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The Gentleman Recommends: Paul Tremblay

July 18, 2016

Book cover for A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul TremblayIf you’re looking for a grim, unputdownable book to block the blistering and incessant shine of the July sun, look no further. Paul Tremblay’sA Head Full of Ghosts” is the sort of book you read in one sitting (assuming you have sufficient free time, or a willingness/compulsion to prioritize pleasure over obligations, and also that you are not a big ol’ chicken (cause it’s scary)).

A Head Full of Ghosts” is about a young girl that is either possessed by the devil or by mental illness. (Evidence mounts for both possibilities, and when you’re certain you’ve got it all sussed out, you’re probably still going to have your mind changed a couple of times.) Her family, exhausted both mentally and financially, agrees to allow a reality television crew to film the devil’s/mental illness’s exploits. (It’s surprising that there isn’t already a “reality” television show about possessions, but this book gives us a pretty good idea of what one would look like.)

More than a decade after the possession debacle and the short-lived but successful television series, the possessed girl’s younger sister is being interviewed by a hotshot writer for a tell-all bestseller. The younger sister’s story is relayed through this framework and intercut with blog posts from the world’s foremost authority on the reality television show made about the possession. (The identity of the blogger is revealed early on, and makes for one of many moments in the book that’ll make you say, “Veritably! Now that’s some fine crafting of fiction. This novel brings me pleasure, and I am glad that I forsook sleep and a supposedly necessary medical procedure in order to find the time to partake of its literary fruits.”)

Another spectacular thingy that happens: very early in the novel a character’s quirk is revealed, a cute detail, but it couldn’t be anything crucial, right? No. Instead it is a key to the novel’s devastating ending. The sort of ending that makes you want to comfort fictional characters and perhaps attempt to construct life-size replicas of the characters so that you can properly hug them and even forge a relationship with the hat-wearing sack of hay that you’ve drawn a face on, a relationship that progresses to the point where you’re asking it to, with horrific consequences, transport you home from your various necessary medical procedures.

Book cover for Devil's Rock by Paul TremblayIf you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, do not read Tremblay’s newest novel, “Disappearance at Devil’s Rock.” It is about a child’s disappearance at Devil’s Rock. It is a sad, tricky book that makes you think one thing is happening until it makes you think another thing is happening, until it tells you most of what is really happening.

Swallowing a Donkey’s Eye,” in addition to being a description of British cuisine (haha, I WENT THERE, rimshot, etc.), is a much different novel. A desperate man signs a contract that makes him an indentured servant for an “amusement park” called FARM, which is where people go to see actual plants and animals, as well as people dressed like animals. This novel is frequently funny, as the author always is in interviews, but it also features a scene that manages to be as simultaneously heartbreaking and disgusting as anything I’ve ever read. Read it; share my burden.

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Sixth Summer Reading Gift Card Winner!

July 18, 2016

TrophyCongratulations to Andrew of Ashland on winning our sixth Adult Summer Reading 2016 prize drawing. He is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

If you have not registered for the library’s Adult Summer Reading program, you can still do so online or by visiting any of our locations. Once you sign up, you are automatically entered in the prize drawings. Also, don’t forget to submit book reviews to increase your odds of winning. (That’s what this week’s winner did!) There are plenty of drawings left this summer, so keep reading and sharing your reviews with us!

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Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites

July 15, 2016

Book cover for Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” ~ Lao Tzu

This year, our country is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Parks System, deemed by writer Wallas Stegner as “America’s best idea.”And it sure has been. Who hasn’t heard about Yosemite, the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, to name a few? People from all over the world come to the U.S. to visit these unique places. Yet as much as all of us admire our national parks, let’s not forget that Missouri has an abundance of wonderful parks, too.

The movement for establishing the Missouri park system began at the turn of the century, although the Missouri General Assembly did not create a state park fund until 1917. In 1924, the state made its first acquisitions — Big Spring and Round Spring on the Current River, Alley Spring on the Jacks Fork, Bennett Springs on the Niagua River, Deep Run near Ellington and Indian Trail near Salem. And in 2013, the state made its 88th acquisition — Echo Bluff.

