Sawyer Free Library’s Most Popular Books Of 2021

As the page turns on 2021, the Sawyer Free Library has compiled a list of some of the most popular books checked out this year by adults, teens, and children. Of the thousands of print, digital, and audiobooks that patrons borrowed, these were Gloucester’s favorites in 2021. 


Gloucester seemingly read “around the world” when it came to their top Fiction books of 2021. 

  • The top book checked out by patrons was The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, a historical fiction set in The Dust Bowl, the drought-stricken Southern Plains region, during the Great Depression.
  • Next, the list crosses the ocean to an isolated island in West Ireland with the contemporary murder mystery novel The Guest List by Lucy Foley. 
  • Returning to the United States, the powerful novel, The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, focuses on two twin sisters and issues of racial identity and bigotry in the segregated south.
  • With the backdrop of the City of Lights, bestselling author Louise Penny tells the story of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Quebec investigating a sinister plot in Quebec in her latest book, All the Devils Are Here.
  • Isabel Allende’s novel, A Long Petal of the Sea, follows two of the thousands of Spaniards who emigrated to Chile after Franco and the Nationalists won the Spanish Civil War.
  • Klara and the Sun, written by Japanese-born British novelist Kazuo Ishiguro is a beautiful science fiction romance set far away in a dystopian future.


Of Gloucester’s 25 most-read titles, only two are non-fiction, revealing Gloucester’s preference for a good story. But there were still many on the Top 100 list. 

  • The most popular non-fiction title of 2021 was Caste: The Origins of our Discontent by Isabel Wilkerson. Ten years after her acclaimed non-fiction book The Warmth of Other Suns, Wilkerson spoke to the struggles of 2021 in “Caste,” dissecting the not-so-subtle American caste system and the social stratification among race and class in the U.S.
  • A Women of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy who Helped win WWII by Sonia Purnell. This compelling and well-researched biography of Virginia Goillot reveals her pivotal role in coordinating the Resistance in Europe.
  • Niksen: Embracing the Dutch Art of Doing Nothing by Olga Mecking. Based on the premise that the Dutch are the happiest people globally, this wellness guide shares how to embrace idleness and explains how doing nothing can make us happier, more productive, and more creative.
  • The final standout on the non-fiction list is Swimming to the Top of the Tide. Written by local author Patricia Hanlon, it chronicles four seasons of her daily immersion in New England’s Great Marsh.

Adults weren’t the only ones looking to learn and have a little literary fun this year. Children and young adults alike were browsing the Library’s shelves, in person and online, and to follow were some of their best-loved reads. 

Young Adult:

The Young Adult titles with the highest circulations were those on the school reading lists. These engaging books written for readers ages 12-18, include: 

The Boy who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba, Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance and March: Book One, the first volume in a graphic novel trilogy about and by civil and human rights leader, John Lewis with Andrew Aydin. How-to books and self-help books were also popular with the Library’s younger patrons, as was Amanda Gorman’s book of poetry, The Hill We Climb


Five of the top fifteen books for children of reading age were by Jeff Kinney and are titles in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series which encourages even reluctant readers to laugh at the antics of the irresistible main character Greg. Dav Pilkey’s Dog Man series fills two slots on the most popular list. Both titles of Zeeta Elliot’s magical series appeared: The Dragon Thief and Dragons in a Bag. The dragon theme continues on the island of Arcos in the popular Legends of the Sky books series by Liz Flanagan. 

For those interested, complete lists of the Sawyer Free Library’s Most Borrowed Books in 2021, including Adult Mysteries, Graphic Novels, and Teen and Children’s Nonfiction titles, can be found at 

Anyone who resides or attends school in Gloucester can obtain a Library card for free by applying in person, online, or by mail. For more information, visit or call 978-325-5500.

Sawyer Free Library to host “Author Talk with Ted Reinstein” to discuss his new book on Saturday, Jan 8th at 2pm

The Sawyer Free Library will host award-winning author and journalist Ted Reinstein on Saturday, January 8, from 2:00-4:00 pm. He will speak about his book, Before Brooklyn: The Unsung Heroes Who Helped Break Baseball’s Color Barrier, on the Main Floor of the Library located at 2 Dale Avenue in Gloucester, MA.

