I like to think of Maya Angelou as a native Missourian, although she spent only a small percentage of her life in the state. She was born in St. Louis in 1928 with the name Marguerite Anne Johnson. Upon the break-up of her parents’ marriage when she was three years old, she and her older brother Bailey were sent to live with their paternal grandmother in Stamps, Arkansas.
This is where her story begins in the memoir “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” The most well-known of her books, it follows her life through the age of 17, ending with the birth of her son. She shared more about her remarkable life in subsequent volumes, conducting readers on a tour of the circuitous route that led to her achievements as an author, poet, performer, activist and San Francisco’s first black streetcar conductor. It’s a truly American story: a scared little girl feeling abandoned by her parents grows up to present an inaugural poem for one president and receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom from another.
But some details show less pleasant aspects of the country, including troubled race relations. Angelou describes her grandmother’s worried anguish when by-then teenaged Bailey fails to come home on time. “The Black woman in the South who raised sons, grandsons and nephews had her heartstrings tied to a hanging noose.”
Maya and Bailey found themselves shuttled back and forth a few times among parents and grandparents. It was during their second St. Louis sojourn that one of the most disturbing events of the book happened – 8-year-old Maya was raped by her mother’s boyfriend. The child stopped speaking to anyone but her brother. But after they returned to Arkansas, something inspiring occurred. Her grandmother’s neighbor and friend, Mrs. Bertha Flowers, helped her regain her voice through the power of literature, inviting the girl to read great books with her.
Eventually Maya’s parents both migrated to California, and the two kids followed. This is where the story wraps up, but not before some major learning and growth on Maya’s part, including a short stint as a runaway living on the streets. She fell in with a group of other homeless teens, who provided her first experience of true cooperation and equality among different races. The influence was lasting, and her words about it seem like a good place to conclude, as they describe so much of her life’s work: “After hunting down unbroken bottles and selling them with a white girl from Missouri, a Mexican girl from Los Angeles and a Black girl from Oklahoma, I was never again to sense myself so solidly outside the pale of the human race. The lack of criticism evidenced by our ad hoc community influenced me, and set a tone of tolerance for my life.”
Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2014 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year.
With dual stories, the plot develops quickly in “The Steady Running of the Hour” by Justin Go. The WWI background brings to life a period that resonates decades later, with a descendant racing a clock to find out his ancestry. As an interested party to genealogy research, I liked the connection and the questions that were raised – and I felt the same desire that I wanted to talk to these people who came before me. The ending may be a surprise – that may be what I didn’t like about the book, but I am still thinking about it.
Three words that describe this book: historical, engaging, provocative
You might want to pick this book up if: you are interested in WWI. WWI tends to be overshadowed by the Second World War, so this book delves into lives of Europeans at this time period and the aftermath of the next decade. Also, mystery readers will enjoy the plot development.
Never in my life did I plan on traveling to Nuremberg. For one thing, as far as I knew, it was a relatively ordinary German town, remembered mostly for the Nuremberg Trials, a series of military tribunals held there by the Allied forces after World War II. For another thing, it’s hard for me, a Jew, to visit a place whose prominence is based on its Nazi past. Yet there I was, with a group of tourists who were brought there by their passion for travel, and who were kept together by Tunde, our energetic Hungarian tour director, and Giorgio, our Italian bus driver. It was an English-speaking tour, although we had two South-Korean young women, six Lebanese middle-aged women, a Filipino family with an adult son (all now living in California), a Brazilian and a Portuguese married to each other (now living in Florida), quite a few Brits (some born and raised there and some brought there from Greece or Spain by marriage or other verisimilitudes of life), lots of Australians (strangely, mostly of Italian descent), one former Russian (me) and several American couples – 47 people in all.
We were traveling to Prague (our tour started in Munich), and Nuremberg was just a convenient place for our bus to stop and for us to have lunch in the center of this medieval Bavarian town. Tunde gave us a brief introduction to the city, and Giorgio dropped us off at the Old Town. At first, we walked around the ornate Beautiful Fountain (that is its actual name!), densely surrounded by tourists trying to reach two golden rings welded within the fountain’s iron fence. (A legend says that if you turn the “golden ring” and make a wish, it will come true.) Then we spent several minutes gazing at the prominent facade of the Church of Our Lady, whose mechanical clock comes to life every day at noon. Finally, we wandered up the street to the Kaiseburg Castle, one of the most important royal palaces in the Middle Ages.
