On Saturday, February 7, the Columbia Public Library will be hosting our fourth annual “How to True/False” with 102.3 BXR and 1400 KFRU. You’ll get a step-by-step explanation of all things True/False, including a Q&A session with fest organizers David Wilson and Arin Liberman. They will also share an exclusive sneak peek at a few films before the schedule is released early next week.
This program is expected to fill up, so we’re offering two sessions: 1-2 p.m. –OR– 2:30-3:30 p.m. Space is limited, so plan to arrive early. For easier parking, consider using the library’s north lot, across from Landmark Bank at the corner of Garth and Walnut.
In celebration of our partnership with the True/False Film Fest, we will be raffling two free Lux passes to one lucky winner. You must register online to enter. These passes, valued at $200 each, will give you nearly unlimited access to the festival’s most popular films and special events. The winner will be selected at random and contacted on Tuesday, February 3. One entry per person, please. You must live in Boone or Callaway County to be eligible.
The post Win Two Free Lux Passes to the True/False Film Fest appeared first on DBRL Next.
Trudy Lewis is the Director of Creative Writing at the University of Missouri and author of two full-length novels (“The Empire Rolls” and “Private Correspondences“), along with many acclaimed short stories. Her latest novel, “The Empire Rolls,” is about roller derby and captures the changing social and financial climate of the Midwest surrounding the economic crash in 2008.
DBRL: Can you tell us about some of your inspirations for “The Empire Rolls”?
TL: “The Empire Rolls” was inspired by several factors: the Missouri landscape, the recession of 2008, a friend’s encounter with industrial polluters at a local creek and the changing status of public space and private interests in our national imagination. I began writing “The Empire Rolls” when I returned to Columbia after a stint as the Viebranz Visiting Writer at St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. I’d been writing a historical novel, but when I came back to Missouri and saw the changes that had occurred in a single year, I realized that I needed to capture the shifting scenes and values of our own times. One of the changes was the new roller derby team in town, the CoMo Derby Dames. Roller derby had all the elements that appealed to me: women’s empowerment, Midwestern populism, spectacle and ambiguous sexuality. Of course, the book is about more than the roller derby. It is about the changes that overtook our culture at this precise moment—the fall of 2007 leading into the great recession of 2008. It was around this date that roller derby, first developed in the depression, began to see another dramatic rise in popularity. At the same time, the war in the Middle East was coming home to Middle America, as veterans returned from military duty. In my novel, there are a number of returning veterans, and the skaters take on warlike identities such as “Raven Pillage” and “Gigi Haddist.” My protagonist, Sally LaChance, moonlights as the emcee at the roller derby. But by day, she works as a park ranger in Karst Park. In this capacity, she carries a gun and engages in a questionable use of force to defend her territory against polluters. Sally’s story mirrors both the violence of the war in Iraq and the comic mock aggression of the roller derby.
DBRL: Do you play roller derby?
TL: No, I don’t play. But I have two friends, Whiskey ShinDig (Felicia Leach) and Stonecold Janeausten (Devoney Looser) who are former members of the CoMo Derby Dames. When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time at the roller rink, waiting for a longtime crush to look up from the pinball machine and skate with me. So I’m sure that’s another factor in my attraction to roller derby.
DBRL: The novel is set in the Boonslick area of Missouri. From what I understand that was a deliberate choice for the book. Would you like to discuss why you chose that location?
TL: Boonslick is a cultural region that includes Columbia, along with a number of nearby counties. By using the name, I set up a regional reference point without actually claiming to write about Columbia (although, if you are looking for verisimilitude, you will recognize mirror images of many Columbia institutions). I’m also trying to evoke the underlying Missouri culture. Many people think of Columbia as a place that is made livable by its cultural connections to urban areas elsewhere. I’ve found, on the contrary, that I’m energized by Columbia’s Missouri connections: the physical landscape, the small towns and rural areas, the music and folklore. My husband Mike Barrett teaches at Moberly Area Community College and I’ve been inspired by his students, who are often deeply embedded in the local culture and who don’t feel the need to disavow their roots in order to pursue some other goal, whether it is travel or art or career. So the invented town of Boonslick allows me to write about these issues and to work in the vein of realism without establishing a one-to-one correspondence between my fictional city and the Columbia readers may recognize. I’ve published a number of short stories set in Boonslick in addition to “The Empire Rolls.”
