots of family visit this holiday season? Need a book to remind you that yours is not the only family with dysfunction, which is somehow still bonded by memories of joy? Take a peek at Claire Lambardo’s The Most Fun We Ever Had. 

I’ll digress on providing a summary, the publisher has produced its own. But I will say this, it’s a story that just might provide a reader with that little bit of perspective needed this holiday season.

“When Marilyn Connolly and David Sorenson fall in love in the 1970s, they are blithely ignorant of all that’s to come. By 2016, their four radically different daughters are each in a state of unrest: Wendy, widowed young, soothes herself with booze and younger men; Violet, a litigator-turned-stay-at-home-mom, battles anxiety and self-doubt when the darkest part of her past resurfaces; Liza, a neurotic and newly tenured professor, finds herself pregnant with a baby she’s not sure she wants by a man she’s not sure she loves; and Grace, the dawdling youngest daughter, begins living a lie that no one in her family even suspects. Above it all, the daughters share the lingering fear that they will never find a love quite like their parents’. As the novel moves through the tumultuous year following the arrival of Jonah Bendt – given up by one of the daughters in a closed adoption fifteen years before – we are shown the rich and varied tapestry of the Sorensons’ past: years marred by adolescence, infidelity, and resentment, but also the transcendent moments of joy that make everything else worthwhile.”–Publisher description.

The Topeka School

The American Midwest, a family comprising of a mother, father and son, all of whom have their own individual, successful achievements in life. The son, Adam Gordon, is a skilled debater. His mother, Jane, is a famous author; his father, Johnathan, is known for getting “lost boys” to express their emotions. Each have their own character arc defined by turn of the century societal shifts and the associated complexities.

Ben Lerner takes this family drama and builds a plot that explores adolescence, transgression, and the variables that have allowed the rise of the “New Right.”

A New York Times, Time, GQ, Vulture, and Washington Post Top 10 Book of the Year, The Topeka School is a story of a family navigating their own individual faults, while relying on their strengths to combat a culture of toxic masculinity; a prehistory of the present: the collapse of public speech, the elements of the “New Right”, and the crisis of identity among white men.

Lerner’s novel is an interesting, relevant take on some of the issues facing society as we know it today. As a conversation starter, might want to dodge that “Uncle” with this one.



An in depth depiction of a life captured by the public eye for the last decade, Becoming is Michelle Obama’s memoir to the American people – a window into all that has influenced her life; from a childhood on the South Side of Chicago, time spent as an executive, and as First Lady of the United States of America.

A #1 New York Times Bestseller, Oprah’s Book Club Pick, NAACP Image Award Winner, Becoming explores triumphs and disappointments, both private and public, giving the reader a sense of personal connection with the former First Lady.

A good read for those looking for a story of inspiration, or just some connection to a potential mentor.

The Library Book

Doubling down on this post’s theme of “being relevant,” this New York Times Book of the Year, 2018, selection does more than just explore the 1986 fire that devastated the Los Angeles Public Library, which destroyed more than 400,000 books, but also examines the history of libraries and their uncertain future in a digital world – a subject we here at the Nantucket Atheneum explore daily.

If you are someone who really appreciates the role libraries play in our lives, and the services these institutions provide, Susan Orlean’s The Library Book gives an inside look into why people should care about the future of our beloved institutions.

The Pioneers

Feel like taking an adventure while resting on the couch or recliner after a large family dinner? Allow David McCullough to be your guide. In his The Pioneers, McCullough uses a rare collection of diaries and letters to tell the story of how the Northwest Territory was settled.

After the Revolutionary War, and as part of the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain ceded the land that comprised the Northwest Territory: the future states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Central to McCullough’s theme are the ideas brought by the pioneers to this region, known as the Northwest Ordinances: freedom of religion, free universal education, and the prohibition of slavery.

A #1 New York Times Bestseller, The Pioneers is an American story of perseverance against a reality that carried with it no certainties. A great read for those that enjoy American history and its unique character of forging civility out of the wild.


Most of us have our own unique challenges we face on the daily. Some obstacles are bigger than others, some seem insurmountable. Tara Westover’s memoir, Educated, is a reminder that focus, and perseverance go a long way to achieving a future – statistically speaking – should be out of reach.

As a young girl, Westover never had the chance at a traditional education, instead being raised in a family preparing for the apocalypse, learning how to stew herbs into medicine and turning scrap into usefulness. Westover had never stepped foot into a classroom until the age of seventeen. Despite all of this, she would go on to graduate from Cambridge with a PhD in intellectual history and political thought. A #1 International Bestseller, Educated is a good read for those seeking some inspiration this holiday season.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will To Survive

A book almost tailor-made as a conversation piece, Stephanie Land’s Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive takes the reader from story to story covering topics such as: living on food stamps and coupons to eat, government programs that provide basic housing, halfway houses, and being called lucky to receive such services. This is a collection of not only Land’s experiences, but that of the working poor, who Land refers to as “servant” workers. The work acts as a tribute to the human spirit.