There was no lack of cafes and restaurants anywhere, many spilling invitingly on the streets, offering beer, sausages and other German staples. Everything looked clean and appealing: the signs, the potted flowers on the window sills and the waitresses’ uniforms. After lunch, I thought briefly about visiting the Albrecht-Durer’s House, but our time in Nuremberg was up and soon we boarded our bus and moved on.
“That was a very cute town,” somebody said behind me.
“Sure,” I thought. “Today it is. But what was it in the past?”
Nuremberg first rose to prominence in the Middle Ages, as a key point on trade routes. The first big Jewish pogrom there took place in 1298. Some 700 people were killed, and a church and a city hall were built where they used to live. In the late Middle Ages, Nuremberg became known as a center of science, printing and invention. Albrecht Durer produced the first printed star charts there, Nicolaus Copernicus published the main part of his work and baroque composer Johann Pachelbel, native of Nuremberg, received his early musical education there.
In the 20th century, the reputation of Nuremberg changed dramatically. From 1927 to 1938, it served as a playground for Nazi Party conventions (the Nuremberg Rallies), and quite a few buildings were built there to accommodate them. After Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, these rallies became important propaganda events. At one of them Hitler passed the anti-Semitic laws, which took German citizenship away from all Jews. The pogrom of Kristallnacht, a precursor to Hitler’s Final Solution, was crueler in Nuremberg than anywhere else in Germany. (So far, Nuremberg city archives contain the names of 2,374 of Nuremberg’s Holocaust victims.)
During World War II, the city served as a site for military district headquarters and military production. Airplanes, submarines and tank engines were built there, with many factories using slave labor (a branch of Flossenburg concentration camp was there as well). After the war, Nuremberg was selected for conducting the International Military Tribunals (a choice based largely on the city’s importance for the Nazi party), where high-ranking Nazi officials, officers, doctors and judges were prosecuted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Nuremberg was heavily bombed during the war – a fact many tourists wouldn’t even know, since most of the city was rebuilt (with the exception of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds, which were left in ruins) and its prominent Medieval buildings reconstructed. Today, the city boasts Germany’s most famous Christmas market, the world’s largest toy fair, car races and many cultural events from folk festivals to classical open-air concerts. Tourists come here from all over the world, eager to inhale the medieval charm of the Old Town, try new foods and generally enjoy themselves.
Nuremberg is a city in one of Europe’s richest countries – the status Germany achieved not by conquering other nations and erasing whole populations from the face of the earth, but by implementing a good education system, supporting businesses, maintaining a stable political system and encouraging perfect work ethics. Ironic, isn’t it? So what was it all about: the fighting, the deaths and the suffering of so many? Was it just a fluke? A lesson to remember? If so, how long must we remember? Ten years, twenty, a hundred? And is remembering always a good thing? Centuries-old ethnic and religious conflicts still result in horrific events even now. How strange it must be to be a German tourist, since so many places still preserve the evidence of their country’s infamous past.
Not Nuremberg, though. There, everything is minimized. In fact, the first memorial to the Nuremberg Trials was not opened there until November 2010. Well, who can blame them for not willing to stir up the past? As they say, let sleeping dogs lie. It’s time to move on – as in fact we were, for our tour bus was already rolling along the pretty Bavarian landscape, carrying us to Prague.
B.J. Novak has been somewhat active: from his humble beginnings as the cad Ryan Howard, subject of the hit hundred-hours-long documentary “The Office,” to the trials associated with choosing his favorite initials and legally changing his name to them in a futile attempt to exercise his awful reputation, to writing a collection of stories that are good enough to almost make one forget how mean he was to Kelly and Jim, to being recommended by this blog post. It’s enough to make me of a mind to recline with a nice pastry and a warmed washcloth.
Consisting of 64 pieces, the collection opens with the long-awaited sequel to “The Tortoise and the Hare,” which finally puts that pompous tortoise in its place and updates the original’s creaky old moral, and closes with “Discussion Questions,” which will be a nice jumping off point for your book club or master’s thesis. In between we get a man dealing with the fame associated with returning a sex robot because it fell in love with him. We finally learn the truth about Elvis Presley’s death (and a little about ourselves!). Nelson Mandela gets roasted by Comedy Central and its usual cast of ribald hacks. A boy wins a cereal box sweepstakes only to be ruled ineligible because it turns out his real father is Kellogg’s CEO. A woman goes on a blind date with a warlord. In “No One Goes to Heaven to See Dan Fogelberg,” a man reaches heaven and enjoys a series of concerts performed by history’s greatest musicians until backstage access at a Frank Sinatra show reveals a different side of his grandmother. One story is called “Wikipedia Brown and the Case of the Missing Bicycle.”
