Karen Piper is a Columbia, MO author who’s latest book is called “A Girl’s Guide to Missiles.” Piper grew up at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center, a missile testing base in California’s Mojave Desert where her family had a role in developing weapons for the US government. This memoir looks back at her unusual childhood and how it affected her and her family as she emerged into adulthood. The book was named the Capital READ for the Missouri River Regional Library in 2019. Piper is the author of several other nonfiction books and is currently a professor of literature and geography at the University of Missouri. I recently emailed some interview questions to her about the book, and she wrote back some answers. Continue reading “Author Interview: Karen Piper”
I read a lot of books I like and some that I like a lot and occasionally one that metaphorically causes my guts to combust because I love the book so much. “Inland” by Tea Obreht made my insides explode and whatnot. I get those great-art aches when I think about this book, and not just because of the book’s wells of sadness (which, unlike the book’s well of water, overfloweth) or how beautiful and elegant the writing is. I reckon the ache also comes from how thoroughly the novel attached the main players to me and how badly I wanted things to go right for those folk and from the literal ache a primary character feels when a ghost touches him and he is then imbued with a desire for whatever that ghost wants and from the knowledge that it is a narrow possibility at best that I’ll ever forge any sort of relationship with a camel, never mind the airtight kinship of the human and camel pairing in “Inland.” Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Tea Obreht”
Post-holiday blues and cabin fever aside, something is making us all very agitated these days. The general level of anger feels like it has been escalating in recent years, as evidenced by heated social media exchanges and, often, by our daily encounters. It’s a worrisome trend, which can cause us to doubt our every move as we attempt to navigate the murky waters of human interaction.
While most difficult people are only fleetingly troublesome, there are a few types of people who can, knowingly or unknowingly, do us great harm — and they are not always easy to spot. In “5 Types of People Who Can Ruin Your Life,” lawyer and family mediator Bill Eddy helps identify the narcissistic, borderline, sociopathic, paranoid and histrionic among us. These high-conflict personalities can leave others extremely damaged, emotionally and physically. Eddy offers tactics to engage compassionately with these troubled souls, while allowing protection for those who are close to them. Continue reading “Literary Links: Troublesome Types”
The new year is ushering in a slew of new books by debut adult fiction authors. Those featured here have already received glowing reviews, so check one out today and see if you agree. As always, please visit our catalog for a complete list of this month’s debut titles.
“When We Were Vikings” by Andrew MacDonald
Sometimes life isn’t as simple as heroes and villains. For Zelda, a twenty-one-year-old Viking enthusiast who lives with her older brother, Gert, life is best lived with some basic rules:
1. A smile means “thank you for doing something small that I liked.”
2. Fist bumps and dabs = respect.
3. Strange people are not appreciated in her home.
4. Tomatoes must go in the middle of the sandwich and not get the bread wet.
5. Sometimes the most important things don’t fit on lists. Continue reading “Debut Author Spotlight: January 2020”
It’s a new year and I’m here to highlight some new nonfiction titles you should consider checking out this month from the library! For a more extensive list of what’s coming out this month check our catalog.
“Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains” by Cassie Chambers
Nestled in the Appalachian mountains, Owsley County is one of the poorest counties in both Kentucky and the country. Buildings are crumbling and fields sit vacant, as tobacco farming and coal mining decline. But strong women are finding creative ways to subsist in their hollers in the hills. Cassie Chambers grew up in these hollers and through the women who raised her, she traces her own path out of and back into the Kentucky mountains. Chamber’s Granny was a child bride who rose before dawn every morning to raise seven children. Despite her poverty, she wouldn’t hesitate to give the last bite of pie or vegetables from her garden to a struggling neighbor. Appalachian women face issues that are all too common: domestic violence, the opioid crisis, a world that seems more divided by the day. But they are also community leaders, keeping their towns together in the face of a system that continually fails them. With nuance and heart, Chambers uses these women’s stories paired with her own journey to break down the myth of the hillbilly and illuminate a region whose poor communities, especially women, can lead it into the future. Continue reading “Nonfiction Roundup: January 2020”
Another year of reading is in the books (see what I did there?) I had thought that I would cut back from last year’s 170 books but I’m right there again with 168 books. I thought I would do more hiking. I thought I would hang out with friends and family more. But hours and hours of laundry, house cleaning and driving around town have kept me busy with audiobooks. My family also just seems to be busier (if that’s possible) and going in different directions. I will readily admit that I go to books out of boredom to seek entertainment, but I also use books as a refuge to hide from the world. That’s not completely a bad thing. Right? Continue reading “2019, A Year in Review”
Every December, I’m astonished all over again by the scarcity of daylight. I’ll walk outdoors at 5:30 p.m. and exclaim, “It’s night already!” As if this hasn’t happened every year of my life so far. This year, I’ve decided I can do more than survive the long hours of darkness. I can embrace them. In that spirit, I present four books about darkness and nighttime.