Big Spring, Alley Spring and Round Spring are no longer in the state system but they are part of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. As for Echo Bluff, it will officially open its grounds at the end of the month.

Book cover for Missouri GeologyOne of the things that has made the Missouri State Parks system so successful is the diversity of the state’s natural resources: some of the oldest rocks on the continent and the youngest landforms are found here, as well as a multitude of caves and natural springs.

Missouri’s flora also varies widely. Tall grass prairies are found to the west and woodlands to the east. Missouri also includes the southern limit of northern boreal plants and the northern limit of southern coastal plants.

The cultural diversity of Missouri mimics its natural diversity. Because of its location at the junction of the two longest North American rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri, our state played a leading role in the country’s history. Here, native people made contact with mastodons and they lived in both woodlands and prairies for more than ten thousand years. Key sites of the Osage, Missouria and Illiniwek are found in the state.

Later, French fur traders established outposts here. Later still, settlers moved in, especially after the Louisiana Purchase, and after 1830, so did immigrants, mostly from Germany and British Isles.

Book cover for Missouri LegendsA rich agricultural state, Missouri is also known as the birthplace of many prominent people, including George Washington Carver, Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Harry Truman and Thomas Hart Benton. And in the 20th century, the state excels at creating a wonderful system of parks and historical sites. In fact, the mission of the Division of State Park states:

“preserve and interpret the finest examples of Missouri’s natural landscapes; preserve and interpret the finest example of Missouri’s cultural landmarks; and provide healthy and enjoyable outdoor recreation opportunities for all Missourians and visitors to the state.”

And so, for nearly 100 years, the state parks have been doing just that, preserving nature and history and by doing so attracting people from around here and also from afar.

Enjoy the ghostly silhouette of the Ha Ha Tonka Castle, hike Taum Sauk Mountain, fish for trout in Bennett Springs, explore the caverns of Onondaga, take a float trip down Current River, and don’t forget to leave everything exactly the way you found it — pristine and inviting. Free for us all.

Celebrate the centennial of our state park system at the Columbia Public Library on July 18 at 7 p.m. with a presentation by Susan Flader. Flader is professor emerita of environmental and western history at the University of Missouri and editor and co-author of the beautiful newly updated book, “Missouri State Parks and Historic Sites: Exploring Our Legacy.”

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Reader Review: Trigger Warning

July 14, 2016

Book cover for Neil Gaiman's trigger warningRanging from the mildly strange to the hauntingly bizarre, “Trigger Warning” is a collection of short writings that should please fans of fantasy, magical realism and (in some stories) science fiction. I enjoyed Gaiman’s nods to both Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, as well as his ability to play with format (the story “Orange” is told via responses to interview questions; the questions themselves are never seen, requiring the reader to stitch the story together as the narrative moves along). In the introduction, Gaiman includes brief notes about each story. I recommend book-ending your reading by reviewing the corresponding author notes both before and after each story. It’s a rare glimpse into the author’s process and the impetus behind the stories, which I feel adds to the enjoyment of the book. That being said, it’s Neil Gaiman, so my brain still hurt at the end of some stories, and many do not end well. As the author states in his introduction, “Consider yourself warned.”

Three words that describe this book: strange, creepy, beautiful

You might want to pick this book up if: you are a fan of bizarre, intriguing narratives or would like to explore the same by starting with short stories rather than a novel.


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New DVD List: The Fear Of 13, Elena & More

July 13, 2016

fear of 13 image

Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles recently added to the library’s collection.
fear of 13The Fear of 13
Website / Reviews / Trailer
Playing at the 2016 True/False Film Fest, this film presents former death-row inmate Nick Yarris as he tells the story of how he was charged with the murder of a woman in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, sentenced to death, and, after twenty-one years behind bars, exhonerated based on DNA evidence.