If a book has 64 pieces and is still light enough for my dandy-ish arms to lug around from my fainting couches to the snack emporium to my sleep chamber to my eating pit, then many of the stories must be very brief indeed. To show you how my arms, weakened by a life of near-constant lounging, could possibly carry ANYTHING with 64 of something in it, I will reprint one story in its entirety:
Romance, Chapter One
“The cute one?”
“No, the other cute one.”
“Oh, she’s cute too.”
There are several pieces of this sort. There’s stuff here that will please fans of Internet sensation “The Onion,” and there is stuff that will make you hungry for other foods too. There is more than comedy and absurdity here, sometimes things get downright philosophical and/or sad, like when the lovelorn sex robot tries to keep her beloved in the room with her with the promise of needing to say just “one more thing.” Sometimes it’s sad and funny, like the absurd “Missed Connection” ad posted by someone who most definitely “connected” with the intended reader over the course of many hours.
Mr. Novak wrote a really nifty book, and I’m so excited to see what he does next that I’ve fainted twice in the course of typing this sentence and so will cut it short, as I’m nowhere near the appropriate furniture, before a third spell happens upon me.
In the spirit of September, which if you didn’t know is Fall Hat Month, I’m going to share some of my favorite knitting books all about things that go on your head. So dig out some yarn and find a pair of matching knitting needles, because soon it’s going to be cold out, and you’ll want some fresh, fun hats to keep you warm.
Mom, dad, brother, son, wife, daughter – it doesn’t matter. “Hat Heads” by Trond Anfinnsen has something for everyone. There are many different hat designs to choose from in this book, so it’s hard to pick just one. I love the self-portrait page where Trond shows himself in all the different hats he’s made. My personal favorites are Hege’s hat and Silje’s hat. I love the contrast of colors in both these hats, and red happens to be my favorite color. Beware, you might end up checking this book out for a long time because you won’t be able to stop making hats!
I know I like to have a variety of hats to pick from to wear with my winter jacket, and I’m sure many ladies are the same. “Knit Hats Now” features hats designed for women with a little fashionable twist to them. Don’t worry, “Knit Hats Now” has a level of difficulty category for each hat design, so if you’re like me and aren’t the most amazing knitter in the world, you can pick and choose from hats you know are within your capability to create. I love the texture of the Chocolate Dream hat, but my favorite is the first hat in the entire book, the Colors hat. I’ve already got some yarn set aside for this pattern.
“Baby Beanies” by Amanda Keeys is adorable. Babies = cute. Babies in hats = beyond cute. I can’t wait until I have a little niece or nephew to knit for. This book will definitely be the first I check out because these hats are just too adorable. “Baby Beanies” has a wide range of patterns, from simple little basic beanies to more complicated multicolored cone shaped hats. For me, though, the two cutest are the Pompom Bear hat and the Flour Sack hat.
We don’t own “Knitted Beanies and Slouchy Hats” by Diane Serviss yet, but we do have the book on order. I’m a little sad I have to wait to look at this book because I could use a good slouchy hat myself. Feel free to put this book on hold, though, if it interests you!
The library has a large collection of other knitting books. You might need to knit a scarf to go with your hat, so make sure to check out the knitting section in adult non-fiction at the call number 746.432. (And if you need a guide to navigate the Dewey Decimal System, just ask at a desk!)
Jane Goodall is coming to town! In my circles, this is the biggest news since Bob Dylan did a show here ten years ago. Goodall will be speaking at Mizzou Arena on Wednesday, September 17. According to her website “She will…discuss the current threats facing the planet and her reasons for hope in these complex times.”
Goodall is best known for her studies of chimpanzees. She was 26 when Louis Leakey sent her to Tanzania to begin her research in 1960. Authorities in the area expressed resistance to the idea of a young woman traveling alone on this project, so her mother accompanied her for the first few months. Goodall made several new discoveries about chimps. The most remarkable was the fact that they create and use tools. She made it her mission to educate humanity about the fascinating creatures who are so similar to us in some ways, and in the process she became one of the most widely recognized scientists in the world. In 1977 she founded the Jane Goodall Institute to “protect chimpanzees and their habitats.”
Over the years her focus has expanded to other animals, to plants and to the world environment as a whole, including her own species. Roots and Shoots is a youth-led program affiliated with the Jane Goodall Institute. It encourages young people to become involved in solving problems within their own communities.