DBRL: Have you read any good books recently that you would recommend?
TL: I’ve been teaching and recommending “Fools” by Joan Silber, a book of linked stories about anarchists, lovers and other quixotic idealists. Silber will be reading in MU’s Visiting Writers Series in the spring (April 23). Another favorite is “A Tale for the Time Being,” Ruth Ozeki’s cross-cultural, cross-generational Buddhist novel. I’m also a big fan of the British writer Edward St. Aubyn; his most recent book “Lost for Words“ is a hilarious sendup of the literary awards system, including brilliant parodies of familiar writerly types. I’d like to take the opportunity to recommend some excellent books by local writers: Deb Brenegan’s “Shame the Devil,” a lively fictional take on the life of Fanny Fern, and Phong Nguyen’s “Pages from the Textbook of Alternate History,” a provocative collection of short stories examining history’s missed chances and close calls. Finally, anyone interested in Missouri fiction should look up “The Moonflower Vine“ by Jetta Carleton, originally published in 1962 but reissued in 2009. This book vies with “Stoner” (John Williams) as the best Missouri novel of the 20th century.
For more information about Trudy Lewis and her work, please visit her website. Be sure to check out “The Empire Rolls” at the library, or buy it from The University of Arkansas Press or locally at Yellow Dog Bookshop. Don’t miss her presentation here at the Columbia Public Library on February 10th at 7 p.m. in the Friends Room!
During a typical evening of discussing literature, violins and politeness in my conversation parlor, a colleague said to me, “Gentleman, it seems you love everything you read.” I stopped reading a cake recipe and smacking my lips and rubbing my stomach to consider. Considering all it takes is a savvy recommendation and/or a glance at the first few sentences to gather enough clues to know if a book will be to my taste, I am plenty fond of nearly every book I read. But while it’s true there are more great books than anybody could read in a lifetime, perhaps a gentleman’s effusions lose their weight when they’re spewed forth with identical giddiness and on a schedule one could set their tailor’s visits to. So take heed, I want to effuse really hard right now: “F” by Daniel Kehlmann makes the short list of my favorite books of all time.
It’s all the things I so often say about books I love: hilarious, heartbreaking, beautifully written. Rather than offer cogency and worthwhile words to demonstrate this, I encourage you to peruse the links I’ve provided above so that I can proceed in my typical slapdash fashion. “F” begins with Arthur taking his three sons to see a hypnotist’s show. His emphatic claims that he cannot be hypnotized are maintained even as he’s on stage and interspersing them with the words and actions of the thoroughly hypnotized, among them some things a parent shouldn’t say in front of his child. He’s hypnotized into being a vehicle for his ambition, which once unfettered by obligations like parenthood and not stealing his spouse’s money, is massive and fruitful. Arthur empties the family bank account and disappears to be a reclusive genius author. (One of his books so convincingly argues that existence isn’t real that it inspires a spate of suicides.) “F” then jumps years to delve into the adulthood of Arthur’s children.
Each child gets an awesome chapter. One, a faithless obese priest and Rubik’s Cube expert (though not championship caliber), eats candy in the confessional and reasons that his lack of faith can’t stop him from being an adequate priest. Another forges art under the name of his much older lover, a man he met while interviewing him for his thesis on artistic mediocrity. The forger’s twin is a finance guy, struggling to maintain his sanity while trying to prolong his clients’ ignorance concerning the millions of their dollars he’s lost. The offspring’s chapters sometimes intersect: one delightful instance is the priest’s lunch with the finance brother. When we see it from the priest’s side, we see his brother’s behavior as absurd and unexplainable. When he see it from the money brother’s side, the unexplainable behavior is gloriously explained, which isn’t to say that he’s not in need of a balanced regimen of medication. Also, there’s an apparition imparting crucial messages to the twins, but unfortunately it can’t tell them apart.
