Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Drinking Cure: Cocktails for what ails you

"Here's to Alcohol!  The cause of- and solution to- all of life's problems."- Homer Simpson ( "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment," The Simpsons: 8th Season).

While many people have turned to drink to (perhaps unwisely) cure their ills, many liqueurs and cocktail mixers were actually created for their medicinal purposes.  That is not to say that turning to your liquor cabinet is the best solution to your cold, though it might make you care a little less about it!  But if you are going to have a drink anyway, why not tailor it to what ails you?  Below are three recent non-fiction titles highlighting the curative properties of drinks.  Enjoy in moderation, of course!:

Apothecary Cocktails: Restorative Drinks  by Warren Bobrow (2013).
Call #: 641.874 BOB
Find it in the catalog!

Want your drink to have a little bit of medical history as a side?  Check out this informative book.   As a cocktail geek, I love finding out the role that liqueurs, bitters, and cocktails played in early medicine.  This book goes into a the history of several "restorative" drinks and includes recipes for both traditional and new cocktails made with healing herbs.  The drinks are divided up into seven categories: digestives and other curatives (drinks that aid digestion and other ailments), winter warmers, hot-weather refreshers, restoratives (drinks to cure hangovers), relaxants and toddies (to help you sleep), painkilling libations, and mood enhancers.  I personally argue that any drink will accomplish the last three tasks!

Stand out drinks include a unique spin on the Corpse Reviver using Calvados (apple brandy), gin and cognac  (p. 74, a restorative cocktail), the Cocktail Whisperer's Painkilling System #200 (a Tiki inspired drink with two types of rum, sure to numb your pain!, p. 116), and the Iberville Street Cocktail (a less potent spin on the class New Orlean's cocktail the Sazerac, using Lillet Blanc and brand. Absinthe makes it a digestive, p. 20).

Dr. Cocktail: 50 Spirited Infusions to Stimulate the Mind and Body by Alex Ott (2012).
Call #: 641.874 OTT
Find it in the catalog!

This book has a more modern spin on the homeopathic cocktails and features drinks that are the author's creation.  If you are all ready a cocktail snob, this is a great book to check out for something new.  It's also recommend for people who prefer their cocktails made with vodka, which is less common in more historical cocktails.   Ott has his drinks divided into several different categories including "appetizing libations,"  aphrodisiacs, and "memory-evoking elixirs" (this sounds kind of scary for those who drink to forget!). 

Stand out drinks include the great for Valentine's Day "Love in a Glass" which mixes vanilla vodka, chocolate syrup, and espresso (p.95); "Bardot"- a combo of citrus flavored vodka and grapefruit juice (p. 118), and "Scottish Mary"- a play on the brunch staple Bloody Mary using Scotch (p. 64). 

Bitters: A Spirited History of a Classic Cure-All by Brad Thomas Parsons (2012).
Call #641.874 PAR
Find it in the catalog!

This is perhaps the geekiest book on the list.  It appeals to those interested in the history of bitters and those ambition enough to want to mix their own.  For those unfamiliar with bitters they are aromatic flavoring agents usually sold in small bottles that you put a couple shakes into a drink to add a particular flavor.  The two most famous types are Angostura Bitters (used in Old Fashions and pretty much everything) and Peychaud's Bitters (used most famously and deliciously in a Sazerac).  Traditionally, bitters were usually invented for their restorative properties (Angostura and Peychaud's included).  This book is an excellent primer on bitters and setting up a decent bar.  Recipes are divided among the traditional cocktails using bitters (i.e. Champagne Cocktail, Manhattan, Negroni, etc.), and new drinks using bitters.  This book is highly recommended to cocktail geeks!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Walk Across America

If you're into travel memoirs, this one certainly falls into the realm of a classic. A Walk Across America follows the journey of Peter Jenkins, a young college graduate from a sheltered upper-class East Coast family, as he backpacks his way across 1970's America in search of meaning for himself and his country. While his writing can be considered average at best (often times his book reads like a 1st grade easy reader), the memoir proved to be somewhat inspiring with excursions into the deep south, antidotes about the bond between man and his dog, and explorations into religion and love. Find it in the catalog!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

New Non-Fiction

A selection of the newest non-fiction titles to hit our shelves:

The 40s: The Story of a Decade, from the New Yorker. Compilation of pieces, even criticism, that ran in the New Yorker during the 40s. This would be a nice view of the decade for those of us who weren't living at the time (ahem). Find it in the catalog!

Joe and Marilyn: Legends in Love by C. David Heymann. Biography of the unlikely couple, Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe. Find it in the catalog!

Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience, compiled by Shaun Usher. Includes many images of the originals (handwritten postcard, typed letter, etc.). Spans history and cultures to present interesting letters by people of note. Find it in the catalog!

Off the Leash: A Year at the Dog Park by Matthew Gilbert. For dog lovers - an observation on the "dog park subculture," which I wasn't aware even existed. Find it in the catalog!