If you can’t make it to the lecture, we have plenty of Goodall goodness here for you at the library. Check out some of the following materials:
“Among the Wild Chimpanzees.” This DVD from “National Geographic” shows us two decades worth of Goodall’s work among these amazing primates.
“Hope for Animals and Their World.” In this book Goodall provides evidence that we can save endangered species by highlighting conservation efforts that have made a positive difference.
“Seeds of Hope” discusses the roles of plants in the world and humanity’s relationship with the flora around us.
“Jane Goodall,” a 2008 biography by Meg Greene, provides background on Goodall’s childhood, career and personal life.
Our catalog list will direct you to even more titles about Goodall and wildlife conservation.
The post Jane Goodall: Champion of Chimps, Defender of the Earth, Rock Star appeared first on DBRL Next.
She was sassy, opinionated, brash, self-deprecating, raunchy, offensive and funny. Joan Rivers passed away last week at the age of 81, and her death has left me thinking about both her signature brand of stand-up and the female comedians who have followed in her wake. Her daughter, Melissa Rivers, said in a statement, “My mother’s greatest joy in life was to make people laugh. Although that is difficult to do right now, I know her final wish would be that we return to laughing soon.” Here are some books from Rivers and her cohort to help us fulfill that wish.
“We Killed: The Rise of Women in American Comedy” by Yael Kohen.
This oral history presents more than 150 interviews from America’s most prominent comediennes (and the writers, producers, nightclub owners, and colleagues who revolved around them) to piece together the revolution that happened to (and by) women in American comedy. Kohen traces the careers and achievements of comediennes – including Rivers – and challenges opinions about why women cannot be effective comedic entertainers.
“I Hate Everyone – Starting With Me” by Joan Rivers
Read this with a cocktail in hand. Rivers humorously lashes out at the people, places and things she loathes, including ugly children, dating rituals, First Ladies, funerals, hypocrites, overrated historical figures, Hollywood and lousy restaurants.
“Enter Talking” by Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers describes her bitter and bizarre rise to stardom, from her earliest memories that she belonged onstage, through her independent struggle in Manhattan, to the evolution of her one-person show and the winning of public and critical acclaim.
“The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee” by Sarah Silverman
Comedian Silverman’s memoir mixes showbiz moments with the more serious subject of her teenage bout with depression as well as stories of her childhood and adolescence.
“Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns)” by Mindy Kaling
The writer and actress best known as Kelly Kapoor on “The Office” shares observations on topics ranging from favorite male archetypes and her hatred of dieting to her relationship with her mother and the haphazard creative process in the “Office” writers’ room.
“Seriously, I’m Kidding” by Ellen DeGeneres
For those who like their humor to be cleaner than what Rivers delivers. The stand-up comedian, television host, bestselling author and actress candidly discusses her personal life and professional career and describes what it was like to become a judge on “American Idol.”
Editor’s note: book descriptions adapted from publishers’ marketing text.
Editor’s note: This review was submitted by a library patron during the 2014 Adult Summer Reading program. We will continue to periodically share some of these reviews throughout the year.
“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” is about life, family and resilience in the early 1900s (In Brooklyn). Despite the departure in time and location from my present existence, it resonated with me. Smith’s character development was rich and truthful. Characters were not portrayed as foes or heroines, just people. It’s nice to read something without an overt slant or agenda or predictable plot.
Three words that describe this book: genuine, rich, fulfilling
You might want to pick this book up if: you love people and how they interact. This is a story of resilience.
September is the National Library Card Month (chaired this year by comic creator Stan Lee), and libraries across the country want you to know that one of the most important back-to-school supplies is a library card. It’s also the cheapest (i.e., free), and getting your hands on one doesn’t require fighting the hoards at a big box store.
Since this is a library blog, I’m preaching to the choir here. You, dear reader, already have a library card. (If you know someone who doesn’t, encourage them to apply for one in person or online.) But did you know the range of tools and materials you have access to with that card? Not only can you get books, but your library card is also your ticket for free access to:
- Streaming music and videos with Hoopla;
- eBooks and downloadable audiobooks from OverDrive;
- Consumer Reports online;
- Reference USA (for locating people and for doing market research, competitive analysis and job searches);
- Test prep materials for the ACT, ASVAB, GRE exams, etc. from LearningExpress Library;
- and more!
Mr. Lee says it best: “The smartest card in my wallet? It’s a library card.”