Website / Reviews / Trailer
Playing at Ragtag Cinema in 2014, this documentary follows Elena, who moves to New York to become a movie actress leaving behind her younger sister, Petra. Two decades later, Petra also becomes an actress and goes to New York in search of Elena. All she has are a few clues about her: home movies, newspaper clippings, diaries and letters.

Season 2
Website / Reviews
A drama straddling the glamorous Manhattan lifestyles of the rich and infamous and the underworld of the international drug trade. Season Two will pick up where it left off: James “Ghost” St. Patrick doubling down on his drug business to save his nightclub and his dream of a legitimate future.

peace officerPeace Officer
Website / Reviews / Trailer
“Peace officer” is a feature documentary about the increasingly militarized state of American police as told through the story of William “Dub” Lawrence, a former sheriff who established and trained his rural state’s first SWAT team only to see that same unit kill his son-in-law in a controversial standoff 30 years later.

the winding streamThe Winding Stream
Website / Reviews / Trailer
Tells the tale of the musical Carter and Cash Family, the dynasty at the heart of country music. Starting with the Original Carter Family, A.P., Sara and Maybelle, this film traces the flow of their influence through generations of musicians and the efforts of the present-day family to keep this musical legacy alive.

hollow crownThe Hollow Crown
Series 2
Website / Reviews
These three screen adaptations, Henry VI in two parts and Richard III, tell the story of ‘The Wars of the Roses’, an exceptionally turbulent period in British history. Shakespeare’s plays are filmed in the visually breathtaking landscape and architecture of the period.

song of lahoreSong of Lahore
Website / Reviews / Trailer
Follows Pakistani jazz band Sachal Studios as they venture to New York City to perform their reinterpretations of jazz standards. Despite their rising international acclaim they remain virtually unknown in Pakistan. The ensemble is faced with a daunting task: to reclaim and reinvigorate an art that has lost its space in Pakistan s narrowing cultural sphere.

Other notable releases:
Elstree 1976” –  Website / Reviews / Trailer
Grantchester” – Series 2  Website / Reviews
Moone Boy” –  Season 1Season 2Season 3  Website / Reviews
Nashville” –  Season 1Season 2Season 3  Website / Reviews
Rizzoli & Isles” –  Season 6  Website / Reviews
Star Trek, the Next Generation” –  Season 1Season 2Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6, Season 7  Website / Reviews
Star Trek, Voyager” –  Season 1Season 2Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6, Season 7  Website / Reviews
Strike Back” –   Season 4 – Website / Reviews
Survivors Remorse” –  Season 1Season 2  Website / Reviews
Underground” – Season 1  Website / Reviews
Vinyl” –  Season 1  Website / Reviews
Wallander” –  Series 4  Website / Reviews
We Come as Friends” – Website / Reviews / Trailer
Where To Invade Next” –  Website / Reviews / Trailer
X-files” – Season 10 – Website / Reviews

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Reader Review: Sleeping Giants

July 12, 2016

sleeping giantsEven as “Sleeping Giants” is clearly a heightened, science fiction reality, I found myself really appreciating the realism on display in this story. If we somehow wave a wand and bring to life all the fanciful elements of this tale, then I could see the rest of the plot playing out very similarly to the way Sylvain Neuvel describes it.

One story element that I found lacking was an emotional connection to the characters. The way I really get invested in a story is if I’m actively rooting for someone or a relationship; I didn’t find that here. These characters, for the most part, are calm, cool, collected types. Ryan lets emotion get the best of him once, but it’s a wholly negative response. I wanted to really root for Kara and Victor’s partnership, but I felt no real thrill there.

With that said, I was pretty immediately hooked. The central, unnamed character is a curiosity. The mysterious, alien guy we meet a couple times in a Chinese restaurant seemed unnecessary in this story, but I assume he’ll play a bigger role in subsequent stories.

Let’s see where this goes.

