Tuesday, August 25, 2015

What We're Reading Now: World War II in Pictures

August 15, 2015 marked the seventieth anniversary of the Japanese surrender and the end of the Second World War.  Death toll estimates ranged from 55-70 million, the most destructive conflict ever. The war was global- Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

One sees the war-the exhausted soldiers (some troops little more than children) , the horror of the concentration camps, the bombed cities and villages (some of which even now remain untouched as a reminder of war’s cost).  We get a look at the soldier’s gear- weapons, badges, boots, even government-issued cigarettes. We get a glimpse of the lead-up to war, life on the home front for those left behind, specific battles and the war’s aftermath.  Maps, graphs and short profiles of military leaders on both sides give an excellent overview.   

For those of us who didn’t live through it, this book serves as a good introduction to the price paid by previous generations to create a different world.   

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What We're Reading Now: Celebrity Biography

“Love life” by Rob Lowe  (791.4302 Lowe)

Rob Lowe has progressed from a teen heart throb in the 80’s movie hit Outsiders to a successful actor, producer, husband and father. He is also an engaging writer, including many anecdotes of his experiences with individuals (Hugh Hefner, Maggie Smith) as well as life on the sets of various television series (West Wing, Brothers and Sisters, Californication, Parks and Recreation). There were bumps along the way; he credits a stay in rehab with guiding him to embrace a future where he would stay sober proudly.  He has excellent advice for his sons:
I tell my boys they need to say yes to life, get out and make their own memories… when our time comes it won’t be our bank balance that comforts us. I tell them not to be afraid. Don’t fear the rejection that can come from putting yourself out there. By creating your own memories, you will always have something to share with the rest of us. 

Lowe’s character in the television series Parks and Recreation, the ever-positive Chris Traeger, always makes me laugh. The Library has all seven seasons on DVD (DVD Parks SET) if you’ve missed it.     

Saturday, August 15, 2015

What We're Reading Now: Perfect House, Perfect Life?

“We are not ourselves” by Matthew Thomas   (FICTION THOMAS)

Born in 1941, Eileen Tumulty grows up in Queens. She lives in a rented apartment with her Irish immigrant parents who drink too much. She‘s smart, stunning, and determined to get more from life. She becomes a nurse and marries Ed Leary, a good stable man who loves her. Ed is a neuroscientist whose promising career fuels  Eileen’s dreams .
She believes the house in the right neighborhood with the proper furniture is within her grasp, but Ed doesn’t share her ambition.  He insists on teaching at a junior college, rejecting offers to move up the academic and professional ladder.  They progress from renting to buying, but Eileen wants more. Ed loves Eileen and their son Connell, but he fiercely resists change. The fixer-upper in the better neighborhood stretches their finances and their marriage; when Ed receives a diagnosis that changes everything, Eileen must reconsider what’s really important.  

How do we cope when dreams don’t match reality? Matthew Thomas writes beautifully about this particular take on the American Dream.  

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

What We’re Reading Now - Craft Taken to a New Level

“Handmade glamping”* by Charlotte Liddle and Lucy Hopping  (745.59 Liddle) 

If whimsical crafting is your thing, then this is the book for you.  It consists of 35 projects to add a certain pop to the ordinary camping experience. Blankets, rag rugs, tea cozies, curtains made from old pillowcases, embroidered dishtowels-every improvement project you could ever imagine.

*Glamping in the union of glamour and camping. Since most projects are done in pastels, the proximity of real dirt is to be avoided at all costs. Maybe if you camped in the backyard on a tarp-or in a plastic bubble?  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

What We're Reading Now: Mixtape Nostalgia

Cassettes From My Ex: Stories and Soundtracks of Lost Loves edited by Jason Bitner (306.4842 Cassette)
If you happen to be a music fan who came of age in the '80s or '90s, chances are you remember a period of time spent dubbing your favorite songs on cheap cassette tapes to trade with your friends and crushes.  Music lovers and hopeless romantics alike will dig this book from FOUND Magazine co-creator Jason Bitner, featuring the stories behind actual mixtapes near and dear to the hearts of sixty different journalists and musicians.

Contributors include Billboard editor Joe Levy, author Rick Moody, This American Life's Starlee KineThe New Yorker's Ben Greenman, The Magnetic Fields’ Claudia GonsonImprov Everywhere's Charlie Todd, and former Rolling Stone writer and MTV2 veejay Jancee Dunn

Punctuated with photos of these beloved mixtapes, scrawled track lists, and little love notes (those tiny lines on the blank tape inserts were always impossible to write on, weren't they?), this book has a voyeuristic, "found object" appeal. Reading about other couples' courtships, breakups and the cherished music both left behind made me nostalgic to listen to my own collection of mixes -- though most of mine, admittedly, are now burned onto CDs.

This book is fun to browse, filled with humorous stories, heartbreak, and healthy doses of sex, drugs and rock n' roll.  What struck me most about the stories inside is how many of the contributors admit that listening to these mixes now would simply be too painful, yet they can't bring themselves to part with the tapes and the memories they hold.

During this summer of Reading to the Rhythm, it only makes sense to read books steeped in an appreciation of music. Check out our Read to the Rhythm book display on the 2nd floor for more music-fueled reads.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What We're Reading Now: Poirot Returns

The Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah (M HANNAH)
Hercule Poirot returns to detection in “Monogram murders.” Scotland Yard Detective Edward Catchpool replaces Captain Hastings as Poirot’s confidant in Sophie Hannah’s take on Agatha Christie’s Belgian detective. Poirot resolves the case in his inimitable fashion (using “the little grey cells”) despite locked rooms, missing keys, long-simmering injustice and false trails. 

Let’s hope he will continue to bring murderers to justice under Ms. Hannah’s authorship.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

What We're Cooking Now: Simple Chinese Meals

Every Grain of Rice by Fuchsia Dunlop (641.5159 DUNLOP)
While the comforts and flavors of Chinese cuisine are incredibly satisfying, most recipes for my favorite dishes intimidate me too much to try them out in my own wok.  However, this cookbook from food writer and chef Fuchsia Dunlop makes cooking simple Chinese dishes at home easy and accessible.

The recipes are straightforward and allow for much flexibility.  While there are several seafood and meat dishes throughout, most of her recipes can easily be adapted to be vegan, and vegetables are the predominant stars of the book.

The recipes are only half of why I loved this cookbook, the other reason is because it is an excellent reference for the ingredients and techniques involved in Chinese cuisine.  Dunlop spends time explaining the proper way to season a wok, chop green onions, and perfectly stir-fry vegetables.  She includes very helpful glossaries with full size color photos explaining various kinds of tofu, vegetables, sauces, spices, noodles and grains. 

Among the dishes I loved were:

  • Smacked Cucumber in Garlicky Sauce
  • Stir-Fried Tofu with Black Bean and Chili
  • Bear's Paw Tofu
  • Beef with Cumin
  • Gong Bao Chicken with Peanuts
  • Everyday Stir-fried Chicken
  • Sichuanese "Send-the-Rice-Down" Chopped Celery with Ground Beef
Dunlop's Sichuan celery recipe (listed above) is by far the best use of leftover celery I have ever seen, and it has quickly become a staple in my home as a fast and healthy weeknight dinner.