My family is lucky to own a beachfront home on Lake Michigan, an amazing place. Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? Well, it has lots of quirks. We have had floods, erosion and falling trees. But the lake has its own kind of magic. When we were there on a recent trip, the water was in the low sixties. Despite the cold, we all ended up boating, kayaking and swimming.
When I was a child it seemed like every summer day was spent in a river, lake, pond or puddle. If I ever need to get away, I find myself near water. The sounds, smells and rhythm of water soothe my soul. This year’s One Read book, Daniel James Brown’s “The Boys in the Boat,” captures the magical properties of water much more eloquently than I do. If you cannot get to the water, below is a list of books that have images to help you imagine.
On a recent day trip to the Omnimax theater at the St. Louis Science Center to see a film about D-Day, my father-in-law commented on how things might be now if Germany won the war. His comment struck a chord, reminding me of a book that I had recently learned of – C.J. Sansom’s alternate history, “Dominion.” This alternative history imagines a world in which World War II has not occurred.
Great Britain, still reeling from the war torn years of WWI, finds itself under the leadership of Lord Halifax rather than Winston Churchill. This single act drastically changes the world that would have been had WWII been allowed to play out. Author C.J. Sansom sets “Dominion” in the early 1950s, over a decade after a 1940 truce between the two nations. Great Britain now finds itself more and more under the control of its Fascist alli. During that decade, European Jews and now British Jews are gathered and shipped off to camps, under the guise of separating the races. In fact, they are being exterminated, as Nazis attempt to create a “pure” empire.
Sansom focuses his story on the growing resistance movement that fights relentlessly to overthrow the German regime that has infiltrated Great Britain. He follows David, a civil servant, who also happens to be working as a spy for the resistance; Sarah, David’s wife, and a pacifist; Frank, a college friend of David’s who holds a secret the Nazis will kill to get their hands on; and Gunther, the SS officer sent to capture Frank. “Dominion” is told from their various perspectives.
I loved the depth brought to the story as its perspective moved back and forth between these rich and compelling characters. Sansom’s research is also highly evident, particularly in his notes section at the book’s end. So although this is an alternative history, it is chock full of people who did exist. Sansom even incorporates other aspects of history into the story that add to its realism. For example, he includes a true fog event that occurred during the very time period during which the novel is set, which ultimately impacts the events that occur within the novel. Sansom’s extensive research truly creates a world that could have existed if the events of 1940 had gone differently.
“Dominion” is a great read for anyone who loves a thriller, but readers of historical fiction may find it satisfying as well thanks to all the research and real history found throughout the story. And for those of us who enjoy learning about history, but also enjoy pondering “what if,” it is certainly a book that does not disappoint. (And for those who are intrigued by the idea of reading alternative histories, the library owns several beyond this title. Check out some that you may enjoy reading by browsing our catalog.)
September is upon us! Time to get serious and hit the books. This month’s list of recommended titles from LibraryReads leaves behind the lighter fare of summer and includes some heavy-hitting literary fiction, as well as a book that stares death in the face. Here are the top 10 books being published in September that librarians love.
“Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory“
by Caitlin Doughty
“Part memoir, part exposé of the death industry, and part instruction manual for aspiring morticians. First-time author Doughty has written an attention-grabbing book that is sure to start some provocative discussions. Fans of Mary Roach’s ‘Stiff’ and anyone who enjoys an honest, well-written autobiography will appreciate this quirky story.”
– Patty Falconer, Hampstead Public Library, Hampstead, NH
by Emily St. John Mandel
“An actor playing King Lear dies onstage just before a cataclysmic event changes the future of everyone on Earth. What will be valued and what will be discarded? Will art have a place in a world that has lost so much? What will make life worth living? These are just some of the issues explored in this beautifully written dystopian novel. Recommended for fans of David Mitchell, John Scalzi and Kate Atkinson.”
– Janet Lockhart, Wake County Public Libraries, Cary, NC
“The Secret Place“
by Tana French
“French has broken my heart yet again with her fifth novel, which examines the ways in which teenagers and adults can be wily, calculating and backstabbing, even with their friends. The tension-filled flashback narratives, relating to a murder investigation in suburban Dublin, will keep you turning pages late into the night.”
– Alison McCarty, Nassau County Public Library System, Callahan, FL
And here is the rest of the list with links to our catalog so you can place holds on these on-order titles.
- “Rooms” by Lauren Oliver
- “The Children Act” by Ian McEwan
- “The Distance” by Helen Giltrow
- “Horrorstor” by Grady Hendrix
- “The Paying Guests” by Sarah Waters
- “The Witch with No Name” by Kim Harrison
- “Season of Storms” by Susanna Kearsley
The post Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The September 2014 List appeared first on DBRL Next.