Three words that describe this book: imaginative, curious, slick

You might want to pick this book up if: The dust jacket claims: “in the tradition of Michael Crichton, ‘World War Z,’ and ‘The Martian.'” I think that’s overstating things a bit.


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Summer Reading Program Preview: Speed Date with a Book

July 11, 2016

Book photoIn search of a galaxy far, far away: I like a book where anything is possible, including travel through deep space and the kinds of technology we can only dream about. A little time travel is also desired.

The game is afoot! I want a book with a problem to solve, preferably one that gets me using my little grey cells. I prefer twists and turns, with a few red herrings thrown in to keep me guessing.

Looking for my Mr. Darcy! A book will really catch my fancy if it has a nice dusting of romance. Watching two people fall in love is the highlight of my day, especially when it’s opposites attracting!

Do any of these readers sound like you? Have you ever struggled to figure out what to read next or are you curious about trying books that fall outside of what you normally read? Do you enjoy talking with others about books you’ve read? If so, you will want to check out the library’s first ever Speed Date with a Book on Friday, July 15, at 7 p.m. in the Columbia Public Library’s third floor reading room. 

blind date booksThe library is always a good place to find your next favorite read, and this month we want to try a new approach to helping readers find a book they can fall in love with. So, what is a speed date with a book? It’s kind of like normal speed dating, only instead of sharing information about yourself in just a couple of minutes, you get to talk about the books you love with other readers who are looking for something new. Along with the speed dating, we’ll have activities including book charades, a “first impressions” contest (because who hasn’t judged a book by its cover before?) and a chance to go on a blind date with a book. There will also be free book giveaways, door prizes and refreshments. Speed daters who find a book they want to read will have the opportunity to check it out and take the book home to find out if it lives up to expectations.

If you’re on the hunt for for an exciting new read, or just love talking about books with other readers, this is the perfect event for you!

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Fifth Summer Reading Gift Card Winner!

July 9, 2016

TrophyCongratulations to Judy of Columbia on winning our fifth Adult Summer Reading 2016 prize drawing. She is the recipient of a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.

If you have not registered for the library’s Adult Summer Reading program, you can still do so online or by visiting any of our locations. Once you sign up, you are automatically entered in the prize drawings. Also, don’t forget to submit book reviews to increase your odds of winning. (That’s what this week’s winner did!) There are plenty of drawings left this summer, so keep reading and sharing your reviews with us!

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In Memory of Elie Wiesel

July 8, 2016

Book cover for Open Heart by Elie Wiesel“Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.”
~ Elie Wiesel (September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016)

When, in 1990, at the age of 39, I emigrated from the USSR to the United States, I did not know about Elie Wiesel, Anne Frank and other victims — or survivors — of the Holocaust. In fact, I didn’t even know the term “Holocaust.” And not because I was a bad student who failed to learn it in school, but because the anti-Semitic politics of the Third Reich were not covered in our school curriculum and our mass media — not before or during WWII, or afterwards. As a result, the atrocities that were well known in the West were hardly mentioned in the East. There, coverage of WWII was dedicated to the bravery and suffering of Soviet troops and, until 1956, to Stalin’s military genius. So the mass killings of Jews — in Europe and Ukraine — did not qualify.

This is not to say that the Russian population had it easy. The war was devastating for the USSR. Overall, more than 26 million Russian citizens died during the war, not to mention those who came back as invalids and hopeless alcoholics. Still, the fact that the Jews were systematically exterminated was not revealed in Russia (where casual anti -Semitism was the norm) for a very long time. Well, we knew about concentration camps, including Auschwitz, Treblinka and Buchenwald. In fact, there was a popular song written about the latter, which went like this:

People of the world
stand up a moment
Listen, listen
It buzzes from all sides
It can be heard in Buchenwald
ringing off the bells
ringing off the bells
It’s innocent blood reborn and strengthened
In a brazen roar.
Victims are resurrected from the ashes …

Yet again, we were never told that the main goal of a camp like Auschwitz was the implementation of “The Final Solution of the Jewish Question.” Historians estimate that among the people sent to Auschwitz there were at least 1,100,000 Jews from all the countries of occupied Europe, over 140,000 Poles, approximately 20,000 Gypsies from several European countries, over 10,000 Soviet prisoners of war and over 10,000 prisoners of other nationalities.

Book cover for Night by Elie WieselWhen I found myself in Columbia, Missouri, and I had learned enough English to start reading, books about the Holocaust were not high on my list. First, I needed to learn about my adoptive country, its history, culture and customs. So, when one day (I was already working at the reference desk of the Columbia Public Library) a teenage girl came to me and asked about “The Diary of a Young Girl,” I had no idea what that book was about. I just looked it up in the library catalog. And later, when another patron was looking for “Night” by Elie Wiesel, I didn’t know anything about that book either. In fact, I had trouble spelling “Wiesel.”

Time went by, and I learned about the Holocaust, about Anne Frank and Elie Wiesel and others. I saw a collection of victims’ shoes in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington (the Nazis confiscated their victims’ belongings and sent valuables back to Germany; the shoes were to be repaired by the camps’ prisoners and reused). And I heard a reading of names of the Jewish children murdered during the Holocaust (1.5 million names in all) in the Yad Vashem Children’s Memorial in Jerusalem, which is housed in an underground cave and lit by candles that, reflected in a system of mirrors, create the impression of millions of little stars. (The complex was built with donations from a family whose two-and-a-half-year-old son was killed in Auschwitz.) And when I read “Night,” I could hardly keep from screaming; for the way I felt, it all could have happened to me, my parents and my daughter.

There are some events so cruel and traumatic that people don’t want to talk about them, even less read about them. In fact, when Wiesel’s “Night” first appeared in print (in Yiddish) in 1954, its publication was hardly noticed. In America, when the book was published in 1960, it wasn’t an overnight success either. Gradually, though, it began attracting more attention, and when, in 2006, Oprah Winfrey presented “Night” to her book club, it became a New York Times bestseller.

Wiesel went on to write many more books and to become a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Above all, he remained a voice for Holocaust victims and survivors – the mission he considered the most important in his life.

“If I survived,” Wiesel said in 1981, “It must be for some reason. I must do something with my life…because in my place, someone else could have been saved. And so I speak for that person.”

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Reader Review: Long Division

July 7, 2016

long divisionThis book is about a 20-something woman who is an elementary school teacher. She is writing a book, sort of journal entry style, documenting the time in which she and her boyfriend are apart while he is in the military in Iraq. Hence the title “Long Division,” a double meaning with her school teacher job title and her long distance relationship. The book was a touch difficult for me to get into but after a few chapters, I fell in love with Annie and all her quirks. I love the relationship she found with an elderly woman in a nursing home and the depth of the relationship she had with her childhood friend. There was just the right balance of romanticism, cynicism and whimsy for my taste.

Three words that describe this book: utterly, totally, relatable

You might want to pick this book up if: You are a teacher, you have experienced restlessness, you have ever thought about getting a pet chicken 😉


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Get Gaming!

July 6, 2016

Photo of gamers playing Settlers of Catan, photo by sewing puzzle via FlickrLooking for games to play with your kids and the thought of one more round of Candy Land makes you want to cry?  Desperate to pry the smartphone or the tablet away from your teens?  Tired of starting another game of Monopoly you know you’ll never finish?

Oh friends, I am about to change your world.

Table-top gaming is diverse and entertaining, ranging from dice and cards to miniatures and tiles.  Some can be played in 15 minutes and some may take hours, depending on what you’re looking for.

Games indirectly teach problem-solving skills, math, strategy and adapting to other players’ actions. There is also the etiquette of listening, taking turns and teaching new players the rules of the games.

You can find something for every age. There are games that focus on math and spatial skills and are appropriate for preschoolers. There are also games that are definitely NOT for children and make for a fun evening with your grown-up friends.