“National Geographic Night Vision, Magical Photographs of Life After Dark” is a coffee table book of photographs portraying the world at night. We see the stunning colors of the aurora borealis swirling across a northern sky, a NASA shuttle launch, a moonlit gazebo in a quiet garden, a barred owl swooping through the woods. The book is divided into four sections, with a theme for each: energy, harmony, mystery and wonder. Images come from all over the globe and are interspersed with occasional quotes. The night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.– Vincent Van Gogh. Continue reading “Embracing the Night”
Just what the world needs, another coming-of-age novel, you might say to yourself after picking up “Oksana, Behave!” by Maria Kuznetsova. Perhaps you’ll scream at your aquarium (not feeling guilty because the water muffles the noise) “Has the gentleman led me astray yet again?!” I’d respond in the negative, were I there rather than recuperating on my fainting couch from the distress your imagined outburst has caused me. But indeed, the world is always in need of good books regardless of genre, and this one might be more useful than usual, as it will make you smile and it’s an immigrant’s story. Though, of course, someone who reads books, and particularly someone who reads books that aren’t written by television show hosts, and more particularly someone who reads a coming-of-age story about a Ukrainian (then American) girl (then woman) is probably not particularly in need of being reminded that immigrants (even when they don’t enter a country through the mandated bureaucratic channels!) are people.
For a sense of the novel and her grandmother, here is a link and the book’s first paragraph and the first sentence of the second paragraph:
After I asked what America would be like, my grandmother sighed philosophically and released a mouthful of smoke out the passenger window. “America, Ukraine, it’s all the same in the end,” Baby said, as her brother, Boris, drove us to the station. “We just need a change, that’s all. Some things will be better in America, and some will be worse,” she declared, taking another drag on her cigarette. “But think of all the men!”I was only seven, so this wasn’t much of a selling point.
“Do not be sad, Oksana,” Papa said, though he seemed quite sad himself. “Kiev is in your soul. You can return there anytime you want.” He tapped my heart for emphasis.
“Dearest God I don’t believe in,” Mama said, shaking her heard. “What did I do to deserve such a silly child? Who cares about Kiev, darling? You have your family with you, lucky fool. Everything you need is right here.
Baba pointed her cigarette at me. “You know what your problem is?” she said.“Having an annoying family?” I asked.“You ask too many questions. What’s there to know, little idiot? You are born, you have some laughs and a rendezvous or two, and then you fall into the void. Just try to enjoy the ride, darling…”
Each quoted snippet is from the novel’s first two pages, and with the family dynamic established, the novel leaves Ukraine and proceeds through a series of what some fancy folk might call vignettes. We drop in on Oksana every few years, and the sassy child of the novel’s opening gives way to a brilliant young woman whose antics might be labeled downright ribald. I’ll confess my delicate sensibilities were tested, and more than one monocle fell from my rapidly widening eyes as I learned about Oksana’s lack of compunctions and fondness for amorous entanglements.
But this isn’t some codpiece-ripper for the 21st century. It’s an excellent novel with more heart and humor than any book ever written by a television host. If you don’t like it, yell some more at your aquarium about it.
On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers made their first successful airplane flight on a beach in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It lasted a mere 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. There would be three more flights that day, the longest totaling 59 seconds and covering 852 feet. But Wilbur and Orville Wright were certainly not the first humans to dream of flight, or even to attempt it. Wilbur Wright put it best:
“The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who…looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space…on the infinite highway of the air.”
Long before the Wright brothers had ever dreamed of a flying machine that would carry a person into the air, the first aeronauts had already left solid ground behind. In “The Balloonists” L.T.C. Rolt reveals the story of another pair of brothers who had their hearts set on flight. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne, made history in 1783 with the first hot air balloon flight; others soon followed them into the skies. Rolt draws from journals and contemporary accounts to recount the lives and exploits of these early balloonists who paved the way for the Wright brothers. Continue reading “Literary Links: A Brief History of Human Flight”
A growing number of people find the idea of bringing a child into the world a fraught decision, because of both the world the child might inherit, and their potential impact on a struggling world. A recent spate of articles on the subject of childbearing in the context of a climate crisis reveals how widespread this feeling has become. Terms like “anti-natalist,” and groups like BirthStrike, are becoming more mainstream. Yet, children like Greta Thunberg are also being applauded for their leadership and held up as symbols of hope. So much so that Ms. Thunberg felt compelled to chastise the older generation for this at the United Nations. It is not uncommon for people to burden children with hopes and fears for the future. As anxiety about the future increases, so does this burden. Continue reading “Know Your Dystopias: The Hard Tomorrow”