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Reader Review: Dead Man’s Folly

June 28, 2016

dead mans follyI loved “Dead Man’s Folly!” Hercule Poirot is asked by his friend Ariadne Oliver to come visit her at Nasse House. She is planning a “murder hunt” for a garden fete, and she feels that there is something not quite right, but she can’t put her finger on it. In typical Agatha Christie fashion, a murder occurs, and Hercule Poirot sets out to find the killer! I loved this book. It is one of my favorite Poirot mysteries —I’ve read several. I have found a few to be boring, but not this one! I love the setting, plot, characters — everything really!

Three words that describe this book: gothic, absorbing, different

You might want to pick this book up if: you love Agatha Christie, especially if you love her little Belgian detective Hercule Poirot! He is my favorite character of all time!


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Third Summer Reading Gift Card Winner!

June 28, 2016

TrophyCongratulations to Amy, a Southern Boone County Library patron, for winning our third Adult Summer Reading prize drawing.  She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

All it takes to be entered into our weekly drawings is to sign up for Adult Summer Reading. You can do this at any of our branch locations or Bookmobile stops or register online.  Also, don’t forget that submitting book reviews increases your chances of winning.  There are plenty of chances left to win this summer, so keep those reviews coming.

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Couch to 5K: Books (and Other Resources)

June 27, 2016

Book cover for Young Runners by Marc BloomThe popularity of the 5K running event is soaring these days. Nearly 8 million people competed in a 5K event during 2015 according to the official entity that keeps such statistics, Running USA.  That is a significant number of people pounding the pavement in pursuit of a personal running best. Probably the hardest thing about the process is actually getting started! Fortunately, there are many “couch to 5K” types of books to help.

My wife and I have two small children, ages 6 and 10, and we love running with them. I really enjoy it – an after-work two-miler with my kids is just what the doctor ordered. I get to spend time with my girls, and they get to stay fit and active. A great book about starting a running program for kids is titled: “Young Runners: The Complete Guide to Healthy Running for Kids From 5 to 18.” Some of the challenges facing young runners are age and growth specific injuries such as shin splints and knee pain. “Young Runners” outlines training programs so that kids can avoid these pitfalls, stay motivated and even run their first 5 or 10K.

Book cover for Train Like a MotherIn the midst of having kids and living a very busy life, my wife has run nearly a dozen 5K races and even a half marathon! A couple of books and other resources have really helped her stay motivated, including Kara Goucher’s excellent “Running for Women” and a subscription to Runner’s World. However, a number of books have recently been published that target the busy Mom runner specifically. “Train Like a Mother: How to Get Across any Finish Line – and not Lose Your Family, Job, or Sanity” by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea is one. Speaking of 5Ks, McDowell and Shea say the following:  “Many 5Ks cater to families with fun runs for younger kids and courses that older kids can tackle. You run, they run, and then . . . naptime for everyone in the afternoon.” Another recent entry in the canon is the book “See Mom Run: Every Mother’s Guide to Getting Fit and Running her First 5K” by Megan Searfoss.

Book cover for Runner's World Complete Book of RunningIf you want a good introduction to everything about running, try the “Runner’s World Complete Book of Running,” edited by Amby Burfoot. The most recent edition was published in 2009, and should be required reading for anyone starting a training regime.  In the chapter “Oprah Did it, So Can You,” Burfoot outlines how a personal trainer, some weight loss, and a lot of persistence actually sent Oprah Winfrey on her way to running a marathon in 1994. The book also has a lot of emphasis on choosing the right gear — mainly a pair of nice running shoes: “The great thing about running is that you only need one piece of equipment.” Choosing the right shoe can be a complicated and confusing affair with all the varieties out there to choose from, but Burfoot keeps the process simple and straightforward. To supplement this particular title, one might check out a suite of similar offerings, including “Runner’s World Complete Book of Women’s Running” and “Runner’s World Complete Book of Beginning Running.”

Finally, for the beginning AND the more experienced runners who want to get a little bit more from their training programs, there is the near classic and well reviewed “Galloway’s 5K and 10K Running.” Jeff Galloway’s training programs are all over the internet, but the book gives the reader quite a bit more depth and explains theory when discussing running technique and his very popular “walk/run” approach to fitness. Also, please see Galloway’s frequently updated website for revised training programs and other fresh offerings: www.jeffgalloway.com.

I exhort you to get out and start running!  Your body, mind and even your family will be the better for it. Seek out some of these resources to get started, and you will be on your way.