I love the social aspect of face-to-face gaming. My favorite kinds of table-top games are collaborative, where all the players work together for a common goal, like stopping the monster or curing the viral outbreak. These kinds of games teach teamwork, and we all win or we all lose, together.

Which is nice when you hate losing as much as I do.

Want to learn more?  Maybe try out some games?

On Friday, July 8, there will be two programs at the Columbia Public Library devoted to table-top gaming. The first, starting at 4:30 p.m., is a Q & A with game developers. Learn about the making of games, what makes a good system and how these games go from ideas to reality. Then, stick around for a special after-hours gaming session from 6 to 9 p.m.!  There will be dozens of games to play and plenty of people eager to share their knowledge.

Gamers are more than very pale hermits with headsets staring at computer screens or people huddled around a table in someone’s basement arguing over a rule book, surrounded by empty Mt. Dew bottles. Come have some fun, and you might discover your new favorite game.

photo credit: Settlers of Catan via photopin (license)

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Fourth Summer Reading Gift Card Winner!

July 6, 2016

TrophyCongratulations to Margaret, a Callaway County Public Library patron, for winning our fourth Adult Summer Reading prize drawing.  She is the recipient of a $25 Well Read Books 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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Reader Review: Better Off

July 5, 2016

Book cover for better Off by Eric BrendeMore articles and experts are recommending we get away from screens and our technology addiction. Ever had a craving to live the low-technology, Amish-like lifestyle (without the religious doctrine)? “Better Off” is about a couple that tried it and all the benefits they reaped! They were worried it would be all about survival, but the shared workload created a natural camaraderie with their neighbors and natural exercise. They realized it’s in our current world where we are running in a gerbil wheel, trying to enjoy it. This should be the next One Read!!!

Three words that describe this book: transforming, anti-technology, discovery

You might want to pick this book up if: you always wondered if technology is making your life and relationships harder in this go-go-go society, or if you find peace gardening, crafting or socializing. You also might like it if you ever loved Laura Ingalls Wilder books.


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Lend Me Your Ears: Outstanding Audiobooks

July 1, 2016

The best audiobooks provide something readers could not create on their own through reading the text from a page. Narrators create worlds with their voices, crafting performances that leave us sitting in our parked cars, hesitant to stop listening. For your next road trip, check out some of these books on CD or downloadable audio to make the miles fly by. Or, make exercise or housework more bearable by entertaining your ears with a good story. (Book descriptions courtesy of their publishers.)

Audiobook cover for All the Old KnivesAll the Old Knives” by Olen Steinhauer (read by Ari Fliakos and Juliana Francis Kelly)
Available on CD and downloadable audio
Nine years ago, terrorists hijacked a plane in Vienna. Somehow, a rescue attempt staged from the inside went terribly wrong and everyone on board was killed.Members of the CIA stationed in Vienna during that time were witness to this terrible tragedy, gathering intel from their sources during those tense hours, assimilating facts from the ground with a series of texts coming from one of their agents inside the plane. Had their agent been compromised, and how?

Dead Wake by Erik LarsonDead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania” by Erik Larson (read by Scott Brick)
Available on CD and downloadable audio
This 100th-anniversary chronicle of the sinking of the Lusitania discusses the factors that led to the tragedy and the contributions of such figures as President Wilson, bookseller Charles Lauriat and architect Theodate Pope Riddle. A dramatic narration brings the details of this tragedy to crisp light.

Book cover for The Knockoff by Lucy SykesThe Knockoff” by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza (read by Katherine Kellgren)
Available on CD
The story of Imogen Tate, editor in chief of Glossy magazine, who finds her twentysomething former assistant Eve Morton plotting to knock Imogen off her pedestal, take over her job and reduce the magazine, famous for its lavish 768-page September issue, into an app. Kellgren expertly captures both Imogen’s elegant tone and Eve’s more fast-paced millennial-speak.