September 13 and 14, be a part of the Battle of Centralia reenactment weekend. Held in in Centralia, Missouri, this event commemorates the 150th anniversary of the fight between Federal troops and Confederate “Bloody Bill” Anderson and his men. In addition to the reenactment, enjoy two full days of activities, including music, crafts, food vendors, Civil War historians, dancing and night firing of Civil War cannons! Visit the Friends of Centralia Battlefield’s website for more information.
The following weekend will be the 37th Annual Heritage Festival & Craft Show on the grounds of the Boone County Historical Society outside the Maplewood Home in historic Nifong Park. This annual event will be even more special this year with tours of the completed homes in the village just behind the museum. More reenactments of the “good ole days” will also be included, with artisans and tradespeople dressed in 19th century attire demonstrating their trades and selling their wares. On the Maplewood Home’s porch will be booths sharing information about the Boone County Historical Society and the Genealogical Society of Central Missouri.
In October, the 2014 inductees to the Boone County Hall of Fame will be celebrated at the historical society’s annual reception. The Boone County Hall of Fame honors some of the area’s individuals and organizations “whose contributions of talent and ingenuity made an impact on Boone County’s past, helping it to become the progressive and thriving county it is today.” This year’s honorees are writer Warren Dalton; attorney Don Sanders, a key figure in the Watergate investigation, former Boone County Commissioner and past president of the Boone County Historical Society; and Little Dixie Construction. This event is a fundraiser for the Walters History Museum.
If you love local festivals of all types, here are some other events to add to your calendar this fall. Crafts, music, food – Mid-Mo has you covered.
- Ashland Fall Festival – Saturday, September 6 in Ashland City Park in Ashland
- Roots N Blues N BBQ – September 26-28, Stephens Lake Park in Columbia
- Hatton’s Craft Day – Saturday, October 4th in Hatton
- The Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival – October 11 and 12 in Hartsburg
Okay, admittedly, this has been one of the coolest summers in mid-Missouri in a long time, but we’ve still had plenty of hot days. Without all that summer sunshine and heat we wouldn’t have the produce bounty we’re lucky to have here in the Midwest – fat juicy tomatoes, cantaloupes, sweet corn, cucumbers, bushy bunches of basil, peaches, watermelon, okra, eggplant and on and on, all wonderfully and locally available. This appeal is obvious if you attend farmers’ markets – they are teeming with people scouting for the freshest picked and most flavorful fruits and vegetables. That said, as the days of summer wear on and the heat and humidity debilitate, preparing meals over a hot stove and heating up the house drops way down on the list of my favorite things to do. Is that true for you? Well, if so, fear not. You can eat well without cooking (or cooking very little). When the temperatures rise, it’s time to resort to chilled soups, smoothies, salads, sandwiches and other raw food recipes to feed yourself and your family. DBRL’s collection is replete with cookbooks featuring these “un-cooked” meals.
One of my boys’ all-time favorite meals is Pan-Bagnat (pronunciation: pan ban-YAH). It is essentially a salad Nicoise (from the Nice area of France) on a crusty roll, packed with lots of goodies that can be varied – tuna, hard-boiled eggs, Greek olives, slivered red onion, tomatoes and provolone – drizzled with olive oil or pesto. It’s a complete meal in and of itself and so easy to make and divinely delicious to eat. I really ought to make it more often. We packed this treat along with some fresh bing cherries and orangeade kombucha for a recent bike ride picnic, and everyone went home with happy taste buds and satisfied bellies.
Another nice aspect to leaving the stove behind and focusing on these cooler meals is that they tend to involve less time in the making, leaving more time for other activities, like going for a swim – another great way to take the edge off the heat.
Genetic modification is a hot topic, and not just because of the literal heat harbored by pumpkins inexplicably modified to cast horrifying, fiery glares our way every October. There are pluses, like massive potatoes capable of feeding dozens, talking to you when you’re lonely and even playing a competent game of checkers. Perhaps you give birth to Siamese twins with a gift for playing piano. There are minuses though, besides hateful pumpkins and repeatedly losing to a potato at checkers. Maybe you birth a child with flippers for limbs and a predilection for starting popular cults that mandate the removal of one’s own appendages. Also, as gene tampering becomes rampant, people will grow weary of picking their future children’s hair colors and which professional sport they will play. Parents will long for the days when, if you didn’t like your child’s hair, you simply shaved them bald, and if you wanted them to excel at sport, you were forced to mercilessly prod them until their vertical leaps were satisfactory.