I’m wary of translated works because I worry something often gets, to coin a phrase, lost in translation. Since I can’t read German (I’m barely even comfortable in lederhosen), I don’t know if anything was lost, but I am sure this book looks great in English, as does “Fame,” the other Kehlmann novel carried by DBRL. Kudos to Carol Brown Janeway for the translation.
Daniel Kehlmann is a literary superstar in Germany (meaning he sells lots of books and probably gets all the writing implements and sausages his minions can carry), but he should be one everywhere.
There are several things about Missouri that are quite predictable, like brilliant fall colors and the cadence of the Missouri Waltz. As for the weather around here, it is as unpredictable as life itself. Take me, for example. Who would predict that a timid girl from Moscow would land in the American Midwest? Or that I — a person whose ancestry goes back to the Diaspora Jews and, more recently, to the Ukrainian small farmers who were sent to exile by the Stalin regime and died of hunger — would marry an American man whose great-great-great uncle was Henry Clay, a US senator, Speaker of the House and Secretary of State who ran for president four times? (No, my husband is not in politics, he’s in linguistics; no family can withstand the tide of time ).
Going back to Missouri weather. The worst thing about it is that summers here are hot and humid and winters are completely useless. What I mean by that is that if it snows, the snow doesn’t stick around long enough for cross-country skiing or sledging. And if the temperature falls below freezing without snow, it seldom stays cold long enough for us (my husband and I, and several more transplants from Michigan and Minnesota) to skate on the pond of our nearby wetland area. So, as a result, we have a lot of luke-cold days with no practical value whatsoever. (We do say “lukewarm,” so, I believe, the term “luke-cold” has the right to exist!)
Here’s a recent example. A couple of days before New Year’s the temperature dropped below freezing, and on New Year’s eve it was in single digits. Yet when I got up on January 1, the weather forecast was already showing a warming trend.
“Two more cold days would’ve made our wetlands skatable,” I said to my husband.
“I think it may be good even now,” he said.
“Well, there is only one way to find out. Let’s go and test the ice! If it’s good, we’ll come back and grab our skates. If not, we’ll just walk around the wetlands.”
“No, let’s take our skates with us, so if the ice is good, we won’t have to come back. I’ll carry them,” my husband said and headed to the basement to get our skates.
When he returned, a large blue bag with the skates was slung over his shoulder, making him look like Santa Claus. In his left hand he carried a lounge chair.
“What’s that chair for?” I said. “There are benches all around the pond. We can change our shoes there, if we need to.”
“I don’t want to scratch my skates,” my husband said sternly.
“You mean that if the ice is not thick, you’ll be walking with a large bag and a lounge char for two miles?” I said. “People will think we’re nuts!”
But he was already putting on his jacket.
“Whatever,” I said. “But I’ll walk behind you, like I don’t even know who you are!”
It was a typical winter day in Missouri, gray and windy, and not promising any fun. In 10 minutes or so, we reached the wetlands and carefully walked to their edge — the ice crackling noticeably under my husband’s feet and not so much under mine.
“The ice is too thin for me,” my husband said, putting his bag down on a bench several feet away from the ice.
“Too bad,” I said. “But I’ll try.”
I put my skates on and walked onto the ice. It seemed fine. Making small uncertain steps, I half-slid, half-walked farther from the edge. No crackling sounds. Getting bolder, I made the first sliding movement, then the second, and soon I was gliding along — at first somewhat awkwardly but more confident by the minute.
“Are you sure you’ll be okay?” I heard behind me. “Yes,” I waved in response.
It was still grim and windy, but I no longer cared. The air was fresh, the ice smooth, and although I did, sometimes, hear light crackling underneath, by the time my mind registered it, I was already safely away from the dangerous spot, enjoying the freedom of movement and the sounds of my skates cutting the ice.
