I’m thrilled to welcome Lydia Millet to the exclusive club of authors I have recommended twice. While many authors clearly merit the honor, it takes a confluence of their skill and my reading habits for the honor to be bestowed, and due to the recent acquisition of an older Millet novel (“How the Dead Dream“) and my subsequent delighted consumption of it and its two sequels (“Ghost Lights” and “Magnificence“), I am compelled to again recommend her works. Continue reading “The Gentleman Recommends: Lydia Millet (again)”
Join us on Thursday, August 5 at noon to discuss “Animals Make Us Human” by Temple Grandin. This book is essential reading for anyone who’s ever owned, cared for or simply cared about an animal. Grandin teaches us to challenge our assumptions about animal contentment and honor our bond with our fellow creatures. This discussion is geared for adults.
Find more books about the relationships between human and animals here.
Here I am in the Midwest as I continue my grand adventure in reading across the country. This may be one of the largest regions I cover. Continue reading “Travel Through Story: The Midwest”
“So difficult it is to show the various meanings and imperfections of words when we have nothing else but words to do it with.”
~John Locke (1632-1704)
Humans love naming things and experiences. Without language we wouldn’t have stories and without words we wouldn’t have books. But sometimes words can become a cage. Lulu Miller, in her beautifully written memoir, “Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life,” explores some of the restrictions of language, explaining that there is really no such thing as a “fish.” It’s not a scientific term. What might look like a fish could actually be a mammal. She explains it with a metaphor — “It was the dandelion principle! To some people a dandelion might look like a weed, but to others that same plant can be so much more. To an herbalist, it’s a medicine — a way of detoxifying the liver, clearing the skin, and strengthening the eyes. To a painter, it’s a pigment; to a hippie, a crown; a child, a wish. To a butterfly, it’s sustenance; to a bee, a mating bed; to an ant, one point in a vast olfactory atlas.” She says, “I have come to believe that it is our life’s work to tear down this order, to keep tugging at it, trying to unravel it, to set free the organisms trapped underneath. That it is our life’s work to mistrust our measures. Especially those about moral and mental standing. To remember that behind every ruler there is a Ruler. To remember that a category is at best a proxy; at worst, a shackle.” Continue reading “Literary Links: Words, Words, Words”
Here are a few of the most exciting debut novels coming out in July. These have all received starred reviews in library journals. For a longer list, please visit our catalog.
“She Who Became the Sun” by Shelley Parker-Chan
In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…
In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.
When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.
After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.
Polly Conner & Rachel Tiemeyer are Columbia, MO authors whose latest book is “From Freezer to Cooker.” It’s a cookbook full of recipes for the Instant Pot or slow cooker, as well as simple freezer meal instructions at the bottom of every recipe so readers will never be more than a few minutes away from a tasty and healthy homemade meal. Conner & Tiemeyer are the founders of Thriving Home, a down-to-earth lifestyle blog that has become a leader in the freezer cooking space — these time-strapped moms of three (each!) jokingly refer to themselves as “freezer meal evangelists.” They have previously written “From Freezer to Table,” a cookbook that contains more than 75 simple recipes for freezer cooked meals. I emailed some interview questions to them, and they were kind enough to take time to write back some answers. Continue reading “Q&A With Polly Conner & Rachel Tiemeyer, Authors of “From Freezer to Cooker””
I’m highlighting some nonfiction books coming out in July. All of the mentioned titles are available to put on hold in our catalog and will also be made available via the library’s Overdrive website on the day of publication in eBook and eAudiobook format (as available). For a more extensive list of new nonfiction books coming out this month, check our online catalog.
“This Is Your Mind on Plants” by Michael Pollan (Jul 6)
Of all the things humans rely on plants for — sustenance, beauty, medicine, fragrance, flavor, fiber — surely the most curious is our use of them to change consciousness: to stimulate or calm, fiddle with or completely alter, the qualities of our mental experience. Take coffee and tea: People around the world rely on caffeine to sharpen their minds. But we do not usually think of caffeine as a drug, or our daily use as an addiction, because it is legal and socially acceptable. So, then, what is a “drug”? And why, for example, is making tea from the leaves of a tea plant acceptable, but making tea from a seed head of an opium poppy a federal crime? In “This Is Your Mind on Plants,” Michael Pollan dives deep into three plant drugs — opium, caffeine, and mescaline — and throws the fundamental strangeness, and arbitrariness, of our thinking about them into sharp relief. Exploring and participating in the cultures that have grown up around these drugs while consuming (or, in the case of caffeine, trying not to consume) them, Pollan reckons with the powerful human attraction to psychoactive plants. Why do we go to such great lengths to seek these shifts in consciousness, and then why do we fence that universal desire with laws and customs and fraught feelings? In this unique blend of history, science, and memoir, as well as participatory journalism, Pollan examines and experiences these plants from several very different angles and contexts, and shines a fresh light on a subject that is all too often treated reductively — as a drug, whether licit or illicit. But that is one of the least interesting things you can say about these plants, Pollan shows, for when we take them into our bodies and let them change our minds, we are engaging with nature in one of the most profound ways we can. Based in part on an essay published almost 25 years ago, this groundbreaking and singular consideration of psychoactive plants, and our attraction to them through time, holds up a mirror to our fundamental human needs and aspirations, the operations of our minds, and our entanglement with the natural world. Continue reading “Nonfiction Roundup: July 2021”
The Fourth of July weekend is nearly upon us. For many, it is the unofficial start of summer; and with Summer comes cookouts, my favorite consequence of any seasonal shift. In my eyes, the star of every cookout is barbecue. Will you be making food for your next gathering? Is it your first time and you need guidance? Do you want to know why some use a dry rub while others marinate? Are you a pitmaster but are interested in trying a new style?
So. Many. Styles. Memphis, Carolina (with differences between North and South), Kansas City, Texas (also remember there are regional differences within the state), Korean, Alabama and Kentucky, among others. Continue reading “Cue the BBQ!”
Move over, beach reads! The pandemic forced me to be a lot more outdoorsy than usual just to get out of the house. I’ve always enjoyed camping, but I definitely started doing it more frequently when it became my only vacation option. I know definitions of what can actually be considered “camping” vary widely from person to person. For some people, a cabin in the woods with AC and a functional toilet counts. For others, if it’s not in a tent with no access to running water, it’s not “real camping.” Some people are into yurts. I’m not here to gatekeep. Whatever the case, camping is prime reading time. You’re surrounded by nature, you’re disconnected from wifi and technology … what else is there to do? One of my favorite things about camping is picking out which books I’m going to bring along. Here are some suggestions for whatever genre you’re into. Continue reading “Camping Reads”
Our Summer Reading theme this year is “Tales & Tails,” so our next Crafternoon-To-Go kit is using the traditional art of origami to make a paper crane (with a tail, of course.) These kits are for adults and will be available while supplies last in all of our branches Friday, June 25. You may pick them up at the second-floor reference desk at the Columbia Library and by the service desks at our other branches.
There are instructions and supplies in your kit to make four cranes (or if you are like me, extra paper for mistakes). We also supplied some fishing line if you would like to hang them. If you find these difficult, here is an online video that provides step-by-step instructions. This is an inexpensive craft that can be done with friends, family and kids, so check our library collection for more resources.