While the profile of genetic shenanigans grows with every neon-blue tomato on our plates and Robocop on our streets, people have been obsessed with genes since the first bald man looked scornfully at his father’s bountiful locks. And 25 years ago, Katherine Dunn tapped into this obsession and combined it with another topic constantly on the minds of modern humans (travelling freak shows) into one gloriously deformed firecracker of a novel.
“Geek Love” is narrated by Olympia, a hunchback albino dwarf, member of her parents’ lucrative freak show and product of her parents’ crude attempts to modify DNA for profit. Her parents, Aloysius and Crystal Lil, used drugs, insecticides and radioactive stuff to conjure strange fruit from the womb. Oly’s older brother, Arturo, is the aforementioned flipper-limbed, cult leader. Electra and Iphigenia are the Siamese piano dynamos. Fortunato is the youngest, a seemingly normal child nearly abandoned for his uselessness until his telekinetic powers manifested themselves.
The novel jumps between two eras. One covers Oly’s childhood with the carnival and the familial strife, much of it conjured by Arty and his cult of Arturism. The other era features Oly taking care of a mother who doesn’t know who she is, perhaps in part because of the radiation and insecticides, and stalking a daughter who doesn’t know who she is because Oly gave her to some nuns when she was a baby. The twin narratives race along like the most awesome and lengthy roller coaster ever, and you’ll leave the tracks dazed, queasy, having lost your sunglasses and ready to get in line for the next Katherine Dunn novel, which doesn’t yet exist as the author spends much of her time using her boxing knowledge to fend off muggers.
The reader should be warned, in addition to the reckless gene doctoring, there is content not for the faint-hearted: telekinetic pickpocketing, attempted murder, a human with a tail, murder, unnecessary amputations and, depending on how you define it, incest. But if you like words and watching someone bite the head off of a live chicken, this may be your new favorite novel.
OverDrive recently made several updates to their site that improve your ability to find downloadable eBooks and audiobooks and manage holds. The changes include the ability to filter items by age level, automatic hold checkouts and suspending holds. Here are the highlights.
You can now exclude items from your browsing or search results based on age levels. For example, adult users are able to exclude titles for younger readers and young readers to exclude adult-only titles from their experience. This can be done by going into your account settings and choosing the appropriate range of content. You must be logged in for this to be in effect. Users can also choose to “mask” covers for “Mature Adult” items. This is also done from the account settings page.
Holds will be automatically checked out to your account when they become available. This is optional and can be done by checking a box at the time a hold is placed. If you are unable to borrow the title at the time it becomes available (because you have already reached their maximum checkout limit, for example) you will be sent the current hold notification email and have three days to make your checkout.
This feature allows you to temporarily suspend a hold in the waiting list. Your position will continue to advance in the queue while the hold is suspended, but the hold will not be filled. You can do this by going into the Holds section of your account settings and clicking on the Options button for a hold.
Everybody loves to apply ointment to wounds and toppings to nachos. However, did you know you can also apply science to life? Sure, knowledge is its own reward, but here are some books to get you started if you want a manifestation of your reading:
“Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food” by Jeff Potter – Avoid kitchen disasters by learning exactly what happens when you boil an egg.
“True Brews: How to Craft Fermented Cider, Beer, Wine, Sake, Soda, Mead, Kefir, and Kombucha at Home” by Emma Christensen – Brew that perfect fermented drink for your next theme party.
“Extreme Brewing: An Enthusiast’s Guide to Brewing Craft Beer at Home” by Sam Caligione – Or just stick to brewing beer.
“Boost your Brain: The New Art and Science Behind Enhanced Brain Performance” by Majid Fotuhi – Hone your concentration so that you can work on that jigsaw puzzle for longer than 10 minutes.
“Shine: Using Brain Science to Get the Best From Your People” by Edward M. Hallowell – Motivate your employees without free pizza.
Meteorology and Astronomy
“Guide to Weather Forecasting” by Storm Dunlop – Do-it-yourself forecasting beyond creaky knees and frizzy hair.
“The Lost Art of Finding Our Way” by John Edward Huth – You’ll be glad to apply this book’s lessons if you lose your GPS, smartphone, Compass, and maps while trekking through the woods for some reason.
Mathematics and Statistics
“The Numbers Game: The Commonsense Guide to Understanding Numbers in the News, in Politics, and in Life” by Michael Blastland – Be the life of the party during election season when you explain what those numbers really mean.
