Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Recommended Read: I'll Drink to That by Betty Halbreich

I love a sardonic wit. 86 year-old Betty Halbreich is the personal shopper at Bergdorf Goodman. A position she's held for 39 years. (She's featured in the documentary Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf's, which apart from Betty, is somewhat of a bore.) Part biography, part style guide, she discusses her privileged life and how she landed at Bergdorf's. Many rich and famous people have visited her dressing room, including Candice Bergen and the late Joan Rivers. She has even helped studios outfit their actors for shows, in particular she helped Patricia Field dress the women on Sex and the City.

She may appear proper, but she's not afraid to tell it like it is. In fact, that is what attracts customers (repeat customers value that quality too). And that is what attracted this reader to her book. She's not only honest about her successes, but also her failures in life, and quite eloquently to boot.

Halbreich says "As soon as I get home, I undress, brush my clothes, put them on the proper hangers, and give them an airing before they return to the closet- which, containing a lifetime of garments, is a Narnian portal to times and place that no longer exist." She is a relic, not because of age, but because of her habits, which is oddly refreshing.

I'll Drink to That by Betty Halbreich

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Podcast Obsession: The Planet Money Podcast

Lest you think I’m responsible citizen of the world, just saying the words “global economy” pretty much puts me to sleep.  I had one measly economics class in college, and it was the only course I took pass/ fail.  Usually thinking about the economy makes me a little confused and a lot scared.  So, I’m not exactly the target audience for this NPR podcast.  

However, after hearing a plug for the show on the Slate Culture Gabfest (another podcast favorite), I checked out Planet Money and it has since become one of my favorite podcasts.  The show has a unique perspective on the global economy, and always finds unique and quirky ways to highlight different economic issues. For instance, they recently had a show on cattle theft in Oklahoma and the special agent who tracks down the thieves (Episode 583: Cow Noir).  Another recent show (Episode 575: The Fondue Conspiracy) described how fondue’s popularity was actually caused by the dominance of the Swiss Cheese Union in Switzerland during the early part of 20th century.  

The show’s various hosts and reporters are good at explaining economic theories and principles while still being interesting and fun; so even economic neophytes like myself understand and remain entertained.  The podcasts are always enjoyable and are sometimes very funny.  While I certainly haven’t become an economic genius from listening to show, I do have a better grasp of world issues and can occasionally make smart chatter at dinner parties.  Fans of Freakonomics would probably enjoy the show. Although, I personally like Planet Money quite bit more than those books.  It’s worth a listen whether or not economic issues are something you are super interested in.  The show is a spin off the NPR juggernaut, This American Life, so fan of that show may enjoy it as well.

For more information on Planet Money check out their blog on NPR, or listen to the podcast.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Recommend Reads: Recent Releases

 Contrary to popular belief, librarians are paid to read all day (I wish!).  Instead we have to fit reading in when we aren't working.  Meaning we pretty much have endless "To Read" lists.  Luckily, I had the opportunity to take a couple trips recently, so I had time to catch up with a few good recent titles:

The Hundred Year House by Rebecca Makkai (2014).

Makkai's previous book The Borrower was one of my favorite reads of 2011.  So I was super excited to see that she had a book coming out this year. The Hundred Year House is set in a large mansion in the northern suburbs of Chicago (::cough:: Lake Forest ::cough::) that used to be an artist colony called Laurelfield.  The first part of the book takes place in 1999, when the house is on the verge of its centennial, and then the book works back through the house's history.

In 1999, we follow the saga of Marxist English professor Zee and her unemployed academic husband Doug.  Zee was raised at Laurelfield, and she and Doug move into the coach house when the couple falls on hard times. Doug is purportedly working an a career making tome about a poet Edwin Parfitt, who once stayed at Laurelfield.  However, he spends more of his time writing for a Baby Sitter's Club like series and flirting with Miriam, the artist wife of Zee's brother-in-law Chad with whom they share the coach house. When Dough starts asking questions about the artist colony and looking around for papers, he's surprised to find Zee's mom, Gracie, oddly standoffish and protective of the topic.  Is she hiding something?  This section is very funny and works as both an academic satire and a very shaggy mystery novel.

The book then cuts to earlier history of the mansion.  In 1950s, the artist's colony is shut down, so Grace DeVohr (Zee's mom) can move their with her abusive, alcoholic husband.  Separated from her family and without a friend nearby, Grace finds her situation increasingly desperate.  We also glimpses of Laurelfield in the 1920s, as an active artist colony, including when Edwin Parfitt stayed there.  Finally, the book ends were the house began, with the original owners, including Zee's ancestor, a beautiful woman who committed suicide and supposedly "haunts" the mansion.

The Hundred Year House is a great read  There are various connections between all of the stories taking place at Laurelfield throughout the decades.  Once you finish the book, you'll probably want to reread it to catch all the links.  Makkai has a lot of fun filling the book with made-up cultural references.  I googled a lot of the artists and celebrities she created for this book, thinking they might actually be real.  The Hundred Year House has occasional dark moments, but it is definitely a lot of fun.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell (2014).