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A Healthy Mind

June 24, 2016

World Tai Chi Day, photo by Brian Robinson via FlickrAt one point in my life, when I was feeling unmoored, I came across the book “PMS, Perimenopause, and You,” by Lori Futterman. Now what does a healthy mind have to do with PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and perimenopause, you ask?  Well, included in this helpful book, which takes a holistic approach to this stage in a woman’s life, is a very good definition of what it means to be healthy. And I quote Futterman: “You are healthy if you are able to do the things you want to, have a strong sense of calm, and are able to face unforeseen events that may be stressful with resolve and resourcefulness. You may achieve inner peace through meditation, religion, reflection, study of philosophy, or visualization.”

I found this definition so illuminating that I copied it and reread it over the years, whenever I needed reminding. Notice she emphasizes the need for a contemplative or meditation practice as a means to gain inner calm and strength, claiming it will aid in the ability to live life from a steady, confident and centered place. With that assertion in mind, I want to alert you to a program being offered and resources available here at the library, which focus on the development and maintenance of mental well-being through meditation. Fortunately, there are many types of meditation “practice,” which means there is something for everyone, depending on life approach, personal preference and ability.

First up, the library is offering a program on Tai Chi, both at the Columbia and Callaway County library locations. Tai chi can be described as meditation in motion, and it is an ancient, slow-motion Chinese martial art. This body-mind practice is suitable for all ages and levels of physical ability, and it addresses many components of physical fitness (muscle strength, flexibility, balance, etc.), but one of its important aims is to foster a calm and tranquil mind. Tai chi can also be helpful for a host of medical conditions, including arthritis, heart disease, hypertension, stroke and sleep problems, among others. Clearly tai chi has a lot to offer, and if you’d like to give it a try, please plan to attend one of the above mentioned programs.

Meditate, photo by Caleb Roenigk via FlickrLike tai chi, yoga can also be described as a form of meditation in motion. This practice of physical postures combined with conscious breathing originated in ancient India, and it aims to integrate body, mind and spirit. Historically its purpose was to move one toward attaining enlightenment, but even if this is not a “goal” for you, there are many benefits to be realized from a yoga practice. Physical benefits include increased muscle strength, flexibility and protection from injury. Mental benefits include increased mental clarity and calmness, a greater ability to focus and concentrate attention, and it can also aid in reducing anxiety and/or depression. Yoga is also suitable for people of all ages and levels of physical ability.

Sitting meditation, another ancient practice, can be undertaken with the aim of building inner strength and tranquility. There are numerous forms of meditation that employ different techniques, but for the same purpose — to train the mind to pay attention to what is happening in the present moment, and thereby become aware of the mind’s behavior and tendencies. Research has shown how meditation affects the brain and has uncovered many benefits, including improving the ability to focus and concentrate attention, improving memory, reducing stress, anxiety and depression, enhancing creativity and developing compassion. That is quite a lot to offer!

This pithy little book, “Start Here Now: an Open-hearted Guide to the Path and Practice of Meditation” by Susan Pivers, provides straightforward explanations and instructions that demystify meditation (in case you were mystified), making it very accessible to beginners.  There is a treasure trove of books here at the library, both in print and audio, with explanations and instructions on how to meditate. And there are a few organizations in our local area that offer group sitting opportunities and meditation instruction, for those interested in taking a class:  Show Me Dharma, Mindfulness Practice Center and Silent Mind-Open Heart.

“Even when in the midst of disturbance, the stillness of the mind can offer sanctuary.”
― Stephen Richards, The Ultimate Cosmic Ordering Meditation

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Reader Review: The Starter Wife

June 23, 2016

the starter wifeThe Starter Wife” is about Gracie, a woman in a situation where she really doesn’t belong, fit in, or want to be. She tries with somewhat sincere effort to be a part of the Hollywood “Wife of” scene, and we readers get a peek with clarity, caring and pretty consistent humor! After a shocking text message, her life begins a journey to…she doesn’t know where! I liked Gracie and the narrative, which shared an interesting time in her life. This book is well written and moves with ease from page to page, and I really liked getting a look at the challenges and strife of a Hollywood wife’s life — it looks pretty, but it’s not.

Three words that describe this book: wife, life, Hollywood

You might want to pick this book up if: you like to read clever books, like to learn about different types of lives and, well, just pick it up cause it is good!!