Companion guides, based on the work from Maid, can be found online, which act as discussion aids and include a wealth of information and prompts. This could be a great choice for a book club looking for its next selection.

The British Are Coming

Another top pick for our history buffs. Rick Atkinson, author of An Army at Dawn, issues his first of the Revolution Trilogy intallment, recounting the first 21 months of America’s war for independence in The British Are Coming. Atkinson covers the battles at Lexington and Concord in spring 1775 to those at Trenton and Princeton in winter 1777. The tale includes Henry Knox, the bookseller with a knack for artillery; Nathanael Greene, the battle captain; and the familiar Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.

What makes Atkinson’s take on this time period unique is his inclusion of the British perspective, giving the work a bit more of a compelling flavor than your typical historical recollection piece. If you are looking for a fresh take on American history, Atkinson’s first installment of the Revolution Trilogy is a good place to start.

And, there you have it. The top six picks for fiction and nonfiction here at the Nantucket Atheneum in 2019. Take advantage and place a hold on one of these selections for the holiday season. Chances are you’ll wish you had, especially when needing an excuse to take a break from all the festivities.

Daniel Griffin works as a library associate on the circulation desk as well as in the Adult Programs Department.

New Book Discussion Group Begins January 2020

Beginning January 2020 The Atheneum will offer a monthly book discussion group facilitated by Kristin Guay who features popular and award-winning books across a broad spectrum of genres.

Kristin, a year round Nantucket resident, previously worked at the Centerville Public Library where she has lead book discussions for a number of different age groups.

The discussions are offered the third Wednesday of the month at 5:30 pm and are free of charge. Kristin will supplement the discussion by showing videos of the authors discussing their work.

2020 Book Discussions

January 15 – Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (fiction)
February 19
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone by Lori Gottlieb  (nonfiction)
March 25Fox 8: A Story, by George Saunders (short story)
April 15 – The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (fiction)
May 20The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides (mystery)


Read Recipes from Around the World!

If you love to cook and explore international cuisine, the library has a great new service: AtoZ World Food. This free database provides thousands of recipes and information about cuisines from around the globe.

Browse recipes and articles by country, ingredients, or topic. Each recipe includes information about the food culture it represents and dietary notes for dishes that are vegetarian/vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher, or halal. You will also find information about food history and holiday traditions.

All you need is your library card and PIN number to log in. It’s that easy to start reading and cooking around the world!

Quetschentaart (Luxembourg)

The appeal of Quetschentaart (“Damson Tart”) is its simplicity—a butter crust topped with wedges of delectably tart plums. Damson or Italian plums hold their shape best while still releasing enough juice to form a light syrup. Some variations include a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar over the plums. Serve with powdered sugar or a dollop of whipped cream.

Serves 6 to 8

1/2 cup (120 g) butter
1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
1 egg
2 cups (250 g) flour
Pinch of salt
3 cups (500 g) damson plums

Beat butter and sugar.
Add the egg, and continue beating until mixture is light and fluffy.
Sift flour and salt. Add to butter mixture and mix well.
Knead dough until it becomes firm. Wrap with plastic wrap and cool in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C).
Butter a pie dish.
Roll out dough and place in pie dish.
Wash plums, then halve them and remove stones. Cut into wedges.
Arrange plum wedges on crust.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the base is somewhat firm.
Serve warm or cold.


Moby Dick Marathon Nov 16 & 17

Sat., Nov. 16

Nantucket Atheneum 10 am – 4 pm
Whaling Museum 4 pm – 10 pm
Nantucket Atheneum 10 pm – 12 am

Sun. Nov. 17

Nantucket Atheneum 12 am to Conclusion
(probably between 12:30 – 1:30 pm)

Join us for a continuous reading of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Or The Whale.

Nat Philbrick kicks the festivities off by reading the first chapter on Saturday Nov. 16 at 10 am at the Atheneum. And, when the reading concludes on Sunday we’ll celebrate with chowder and a Whale’s Tale Pale Ale.

We need readers for the other 134 chapters! Please stop by the Atheneum Main Desk to claim your spot.
I hope you will join us as a reader and encourage your friends too.
Please let me know what you’d like to read.
To start, we ask that people pick no more than 2 chapters. When we get a bit closer if there are slots available readers are welcome to take on more.
You can also call me at 508-228-1110 ext 118 or email to sign up.
The Moby Dick Marathon is cosponsored with the Nantucket Historical Association and the final event in the 2019 celebration of Herman Melville’s 200th Birthday.

Favorite Summer Reads

We asked our board of trustees: What is your favorite read this summer?