To tell the truth, it was never really dangerous. The wetlands are shallow. The worst that can happen to a skater falling through its icy surface is wetting her feet and, possibly, catching a cold.
In 30 minutes or so, the pleasure of defying my weight and almost flying over the frozen water began wearing off, and I started paying attention to my surroundings: wilted grasses, bare trees and bushes, people taking their dogs (or children) for a walk and joggers in colorful Nikes — all staring at me as if I were a rare species released from some northern zoo.
Also, I suddenly noticed a round object lying on the bottom underneath the ice. “There’s a dead turtle down there!” I shouted to my husband who, while waiting for me, patiently walked around in circles. But as I was finishing my phrase, the turtle sprouted its head and short little legs and began moving.
“It’s not dead!” I shouted again. “It’s moving!” And I skated after the disappearing animal — only to notice another one nearby. In fact, there were quite a few of them there, all trying to get away from my unwanted attention.
How did they survive down there without oxygen? While it was true that the ice was not very thick, it had covered the wetlands for several days. The turtles, however, are air-breathing creatures, that is why we see them sitting on logs in the summer. Also, what will happen to them if the ice doesn’t melt soon? Will they die and be drowned in their icy prison?
We talked about the turtles all the way back to the house. When we got there, we Googled: “turtles under ice” and found our answer (try that, too ). No, the turtles are not going to drown. They will survive the winter and continue going about their business in the spring. Still, I couldn’t get the image of the animals crawling under my feet, confined by the ice and their slowing metabolism, but still alive nevertheless.
Is that how we live, too? — I kept thinking to myself. Believing that, as the Greek philosopher Protagoras put it a long time ago: “Man is the measure of all things.” But, in fact, are we scurrying around in endless pursuits while trying to escape our inevitable end? Maybe we are even observed by some bigger — and more sophisticated — creatures for whom our struggles make no sense and have no meaning.
I spent some time ruminating on that, but it was the first day of a new year, and it didn’t seem right to start it on such a gloomy note. So, I curtailed my contemplations and went on with my regular duties. After all, that small incident may not have been a sign of our falsehood and frailty but just an indication of a multitude of things we still do not know. A reminder that we should keep our eyes open and our minds active, because it is an act of learning that makes us human. And if you think about it, it was great to start a new year by solving a new — to me, anyway — mystery of life. Let’s hope that 2015 will bring us many more mysteries to solve :).
Happy New Year, everybody!
Here is a new DVD list highlighting various titles in fiction and nonfiction recently added to the library’s collection.
“Game of Thrones”
Season 1, Season 2, Season 3
Website / Reviews
This television drama series broadcast on HBO adapts the acclaimed series of fantasy novels written by George R. R. Martin. This is a story of duplicity and treachery, nobility and honor, conquest and triumph. In the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.
“Who Is Dayani Cristal?”
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown at the True False Film Fest in 2013 and featuring reenactments by actor Gael García Bernal, this documentary tells the story of a migrant who found himself in the deadly stretch of the Sonora Desert known as “the corridor of death” and shows how one life becomes testimony to the tragic results of the U.S. war on immigration.
“The Walking Dead”
Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4
Website / Reviews
This television drama is based on the graphic novels of the same name by Robert Kirkman. Waking up in an empty hospital after weeks in a coma, County Sheriff Rick Grimes finds himself utterly alone. The world as he knows it is gone, ravaged by an epidemic. In the weeks and months that follow the apocalypse, Grimes will lead a group of survivors in a world overrun with zombies.
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown earlier this year at the 2014 True False Film Fest, this unusual film takes place entirely inside the narrow confines of a cable car, high above a jungle in Nepal that transports villagers to an ancient mountaintop temple. The film is an acute ethnographic investigation into culture, religion, technology and modernity.
“Sons of Anarchy”
Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6
Website / Reviews
This television drama takes you into the ruthless underworld of outlaw bikers. The Sons of Anarchy live, ride and die for brotherhood. But as the club’s leader (Ron Perlman) and his wife (Katey Sagal) steer them in an increasingly lawless direction, her son Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is torn between loyalty and the legacy.