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Blood Relations: Docs Featuring Families In Crisis

June 22, 2016

tarnation imageFamilies can go into crisis mode when faced with stressful situations. How will family members deal with the situation and how will it transform their relationships with each other? Check out these docs that focus on families in a state of crisis.

tarnationTarnation” (2005)

Part documentary, part narrative fiction, part home movie, and part acid trip. Faced with the haunting remnants of his past, including a family legacy of mental illness, abuse and neglect, Jonathan Caouette returns home to aid in his schizophrenic mother’s recovery.

dear zacharyDear Zachary” (2008)

Filmmaker Kurt Kuenne begins making a film for Zachary, son of his oldest friend who was murdered by Zachary’s mother. The film’s focus shifts to Zachary’s grandparents as they fight to win custody of Zachary from the woman who took their son’s life.

prodigal sonsProdigal Sons” (2010)

Returning home to Montana for her high school reunion, filmmaker Kimberly Reed (previously the school quarterback and now a transgender woman) hopes for reconciliation with her long-estranged adopted brother. But along the way they face challenges no one could imagine.

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Reader Review: Lust & Wonder

June 21, 2016

book cover for lust and wonderI really enjoy Augusten Burroughs, and I like hearing him read his own books. He manages a compelling mix of vulnerability and strength. Even when he screws up his life or makes choices he regrets later, he is able to examine the inner monologue and present it for the world to view. “Lust & Wonder” seems a good reflection on what I’d call regular adulting. He had a grown-up and mature relationship that wasn’t horrible, but it also wasn’t good, and he describes it in some detail. His reflections should have a universal tune to them for anyone reflecting on one’s own relationships. He describes his wild love for his dogs and the sadness of dividing custody as a relationship fails. He focuses on how his past continues to affect his present and highlights the moments when he tries to sort out whether feelings he’s having are appropriate to the situation or are really about a response to something that happened in his past. While I don’t have anything like the serious abuse and deep level addiction issues that Burroughs has, the analysis of whether a response is right for a situation applies even to someone without as much history.

Three words that describe this book: vulnerable, adult, engaging

You might want to pick this book up if: You’ve enjoyed other books by this author.
You want to hear an author read his own memoir. You are struggling with the fizzling of a long-term relationship.


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The Gentleman Recommends: Arthur Bradford

June 20, 2016

Book cover for Turtle Face and Beyond by Arthur BradfordWhile I’ll recommend the work of a rascal if that rascal’s work is great enough, there are enough brilliant and kind writers out there that I’ve rarely had to resort to that. How do I know if they’re kind? The same way you find out if anyone is kind – you google them, show a picture of them to your neighbor’s hounds, and then carefully observe the hounds’ reactions. With this month’s recommendation, I needn’t confirm the internet’s verdict with a hound test. Arthur Bradford’s gentlemanly nature shows in the big-hearted way he renders his characters and because the good sir is dedicated to helping people. In addition to some film work and two incredible collections of short stories, he’s worked at the Texas School for the Blind, been a co-director for Camp Jabberwocky (a camp for people with disabilities), and he’s currently working in a juvenile detention center. He’s not your typical literary superstar who spends all his time eating figs, drinking brandy and bidding for antique typewriters on eBay.

Bradford writes without the sort of fanciful verbiage, flowery descriptions and unnecessary addenda that this immaculately groomed (wearing the casual cummerbund, because it’s Friday) gentleman so vigorously gravitates toward. His sentences are direct, and they’re hilarious. His characters make mistakes, sometimes constantly, but they’re not trying to hurt anyone, and they’re often trying to help someone.

Turtleface and Beyond” is his most recent collection of short stories, and it’s awesome. The titular Turtleface is an unfortunate young man who, after drunkenly deciding to dive from a cliff to impress his canoeing companions, dives face first into a turtle. Both he and the turtle are in bad shape, but Georgie (the soft-hearted narrator of the entire collection) decides to slap some duct tape on the turtle and nurse it back to health.

There’s a story about an under-dressed man travelling with friend to a wedding. They find a man ailing at the side of the road. He’s been bitten by a snake. He convinces Georgie to suck the poison from his leg. George reluctantly attempts it and ruins an outfit that was already insufficiently formal. There’s one where a reluctant Georgie is cajoled into assisting a boss’s decline into total depravity. There’s one called “The LSD and the Baby.”

When “The Gentleman Recommends” blog post series was first conceived, my primary intent was to highlight books that I like, but I also wanted to further the agenda of the gentleman. That agenda: constant politeness, regular charity, enough hat-tipping/doffing to cause calluses on the fingers you use to tip/doff your hat, always bowing when introduced to someone or when someone you know does something worthy of a bow, and regular snack breaks. I didn’t know that what I really wanted was to recommend a writer who had written a story called “The LSD and the Baby.”

If you like “Turtleface and Beyond,” support the gentlemen’s agenda and buy Bradford’s first collection, “Dogwalker.”

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Second Summer Reading Gift Card Winner!

