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'On the Books page, a change of the guard'

Last modified: 4/7/2012 12:00:00 AM
Deb Baker is one of Concord's big readers. She visits libraries on vacation. She used to work in a bookshop and these days is a late-night college librarian. She blogs and tweets about books. Mostly, she reads, reads, reads.

Starting tomorrow, Baker will share her thoughts about books with Monitor readers. Her new monthly column, "The Mindful Reader," will cover regional literature - fiction, nonfiction and poetry.

Here's how Baker describes her mission: "I chose to call the column 'The Mindful Reader' because it's my goal not only to write about books by New Hampshire or New England authors or set here, but to be mindful of what the Monitor's readers might want to hear about - good books that aren't getting widespread media attention, books on topics that resonate somehow with what's happening in New Hampshire."

Making time for reading everything you want - let alone writing about it - is hard, but I am already impressed by Baker's enthusiasm. For her debut column, she reviews not one but three new books, including a particularly interesting memoir called Fahim Speaks, by Fahim Fazli with Michael Moffett, the head of NHTI's Sports Management Department and a retired lieutenant colonel. The book touches on life in both Hollywood and Kabul, Afghanistan, curiously enough.

If you want a taste of Baker's taste in reading, she writes two compelling blogs: The Nocturnal Librarian (thenocturnallibrarian.com), musings from the late-shift reference desk at Rivier College; and Bookconscious (bookconscious.wordpress.com/), about her family's reading.

"My reading is pretty eclectic. Fiction, nonfiction, poetry - I love it all," Baker says. "I'm especially delighted by good storytelling and books that linger when I've finished reading. In a bookconscious post in late 2010 I wrote, 'In my view, the best books stay with you, working on your own stored memory, fusing themselves with all you've read and all you've been, incorporating themselves into what you'll be. Books that last are books that make meaning, that consciously or unconsciously change the way you view the next thing you read, the next idea you consider, the next response you have to the world.' "

Baker, who lives with her family in the South End, is a former chairwoman of the Concord Reads Committee and still volunteers for the group. She is the former events coordinator at Gibson's Bookstore and - in addition to her current late-night library job - is the advocacy chairwoman for New Hampshire Library Association.

Baker will be the Sunday Monitor's fourth local books columnist. The first was prolific Northwood writer Rebecca Rule. More recently, former Monitor editor Mike Pride has written once a month for the Books section. Pride is not giving up book reviews entirely - just the monthly deadline. Baker will share space with Sarah Earle, who writes about children's literature from New England the first Sunday of most months.

 Gardeners, teachers


Here are three other good things to watch for in tomorrow's Sunday Monitor:

• Starting this week, our garden columnists make their annual return. Robin Sweetser of Hillsboro and Sara Byfield of Bradford have been writing about gardening in the Sunday paper for, oh, a million years now. A few years back, amid recession-induced budget cutting, we asked them to take winters off, and they have. But like the daffodils already blooming all over Concord, they're back and will write on alternate Sundays between now and mid-fall. First up: a Sweetser column about new plants available for 2012.

• Reporter Molly A.K. Connors and photographer Andrea Morales will have the second in their occasional series about efforts to revamp the curriculum in the Franklin public schools.

Tomorrow's story focuses on a new mentoring program to help make Franklin teachers more effective. One big question: What do you do when there is friction between the teachers and the people hired to help them?

• John Gfroerer, a member of the Monitor's board of contributors, has written a thoughtful essay about the death of Steven Chern, the doctor charged with sexually assaulting several patients. Gfroerer's young daughter was a patient of Chern's; he writes about the anguish of explaining first the arrest and then the death of her beloved doctor.

As always, please let us know what you think.

(Felice Belman can be reached at 369-3370 or fbelman@cmonitor.com.)


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