Monday, January 26, 2015

Healthy Eating = Bacon - Bread?

Believe it or not, one of the topics most discussed by your library professionals in the break room is food.  "What's for dinner?  Are you going to bring me some tomorrow?"  

One trend we've been noticing as people who work in an information environment and as people who love food is the "eating fat is good for you" movement.  Truth be told, this is delicious advice that we don't mind following!  The movement propounds that eating healthy fats (their definition including saturated fats) actually helps your body lose weight and absorb the nutrients in your food.  Recently (June 23 2014, to be exact) there was an article in Time Magazine* entitled "Eat Butter" which goes in to "why scientists were wrong to label fat the enemy."  This dietary viewpoint is reflected in the Paleo and Primal Blueprint approaches, both of which are generally based on what our ancestors probably ate (including, but not limited to, lots of bacon).  Therefore, these two diets eliminate or reduce sugars, processed foods and grains.  Which leads us to...

A related trend that has grabbed our attention: avoiding grains (kissing cousin to the Atkins diet, where phases of eating low carb are the golden ticket to weight loss).  Again, an idea that goes completely against the grain of wide-held opinion (yes, we intended the terrible pun).  This one is not as thrilling for most of us, especially when the grain in question is wheat and we must avoid it completely because of allergies.  But this dietary adjustment promises good for the body as well: weight loss, improved mobility, better brain function, etc.

The reasons that people choose no-grain diets are as varied as the people themselves.  Some folks avoid grains because of the negative way eating them affects their blood sugar and insulin levels, others because they want to manage their weight.  We spoke with somebody recently who said a big reason she no longer consumes wheat is because she was horrified by the research she did on the amount of pesticides that are used on wheat.  For many, avoiding wheat is less of a choice, and is done because of allergy or disease.

We think the hardest part about following these diets is determining the answer to this question:  "What can we eat instead?"  If we choose not to eat processed food, grain, and sugar, what's left?  (And how do we find it?!)  Which is where the related cookbooks come in, of which there are many.  We've compiled some here for you relating to these popular, yet unorthodox trends, but don't forget that we have plenty of books in the library about more conventional diets, as well as cookbooks of all kinds.

Catalog Searches


Primal Blueprint



The Big Fat Surprise: Why Meat, Butter, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz

Eat Fat, Lose Fat: the Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats by Mary Enig and Sally Fallon

Nourishing Traditions the Cookbook That Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and The Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon

Grain Free

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis

Wheat Belly Cookbook: 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar--Your Brain's Silent Killers by David Perlmutter MD and Kristin Loberg

The Grain Brain Cookbook: More Than 150 Life-Changing Gluten-Free Recipes to Transform Your Health by David Perlmutter, MD

No-Grain Diet: Conquer Carbohydrate Addiction and Stay Slim for Life by Joseph Mercola 

Related Links
Peruse these sites and articles for unconventional perspectives on food and surrounding issues.

The Weston A. Price Foundation - Consuming animal fats and nutrient dense foods
A Campaign for Real Milk - Drinking raw milk
The No Grain Diet - by Dr Joseph Mercola
The Definitive Guide to Saturated Fat - On Mark's Daily Apple
Paleo Diet 101 - Paleo Magazine
Primal Blueprint 101 - About the Primal lifestyle, a la Mark Sisson

Have you heard of or tried any of these "diets" (we can hardly bring ourselves to call eating a bunch of fat a diet)?  Or, do you have any other interesting dietary habits?  Please share in the comments!

*Don't forget that all of the ABC Library branches have various magazines for checkout.  Search them in the catalog by title to see which branch has the most recent issues.  Usually, the most current issue of a magazine is available only to look at inside of the library, but some branches keep issues on hand for up to two years, and these are available to check out.  We also wanted to mention that with your library card you can access free digital magazines (as many as you want!) from Zinio, which you can check out, download to your device and keep for as long as you want.  Digital magazines are even more fun and addicting than physical copies because they can be interactive - for example they can link to sites as well as show video clips inside of an article.  Check them out and enjoy!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Literary Tourism: Beverly Cleary

Ramona at the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden
Children's author Beverly Cleary will turn 99 on April 12! She grew up in Yamhill and Portland, Oregon.  Her books are set in Portland - Henry Huggins and the Quimbys live on Klickitat Street, a few blocks from where Cleary grew up - and though the author no longer resides in Oregon, Portland celebrates her with the elementary school and children's room in the Central Library that bear her name. Visitors to Portland, Oregon have shared with us their trip to the Beverly Cleary Sculpture Garden, right around the corner from Klickitat Street. You can also stop at the Hollywood Library to pick up a map of the Walking With Ramona tour. Multnomah County Library says "Beverly Cleary now resides in California but her influence is always local for us."