June 19, 2016

TrophyCongratulations to Teresa, a Columbia Public Library patron, for winning our second Adult Summer Reading prize drawing.  She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

All it takes to be entered into our weekly drawings is to sign up for Adult Summer Reading. You can do this at any of our branch locations or Bookmobile stops or register online.  Also, don’t forget that submitting book reviews increases your chances of winning.  There are plenty of chances left to win this summer, so keep those reviews coming.

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Top Ten Books Librarians Love: The July 2016 List

June 17, 2016

Library Reads Logo

It’s hot and humid, and the LibraryReads recommendations list for July is dripping with twisty, suspenseful and sometimes genre-blending thrillers! Kidnapping, murder on a cruise ship, a mysterious death in an Amish community and a reality show gone seriously awry – there are so many good stories to stow in your beach bag. Here are the top 10 titles publishing next month that librarians across the country love.

Book cover for Dark Matter by Blake CrouchDark Matter” by Blake Crouch

“Once on the fast-track to academic stardom, Jason Dessen finds his quiet family life and career upended when a stranger kidnaps him. Suddenly Jason’s idle “what-ifs” become panicked “what-nows,” as the humble quantum physics professor from a small Chicago college gets to explore the roads not taken with a mind-bending invention that opens doors to other worlds. This fun science fiction thriller is also a thoughtful page-turner with heart that should appeal to fans of Harlan Coben.” – Elizabeth Eastin, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton, NY

Book cover for The Woman in Cabin 10The Woman in Cabin 10” by Ruth Ware

“An intruder in the middle of the night leaves Lo Blacklock feeling vulnerable. Trying to shake off her fears, she hopes her big break of covering the maiden voyage of the luxury cruise ship, the Aurora, will help. The first night of the voyage changes everything. What did she really see in the water and who was the woman in the cabin next door? The claustrophobic feeling of being on a ship and the twists and turns of who, and what, to believe keep you on the edge of your seat. Count on this being one of the hot reads this summer!” – Joseph Jones, Cuyahoga County Public Library, OH

Book cover for The Last OneThe Last One” by Alexandra Oliva

“The Last One tells the story of twelve contestants who are sent to the wilderness in a Survivor-like reality show. But while they’re away, the world changes completely and what is real and what is not begins to blur. It’s post-apocalyptic literary fiction at it’s best. With a fast pace and a wry sense of humor, this is the kind of book that will appeal to readers of literary fiction and genre fiction alike. It points out the absurdity of reality television without feeling condescending. As the readers wake up to the realities of a new world, it becomes difficult to put down.” – Leah White, Ela Area Public Library, Lake Zurich, IL

Here is the rest of the July list for your holds-placing pleasure:

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Reader Review: Jane Steele

June 16, 2016

jane steeleMore a “Jane Eyre” tribute than an adaptation, “Jane Steele” tells the story of a Victorian woman, Jane Steele, who is inspired by her own reading of “Jane Eyre” to write a memoir. Like Eyre, Steele is orphaned at a young age, sent by a cruel aunt to a bleak boarding school led by a tyrant, and then becomes governess to the impish ward of a brooding and mysterious man. Jane Steele, however, handles things in a much different way than her literary counterpoint, accumulating a body count along the way. There are multiple mysteries involved: Will Jane be able to claim her inheritance? What’s going on in the cellar? Why does her employer always wear gloves? What happened to the missing jewels? Will Jane be exposed as a murderess? There’s a lot going on, but the storyline is never confusing or jumbled. All of those questions eventually get answered in a satisfying way, and the reader is left feeling justice has been served all the way around. Jane Steele may be the only time a reader is left rooting for a heroine who identifies herself as a serial killer.

Three words that describe this book: gothic, absorbing, different

You might want to pick this book up if: You enjoy a good gothic mystery or “Jane Eyre.”


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Everyone Deserves the Opportunity to Play

June 15, 2016

Book cover for “Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play.”– Mike Singletary, speaking of his career in football.

Isn’t this what we all want: the chance to participate in activities that enrich our lives? In the past, a physical or cognitive disability often meant spectator-only status when it came to sports, but that’s become less true with each passing decade. Check out Special Olympics champion gymnast, Chelsea Werner. Color me impressed; I never even learned to do a proper cartwheel.

Eunice Kennedy Shriver started Special Olympics in 1968, inspired by her sister, Rosemary Kennedy, who had cognitive disabilities and had been left out of many areas of life. For the past twenty years, Shriver’s son, Timothy, has served as chair of the organization. In his book “Fully Alive,” he speaks about the history of the group and his own personal experiences working with the athletes. Shriver finds motivation for his work in his faith, but there’s plenty of inspiration here for people of all belief systems.

Local athletes who are interested in participating in Special Olympics can contact Columbia Parks and Recreation or Special Olympics Missouri.