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown earlier this year at Forum 8, this documentary is a glimpse of the face and co-founder of Burt’s Bees. The film shows the reclusive backwoods world of beekeeper Burt Shavitz, still committed to living off the land in Maine, as he has since the 1970s, in a renovated turkey coop with no running water. The film explores the peculiar relationship with the company he co-founded with Roxanne Quimby.
Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4
Website / Reviews
The short-based comedy series Portlandia was created, written by and stars Fred Armisen (SNL) and Carrie Brownstein (vocalist/guitarist, “Wild Flag,” “Sleater-Kinney“). Each episode’s character-based shorts draw viewers into “Portlandia,” the creators’ dreamy and absurd rendering of Portland, Oregon.
Trailer / Website / Reviews
Shown earlier this year at Forum 8, this documentary is a portrait of the late John Wojtowicz, whose attempted robbery of a Brooklyn bank to finance his male lover’s sex-reassignment surgery was the real-life inspiration for the 1975 film “Dog Day Afternoon” starring Al Pacino.
Other notable releases:
- “Castle” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6 – Website / Reviews
- “K2: Siren of the Himalayas” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
- “Veep” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
- “Los Angeles Plays Itself” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
- “Under the Dome” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
- “Casting by” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
- “American Horror Story” – Season 1, Season 2 – Website / Reviews
- “Stripped” – Trailer / Website / Reviews
- “True Blood” – Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6, Season 7 – Website / Reviews
History! History! History!…and a little travel too! The 900s in nonfiction are a must for the history buff and the travel enthusiast. Did I mention history? In this section there is a wide variety of books including dictionaries, encyclopedias, ancient civilization, baby names, genealogy, geography, travel guides, world history, biographies and even local history! While browsing the aisles I found these curious titles tucked away on the bottom shelves.
- “Lost States: True Stories of Texlahoma, Transylvania and Other States That Never Made It” by Michael J. Trinklein
This book was written to acknowledge these absurdly named territories that never made it to statehood for one reason or another. It’s a fun book with maps, stories and trivia to enhance any history buff’s knowledge!
- “Hey, America, Your Roots Are Showing!” by Megan Smolenyak
Ms. Smolenyak has been call the “Indiana Jones” of genealogy. She is best know for revealing connections between famous people such as Al Sharpton and Strom Thurmond, using DNA to solve crimes for the real NCIS and FBI and to locate family members of fallen soldiers as far back as the Civil War! This book is not a how-to book, but a novice genealogist could learn some pointers from this super sleuth.
- “London: Everything You Wanted to Know” (part of the Not for Parents series) by Klay Lamprell.
This is not a travel guide, rather it is an insider’s guide to the native’s life. The book is a collage of colorful, funky photos and drawings similar to those in the “Guinness World Records” books, with facts, true tales and trivia interspersed. You will see photos of weird cuisine (eels on a plate!) and punk style dress with mohawks. You’ll read about murdered kings, famous and infamous people such as Jack the Ripper, the Royals’ ancestral tree, creepy underground catacombs, a famous graffiti artist, how the streets in London were named and much, much more!
The post It Came From the Bottom Shelf! Books Not to Overlook in the 900s appeared first on DBRL Next.
Best books of the year lists are one of my favorite things about winter. Adding titles I’ve overlooked to my to-be-read list is a great pleasure, and I enjoy looking back at the year in publishing. However, time for reminiscing is short, because suddenly blogs and magazines are all atwitter over those books they can’t wait to read in the New Year. The buzz seems warranted, with forthcoming titles from heavy hitters like Toni Morrison (“God Help the Child,” April 2015) and Jonathan Franzen (“Purity,” September 2015), as well as a boatload of promising debuts. Neil Gaiman, Kazuo Ishiguro, Nick Hornby and many other big names also have books hitting the shelves in the next several months. I’m going to have to get a bigger night stand for all of these novels and learn to do with less sleep.