Rainbow Rowell is a staff favorite.  I highly recommend reading any book by her.  Landline is her latest release, which focuses on the struggling marriage between the hard-working TV writer, Georgie McCool, and her stay-at-home husband, Neal.  Two days before Georgie is set to go with Neal and their two daughters to Neal's childhood home in Nebraska, she and her writing partner Seth get the opportunity to write their dream pilot.  Unfortunately that means staying in L.A. and working over Christmas.  Neal is not so thrilled with the idea, and takes his two daughters to Omaha without Georgie.

Meanwhile, Georgie is left fretting over the state of her marriage.  Did Neal leave for vacation or her all together?  Rather than be alone in their house, Georgie stays temporarily at her mom's house with her sarcastic sister Heather.  While staying there, she makes an interesting discovery, the landline phone in her bedroom allows her to call back into the past, and she begins talking to Neal from a time shortly before they became engaged.  Will the phone time travel save her marriage, or prevent it from ever happening?

The premise for the book sounds a little bit unusual (certainly much more Sci-Fi than Rowell's other work), but don't let it sway you from checking out the book.  Rowell is able to write really funny characters and dialogues.  The interactions between Georgie, her free-spirited mom, and her sister Heather are often laugh out loud funny, and were one of my favorite parts of the book.  It was also refreshing to read a story where the romantic arc is between a long married couple, rather two people just falling in love.  Rowell does a great job of showing how external strains can really affect the relationship between two people who genuinely love each other. 

Station-Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (2014).

Sci-Fi books and dystopias usually aren't my cup of tea, but something stood out about this book by Canadian author Mandel.  It takes place in the recent future and begins at a Toronto production of King Lear starring famous Hollywood actor Arthur Leander.  During the production, Leander suffers a fatal heart attack on stage.  Soon Georgian flu sweeps across the world wiping out 99 percent of the population.

The plot then pick ups twenty years later when civilization no longer exists as we know it.  There is no longer air planes, telephones or even electricity.  Kirsten, one of the child actors playing Lear's daughter, is now a woman who is part of a traveling theater company known as the "Traveling Symphony."  The symphony travels from ram shack town to town performing plays (Kirsten prefers Shakespeare) and music.  While journeying through the ruins of the Midwest, the symphony encounters a dangerous man called the "prophet."

The book also follows several other people connected to Leander: the paramedic who tried to save his life, his first wife, Miranda, and his best friend.  Most of these plots take place before the Georgian flu epidemic, but don't be too surprised to see some of the characters pop up later on in the book.

I really enjoyed Mandel's inventive descriptions of how towns and society functioned in a post-apocalyptic environment.  Mandel also slips in some nice satire about current society, mostly delivered by Arthur's best friend.    The book is incredibly dark at times, but also moving or lightly funny.  It definitely is an absorbing read. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's National Candy Day!

Sweet candy facts:

  • The first commercial solid eating chocolate was produced by Fry & Sons in Bristol, England, in 1847
  • M&M’s (packaged in cardboard tubes) were first manufactured for soldiers during World War II. Forrest Mars got the idea for M&M’s when he visited Spain during the Spanish Civil War and saw how soldiers kept chocolates from melting by rolling them in sugary coating.
  • When peanut M&M's were first introduced in 1954, they were only available in the color brown
  • Milton S. Hershey, the founder of Hershey, owned a caramel manufacturing company before he focused on chocolate
  • The M's in M&M's stand for Mars & Murrie: Forrest Mars (son of Frank Mars) entered into a partnership with Bruce Murrie, son of William Murrie (president of Hershey). Hershey provided the chocolate for M&M’s.
  • A Milky Way bar is known as a Mars bar in the United Kingdom

Here are some recommendations if you are looking for some candy-centric books to celebrate National Candy Day:

* For even more fascinating history behind the Mars and Hershey candy companies, and the people who started them:

The Emperors of Chocolate:
Inside the Secret World of Hershey and Mars
by Joël Glenn Brenner
338.766 BRE
Find it in the catalog!

Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams
by Michael D'Antonio 
Find it in the catalog!
* If you have bags of leftover Halloween candy and would like a fun way to use it all up:

Candy Construction:
How to Build Edible Race Cars, Castles, and Other Cool Stuff Out of Store-Bought Candy!
by Sharon Bowers
641.86 BOW
Find it in the catalog!
* If you want to take on the challenge of making your own candy:

Field Guide to Candy:
How to Identify and Make Virtually Every Candy Imaginable
by Anita Chu
641.853 CHU
Find it in the catalog!

The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook:
How to Make Truly Scrumptious Candy in Your Own Kitchen!
by Liz Gutman
641.853 GUT
Find it in the catalog!
* If you want to give homemade candy as presents for the holidays:

Sweet Christmas:
Homemade Peppermints, Sugar Cake, Chocolate-Almond Toffee, Eggnog Fudge, and Other Sweet Treats and Decorations
by Sharon Bowers
641.568 BOW
Find it in the catalog!