The 2005 documentary “Murderball” brought increased awareness to another group of athletes busy not sitting on the sidelines. The filmmakers followed the US quad (quadriplegia) Rugby team from training through competition in the 2004 Paralympics. The play is fast-paced and aggressive, and with specially designed wheelchairs, they manage to keep the contact aspect of the sport.

For a personal account of someone who refused to be stopped by his disability, check out John Maclean’s memoir “How Far Can You Go?” In 2013, Maclean realized his dream of walking again, 25 years after an accident that left him partially paralyzed. In the meantime, he competed as a wheelchair athlete in the Iron Man Triathlon, swam the English Channel, raced yachts and won a silver medal for rowing in the Paralympics.

As these athletes have shown us, inclusion isn’t an act of charity; it’s basic fairness. We all benefit when everyone has the opportunity to play.

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First 2016 Summer Reading Gift Card Winner Announced

June 14, 2016

TrophyCongratulations to Emily D., a Columbia Public Library patron, for winning our first Adult Summer Reading prize drawing.  She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

All it takes to be entered into our weekly drawings is to sign up for Adult Summer Reading. You can do this at any of our branch locations or Bookmobile stops or register online. Also, don’t forget that submitting book reviews increases your chances of winning. There are plenty of chances left to win this summer, so keep those reviews coming.

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Memoirs for Life’s Challenges and Changes

June 13, 2016

Book cover for A Homemade Life by Molly WizenbergI find that the first step in a new challenge for me is often to understand how someone else did it. When I wanted to start running (on purpose!), I didn’t consult a training plan. Instead, I read Haruki Murakami’s  “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” for inspiration. Similarly, when I wanted to cook at home more often, I didn’t check out a cookbook. I read “A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes From My Kitchen Table” by Molly Wizenberg. Sometimes the inspiration works the other way – I read “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life” by Barbara Kingsolver because it was a One Read finalist in 2008. It motivated me to eat locally-produced healthful food more often.

Book cover for Wave by Sonali DeraniyagalaOther times, memoirs help me understand an experience that I hope to never have. Sonali Deraniyagala’s “Wave” recounts the deaths of her parents, husband and children in Sri Lanka during the 2004 tsunami. It is unfathomable to me (and probably to most people) how one could survive such loss, and I have recalled Deraniyagala’s strength many times since I read her memoir. Jean-Dominique Bauby fell into a coma following a stroke, and when he awoke, he found that he suffered from locked-in syndrome. He composed “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly: A Memoir of Life in Death” by blinking his left eyelid – the only body part he could move.

Book cover for The Year of Living BiblicallyNot all memoirs are about such serious topics. A.J. Jacobs has made a career out of undergoing challenges and then writing humorously about such challenges. Jacobs has followed the proscriptions and tenets of the Bible (“The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible”), implemented rigorous health routines (“Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection”), volunteered as a subject of science (“The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as An Experiment”) and attempted to improve his intellect (“The Know-it-all: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World”).

There are plenty of memoirs to help you meet your life challenges – whether self-imposed or circumstantial – at your library. These are just a few.

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Three Ways to Celebrate Audiobook Month

June 10, 2016

June is audiobook month, as well as the unofficial start of summer travel season. Spice up that long road trip with some good storytelling with a little help from your library!

1. Check out a 2016 Audie Award winner!

Audiobook cover for The Girl on the TrainNamed audiobook of the year, “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins (narrated by Clare Corbett) was last year’s “Gone Girl.” In this psychological thriller, a woman becomes emotionally entangled in a murder investigation because of something she witnesses on her daily commute. Or try the fiction winner, “The Nightingale” by Kristin Hannah (audiobook narrated by Polly Stone), which follows French sisters Viann and Isabelle as they resist German occupiers during WWII, each in her own way. If nonfiction is more your speed, pick up the winner in history/biography, “A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts” by Andrew Chaikin (narrated by Bronson Pinchot).

2. Entertain kids with audiobooks in the car.

Audiobook cover for Circus MirandusIf you have little ones in the backseat, check out some family-friendly audiobooks. “Circus Mirandus” by Cassie Beasley is reminiscent of Peter Pan and follows Micah Tuttle who, when he realizes that his grandfather’s stories of an enchanted circus are true, sets out to find the mysterious circus — and to use its magic to save his grandfather’s life. In Chris Grabenstein’s puzzle-filled “Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library,” 12-year-old Kyle gets to stay overnight in the new town library, designed by his hero, the famous gamemaker Luigi Lemoncello.