“How Many Licks?: Or, How to Estimate Damn Near Anything” by Aaron Santos – Guess how many jelly beans are in that jar.
Art and Science
“Divine Proportion: Phi in Art, Nature, and Science” by Priya Hemenway – Impress a docent by rhapsodizing about the beauty of 1.6180339887….
“Colliding Worlds: How Cutting-Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art” by Arthur I. Miller – Create your next masterpiece using brain scans, artificial intelligence or gene therapy.
“Science Ink: Tattoos of the Science Obsessed” by Carl Zimmer – Most of these tattoos likely originated with a student’s inability to memorize science stuff before a test, but they look neat, and needles hurt.
“The Physics of Pitching: Learn the Mechanics, Science, and Psychology of Pitching to Success” by Len Solesky – The average salary of a Major League Baseball pitcher is over three million dollars, so maybe it’s time for a career change.
“The Physics of Baseball” by Robert Kemp Adair – Or just sit on the couch and learn to appreciate at the velocities and angles of America’s pastime.
“How to Build a Hovercraft: Air Cannons, Magnet Motors, and 25 Other Amazing DIY Science Projects” by Stephen Voltz – Not using that leaf blower? Use it to build a hovercraft.
“True Grit,” by Charles Portis, is a book that defies genrefication. It’s an American adventure semi-western coming-of-age dramatic comedic fictional memoir. The narrator is Arkansas resident Mattie Ross, speaking as an older woman, recalling the time in the 1870s when she was 14 years old and set out to capture her father’s killer, a man named Tom Chaney.
Much of the entertainment value, the thing that keeps me re-reading certain passages, stems from Mattie’s voice, which Portis has crafted perfectly. Mattie holds firm convictions about how things should be. Her love language is legal representation. She freely offers the assistance of her family attorney to those she respects. Her liberties with the lawyer’s services extend to forging his signature on her own letter of identification. Early on she says “If you want anything done right you will have to see to it yourself every time.” This philosophy compels her to carry her father’s war pistol and accompany Marshall Reuben (Rooster) Cogburn, the man she has hired to track Chaney, on his manhunt in Choctaw territory, where Chaney has fallen in with a group of outlaws.
Rooster Cogburn is described by another character in these words: “a pitiless man, double-tough, and fear don’t enter into his thinking. He loves to pull a cork.” But later events show he is not entirely without pity, especially when it comes to Mattie. And she is not entirely inflexible, making allowances for Rooster’s cursing, drinking and the fact that he himself once fled parole in Kansas. Unlike Mattie, Rooster thinks more in terms of how things are than how they ought to be. His catch phrase is “That is the way of it.” Despite their differences, Rooster and Mattie often bring out the best in each other.
But there is a third member of the party who can rile both of them, a dandy of a Texas Ranger named LaBoeuf (pronounced “LaBeef”). Chaney is also wanted in Texas for killing a senator, and there is a substantial reward involved. LaBoeuf has been after the killer for some time, but it’s unclear whether the ranger is motivated more by money or pride. His magnificent spurs – a symbol of his self-image – are mentioned multiple times.
As the trio closes in on the gang of ne’er-do-wells, the action becomes ever more thrilling. Each one of the three protagonists is required to dig deep into their reserves of courage, loyalty and, of course, grit. As in all good fiction, nothing comes without sacrifice. Mattie, especially, pays a large price for what she’s gained.
If you’ve been meaning to get around to reading “True Grit,” take heed of the older Mattie’s words: “Time just gets away from us.” Buckle down and get to it.
“Code Name Verity” is a fictionalized story of the friendship of two women during World War II. The first part of the book is Julie’s side of their story and then Maddie’s account is the second half. Julie is captured and is forced to write down all of the information she knows in regards to the war (code names, airports, war plans and strategies, etc.). I enjoyed listening to this book on CD. The readers did a great job of portraying their characters. I am going to listen to the book again due to the twist at the end I didn’t see coming.
Three words that describe this book: Friendship, World War II, Prisoner
You might want to pick this book up if: You are looking for a book about friendship, or you want to know what role some women played during World War II and what some people went through when they were captured.
Congratulations to Rachel from Ashland on winning our eighth and final Adult Summer Reading 2014 prize drawing. She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.
That wraps up our Adult Summer Reading program for this year. If you didn’t win a prize, we hope you will try again next year. A big thank you to everyone who signed up and submitted book reviews. Make sure to come back to DBRL Next to see what other patrons have recommended. Also, don’t forget to sign up for our upcoming One Read program. This year’s selection is “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown.