Imagine balloons and confetti dropping from the ceiling as you read this post. A big congratulations to the winners of our audiobook giveaway! Renee won a copy of “The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker, and LaShawn received “The Future” by Al Gore. Thanks to everyone who entered.
If you weren’t a winner this time around, don’t fret. We have more freebies in the works, so check back in the upcoming weeks to learn how to enter our next giveaway!
Do you love pie? Most everyone does, and in my family there is a deep vein of love for it. When my oldest son was very young, we regularly visited my mother out in the Maryland countryside. Being a chef, recipe columnist and cookbook writer, she has tons of cookbooks. At the age of 2, my son pulled “Martha Stewart’s Pies and Tarts” off a low bookshelf at her house and started leafing through it, totally absorbed by all the sumptuous photos of scrumptious pies presented therein. It became his favorite picture book, and for the next year or so, every time we visited “Banana” he would go directly to the bookcase, extract it from the shelf and sit to feast his eyes.
My youngest son’s first sentence was “Mo’ pie,” as in “More pie.” He was sitting in his booster seat at my sister’s kitchen table. We (my extended family and I) were enjoying a homemade pecan pie, and he had just finished his first ever piece of this divine concoction. I could tell he was enjoying it, and through his eyes I saw the gears turning in his mind – he was formulating something. Then, with effort, he let that two word sentence fly. We all busted out laughing, which delighted him, and then I gave him another sliver, which delighted him even more.
I am pleased to inform you that January 23 is National Pie Day. Now, you don’t really need an excuse to tuck a sweet or savory filling between buttery layers of crust that flake up with baking, but if your culinary life has been deprived lately of this comforting treat, why not take the time now and celebrate this pie-designated day. What about an earthy and filling chicken pot pie for dinner and then a refined and decadent chocolate chess pie, dolloped with whipped cream, for dessert? There is no shortage of options - here’s proof. If you are gluten intolerant, as I am, you can still enjoy pie because there are lots of recipes for gluten-free crusts roaming around out there. It’s cold outside! Turn that oven on; make and bake a pie. You’ll warm your home, then your belly and finally your heart.
Photos used under the Creative Commons License.
If what we read is awesome enough it will contribute to who we are. “Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is exceedingly awesome and about magic and magicians and an era when gentlemen were commonplace. So it will not surprise the reader to learn of my affinity for the novel and that I was both drawn to it by what I already was and shaped by it into what I currently am: a wearer of tophats and caster of the occasional spell. One cannot spend 850 often breathtaking pages in the company of gentlemen and gentlewomen without absorbing their delightful (and, increasingly in my view, mandatory) manners. The book’s influence extended beyond making suits and kerchiefs compulsory and replacing ibuprofen with laudanum as the tonic for headaches and chills*; it also provided much of the origin for my immense fear of faeries.
“Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell” is overflowing with ideas. There are footnotes throughout relaying stories other writers would have been thrilled to settle on for the course of a book but that Susanna Clarke uses as spice to deepen the flavor of a work so savory and rich that if it were food it would be impolite to serve to the book’s characters and their stiff English palates without stern warnings of its decidedly un-pudding like flavors.
Clarke created a history so persuasive that one is given to wonder if she did not simply unearth England’s true history and that the country was shaped by magic, both literally in the sense of magically altered coastlines, and figuratively in the sense of magicians aiding them in their wars and inspiring their limericks. She tells, with a voice made to illicit chuckles and wry appreciative nods, the story of the titular magicians and their plight to reassert magic to its lofty and rightful heights. At the book’s onset magic is studied by a society of gentleman but never performed as they are unable. Soon Mr Norrell emerges,** desiring to disband the “theoretical magicians” and succeeding by showing that magic can be done. His spell provides the first of hundreds of the book’s mind-searing images: he causes the statues of a great church to come alive for a short while. Magic begins its ascent in esteem. Jonathan Strange, a career-less young man, accidentally discovers his aptitude for it. The two magicians join forces. Mr Norrell brings a young woman back to life with the aid of a faerie.*** The faerie, referred to only as “the man with the thistle-down hair,” has rather disagreeable terms. In addition to taking one of Lady Pole’s fingers, he bargains for domain over half her life. Mr Norrell accepts the terms, foolishly believing the faerie will take the last half of the lady’s life. Instead the resurrected finds her nights occupied by a perpetual ball taking place in the eerie bone-strewn semi-ruins of the faerie’s castle, a place called Lost-Hope. Lady Pole and her butler, Stephen Black, to whom the faerie has taken an unfortunate liking, find when trying to speak of their predicament and thereby exercise themselves from it they can only relate arcane bits of faerie history.
The novel builds to a climax worthy of its bulk. Readers will be sad to leave it and find themselves tempted to summon a faerie that might enchant them into the book’s pages permanently. Take heed though – a reread is a better idea; unlike a faerie’s bargain it won’t leave you missing a digit and with your house, which you can never leave, made from the pages of a novel. Great novel though it may be, weather will not do it any favors.
*Also contributed to my fondness for footnotes.
**Figuratively. Norrell much prefers to remain cloistered in his library where he’s hoarded every book of magic, thereby effectively preventing anyone from practicing.
***A creature he detests but needs for such lofty magic.
How do you discover new books to read? We have some patrons who religiously place holds on titles appearing on the New York Times Best Sellers lists. Others track like-minded readers on social reading sites like Goodreads. Did you know your library has some pretty nifty tools – both high-tech and low – for finding your next great read?
- The Books & More section of our digital branch is a portal of sorts for all kinds of book-finding tools. Browse the latest Literary Links article, a monthly piece that appears in the Columbia Daily Tribune and provides a book list on a timely topic. You’ll also find links to our latest book recommendation posts appearing on this blog, as well as those for Teens and Kids.
- Get book recommendations in your inbox! Sign up for BookNews, monthly themed newsletters that highlight new titles in our catalog. You can choose our newsletters highlighting our book club picks, new nonfiction, mysteries and more.
- Browse the staff picks book lists in our online catalog for hand-selected fiction and nonfiction titles.
- Join us for an upcoming Facebook Friday reading recommendation program. Just watch for our Facebook post asking for the last few books you enjoyed, leave a comment, and a staff member will suggest your next great read.
- Finally, just ask! Our staff members are expert recommenders, so next time you are in one of our buildings or on the bookmobile, you can let one of us know a book or author you liked, and we’ll suggest some titles for you to try.
Do you have a favorite tool for finding your next good read? Let us know in the comments.
What happens when a 39-year-old brilliant genetics professor with Asperger’s and, therefore, few social skills sets out to find a wife? He approaches that task the way he approaches all his tasks, i.e. like a scientific project. First, Don Tillman develops a double-sided, 16-page questionnaire, whose purpose is to screen out unsuitable candidates: smokers, the mathematically illiterate, those with body mass index over 26, vegetarians, the perpetually tardy, etc. He then pursues his task with robotic precision (and, not surprisingly, very little luck) – until the most unsuitable candidate walks into his life and turns it upside down. This candidate, sent to Don as a joke, is Rosie, a volatile bartender and a graduate student of psychology. Rosie has a project of her own – she’s trying to find her biological father.
As the story unfolds, Don, a guy who cannot stand being touched, who can barely read social clues or understand people’s reactions, puts his project on the back burner and begins helping Rosie with hers. In the process, an unpredictable thing happens (kind of unpredictable, mind you, it is a romantic comedy after all ) – Don’s Asperger’s gradually gives way to affection and, ultimately, love. And these newly awakened emotions help Don learn how to sympathize with people around him and discover the things that really make him happy.
Graeme Simsion’s “The Rosie Project,” a clever and laugh-out-loud celebration of our individual differences, is a great read for those who like happy endings and also for those who want to start their New Year on an optimistic note. Readers who enjoyed Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” and Toni Jordan’s “Addition” (as well as fans of the TV show “The Big Bang Theory”) will enjoy it, too.
The post Looking for a New Project to Start 2014? Take on The Rosie Project! appeared first on DBRL Next.
The changing of the year always prompts me to note the swift passage of time. And the realization that we now have fewer than 50 years to wait until first contact with an alien species, as established in the Star Trek canon, makes me think of space. So what better book to highlight this month than Stephen Hawking’s non-fiction classic, “A Brief History of Time”?
In his acknowledgments for the book, first published in 1988, Hawking writes: “…the basic ideas about the origin and fate of the universe can be stated without mathematics in a form that people without a scientific education can understand. This is what I have attempted to do in this book.” More than almost any other modern-day scientist, Hawking helped the average person get a grasp on what physicists mean when they discuss the big bang or quantum mechanics or black holes, and why they now refer to space-time as one single term rather than two separate things. In “A Brief History of Time” he provides an historical overview of beliefs about the workings of the universe, beginning with Aristotle. Then he moves into current (at the time) knowledge and theories.
In 2005, Hawking published “A Briefer History of Time,” an updated and even more simplified version of his earlier work, for those of us whose brains move at a pace considerably slower than the speed of light. He followed this in 2010 with “The Grand Design,” co-authored by Leonard Mlodinow, which discusses further recent developments in cosmology, including something called M-theory.
Hawking’s life is as interesting as the subjects he explores, and he shares some of the details in his new autobiography, “My Brief History.” He just celebrated his 72nd birthday on January 8, over 50 years after being diagnosed with ALS at the age of 21 and told he didn’t have many years to live. But he spends more time discussing his research and education than his physical condition. Late bloomers take heart – he did not learn to read until he was 8 years old.
For those who can’t get enough Stephen Hawking in their lives, he maintains a website with up-to-date information about himself and his work: http://www.hawking.org.uk.
“Grace and Grit” is the story of Lilly Ledbetter, an employee of Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and her fight for equal rights and fairness in the workplace. This book tells the story of a courageous woman from a poor county in Alabama who, because of her struggles throughout her life, helped give all women in our country the right to be paid the same as anyone else for doing the same job. I enjoyed this book because it is a true story about one of the heroes of our time. She fought all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States for the rights that she and all other working women in this country deserve.
Three words or phrases that describe this book: empowering, inspiring and powerful.
Who should pick up this book? Anyone who cares about equal rights for everyone would find this book to be very informative and interesting.
Imagine being able to claim that you live a zero-waste lifestyle. What does that mean and how hard would it be? Is it really possible? In Amy Korst’s book “The Zero-Waste Lifestyle: Live Well by Throwing Away Less,” she gives a blow by blow description of how to come very close to achieving this. In fact, she states, “What if I told you that you could go from an overflowing can perched on the curb each week to making less than five pounds of trash in a year? That taking the trash-free plunge would simplify your life, ease the strain on your pocketbook, and help the planet, all at the same time?”
Recently on a walk I discovered one of my neighbors picking through a huge load of trash left curbside on our street. She had unearthed a set of chef’s knives, among other things. Oh my goodness! It was hard to conceive of throwing those out; they could have been donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army or given to friends or coworkers (donating items you no longer use is one way to just say no to the landfill). I’ve worked on paring down my waste stream since I’ve become more conscious of my contributions to the landfill, but I have a long way to go to get to zero. If this seems like an overwhelming idea to you, consider that the most important thing to do is start somewhere and choose something that seems manageable for you. For example, you might start buying food and cleaning products in bulk, purchasing used clothing or composting kitchen waste. Korst’s book is very inspiring with lots more suggestions to help you move in this direction. She has certainly motivated me to regroup and continue to take new measures to reduce my waste. If we all work collectively at this we can make a sizeable impact and stake our claim to living more sustainably.
In “Making Home: Adapting Our Homes and Our Lives to Settle in Place,” Sharon Astyk describes how she and her family arrived at the decision to live in a more sustainable manner: “We came to this project simply – we had little money but a strong desire for a good life for ourselves, for our children and for our extended family. We wanted to eat good food, drink clean water, breathe good air. We wanted a home and a place to call our own, a stable place where our kids could live and thrive. We wanted our children to grow up with family. We wanted elderly family to live well as long as they lived. We wanted relationships with good neighbors and reasonable comfort. We wanted to do as little harm to others as possible and have as happy a life as we could. Someone, we thought, had to model what a life with less that produced more could look like. Why not us?” This family has examined the systems in their lives that provide them with what they need (staying warm/cool, access to food and water, shelter, etc.) and figured out ways to provide for themselves using fewer resources while producing more of what they need on their own and by accessing community resources.
If you would like more inspirational models and other ideas on how to live sustainably, come by and take a look at the display on the 2nd floor of the Columbia Public Library. From January 12 to February 9 we’ll have lots of books on this and related topics including renewable energy resources, energy conservation, nature conservation and climate change.
Zero Waste Encouragement Patrol by Ajay Tallam via Flickr. Used under creative commons license.
Steung Meanchey Garbage Dump by Raphael Surber via Flickr. Used under creative commons license.
I don’t make official New Year’s resolutions, but I do enjoy the clean slate feeling that comes each January. And I can’t help but catch a bit of the self-improvement bug, spurred on by my holiday overindulgence and the fact that January is Get Organized Month. If you are also looking to be a better you in 2014, your library can help.
Aspiring to improve your eating habits? Check out this program:
Learn to Eat Smart This Year
Monday, January 20, 2014 › 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Library, Friends Room
Dietitians Megan Kemp and Lauren Knaup will show you how to stick to your New Year’s resolution of eating healthier food and avoiding crash diets after the holiday binge. Sample some foods and go home with healthy recipes. Co-sponsored by the Central Missouri Dietetics Association.
Want to learn a new skill? Universal Class, available for free with your library card, offers hundreds of online, self-paced courses taught by actual instructors who communicate with you via email and evaluate your progress. These are rich continuing education courses in everything from accounting and real estate to cooking and crafting.
Ready to declutter? Here’s a whole slew of books to help you get started.
Finally, if you have made a resolution but are worried about keeping it, join us on Wednesday, January 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Columbia Public Library (Conference Room B) for “Don’t Give Up on Your New Year’s Resolutions,” presented by Phoenix Programs, Inc.
The post A New You in the New Year With Help From Your Library appeared first on DBRL Next.
We’ve had a great year of reviewing and recommending books, community events and library programs here at DBRL Next, and we thank you for your readership and contributing to our success. To ring in the New Year, here is a recap of our most popular posts from 2013. Read on for some great book recommendations from staff, patrons and around the Web.
- As part of this year’s Summer Reading program, we asked our readers to share books they had found personally groundbreaking. Read the comments at the end of this post to see the results.
- Celebrate strong women and check out these titles with not one damsel in distress.
- If you haven’t been following the recommendations of the library’s resident gentleman, you are missing out on some great books as well as some pretty hilarious writing from the gentleman himself. His profile of Lauren Beukes, thanks in part to a tweet from that author about his review, was his most-read piece this year.
- 2013 saw the launch of LibraryReads, a monthly top ten book list identifying those titles librarians nationwide identify as their favorites publishing that month. You, too, can read like a librarian!
- Read about the book one of our writers considers the most beautiful novel he has ever read.
- There are many reasons to pick up a book – to escape, to be entertained, to explore new topics, to expand our understanding of other people and places. Another popular post this year was this list of fiction for understanding mental illness.
- The crafting and upcycling craze of recent years continues, and we shared one librarian’s list of ideas for transforming your stacks of t-shirts into something new.
- It’s cold outside, but you can warm up by revisiting this list of recommended summer vacation reads.
- If your New Year’s resolutions include a radical reduction of your carbon footprint or a commitment to living with less, read this post about “living tiny.”
- Finally, at DBRL Next we enjoy digging up overlooked gems from the bottom shelves of nonfiction. Here are some bottom shelf books from the 600s that are sure to make your mouth water.
Happy New Year to all of our readers!
Everybody watches it, including Prince William and Kate Middleton. The royal couple, of course, has an advantage over us regular Americans (well, not just one, mind you ). They reside in Britain, where the fourth season of Downton Abbey was shown last year, while we are still waiting for its American opening on January 5. The series, which is one of the biggest hits PBS Masterpiece Theatre has had in recent years, won best mini-series at the Golden Globes in 2012, and it has been nominated for best drama television series in 2014. As for the publishing industry, it continues to reflect Downton Abbey’s glory, too.
“Lady Catherine, the Earl, and the Real Downton Abbey,” by Fiona Carnarvon, tells the story of Catherine Wendell, the beautiful American woman who married the son of Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon (see another Fiona Carnarvon book, “Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey”). The book also presents a history of Highclere Castle (the setting of the show), especially the period when, during World War II, the castle became a home for evacuee children from London and its expansive property a troop training ground.
Emma Rowleyl’s “Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey: The Official backstage Pass to the Set, the Actors and the Drama” depicts the inner workings of the show. The author describes the actors and the staff, the kitchen and the wardrobe, the make-up and the hair, and much more. The book is written in a conversational style, and it is supplied with multiple illustrations any fan of the show will enjoy.
Those who have been following the PBS Masterpiece series (both with and without the “Theatre”) should not miss “Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece and Mystery,” by Rebecca Eaton, an executive producer of the series for 25 years. Eaton’s book is a mix of interviews with writers, directors and other contributors to the show, as well as personal reminiscences about her life, history of the show and the actors who have been involved in it.
If, come January 5, you’ll be hosting a Downton Abbey viewing party, check out “While We Were Watching Downton Abbey” by Wendy Wax beforehand, so you’ll know what to expect from that experience .
And last but not least, don’t get upset if you miss one or two new episodes. Your library will receive the fourth season of the show at the end of January (the first three seasons are already in our collection). Also, remember, we have enough Masterpiece shows here to get you through the winter. Happy watching and reading!
Out of curiosity as to what my daughter was reading, I decided to read “Not Exactly a Love Story” by Audrey Couloumbis. Though I am not necessarily drawn to teen novels, the author did such a good job with the characters that I read the entire book in two days.
This book is about being yourself and not letting other people or circumstances dictate your actions. I found this to be a clever teen novel about a 15-year-old boy who has fallen in love with a girl in his grade. The boy, Vinnie, is too shy to approach, thinking she’ll never reciprocate his feelings. So, he calls her one night at midnight without revealing his identity. This sets off a number of midnight anonymous calls from Vincenzio – Vinnie’s real name and the alter ego he assumes during these phone calls.
During these calls, Vinny (acting as Vincenzio) takes on the persona he wishes had in real life. It’s a very engaging story, and I found myself drawn to the book because the author does a great job with both character and plot development.
Does Vincenzio’s real identity get revealed? How does the girl respond to these phone calls, and why do they continue? How does the girl respond when she finds out the caller’s true identity? These are examples of the questions that kept me involved in the book.
Three words or phrases that describe this book: Engaging, well-written and fun.
You might want to pick this book up if: You like stories that do a great job in developing the main characters. You might also enjoy this book if you enjoy teen novels.
December 24 and 25 our buildings are closed and the bookmobiles are parked in the garage, but the digital branch is always open. Below are just a few of the ways you can use the library this holiday or any day.
- Download an eBook.
- Download an audiobook.
- Make a list of titles for your book club to tackle in the new year using the Novelist database and its handy-dandy book discussion guides.
- Get book recommendations for readers of any age from our blogs: DBRL Kids, DBRLTeen, DBRL Next or One Read.
- Download our mobile catalog app for iPhone and Android.
- Read a digital magazine on your computer or tablet using Zinio.
- If you get a little tired of hanging out with your living relatives, research your dead ones using Heritage Quest and other resources in our genealogy subject guide.
- Sign up for a free online cooking or photography course with Universal Class.
- Research products with Consumer Reports so you can spend those gift cards wisely.
- Search the catalog for books, movies music and more. Check out the staff picks while you’re there!
- Browse our subject guides on current topics like charities, volunteering and–particularly appropriate for recovering from holiday indulgences–fitness & nutrition.”
‘Tis the season for giving to others, but we suggest giving a little gift to yourself and registering to win a free audiobook from your library. Register today for a chance to receive a copy of one of the following books on CD, courtesy of the Daniel Boone Regional Library and Books on Tape.
“The Age of Miracles” by Karen Thompson Walker
A gripping and unique coming-of-age at the end of the world story. 11-year-old Julia wakes up one morning to the news that the rotation of the earth has begun to slow, throwing the environment into disarray. Julia is also coping with the fissures in her family, the loss of friends, the hopeful anguish of love and other normal disasters of everyday life. The audiobook is read by Emily Janice Card.
“The Future” by Al Gore
This audiobook, read by the former Vice President himself, offers a frank assessment of six critical drivers of global change in the decades to come – economic globalization, worldwide digital communications, a growing balance of global power, unsustainable population growth, scientific revolution and disruption of ecosystems. A sobering but important and smart discussion of our actions and their implications for the future.
Photo credit: Gift by Flickr user Gift by asenat29
I’m sure the majority of you, dear readers, are spending your quiet December evenings sipping hot cocoa by the fire, comforted by the knowledge that your holiday presents are wrapped, cards written and mailed, cookies baked, and lists not only made but also checked twice. For the few of you who may be a wee bit behind on the shopping, here are some suggestions for the bookish types for whom you still need gifts. All of these books were nominated by area readers for the 2014 One Read program, so they come with a local stamp of approval!
For historical fiction lovers, “The Maid’s Version” by Daniel Woodrell has particular appeal. This lyrical novel is set in Missouri, and at just 176 pages, it is a quick read – perfect for the busy holiday season.
For those who prefer their fiction quirky or offbeat, try “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” by Maria Semple. The story follows precocious eighth-grader Bee and her quest to find her missing mother – the notorious, temperamental, talented, troubled and agoraphobic Bernadette.
For readers of nonfiction, and particularly for those readers who are also writers, I recommend Ann Patchett’s collection of essays, “This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage.” Patchett reflects on advice received from writing teachers and mentors and reveals the people, places and ideals that have shaped her work.
None of these titles seem quite right? Check out other nominations for One Read 2014 for more ideas.
Finally, for the young readers on your list, check out this post from DBRL Kids about the best books of 2013. Happy shopping – and reading!
As an artist as well as a recreation-enthusiast, I end up in the 700s (Arts & Recreation) almost every time I browse the library’s collection, regardless of what I originally set out to find. There are a wide variety of books in this section, everything from books on art history to Calvin and Hobbes to NASCAR. Here are a few interesting books I found tucked away on the bottom shelf.
- H.O.U.S.E. by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski. H.O.U.S.E stands for Homes that are Outrageous, Unbelievable, Spectacular and Extraordinary – all of which the architecture in this illustrated book definitely is. HOUSE is so colorful and playful and bursting with imagination I thought it was a misshelved children’s book at first – but it’s for adults! The architecture explored in this book is just as out-of-the-box as the illustrations. Discover everything from houses shaped like UFOs, to a giant tree house to an entire home that hangs outside of an apartment window. This book is a fun introduction to innovative architecture.
- “Rebels in Paradise: The Los Angeles Art Scene and the 1960s” by Hunter Drohojowska-Philip. Set in 1960s Los Angeles, this book captures the rebellious spirit of the time and place and chronicles the West Coast explosion of contemporary art. In 1960 LA had few art galleries, and no modern art museums, which opened the door for artists with more avant-garde ideas, including: David Hockey, Ed Ruscha, Judy Chicago and many others. Andy Warhol, though today he is known for the Factory and the artwork he created in New York City, got his first big break in L.A. By the end of the decade the city had blossomed into a thriving art hub in the US.
- “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. For those who haven’t heard of this book with a cult-like following: no, this book is not about Bruce Springsteen. It actually has a lot more to do with those toe shoes, which kind of look like gloves for your feet, that you have probably seen people jaunting around in (also called minimalist running shoes). In “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen,” McDougall journeys to Copper Canyon, Mexico to discover the secrets of Tarahumara Indians – a group whose members have spent centuries mastering techniques that allow them to run hundreds of miles without rest. Yes, you read that correctly - hundreds! That’s like running several marathons in a row! And they do it without injury (enter toe shoes), which has a lot to do with the minimalist sandals they wear while running. Regardless of your stance on running footwear, this book is definitely worth picking up!
The post It Came From the Bottom Shelf! Three Books not to Overlook in the 700s appeared first on DBRL Next.
December, the month famously associated with people not wanting stuff, has wrapped its icy claws around our throats and screamed, “You sure you don’t want a scarf now, good sir?! Doesn’t the chill in the air render your topcoat an insufficient barricade?!” We answer with a choked “nay,” for despite the frigid talons even now questing for exposed, wind-burnable flesh, this is the month of not wanting stuff, of casting off the shackles imposed by capitalism, that foul creature whose pungent exhalations and blank eyes, indifferent if not blind to suffering, haunt our dreams before jostling us awake so that we may desperately exchange legal tender for goods and services and vice versa. This is the month when upon waking from nightmares of far away children cobbling together smart phones and sneakers between furtive sips of the murky contents of their hamster-cage-water-bottle-thingies (careful not to be unproductive but for a moment lest the Dobermans’ snarls intensify, tears stifled because they tend to rile up the Rottweilers), we hop from our beds and roam the bitterly cold streets while not wanting stuff and distributing candy canes to the less fortunate before going inside somewhere and decking the halls with much needed fire-retardant materials. December is truly the jolliest of months.
This month’s recommendation pairs perfectly with this annual festival of generosity-and-contentment-with-current-allotment-of-goods-owned-or-leased. “Want Not” by Jonathan Miles is a beautifully written encapsulation of all that we cherish about this month: the foraging through dumpsters for food in a tiny hopeless effort to stem the awe-inspiring amount of waste we generate on a daily basis, the lengthy meetings wherein we try to agree on the best way to warn future civilizations on the dangers of the huge radioactive dump we’ve left behind for them, the struggle to hide a teen pregnancy from both our parents and ourselves, the witnessing of a fiery crash and taking it as a sign from God that we should abscond to the wilderness for a simple biblical life in which to raise our still-gestating daughter, the constant reminders to our Alzheimer’s stricken father that his wife is dead, and the coiled majesty of what we’ve just left in the toilet, flushed only after a picture is taken to document its grandeur and then be lorded over our IBS afflicted step-daughter. Short of an appearance by Santa in a department store specializing in mangers and colorful lights, I’m not sure how this novel could be more Christmassy.
Miles’ other novel, “Dear American Airlines,” is a book in the form of a letter demanding a refund for a plane ticket, though given that I’m not sure how one could possibly tie frustrations with travel to the holidays, I will not mention it further save to say it is enthusiastically recommended.
There, now why not take a break from hungrily eyeing that unmanned donations bucket outside your grocery store to read some holly jolly fiction from Jonathan Miles? Unless, of course, you’d rather give me stuff. That would be great.
It’s that time of the year when friends and family host a delicious smorgasbord of potlucks and holiday gatherings, and opportunities for sharing your culinary creations are everywhere. But do you have a nephew who’s vegan? A coworker with celiac disease? A friend on the Paleo diet? Different dietary restrictions can be challenging to accommodate, but it’s also a great opportunity to use your creativity and figure out how to prepare a dish that eliminates certain ingredients. Here are a few cookbooks to help with cooking meals that fit within a few different diets.
For vegans, try the “Veganomicon.” This book is written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, the team that forms the Post Punk Kitchen. Some omnivores cringe when they hear the term “vegan,” but this book could seriously change your mind. None of these recipes call for fake meat or fake cheese, so the food really shows off what you can do with pure vegetables (not to mention being more cost-effective). All of their recipes that I’ve tried have been delicious, even for a meat-eater like myself! My favorites: the acorn squash, pear and adzuki soup; corn and edamame sesame salad; and creamy kalamata spread. These two have also penned several vegan dessert cookbooks, including “Vegan Pie in the Sky” and “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.”
Though everyone seems to have some sort of strong opinion one way or another about gluten, gluten-free diets are becoming increasing popular. The “Gluten-free Almond Flour Cookbook” presents different gluten-free recipes for desserts and baked goods, as well as some entrees, breakfasts and savory dishes. One nice thing about this cookbook is that it tells you the level of sweetness of the sugary items, so you can adjust accordingly. In “Nosh on This,” authors Lisa Stander-Horel and Tim Horel provide gluten-free interpretations of the Jewish-American pastries and savory dishes they grew up on. The cherry chocolate mandelbrot and the savory hand pies definitely caught my eye!
There is a lot of overlap in cookbooks that adhere to both gluten-free and Paleo diets, but the library also has many book specifically dedicated to Paleo dishes. “Gather: The Art of Paleo Entertaining” is a great resource if you you’re hosting guests on the Paleo diet. This book has everything from fake take-out dinners to salads to Paleo chocolate martinis. (Take that, cavemen!) The recipes are organized by season and theme, which makes it easy to pick out dishes for specific holiday parties. Recipes that stood out to me: crostini with goat cheese and fig compote; wild mushroom soup; and apple veal stuffing.
For those with some serious food allergies try “The Complete Allergy-free Comfort Food Cookbook.” Every single recipe in this book is free of gluten, dairy, soy, nuts and eggs. There are plenty of small plates (including pot stickers and dolmades), entrees (shepherd’s pie, chicken curry) and side dishes (cornbread stuffing, rosemary smashed potatoes), among other items. This book even offers a recipe for allergy-free Twinkies! Author Elizabeth Gordon also has a book dedicated to allergy-free desserts, appropriately titled “Allergy-free Desserts.”
Finally, “Food52“ is great for those who follow a local and seasonal food diet. Winter can be a challenging time start cooking seasonally, but with the help of a winter farmers’ market and a good cookbook you can tackle this one! DBRL actually has a plenty of resources on this subject. “Food52″ is based on a website of the same title, where readers are encouraged to share their seasonal creations, many of which are included in this book. Beautiful photos illustrate these simple, farm-fresh recipes and completely entice the reader. A few that make my mouth water: sweet potato and pancetta gratin; burnt caramel pudding; and fig and blue cheese savories.
Happy holidays, and happy cooking!
“I have come to the conclusion that life in the Antarctic Regions can be very pleasant” – Robert Falcon Scott.
December 14th marks the 102nd anniversary of one of the greatest milestones in all of polar exploration; on that day in 1911, Roald Amundsen and his fast and small team of Norwegian adventurers and sled-dogs reached the geographic South Pole. Beating Brit Robert Scott and his men (who, doomed from the beginning, used archaic methods such as man-hauling and ponies to transport supplies over the ice), Amundsen won the pole for Norway because of his speed, experience on cross-country skis and command of sled dogs.
Scott, however, left us with a formidable legacy—picture his men bitterly weeping when coming across the Norwegian flag at 90 degrees South. And to his credit, Scott did not give up on his horrific journey to the South Pole. New photographs from Scott’s expedition and journey have only recently emerged, and you can see many of these spectacular images in the book “The Lost photographs of Captain Scott: unseen photographs from the Legendary Antarctic Expedition” by D.M. Wilson.