One-Hour Cheese: Ricotta, Mozzarella, Chèvre, Paneer--even Burrata. Fresh and Simple Cheeses You Can Make in An Hour or Less by Claudia Lucero. It begins with basics such as pantry staples and equipment for making cheese. Chock full of photos to help along the way. Find it in the catalog!

Price of Fame: The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce by Sylvia Jukes Morris. Biography of renaissance woman Luce, a playwright and screenwriter who became a congresswoman and the first American woman foreign ambassador. Find it in the catalog!

Supersuvivors: The Surprising Link Between Suffering and Success by David B. Feldman and Lee Daniel Kravetz. Highlights people who have rebounded from traumatic events to accomplish great things, not just survive. Find it in the catalog!

The Zhivago Affiar: The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvee. Part classic Russian literature history, part Cold War history, and part censorship history. Which all means it was difficult to assign a Dewey number. Find it in the catalog!


Friday, July 11, 2014

Historical Mysteries

Want to try something new to read?  How about a historical mystery series?

I found a newer author not too long ago and I think anyone who likes historical mysteries will love these books.  The author is Alex Grecian.  Here is a look at the first book, The Yard from the author’s website:  

1890, London. Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror is finally over, but a new one is just beginning…Victorian London is a cesspool of crime and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives – known as “The Murder Squad” – to investigate countless murders every month.  Created after the Metropolitan police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, The Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt.  They have failed their citizens.  But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own…one of twelve…

When Walter Day, the squad’s newest hire, is assigned the case of the murdered detective, he finds a strange ally in the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley.  Together they track the killer, who clearly is not finished with The Murder Squad…but why?

He has two more in the series Black Country and The Devil’s Workshop, which I think is the best of all three and that is saying something because they are all excellent reads!!

When members of a prominent family disappear from a coal-mining village—and a human eyeball is discovered in a bird’s nest—the local constable sends for help from Scotland Yard’s new Murder Squad. Fresh off the grisly 1889 murders of The Yard, Inspector Walter Day and Sergeant Nevil Hammersmith respond, but they have no idea what they’re about to get into. The villagers have intense, intertwined histories. Everybody bears a secret. Superstitions abound. And the village itself is slowly sinking into the mines beneath it.

Not even the arrival of forensics pioneer Dr. Bernard Kingsley seems to help. In fact, the more the three of them investigate, the more they realize they may never be allowed to leave.

London, 1890. Four vicious murderers have escaped from prison, part of a plan gone terribly wrong, and now it is up to Walter Day, Nevil Hammersmith, and the rest of Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad to hunt down the convicts before the men can resume their bloody spree. But they might already be too late. The killers have retribution in mind, and one of them is heading straight toward a member of the Murder Squad, and his family.

And that isn’t even the worst of it. During the escape, the killers have stumbled upon the location of another notorious murderer, one thought gone for good but now prepared to join forces with them.

Jack the Ripper is loose in London once more.

Everything that Rises Must Converge

Everything that Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor (1965)
Find it in the catalog!
Depressing and beautifully crafted, the first I've read from O'Connor stands out as something like I've never read before. Being on a short story kick for the past couple of months, and trying to read every book from the best of the best, it made sense to throw her in the mix.

I started with Raymond Carver but it took quite some time to get my hands on most of his books. I can't read anthologies and prefer more the specific books in the order they were published (if at all possible). A benefit of which is that sometimes you get your hands on something very rare, a book that was published as a work of art not intended to be anthologized. This rang true of Carver's collection of poems, Winter Insomnia, which I got through interlibrary loan from the Northwestern University rare book archives, illustrations and all. But, that's besides the point...Everything that Rises Must Converge was not O'Connor's first work (so my process is broken) but it is something to write about.

O'Connor weaves religion into death into sanity into insanity into love into the overall crumbling of lives in such a way that makes you wonder whether you're reading a bible verse or a eulogy for a well-respected-narcissist. At times, she reads like a preacher and at others, an undertaker. Long story short, if any of these topics interest you, I highly suggest this book.

-Jason

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Summer reading recommendations

Adults in the summer reading program have filled out many Recommended Read entries, sharing books they've read and enjoyed over the summer. Each week, several entries are randomly pulled to win a $10 Target gift card. Here is a sampling of recommendations for you to check out!



Keith recommends The Lincoln Myth by Steve Berry:

"An exciting trip through the history of Lincoln and the Mormon church. Just the right mix of fact, fiction, and action."
Shannon recommends Summer Sisters by Judy Blume:

"It is a fun, fast read. Takes you back to your first times: best friends, loves and losses. Reminds me of times of freedom, possibilities were endless -- nothing was off limits."
Jennifer recommends The Book Stops Here by Kate Carlisle:

"I love the series! The main characters are smart and savvy. I loved the reveal at the end that tied the mystery up in a neat package. I look forward to the next one."
Debbie recommends I've Got You Under My Skin by Mary Higgins Clark:

"Good whodunnit. Lots of possible suspects. Keeps you guessing. Fun summer read."

