by Bruce Watson
Reviewed by Linda:To celebrate our centennial, the Jones Library decided to commission a history of the library. Not an academic, dry tome, but a short, entertaining book by an author who frequently writes for Smithsonian and who for years wrote humorous columns in the Amherst Bulletin. Based on Bruce’s research in our Special Collections and on interviews with present and former staff and patrons, Hearth and Soul covers the highlights of the library’s first century, from its origins in a huge inheritance to a devastating fire downtown, a Dickinson forgery, the library’s importance during the Depression and WWII, and appearances by poets Robert Frost and Robert Francis. Of course, the stories of the North Amherst and South Amherst branch libraries are also told. Along with the library’s past, the history of Amherst itself fascinated me, as the decades changed it from a conservative farming community into a vibrant college town. And it was deeply meaningful to learn about what a mighty legacy today’s staff are all now a part.