The event is free and open to the public. Registration is not required. Copies of the book Before Brooklyn: The Unsung Heroes Who Helped Break Baseball’s Color Barrier will be available. Face masks are mandatory for those attending. 

In Before Brooklyn: The Unsung Heroes Who Helped Break Baseball’s Color Barrier, Ted Reinstein tells the story of the little-known heroes who fought segregation in baseball. From communist newspaper reporters to the Pullman car porters who saw that black newspapers espousing integration in professional sports reached the homes of blacks throughout the country. It also reminds us that the first black player in professional baseball was not Jackie Robinson but Moses Fleetwood Walker in 1884 and that for a time-integrated teams were not that unusual. And then, as segregation throughout the country hardened, the exclusion of blacks in baseball quietly became the norm, and the battle for integration began anew.

Before Brooklyn by Ted Reinstein

Reinstein is an award-winning, longtime reporter for Boston’s celebrated nightly-newsmagazine, “Chronicle.” He is the author of three previous books, including New England Notebook: One Reporter, Six StatesUncommon Stories (Globe Pequot Press), selected by National Geographic Traveler in 2014 as a “Best Pick.” Ted is a native of Winthrop, Massachusetts.

For more information about the event or other Sawyer Free Library offerings, visit or call 978-325-5500.


Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute had a pivotal year in 2021 and to make 2022 even better, we need your help.

Supporting GMGI means:

Gloucester Marine Genomics Institute is an ambitious organization. And yet we are just getting started.

Click here to support GMGI.


The Sawyer Free Library is pleased to welcome Marisa Hall as its newest Children’s Librarian.

“I am beyond pleased to welcome Marisa Hall, with her innovative thinking, boundless enthusiasm, and love of working with children, to our dedicated and talented staff at the Sawyer Free Library,” stated Jenny Benedict, the Library Director. “Marisa is so approachable and friendly. I know that our young patrons and their families will welcome her warmly.”

Marisa brings her extensive experience of creating and implementing programs and community outreach events designed to catch the attention and meet the needs of the library’s younger patrons to her new position at the Sawyer Free Library.  With expertise in STEM/STEAM concepts and practices, she will also be developing new innovative programs for children and teens of all ages.

“I’ve been so inspired by the Sawyer Free Library community and my warm welcome to Gloucester that I can’t wait to jump in and start working with the library’s young patrons,” said Marisa Hall on her new role. “I’m looking forward to getting to know even more of the community through my Saturday story-times and STEM programming in the new year.”

Marisa comes to Gloucester from New York, where she most recently served as the Senior Children’s Librarian New York Public Library’s Riverside branch for over four years. She has been recognized with numerous professional awards and certifications for her work in library services and received her M.L.I.S. with a concentration in School Media and Youth Services from Rutgers University and a Bachelor’s of Arts from the University of Delaware.  

The Children’s Room staff led by Christy Rosso.

SFL’s New Children’s Librarian

The Jim Dowd Fund at the Gloucester Education Foundation

So many were touched by the beautiful piece Bo Abrams wrote last week in memory of Gloucester’s beloved Jim Dowd and his brother, Johnny. In it, she shares what a difference mentors and caring adults made in Jim’s life, and how painful it was for him that they were missing from Johnny’s:

Jim talked a lot about all the people who mentored him along the way from the time he was about 12. It wasn’t any one person. But it was one person at time, one interest at a time, one program at a time, that helped him survive to get to the next thing. Someone to give a nudge to stick with it when something was hard. Someone to suggest a book or a program. Someone to talk about colleges or vocations or hopes and dreams.

Johnny never had that. Jim hated that.