3. Suggest an audiobook selection for your book club. 

Hoopla is a service available from your library that allows you to stream and download audiobooks (as well as eBooks, comics, movies and television shows). Sign up for an account (this quick start guide shows you how), download the app and borrow up to 10 items per month. Everyone in your book club can borrow the same book on Hoopla – there’s no limit to how many people can borrow an item at once! Try Ben Fountain’s “Billy Lynn’s Long Haftime Walk,” Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” or “Daring Greatly” by Brené Brown.

Whether you are a long-time fan of audiobooks or new to listening to books, take advantage of your library’s large collection of downloadable audiobooks, books on CD and playaways. Give a book a listen this summer!

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Feasts From Your Farmers’ Market

May 9, 2016

Book cover for Cooking from the Farmers' MarketI am not an impulse shopper when it comes to clothes or everyday groceries. I’m a disciplined gal, sticking to my list. However, when it comes to farmers’ markets, I cannot resist the jewel-toned eggplants, the deep green and curling kale leaves, the delicate mushrooms. Many times a summer I find myself with a counter full of fruits and vegetables without a clue as to how to integrate them into my week’s meal planning.

We are lucky to have a number of farmers’ markets in Boone and Callaway Counties (see our local produce subject guide for details). If you, like me, want to make sure your locally sourced veggies don’t wind up rotting in your crisper drawer, check out some of these cookbooks for delicious inspiration.

Williams-Sonoma’s “Cooking From the Farmers’ Market” includes not only recipes but also helpful tips for picking the freshest produce and best ways to prepare various fruits and vegetables. The pictures are gorgeous, and there are three recipes provided for each ingredient highlighted. Many of the recipes are simple with minimal ingredient lists — when the produce is fresh, you can let that sun-ripened flavor be the star of the show. I can’t wait to try baked eggs with spinach and cream or sugar snap pea risotto!

Book cover for Cooking Your Local ProduceGreta Hardin, author of “Cooking your Local Produce,” says that the question that inspired her writing of the book was, “What do I do with rainbow chard?” (Sounds like me and my kale.) Chapter headings are so appealingly simple — leaves, shoots, flowers, roots, etc. — and the recipes themselves not at all intimidating. Suggested preparations are simple, and Hardin offers up variations if you want to experiment further with a particular ingredient.

In Season,” edited by Rob Patronite and Robin Raisfeld, takes the seasons of the year as its organizing principle. The recipes here are quite a bit fancier, as they are contributed by some of the country’s finest chefs and restaurants. For instance, you can impress dinner guests in winter with a celery root and citrus salad, and you can class up a summer potluck by bringing a dessert of baked squash blossoms with ricotta and honey.

Using local produce and eating what’s in season is a fantastic way to try new foods or discover new preparations for old favorites. Bon appétit!

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Big Data and “Choose Privacy Week”

May 6, 2016

Choose Privacy Week logoImagine this:  you are a citizen of a Democracy where individual rights and privacy are supposedly its most sacred principle, and yet 24/7 you may be tracked by the government, corporations and even the city in which you live. You constantly wear or use devices that send out signals and information transmitted to millions of different data-gathering entities. A future such as this, predicted by the likes of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, may have seemed very frightening little more than 20 years ago. Such a future, however, is in the here and now.

Libraries are one of the bulwarks of democracy, and they remain one of the few places in the modern world where your privacy is strictly maintained. Choose Privacy Week is a culmination of all that we do as librarians — providing an incredibly wide variety of information and computing resources while at the same time protecting your utmost privacy. In its eighth year and hosted by the American Library Association, Choose Privacy Week is cosponsored by the ACLU, the Society of American Archivists, the Freedom to Read Foundation and many other nonprofit agencies. 

Book cover for Dragnet NationAfter the Snowden affair in 2013, a veritable explosion of books about the topic of privacy hit the shelves, and we have many here at the library. Julia Angwin, in “Dragnet Nation,” abandoned many of the social media outlets that we trust and love, such as Facebook, all for the sake of privacy. However, cleansing her name from online information brokers was far more difficult: “Removing my information from commercial data brokers was a different kind of trust exercise: the kind of trust you place in a mob enforcer.” Angwin goes further than most, installing encryption programs on her phones and other devices. In conclusion she argues that “We didn’t shut down the industrial economy to stop pollution. We simply asked polluters to be more accountable to their actions. We just need to make the data handlers let us see what they have about us and be accountable for any hardships caused by their use of our data.”

Book cover for Privacy in the Modern AgePrivacy in the Modern Age: The Search for Solutions” is an excellent anthology that is rare: the book looks for solutions and answers to many of the tricky issues surrounding an online presence, as opposed to indulging in some of the rising hysteria. In his chapter “The Surveillance Society and Transparent You,” IBM computer scientist Jeff Jonas writes: “A surveillance society is inevitable and irreversible. More interestingly, I believe a surveillance society will prove to be irresistible.”  Jonas argues that this is because the convenience of a robust online life is far more acceptable to people when weighed against the limitations of privacy rights. 