Here’s a sampling of recommended books. There is some overlap among the lists, but each has at least a handful of gems the others omit.
- “2015 Books We Can’t Wait to Read” from The Huffington Post
- “Most Anticipated: The Great 2015 Book Preview” from The Millions
- “Top 10 most anticipated novels of 2015” from The Washington Post
- “Anticipations: Coming in Early 2015” from Barnes & Noble
What book are you most looking forward to reading this year? Let us know in the comments!
Here’s my New Year’s resolution: spend more time in the passenger seat of my car. The student driver in my house is a little over half-way through the 40 practice hours he needs before he can get his license. So, another 20 hours of putting my life in the hands of a 16-year-old. No biggy. I’m sure I’ve done things that were more terrifying, even if they don’t come to mind immediately.
According to Missouri‘s graduated licensing laws, residents are eligible to test for a learner’s permit at 15 and an intermediate license at 16. Your library is here to help your family through this difficult exciting time. Drop by one of our three buildings to pick up your very own free copy of the “Missouri Driver’s Guide.” Or if the audio or DVD version would work better for you, those are available for check-out. A copy of the guide is also online.
To reinforce responsible driving behavior, the library has books addressing the issue of drunk driving. For a wider range of related topics, check out “The Driving Book,” which promises to cover “everything new drivers need to know but don’t know to ask.” “Real Life Teen: Teen Driving” is a DVD about important facets of driving that might not be on the test. While teens are conscientiously perusing these materials, parents can enlighten themselves with the book “Not So Fast, Parenting Your Teen Through the Dangers of Driving.”
In addition to the online guide for the written test, the state of Missouri has a web page devoted to all things teen driving. Another valuable Internet resource is teendriversource.org, with a bevy of downloadable fact sheets for teens, parents, educators, legislators and other interested parties.
Let me finish on an encouraging note. The kid I’m teaching to drive right now – he’s my second student. I’ve already been through this once and can promise it’s not all fear and danger. I’ve spent many hours of my parenting life sitting in cars waiting for a child to emerge from a school, movie theater or other building. A lot of time gets freed up when your teen obtains a license. And then there’s the errand thing. When I’m in the middle of cooking dinner and realize I’m out of an ingredient, I find real joy in being able to hand someone else the car keys while saying, “I need you to run to the store for me.”
The post Resources for Teen Drivers (and Their Terrified Parents) appeared first on DBRL Next.
Another year completed, another year begun. This is when we look behind us and say, “What was that all about?” while looking forward saying, “This time it will be different!” If you’re like me, this is also the time of year you take a long look in the mirror and say, “Grandpa?” To paraphrase the band They Might Be Giants, “We’re older than we’ve ever been, and now we’re even older.” We can’t hit the brakes on this process, and we can’t hit the reset button. Time waits for no one while it marches on like sands through the hourglass, or something. So we find our resolve, and we make promises we don’t keep, and we say to ourselves, “This time it will be different. We will eat better and get in shape. We will get a hobby, learn a skill or at least finally paint the house. We will find the cause of our dissatisfaction and fix it.” Then, next thing we know, it’s another new year.
So how do we break free from this Sisyphean hamster wheel of broken New Year’s resolutions and take care of business? Books (obvs)! There are many useful books to help guide and inspire us on the path to self-improvement. It just so happens that I have written three manuscripts which fall under this category (totally crushed my resolutions for that year!): “Cooking, With Food,” “Find the Right Pilates Instructor for Your Blood Type” and “Being Fat Is Stupid, Stupid!” Unfortunately, I have yet to find a forward-thinking publisher who wants to purchase the rights to these books. Until then, here are some titles that have actually been published to help you achieve your goals for 2015, or at least keep the trials and tribulations of this annual ritual in perspective.