Bo goes on the explain that here in Gloucester, the Gloucester Education Foundation is a key resource that helps hook kids into their passions and interests, and connect them to the supports they need:

Which leads me to Gloucester Education Foundation. They are the reason there is a band program and a hundred other programs that make sure practically every kid has something they can connect to in school. And they’re adding more. GEF is starting a mentor program at the high school in conjunction with Wellspring. And they just helped GHS get a grant to bring in an administrator in the vocational program. They are also beginning a student advisory group so students can have a say in GEF leadership which offers a stipend, because you can’t do internships for free if you have to make money.

In the five days since Bo shared this post and created a fundraiser for the new Jim Dowd Fund at GEF, Jim’s family and friends have raised over $15,000 to support mentoring and student leadership opportunities for Gloucester students. This is a testament to how loved Jim and Johnny were, how beautifully (and honestly) Bo wrote about them, and the insightful way she connected their divergent paths to the work GEF has done – and can do more of – to support students. 

We’re looking to grow this fund even more, so that we can help the Gloucester schools provide new opportunities to excite and engage our kids, to connect them with a caring adult or help them discover their voice. Consider a contribution to GEF in memory of Jim and Johnny, and in support of Gloucester students like both of them.

Jason Andree Joins The Open Door Board of Directors

Jason Andree is the newest member of The Open Door Board of Directors.  (Photo Courtesy of The Open Door) 

GLOUCESTER – The Open Door Board of Directors welcomes a new member this winter with significant leadership and management experience in the healthcare sector.  

Addison Gilbert Hospital Vice President Jason Andree, of Peabody, attended his first meeting as a member of the Board of Directors on Nov. 16. Andree has served as Vice President at Addison Gilbert since April, and is the Accreditation, Regulatory Compliance and Patient Safety Manager of the Northeast Hospital Corporation – Beth Israel Lahey Health, a role he has held since 2014. His experience includes clinical pharmacy internships, a post-doctoral fellowship, and various leadership positions. He has advanced training and experience in medication safety, patient safety, risk management quality improvement, and Lean methods. 

Andree says he was attracted to the Board position because of the common goals of the hospital and The Open Door. 

“There is a clear connection between healthcare and feeding people,” Andree said. “Looking at the services The Open Door has offered over the last several years, there’s a natural alignment with some of the services we offer at Addison Gilbert Hospital and Beth Israel Lahey Health. Serving on the Board I can be that connection between the hospital, The Open Door, and the community.” 

“Jason brings a combination of experience in healthcare and a strong background in risk management to the organization at a critical time,” President and CEO Julie LaFontaine said. “The Open Door alleviates the impact of hunger at the intersection of community and healthcare by providing nutritional support and good food for better health outcomes. We welcome his insight as we navigate safely and strategically to address food security as a social determinate of health through our connections, capacity, culture, and communications.” 

Andree is additionally an adjunct professor of the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences School of Healthcare Business. He holds a doctorate degree in Pharmacy from Northeastern University. 

He is also the Board Chair of the Fundraising Committee for Families for Depression Awareness, a Waltham based nonprofit, and is a member of both the American College of Health Care Executives and the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Medical Errors.  

About The Open Door  

The mission of The Open Door is to alleviate the impact of hunger in our community. We use practical strategies to connect people to good food, to advocate on behalf of those in need, and to engage others in the work of building food security. 

Founded in 1978, The Open Door is a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit and community food resource center for low-income residents of Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex, Ipswich, Hamilton, Boxford, Rowley, Topsfield, and Wenham. In 2020, The Open Door helped stabilize the lives and health of 9,681 unduplicated people from 4,703 households through the distribution of 2.46 million pounds of food, amounting to 2.05 million meals. 

Requests for food assistance during this pandemic year were up 27 percent. 

For more information, visit 


Sign up today for a tour of the Sawyer Free Library’s historic WPA Murals on Saturday, December 11!

As a part of the Middle Street Walk festivities, this Saturday, December 11th, professional Conservator, Lisa Mehlin, will be leading 15-minute tours of the Saunders House’s historic WPA Murals that are currently being restored at the Sawyer Free Library.  She will speak to both their history and the conservation process.