  • Cathy Weinroth
    • The House of Mirth by Edith Warton
  • Annye Camara
    • The Porpoise by Mark Haddon
  • Randee Seiger
    • The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
  • Ted McCarthy
    • The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee
  • Tony Roeder
    • The Pioneers by David McCullough
  • Marcia Welch
    • The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  • Hillary Rayport
    • To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  • Sam Flax
    • Spying on the South by Tony Horwitz
  • Tracy Flannery
    • The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish
  • Linda McGrath
    • Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
    • A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza
    • The Guest Book by Sarah Blake
  • Jane Tyler
    • Red Notice by Bill Browder
    • The Library Book by Susan Orlean
  • Joan Gulley
    • The Soul of America by Jon Meacham
  • Clement Durkes
    • My Little Life by Hanya
  • Patrick Hehir
    • Every Day Is Extra by John Kerry
    • Rough Riders by Mark Lee Gardner

Ann Scott Named New Atheneum Executive Director

Ann Scott, formerly of the Basalt Regional Library in western Colorado, will become the Executive Director of the Nantucket Atheneum in mid-September. Scott recently served as executive director at Basalt and prior to that worked at the New Port Ritchey Public Library in Florida in a variety of roles.

Scott will take over from retiring executive director Molly Anderson, who started in May of 2005. Scott begins the new position on September 16 and Anderson will remain on the staff for a short transition period.

“We are confident that Ann is the right leader for the next phase of the Atheneum’s extraordinary history and will continue and expand the outstanding programs and services, strong connection to the community, and track record of innovation and imagination that have become the hallmark of of the Atheneum under the leadership of Molly Anderson,” said Joan Gulley, Atheneum board chair, in a prepared statement.

First an undergraduate at Hodges University, Scott earned a Masters in Library Science from Drexel University. She was the unanimous choice of the Atheneum board following a nationwide search, Gulley said.

The Nantucket Atheneum, formed in 1834 as a private, membership organization, has had eight librarians in its storied history, beginning with famous astronomer Maria Mitchell. The library trustees voted to make the Atheneum a free, public library in 1900 and it has served the community ever since.

In her role as the institution’s ninth director, Scott will oversee all aspects of the Atheneum, which include circulating collections of books and media for children, teens and adults, an archival collection of historic artifacts, stewardship of the historic 1847 building and garden, and the execution of more than 1,300 programs a year.

Please visit about/atheneum-today/the-islands-unique-library/ for more information about the Atheneum’s history.

American Spirit Essay Contest Winner

Congratulations to our 2019 winner Victoria Dixon!

Read her essay submission.

The Nantucket Atheneum’s American Spirit Essay Contest challenges high school students in grades 11 and 12 to write an original and creative essay that explores an American value that makes us who we are.

Students must utilize an idea from the Declaration of Independence, the United States Constitution, or another primary source document of US history (e.g. speeches, acts of Congress) as a starting point.  Then they are to select a value and discuss its importance throughout history and in today’s world.

Our inspiration comes from long time Atheneum supporter Ken Roman and from David McCullough’s The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For.

Chess Table

Outdoor Chess & Checker Board

Chess TableAn outdoor chess/checker table has now being installed off the Garden at the Nantucket Atheneum. Library patrons can begin to enjoy this new amenity after June 5th, made possible by a donor. A sturdy, weather-resistant chess set may be checked out at the Circulation Desk. The Atheneum hopes the whole community will enjoy playing chess on the granite chess tables with comfortable wooden slatted benches to the library. The second mission of the outdoor table is to promote another way to enjoy the garden and the downtown community.

Libraries have always been a place people go in order to encounter new ideas, learn new skills, and to meet the rest of the community. So stop on by the Atheneum and try your hand at a bit of chess. You may find it suits you.

The Atheneum has a chess set with an electronic timer in one package. The chessmen are available, with a library card, from the circulation desk.

Backyard Astronomy: New Library Telescope

You can now use your library card to check out an Orion StarBlast telescope to use in your own backyard!

The telescope was generously donated to the Nantucket Atheneum in memory of John and Claire Wall by their children with thanks to Karen Wall.

The telescope will be maintained by the Aldrich Astronomical Society Inc. (AAS) as part of their Library Telescope Program. The AAS, founded in 1932, is one of the oldest astronomy clubs in the United States. Their program is dedicated to promoting an understanding of the night sky and providing access to telescopes for library patrons and families.

The Orion StarBlast telescope is very simply designed, comes with instructions and sits comfortable on a table. Included with the telescope is also a planisphere, which is a wheel that will show you the night sky overhead for your area and some ideas as to what to look for, month by month.

If you are at least 18 years old with a CLAMS card in good standing, you can check out the Orion StarBlast telescope for ONE weeks. The kit also contains a manual, constellation guide, compass and headlamp. Telescopes can be reserved but not renewed.

Stop by the Reference Desk for more information or to check it out with a library card.