On the ice simultaneously with Scott and Amundsen was Douglas Mawson’s obscure Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE) of 1911-1914. David Robert’s “Alone on the Ice” recounts this expedition. AAE’s base was in a place called Cape Denison, which had the unenviable distinction of being at one of the windiest points on earth. Gusts off the Antarctic ice sheet created unreal conditions at Cape Denison. The landscape was one of unceasing white-outs, and daily wind speeds sometimes reached 120 miles per hour. The Australasian Antarctic expedition was unusual, also, for the following fact: “Mawson was completely uninterested in reaching the South Pole. What mattered to the man instead—and what drove the vast ambitions of the AAE—was the urge to explore land that had never before been seen by human eyes, and to bring back from the Southern continent the best science that men in the field might be capable of.” 12 months after landing, Mawson barely survived a three man reconnaissance mission onto King George V Land. That he lived to tell his story is a paean to the human will to survive.
If you would like to read about some of the modern-day explorers, adventures and scientists found in the Southern continent, please see: “Antarctica: an Intimate Portrait of a Mysterious Continent,” by Gabrielle Walker. Contemporary Antarctic bases are staffed by a wacky crew of misfits, men and women alike, who, during the Antarctic winter, party like it’s, well, like it’s 2014. Amidst intense deprivation, incredible hard work and even winter psychosis, scientists and laborers on the Southern continent still soldier on and seem to maintain a healthy sense of humor. And as Walker points out, it is all for a very noble cause: “Antarctica turns out to be a fantastic place to do science; over the years it has yielded extraordinary insights into our world.”
Indeed, 2011-2013 was the 100th anniversary of the first wave of scientific exploration of Antarctica from a large assortment of teams from across the globe. Science (or at least nationalistic ambitions in the name of science) were the main reasons these teams were there. Chris Turney, in his book “1912, The Year the World Discovered Antarctica,“ discusses the five different expeditions that came across the continent during that eventful year: Scott’s British expedition, Amundsen from Norway, Nobu Shirase and his Japanese contingent, a German expedition, and finally Mawson’s attempt. “By 1912 five national teams, representing the old and new worlds, were diligently venturing beyond the edge of the known world . . . Their discoveries not only enthralled the world: they changed our understanding of the planet.”
Back to Amundsen. Stephen R. Bowen’s “The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen,” sketches his tumultuous but successful early career as an explorer, which was book-ended by a tragic end; death on a perilous and ill-advised aircraft rescue mission to the Arctic in 1928. Amundsen never truly enjoyed the spoils of victory: “There was actually a time when British schoolchildren were taught that Scott the Briton was the first person to reach the South Pole, and that Amundsen had cheated in ‘the great race.’ Amundsen’s legacy certainly raised questions about our knowledge of the past.”
Please check out these books (and many more!) if you would like to learn more about Antarctica and the people who have braved this magnificent and unforgiving continent.
“The two women were alone in the London flat.” The opening sentence of Doris Lessing’s “The Golden Notebook” let readers know this novel would be something different from much of the literature that preceded its 1962 publication. Here is a story showing women as they see themselves and each other, rather than filtered through the lens of male perspective.
When the British author passed away last month, her best-known book gained renewed attention. “The Golden Notebook” broke new ground with the way it focused on its female protagonists, and also in its structure. Before Margaret Atwood’s “The Blind Assassin” and David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas,” Lessing showed how a story-within-a-story motif could work in contemporary literature.
Her book contains a story, “Free Women,” that follows the lives of author Anna Wulf and her best friend, Molly Jacobs, both single mothers approaching mid-life. Interweaved with this narrative are sections from Anna’s various notebooks, each reflecting a different area of her life. The yellow one contains her novel-in-progress, or perhaps novel-in-stasis would be more accurate, as Anna suffers from writer’s block. The black notebook chronicles her thoughts about the time she spent living in Southern Rhodesia in her early twenties, prior to World War II. In the appropriately-colored red notebook she reflects on her involvement with the Communist Party. And she uses the blue one for her personal diary, a recording of day-to-day events. Finally, there’s the golden notebook, in which she tries to piece together her sanity by piecing together the contents of all of the other notebooks into an integrated whole.
“The Golden Notebook” isn’t action-packed. It’s short on car chases and long on conversations between the characters, often frank discussions about the intimate details of their lives. If this sounds uninteresting, I suggest watching the movie “My Dinner With Andre” to see how riveting a couple of hours of conversation can be. Then pick up Lessing’s book and get to know Anna Wulf. Her central struggle is one most of us can relate to, even if we aren’t authors or single parents or members of the Communist Party in the 1950s. The real struggle is how to live authentically, how to bridge the divide between ideals and actions while meeting the practical demands of everyday life.