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” by Randall Munroe (read by Wil Wheaton)
Available on CD, downloadable audio and playaway
What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last? In pursuit of answers, Munroe runs computer simulations, pores over stacks of declassified military research memos, solves differential equations, and consults with nuclear reactor operators. His responses are masterpieces of clarity and hilarity, and Wheaton’s humorous tone matches the content perfectly.

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Reader Review: Live Right and Find Happiness

June 30, 2016

live right and find happinessDave Barry! His newspaper columns were great, and his books are even better. Little life lessons, with that twist of humor only Barry can convey. “Live Right and Find Happiness” was more of a reflective collection, speaking on cultural differences, the World Cup tour in 2014, a trip to Russia and how times have changed in terms parenting styles. Of course, you have the random blurb letter to family, everyday observations, technology, and all packed with humor. A great, light read, with eye-opening words, humility and family.

Three words that describe this book: humorous, heartfelt, eye-opening

You might want to pick this book up if: you are looking for a fun read. Dave Barry’s books are always guaranteed to be a great read, all based on his own personal life experiences with aging, parenting, work, travel and pet ownership.


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Summer Cooking (or How to Torment Your Kids)

June 29, 2016

Book cover for Love & LemonsThe extra downtime for our kids over the summer means that we, the parents, get to use them in the name of furthering their education. Every summer, we make them plan a menu for one night a week. They help with the shopping and estimate how much it will cost (even if we are still the ones paying the bill). And then – my favorite part – they cook and clean up afterwards! It’s pure bliss to have some of that responsibility of what to cook lifted off my shoulders, and they get to learn valuable skills. That’s how I rationalize it, anyway.

I recently brought home some new cookbooks – which were met with a few groans – but it wasn’t long before I was hearing, “Hey, this looks good!” I’m really looking forward to the crustless tomato-ricotta pie in “Gluten-Free: Easy & Delicious Recipes for Every Meal.” Fresh tomatoes from the farmers market and eggs from our backyard chickens should make it incredible! And the flourless chocolate hazelnut cake? Yum!

I haven’t heard any firm commitments yet to any of the recipes in “The Love & Lemons Cookbook: An Apple-to-zucchini Celebration of Impromptu Cooking,” but I think I love this cookbook. It’s very pretty and may end up having to be a purchase. Every recipe tells whether it is vegan or gluten-free, and most seem to be adaptable if needed. I’m not certain I’m quite ready to try the dark chocolate avocado mousse, but if the kids are willing to make it, I will be brave enough to eat it. I will be voting for the grilled peach salad with toasted pistachios or the cucumber, basil and watermelon salad!

Book cover for Endless Summer CookbookHow can you go wrong with a cookbook titled “Endless Summer Cookbook“? This is another stunningly beautiful cookbook. The fish tacos with creamy chipotle sauce and pico de gallo look wonderful! We never imagined that we would like fish tacos, but after trying some a few years ago, we love them. The hoisin ginger pork chops look great, too.

I also brought home “The Eli’s Cheesecake Cookbook: Remarkable Recipes from a Chicago Legend.” I really want to try the lemon cheesecake tart with blueberries, but the honey almond pistachio ricotta cheesecake looks wonderful, too! And now I’m really hungry.

I have been very impressed with what these kids have been able to make all by themselves. They have ventured into Korean, Indian, Chinese and Italian foods, as well as good old homemade barbecue. Some of my favorite summer recipes have been discovered this way! Not everything they have tried has been a keeper, but topping our list of favorites is the chilled berry soup from Mollie Katzen’s “Moosewood Cookbook.” My son has become the cheesecake chef of the family, even managing to alter recipes to fit his sister’s gluten-free diet. I think my personal favorite was the mandarin orange cheesecake from “The Cheesecake Bible,” but the kids would probably say that their favorite was the triple-chocolate cheesecake.

What a delicious summer! Please don’t let school start back up too soon!

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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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