Registration for a time slot is required at

The grand murals located in the Saunders House, completed in 1934 by Fredrick L. Stoddard and Howard Curtis as a part of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration, are currently being restored by the Sawyer Free Library. Titled “Scenes of the Region,” the murals depict maritime culture against a backdrop of the agrarian life that supported the early settlement of Gloucester, capturing the activity of the busy working harbor with views of the distant rocky shoreline, the city, Rocky Neck, Ten Pound Island and also a simplified representation of Dogtown Common and old “Whale’s Jaw.”  

Learn more about the murals from conservator Lisa Mehlin. Fifteen-minute tours will be available from 10:00-12:00 pm.  Registration for a time slot is required at

Dr. Iain Kerr of Gloucester’s Ocean Alliance joins the December GMGI Science Hour!

Photo credit: Ocean Alliance

Interested in learning more about Ocean Alliance, the SnotBot, their innovative whale research and ocean conservation efforts? Don’t miss Dr. Iain Kerr, Ocean Alliance CEO, as he joins the GMGI Science Hour on Thursday, December 9th at 7:30pm. Dr. Kerr’s talk is free and available to anyone who is interested. You can click here to register.

Check out our short preview of his talk with our Science Hour Warm Up. You can also see past Science Hour videos on our website.

Be sure to sign up for our mailing list or reach out to Ashley Destino at to stay up to date on future Science Hour talks. The new season begins on January 20th!

Curative Launches Walk-In COVID-19 Testing Site on Emerson Avenue

GLOUCESTER – A no-cost to patients, walk-in COVID-19 testing site opened its doors in Gloucester this week. Curative, a next-generation healthcare delivery company with a mission to end the COVID-19 pandemic, will operate the new site, making it easier than ever for local people to get tested for COVID-19 through the holiday season and after.

“Curative is proud to be partnering with The Open Door and be a crucial resource for the community during this pandemic,” said Fred Turner, CEO and co-founder of Curative. “Curative’s goal is to make testing more accessible with our easy, convenient testing site open to all. We offer a simple testing option with results delivered directly 1-2 days upon receipt at our labs and at no out-of-pocket cost to patients.”

Located at 26 Emerson Ave., Gloucester MA, in the annex of The Open Door campus, the new, temporary site is being operated by Curative and will be available through the end of February 2022. The Curative testing site will open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays. Insurance companies will be billed for testing, and those without insurance will be provided testing at no cost. Walk-ins are welcome.

Click here to register in advance to reduce wait time.

The site first opened on Tuesday, Nov. 30.

“We are proud to be partnering with Curative so that COVID-19 testing will be more convenient and accessible for people on Cape Ann,” The Open Door President and CEO Julie LaFontaine said. “The pandemic has demonstrated time and time again how crucial collaborations like this can be. COVID-19 has had devastating effects on food insecurity, and we hope this will be a key resource for our community in keeping case counts low this winter.”

Those seeking COVID-19 testing are urged to follow signage placed on site to locate the annex, as visitors are currently limited at The Open Door and will not be able to access the testing location through either The Open Door front desk entrance, administrative offices, Food Pantry or warehouses.

When facing The Open Door campus from Emerson Avenue, the annex is accessible on the left, through the glass door at the front of 26 Emerson Avenue, located under an awning. Those seeking testing are asked to park along Emerson Avenue and the lane on the left side of the building.

Masks are required on site at The Open Door campus.

For additional information on all of Curative’s offerings, including other testing sites in Massachusetts and nationwide, visit now.

About Curative

Curative is a leader in on-demand public health service programs and infrastructure development, with a current focus on COVID-19 testing sites of all sizes. Curative partners with communities to strengthen public health services with turn-key programs, easy-to-access experiences, and scalable infrastructure, keeping people everywhere safe, healthy, and informed. Co-founded by CEO Fred Turner and powered by a team of world-leading doctors, scientists, engineers, and health industry experts, Curative began focusing on COVID-19 testing in early March 2020 upon realizing the urgent need to scale COVID-19 test production in the United States. With a network of over 16,000 sites across over 40 states and three CLIA-certified, high-complexity laboratories, Curative and its managed medical entities have provided over 26 million COVID-19 tests and over 2 million COVID-19 vaccines. Beyond COVID-19, Curative is using its unique healthcare delivery network to bring access to the highest quality healthcare services to every American. For more details on Curative, please visit and follow on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

About The Open Door
The mission of The Open Door is to alleviate the impact of hunger in our community. We use practical strategies to connect people to good food, to advocate on behalf of those in need, and to engage others in the work of building food security.