“Stretch” by Neal Pollack
Based on Neal Pollack’s earlier satirical work it’s difficult to believe this man has a sincere dedication to the practice of yoga, but it’s true. Finding his career at a crossroads, and his body aging, he gives yoga a shot. He now writes a column for Yoga Journal and is a yoga instructor. The book is in a part a memoir of his experience as well as a look at the different corners of the yoga world. Don’t worry – despite the sincere devotion to his practice, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor or skeptical eye. This is an excellent introduction to yoga for people who think it “isn’t for them,” or are allergic to the earnestness often associated with it.
“Drop Dead Healthy” by A.J. Jacobs
A.J. Jacobs has cut out a successful career as a writer of “stunt journalism.” He regularly immerses himself in a subject to see what it’s like, using himself as a guinea pig (in one case, literally). In this book he sets a two-year goal to become as a healthy as possible. The book’s combination of thorough research and humorous tone make it a great survey of various health fads. It’s nice of him to put himself through all this so we don’t have to.
“The Road to Wellville” by T.C. Boyle
T.C. Boyle’s comic historical novel is set in Dr John Harvey Kellog’s (yes, the Corn Flakes guy) Battle Creek Spa. The book pokes fun at the strange “cures,” pseudo-science and hucksterism of the time. The scary part is when you start wondering how much resemblance there is to present-day health fads.
“Helping Me Help Myself” by Beth Lisick
Beth Lisick wakes up on New Years Day to find she is tired of dealing with the same problems year after year. Despite her skepticism, she binges on the works of successful self-help gurus. In addition to reading their books she attends their seminars and starts to fear she might actually learn something from these “gurus.”
“Promise Land” by Jessica Lamb Shapiro
Jessica Lamb Shapiro’s book takes on a similar challenge to the one in “Helping Me Help Myself,” but her skepticism has a more personal source because her father was an author of self-help books. The book is part memoir and part exploration of self-help culture. With an irreverent tone, she points out some of the snake-oil salesman in the field and attempts to determine if self-help culture really can be helpful.
“The Will To Whatevs: A Guide to Modern Life” by Eugene Mirman
Eugene Mirman is a writer and stand-up comedian. He also is the voice of Gene Belcher on the television show “Bob’s Burgers.” With a resume like that, why wouldn’t you accept his advice on life and act accordingly? His book contains advice on family, school, romance, money (to be exact, “The Money Lover’s Guide to Making Money”) and my favorite, “The Theory and Practice of Organizations Connected With Government, I think.” I’m pretty sure you could just read this book and throw all the others I’m recommending in the trash. (Wait! Forget that last part. Treat library books with kindness!)
“Paddle Your Own Canoe: One Man’s Principles for Delicious Living” by Nick Offerman
Nick Offerman is another comedian on another TV show (“Parks and Recreation” – watch it!). Messrs. Offerman and Mirman are making me me think the real answer to all our problems is to tell lots of jokes and get a TV show. Offerman’s character on “Parks and Rec” has taken on some of the traits of the man himself, most notably his appreciation of whiskey and his skills in the woodshop. Offerman’s book is part memoir, part manifesto for a life well lived, and all hilarious. It might even inspire you to dig your jigsaw out of that mess you call a workbench and start making something.
“How To Sharpen Pencils” by David Rees
For some, learning a new craft or honing a skill is simply a hobby. For others, the act of mastering that craft is transformative. Can mastering the art of pencil sharpening be transformative? The last chapter of this book is titled, “How to sharpen a pencil with your mind.” We’re talking about some serious Jedi-level pencil sharpening here. I doubt you come out of that experience the same way you entered into it.
“Simple Times” by Amy Sedaris
Not everyone’s New Year’s resolutions aspire to change their body, mind or entire way of life. Some people just want to get around to learning that craft they’ve never made the time for. Now is the time! Amy Sedaris has some excellent crafts to teach. Personally, I’m looking forward to watching squirrels get diabetes at the Donut Squirrel Feeder I’m going to construct. The perfect accompaniment to that scene will be the gentle clanging of the Rusty Nail Wind Chime I will also make. Very soon. Before 2015 is over. I swear.