Judy recommends The Skin Collector by Jeffrey Deaver:

"Just when you think you know the outcome, Jeffrey Deaver twists the plot."
Louise recommends The Circle by Dave Eggers:

"Do you wonder what will happen to the world when 'everyone' has instant communication with everyone else? Eye opener!"
Sue recommends Songs of Willow Frost by Jamie Ford:

"Interesting scenario of the Asian community in Seattle during the 1920s and 30s. The story was compelling and touching and addressed decisions made and regretted. Your heart goes out to the characters in both sadness and triumph."
Melissa recommends Tempting Fate by Jane Green:

"It's a realistic portrayal of relationships and how easy it can be to be led astray, even when you never thought it was possible."
Mary Beth recommends Mary Poppins, She Wrote by Valerie Lawson:

"Great story about a character origin from my youth. P.L. Travers had a hard life and it took Walt Disney 20 years to talk her into the movie version -- amazing (so glad he did)."
Kathleen recommends Wonder by R.J. Palacio:

"My 5th grader recommended me to read this book and it was REALLY good! It was so heart-felt, sad, and funny. It's a good book at any age!"
Jackie recommends The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schawlbe:

"It was an amazing story and I got a lot of suggestions from them on what to read."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Recent Reads

I've been more slack in my summer reading progress than usual, thanks to True Detective and good weather.  However, I have discovered a few good titles so far.  Two of the books are rereads that I remembered liking, but not necessarily what they were about.  The third is a new title that I checked out mostly because I liked the guy's glasses on the cover. 

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell (2006).
Find it in the catalog!
I first read this book shortly after graduating from college and really enjoyed it.  However, I could no longer remember much about it other than the cover and that it was British and had a kid that stuttered.  So naturally I checked out again just to refresh my memory.  Based loosely on author David Mitchell's childhood, the book follows 13-year-old Jason Taylor who is dealing with a garden variety of life issues.   His parent's marriage has hit a rough patch.  His older sister is going away to college. He's also secretly a published poet, which he keeps secret to avoid being picked on in school.  Like most intelligent, sensitive kids, Jason deals with some pretty intense bullying at school, which is intensified by his speech impediment. The book is set in 1980s Margaret Thatcher era England.  I wasn't all that familiar with that period of history, which includes the Falklands War, but Mitchell does a good job dropping the reader into that era. 

The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld (2006).
Find it in the catalog!
I first read this book while I was in graduate school.  I remember immediately relating to the main character, Hannah Gavener, who's kind of a socially awkward loner.  Imagine my horror later on to read reviews of the book describing Hannah as irritating and a "sourpuss" (thanks a lot, New York magazine!).  After rereading the book recently, I can see how some people find Hannah to be a difficult character.  She is stubborn, usually says the wrong thing, and is primarily responsible for her own misery (isn't everyone?).  However, I think that makes her more of a realistic and sympathetic character.

Sittenfeld follows Hannah's life from early adolescence, where she struggles with having an emotionally volatile father, to her late twenties.  The book primarily focuses on Hannah's relationships with the different men in her life.  In high school and college, Hannah frets over her lack of a love life.  However, even after she starts dating, she finds her actual relationships wanting.  Instead, she longs for Henry, the on-again, off-again boyfriend of her more glamorous cousin, Fig.  Throughout the book, we see Hannah struggle with her low self-esteem and poor social skills while trying to become a functional adult.  I especially enjoyed the depiction of Hannah's relationships with her more together sister Allison and her beautiful but irresponsible cousin Fig, which seemed pretty true to life. 

Courting Greta by Ramsey Hootman (2014).
Find it in the catalog!
I'm a sucker for a man with thick glasses, so naturally this book called to me from the book cart.  However, the main character Samuel Cooke didn't turn out to be the bespectacled hunk the cover alludes to.  Instead, he's a cantankerous 34-year-old disabled computer geek turned public school teacher.  In spite of their age and size difference, Samuel quickly develops a crush on Greta "Cass" Cassamajor, a 46-year-old, tough as nails gym teacher and girls' basketball coach.  In spite of her tough exterior, Samuel decides to ask her to dinner, thinking she will immediately rebuff him.  Much to his surprise, Greta agrees and the two start an awkward and uncertain romance (aren't they all?).  Both Samuel and Greta has a whole host of issues.  Samuel is super neurotic, bitter, and doesn't really take care of himself in the way that he should.  He also has never been in a relationship before.  Greta is a woman of very few words, a lot of rules, and she's been badly hurt by men in her past.  However, despite her tough attitude, Greta is very caring and fiercely loyal.  This is a very sweet romance, but Hootman doesn't spare the character's darker sides or the awkwardness of their courtship.  The book is also frequently funny, especially Samuel's jaded perspective on life.