Founded in 1978, The Open Door is a 501 (c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit and community food resource center for low-income residents of Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex, Ipswich, Hamilton, Boxford, Rowley, Topsfield, and Wenham. In 2020, The Open Door helped stabilize the lives and health of 9,681 unduplicated people from 4,703 households through the distribution of 2.46 million pounds of food, amounting to 2.05 million meals.

Requests for food assistance during the last pandemic year were up 27 percent.

For more information, visit


2021 Middle Street Walk Program Saturday, December 11, 2021

10—Noon… Sawyer Free Library ….  Children’s Room – Children’s Nature Craft                                   Join children’s services and make some crafts inspired by nature as we celebrate the Middle Street  Walk.

10—1PM … Sawyer Free Library…    Saunders House   ….    15-minute Tours of the WPA Murals          Lisa Mehlin, professional Conservator, will be leading 15-minute tours of the Saunders House murals. She will speak to both their history and the techniques she is using to restore them. Must register on Library website

10 – 2PM …. Trinity Church …   Outside on church lawn…   Pop Up Church Fair                                    Cookies, jams, shell wreaths, jewelry, and other crafts will be sold

10-3 PM … Cape Ann Thrift Shop (Trinity Church) ……. Stocked for the Season

10—5PM … Sawyer Free Library… Mezzanine …. Gingerbread House Contest

10—5PM … Sawyer Free Library …   Photo Exhibit Gloucester: Then and Now.                             Archival photographs from Sawyer Free Library and Cape Ann Museum are juxtaposed with current photos of identical spots on Middle Street. Come see what has changed and what remains the same.

10 -5 PM … Cape Ann Museum ….  Museum free to the public

10:30—12:30… Sawyer Free Library ….  Steve Lacey Jazz Guitarist

Steve will be playing jazz standards from the early 20th century to accompany the historic exhibits at Middle Street Walk.

10:30– 2:30 AM …. Cape Ann Museum ….  Folly Cove Designer-Stained Glass Project at CAM Studio

11-4 PM … UU Church …  Inside the Main Entrance ….   Free Hot Beverages

11:45 – 1:00PM …Watch for members of the Cape Ann Big Band Caroling

Noon … UU Church ….   Building Tour

Noon …. Sawyer Free Library… Mezzanine   ….  Gingerbread House Contest Winners announced

Noon – 1PM— Temple Ahavat Achim ….      Hanukkah Talk

Noon—1PM… Sawyer Free Library… Friend Room   ….   Visit with Curious Creatures                         Join Curious Creatures as they introduce us to live animal friends! Learn about the natural world as Curious Creatures shares fascinating facts about animals and guides us as we meet them up close and personal. Fun and educational family event!

Noon – 2:00 PM …   Sawyer Free Library … Main Entrance ….     Visit with Santa

Noon – 2:00 PM – CATA…  Trolley rides with Cape Ann Museum Docents on Middle Street.            Meet on Warren Street in front of City Hall

Noon—4 PM … Cape Ann Museum ….  1804 Captain Elias Davis House open and decorated for the season

1PM . . .. St. John’ Church ……   Children sing sounds of the season

1:30—2:30PM …. Cape Ann Museum …. Susanna Natti reading her mother’s book, “The Magic Christmas Tree”

2PM … UU Church ….   Building Tour

2 – 2:30PM … Trinity Church … Outside on Church Lawn    –    Join a lively Christmas Carol sing-along

3:00 – 4:30PM – Cape Ann Museum ….   Teen Block Printing Workshop

3PM … UU Church ….   Building Tour

4:30—6:00PM— Art Haven   …  Open House

4:30 PM – Police Station Plaza….  Lobster Pot Tree Lighting