Privacy in The Age of Big Data” by Theresa M. Payton and Theodore Claypoole offers this caveat: “You may not realize it, but you are connected to the Internet all day, and the cyberazzi are with you every digital step of the way.” The book delves into some of the ways that we can erase some of our digital footprints, by following some basic checklists and tools for ensuring privacy. (For instance, did you know that disabling Java on your computer and only using it when necessary keeps one much safer?  Java is often hit hard by hackers.)

Book cover for After SnowdenEdward Snowden’s revelations were a game changer. Whether you agree with him or not (and some experts found many of his revelations very damaging to American security), all United States citizens are now aware that they may be monitored by the government at any time. Another anthology with numerous authors, “After Snowden: Privacy, Secrecy, and Security in the Information Age,” examines the aftermath. As Thomas Blanton, Director of the National Security Archive, points out in his chapter near the end of the book: “The fallout from the Snowden leaks revealed that top officials had lied not only to Congress but also to the wiretap court, to the Supreme Court, and to each other” about the data intrusions.

Finally, please see the Choose Privacy Week website for lots of great multimedia content and even a short documentary entitled: “Vanishing Liberties: The Rise of State Surveillance in the Digital Age.”

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Summer Program Preview: Walking Book Club

May 4, 2016

Book cover for Grandma Gatewood's WalkRead. Walk. Talk! This year’s Summer Reading theme — for adults as well as kids and teens — is “On Your Mark, Get Set, Read!” We’re organizing programs about fitness and wellness, as well as meeting challenges of all kinds, mental and physical.

As part of Summer Reading, we’ll be hosting a walking book club at the Columbia Public Library on the second Wednesday of the month throughout the summer. This club combines three necessities for a healthy brain: mental, physical and social activity. Participants will take a 30-minute walk, leaving from the library, followed by a book discussion. Here are the book selections and meeting times.  All sessions will start in the Friends Room. Mark your calendars now!

Wednesday, June 8 › 6:30-8 p.m.
June’s selection is “Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail” by Ben Montgomery. Not only did this mother of 11 and grandmother of 23 hike the Appalachian Trail solo once (the first woman to ever do so), she did it three times. Conducting interviews with those who knew Gatewood and drawing on her diaries and correspondence, journalist Ben Montgomery shines a welcome light on the amazing Emma Gatewood’s life in this delightful book, exploring why she did what she did and looking at her efforts to bring public attention to the poorly maintained 2,050 mile trail. At this kick-off meeting, Annette Triplett of PedNet will give a brief talk about that organization’s programs and the benefits of walking. 

Book cover for Find a Way by Diana NyadWednesday, July 13 › 6:30-8 p.m.
July’s selection is the inspiring “Find a Way” by Diana Nyad. On September 2, 2013, at the age of 64, Diana Nyad emerged onto the shores of Key West after completing a 110 mile, 53 hour, record-breaking swim through shark-infested waters from Cuba to Florida. Her memoir shows why, at 64, she was able to achieve what she couldn’t at 30 and how her repeated failures contributed to her success. A copy of “Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites” will be given away at this meeting!

Book cover for Bill Warrington's Last ChanceWednesday, August 10› 6:30-8 p.m.
Join us for a discussion of  the novel “Bill Warrington’s Last Chance” by James King. Bill Warrington is a retired salesman, a widower and a recently diagnosed Alzheimer’s sufferer. His relationships with his children are fraught — one son is a wanderer, the other estranged; his daughter is a single mother struggling to raise a stubborn 14-year-old, April. But Bill has vowed to repair these relationships by kidnapping April, driving to California, and leaving clues intended to force his children to overcome mutual distrust and work together.

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Wildflower Enchantment

May 2, 2016

Spicebush Swallowtail and Aphrodite Fritillary, photo by Sasha Vasko via FlickrA Charm for Spring Flowers

Who sees the first marsh marigold
Shall count more wealth than hands can hold.
Who bends a knee where violets grow
A hundred secret things shall know.
Who finds hepatica’s dim blue
Shall have his dearest wish come true.
Who spies on lady-slippers fair
Shall keep a heart as light as air.
But whosoever toucheth not
One petal, sets no root in pot,
He shall be blessed of earth and sky,
Till under them he, too, shall lie.