Delicious Gifts:
Edible Creations to Make and Give
by Jess McCloskey
641.5 MCC
Find it in the catalog!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

New Non-Fiction

A selection of new non-fiction titles that recently hit our shelves:

101 Two-Letter Words by Stephin Merritt. You may recognize the author's name, but from a different medium: he's the founder of the band Magnetic Fields. Short (and sweet) book of two-letter words presented in a witty, rhymed fashion.

Aarti Paarti: An American Kitchen With an Indian Soul by Aarti Sequeira. Recipes that fuse Indian and American cuisine from the Food Network chef. Lots of photos!

The Edge of the Sky: All You Need To Know About the All-There-Is by Roberto Trotta. Astrophysicist Trotta undertakes describing cosmology using the most common 1,000 words so that the average person (and non-astrophysicist) can understand it. Short book that comes in at 85 pages.

How We Got To Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson. Johnson details six technologies that changed our lives: refrigeration, clocks, lenses, water purification, recorded sound, and artificial light.

The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control by Walter Mischel. Based on studies (particularly Mischel's eponymous Marshmallow Test) about self-control and delayed gratification.

The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour-- and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News by Sheila Weller. Details how these three women cracked the news industry and became successful, even influential.

Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S.C. Gwynne. A biography of the other famous Confederate general.

Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century! by Steven Pinker. I was excited about this book, until I read the subtitle. Then, I re-thought this position and got excited again. Mainly because I could probably stand to read this book, as evidenced by my posts.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes & Other Lessons From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. Anecdotes from a young, female mortician. This book had a lot of "pre-pub" buzz.

Wheat Belly Total Health: The Ultimate Grain-Free Health and Weight-Loss Life Plan by William Davis, MD. Sequel to Wheat Belly, with new tips and information for success with this diet.

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 brandy. 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.


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.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Taste summer with these cookbooks

I don't know about you, but when I think of summer, hot grills, cold ice cream, picnic tables, and corn on the cob immediately come to mind. Here is a selection of cookbooks that will help you taste summer!

Bobby Flay's Burgers, Fries, & Shakes by Bobby Flay
641.662 FLA
In addition to unique burgers, this cookbook includes recipes for fries and onion rings, condiments and seasonings, and milkshakes.
Find it in the catalog!

The Deen Bros. Get Fired Up: Grilling, Tailgating, Picnicking and More
by Jamie Deen and Bobby Deen
641.578 DEE
In this cookbook the Deen brothers feature summer recipes that are divided into the fun categories On the Grill, On the Field, On the Blanket, and On the Beach. You'll find dishes for a variety of tastes, including burgers, sandwiches, flatbreads, salads, finger foods, dips, skewers, and more.
Find it in the catalog!

The Grilling Book: The Definitive Guide From Bon Appetit
641.5784 RAP
This cookbook features more than 350 recipes, plus grilling tips and how-to guides.

Find it in the catalog!
Recipes from an Italian Summer
641.5945 REC
Check out this cookbook if you enjoy Italian food and dishes that make use of simple, seasonal ingredients. A helpful seasonal food calendar is also included at the beginning of the book. Unfortunately, few photographs accompany the recipes.
Find it in the catalog!
The Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen Grilling Cookbook: 225 Sizzling Recipes for Every Season
641.5784 GOO
There is no shortage of recipes in this cookbook; brightly colored tabs divide the types of dishes. Helpful icons in the each section's table of contents denote recipes that are 30 minutes or less, heart-healthy, low-calorie, and make-ahead.
Find it in the catalog!
Home Made Summer by Yvette van Boven
641.564 BOV
A whimsical cookbook inspired by the author's summers spent in Provence, France. Gorgeous photographs, although some recipes include ingredients that aren't readily available. 
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Bobby Flay's Barbeque Addiction by Bobby Flay
641.5784 FLA
Recipes for everything you need to have a great barbeque, including cocktails, salads, sides, and the main protein (fish, poultry, beef, pork). When it comes to grillin' and chillin', Bobby Flay is the man.
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People's Pops by Nathalie Jordi, David Carrell, & Joel Horowitz
641.862 JOR
Fresh fruit and herbs and quality ingredients go into these refreshing ice pops.
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Cookies & Cream: Hundreds of Ways to Make the Perfect Ice Cream Sandwich by Tessa Arias
641.862 ARI
This book pairs cookie and ice cream recipes for your own homemade ice cream cookie sandwich creations. Follow the suggested combinations, or mix and match depending on your tastes. Or do as I did-- simply make and enjoy ice cream without worrying about the cookie and sandwiching component.
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The Perfect Scoop:Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz
641.862 LEB
This cookbook includes traditional (chocolate ice cream), fun (butterscotch pecan ice cream), and out-there (black pepper ice cream) recipes. Lebovitz also includes recipes for a variety of sauces and toppings for your ice cream.
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Sweet Cream and Sugar Cones by Kris Hoogerhyde, Anne Walker, and Dabney Gough
641.862 HOO
The recipes in this book come from Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco. Each ice cream flavor sounds and looks so delectable you'll have a hard time deciding which kind to make first -- brown sugar with ginger-caramel swirl, white chocolate raspberry swirl, cookies and cream...
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