~Rachel Field

Columbine, open and closedOh, the magical charm of wildflowers, especially the earliest ones, which rise up through the woodland leaf litter to sing, when winter is gone. If you’ve spent any time in the woods hunting down or chancing upon these fleeting beauties (in our local area, bloodroot, wake robin, Dutchman’s breeches, etc.), you know how bewitching they can be. I was 15 years old when I found and identified wild columbine flowers. We were on a spring road trip, my mother and I, headed to Georgia via Skyline Drive to visit my grandmother, when we stopped for a break. I wandered off for a short walk and found columbine growing on a sunny hillside. The blossoms, with their complex structure formed in bright red and yellow, were stunningly beautiful and unlike any flower I had ever seen before. They most certainly cast a spell on me, propelling me on a lifelong quest to find and identify more wildflowers. It is a sweet and happy hobby.

The first week of May is National Wildflower Week, and what a worthy group to showcase and celebrate. In case you didn’t know, native wildflowers are plant species that were growing in specific regions before humans came in and added foreign plants from other countries to the vegetation mix. Besides the obvious beauty wildflowers offer (which may be a human-centric feature) wildflowers are beneficial to all living things and serve many vital and practical roles in the planet’s ecosystems.

Photo of a trout lilyFirst of all, wildflowers attract and support pollinators of all kinds (bees, wasps, butterflies, etc.), which are absolutely key to generating food supplies, for humans and other creatures alike. They provide habitat for myriad smaller critters and also prevent soil erosion. Wildflowers work very hard to keep the whole show of life running. To give you an example, consider the trout lily. This precious woodland beauty grows in colonies of deeply rooted systems of corms that help stabilize the forest floor, and their blossoms provide an early food source to pollinators that farmers depend on for pollination of late spring crops. To read more and understand the complex interrelationships between this flower and other life on earth, read the chapter “Trout Lily” in “The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-known Facts, Folklore, and History by Jack Sanders. There are many equally fascinating essays in this book on a huge bouquet of other wildflowers.

If you’d like to meet some local wildflowers face to face, there is ample opportunity to make this happen. Right here in town you can take hikes along the MKT trail or in Rock Bridge State Park (RBSP). If you’d like to explore with a group of people, you can avail yourself of the wildflower walks, led by an expert, along RBSP trails. The guide will help you identify the flowers and fill you in on folklore about the ones you find. If you want to venture a little further afield, there is the magical wonderland, Prairie Garden Trust, in New Bloomfield, MO; you need to call them to arrange a visit. To make the most of your venture out, plan to take a wildflower identification guide with you. There are many decent ones, but my favorite is “Missouri Wildflowers: A Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Missouri” by Edgar Denison.

Since native plants have adapted over eons to local growing conditions, they are better able to thrive in their original territory. This means, in their natural ranges (or zones), they are easier to establish, need less water and fertilizer, and are more resistant to indigenous pests and diseases. The upshot of all of this is they require less money, physical effort and natural resources to grow and maintain. Since wildflowers of all kinds are endangered due to habitat destruction, competition from invasive species and modern farming practices (heavy use of pesticides, herbicides and fungicides), growing wildflowers is a very concrete way to help restore and maintain the healthy ecosystems we need to sustain all life on earth. So, one of the best ways to celebrate National Wildflower Week is to grow native wildflowers.  If you are looking for sources for wildflowers, local farmers’ markets are often good places to find them. You can also search the Internet for “Missouri wildflowers” to find other suppliers. Wishing you lots of spellbinding wildflower cheer!

Photo credits:

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Celebrating – and Mourning – Prince

April 28, 2016

 The B SidesI have vivid memories of sitting by my boom box listening to American Top 40 on the radio, my finger poised over the record button, so I could capture Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” on cassette tape. This legendary’s musician’s work was the soundtrack of my adolescence, and I was among the many shocked and saddened by his sudden death on April 21.

If you feel moved to revisit Prince’s music, the library has not only physical CDs for checkout, but also more than 15 albums you can stream or download from Hoopla. If you are new to this service, visit the library’s website for more information. You can be singing along to “Purple Rain” in no time if you have a library card.

 Inside the Music and the MasksIf you want to read more about the complicated person Prince was and his enormous impact on music and popular culture, check out “Prince: Inside the Music and the Masks” by Ronin Ro. This is an authoritative portrait that documents his rise from an unknown musician to a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, offering insight into his role in confronting labels and fostering other young talents.

Let’s Go Crazy: Prince and the Making of Purple Rain” by Alan Light celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of Prince’s most popular album and provides delicious insights into the making of the movie and music that launched Prince to superstardom. This enjoyable read not only illuminates Prince’s early career but also the context in which he created and the transformations happening in pop music and entertainment at the time.

Finally, if you need to rock away some of your sorrow, seek out the recording of Prince’s 2007 Super Bowl halftime show, arguably one of the best there has ever been.

RIP, Prince. You and your music will be missed.

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