Beverly Cleary started writing for children in 1950, and has written more than 20 books with some of children's literature's most memorable characters, and her birthday is celebrated as National Drop Everything And Read Day. If you'd like to learn more about the author, Beverly Cleary has also written 2 memoirs:

Follows the popular children's author from her childhood years in Oregon through high school and into young adulthood, highlighting her family life and her growing interest in writing.

Follows the popular children's author through college years during the Depression; jobs including that of librarian; marriage; and writing and publication of her first book, Henry Huggins.

Gresham Library Ramona Quimby statue, courtesy of Multnomah County Library Flickr


A Beverly Cleary Pilgrimage, From Yamhill to Klickitat Street [The Atlantic]

The Ageless Appeal of Beverly Cleary [New York Times]

12 Charming Tidbits About Beverly Cleary [Mental Floss]

The World of Beverly Cleary

Beverly Cleary - Living Legend

Author Beverly Cleary's childhood home for sale

*book descriptions are taken from the library catalog unless otherwise noted

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New and Novel: Food Books

Is it too soon? Have you gotten over all the big holiday meals, party food, and snacking yet?  Are you ready to think about food again?  Because it seems to us like there are always noteworthy books about food, cooking, and all things culinary in the library catalog.  Yum! Here some books for foodies that are a little off the beaten path - not just straight-up cookbooks.

Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good: Recipes and Stories of Love From An American Midwest Family by Kathleen Flinn

Sweet Paul Eat & Make: Charming Recipes + Kitchen Crafts You Will Love by Paul Lowe et al.

Dog-Gone Good Cuisine: More Healthy, Fast, and Easy Recipes For You and Your Pooch by Gayle Pruitt

My Usual Table: A Life in Restaurants by Colman Andrews

The Food Section: Newspaper Women and the Culinary Community by Kimberly Wilmot Voss

A Mouthful of Stars: A Constellation of Favorite Recipes From My World Travels by Kim Sunée

Minding the Manor: The Memoir of a 1930s English Kitchen Maid by Mollie Moran

The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art by Jans Ondaatje Rolls

The Soda Fountain: Floats, Sundaes, Egg Creams & More -- Flavors and Traditions of an American Original by Gia Giasullo and Peter Freeman

Mallmann on Fire by Francis Mallmann with Peter Kaminsky and Donna Gelb  

Also, have you checked out The Mind of Chef series on DVD? This series explores the kitchen, world, and mind of renowned chefs. The catalog now features Seasons 1-3, with chefs such as Sean Brock [Heritage], Edward Lee [Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories From a New Southern Kitchen], and April Bloomfield.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

When a critically acclaimed book isn't that good

Last year, a young adult novel called Anatomy of a Misfit came out, and everyone was talking about it. It was all over book blogs, it received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and in general, people were very excited about it and talked about what an amazing book it was. One of my co-workers read the book and greatly disliked it. Still, I wanted to read it, since it was so highly spoken of, and because my co-worker and I sometimes have different reading tastes. I was expecting to love Anatomy of a Misfit; however, I was very disappointed by it.

When I finished reading it, I wanted to know if anyone else felt the same way I did, so I started reading Goodreads reviews of the book. Many people mentioned the following:

  • All the characters are stereotypes.
  • The language is offensive (for multiple reasons, including swearing).
  • The narrator was unlikable.
  • The book was not well-written.
  • The book tried to make a point, but missed the mark.
I found myself agreeing with what the negative reviews were saying, because the thoughts expressed in those reviews were exactly the thoughts I had while reading. Since so many people loved the book, though, I thought I'd also read some positive reviews, and one in particular stood out to me because of this: "This is not a book for everybody. This is not a book you will enjoy if slurs and slut-shaming ruin a book for you. To love this book, you need to be the type who can read a book about people as they are and not as you want them to be."

It's an interesting point, and I think a good one. There is much to be said about unlikable characters: they exist, and that's not always a bad thing. Some of my favorite books have unlikable characters, and I do enjoy reading books about people as they are: flawed and messy.

But what happens when a book shows characters as they are, not as we want them to be, and it's not a good depiction of people? For me, there's a difference between having a character who is unlikable, who is flawed to the point where I can't stand them, and having a character who is unlikable because that character is a stereotype. It's something I've been thinking about ever since I read Anatomy of a Misfit and the Goodreads reviews of it. It's important to have characters who are unlikable as much as it's important to have characters who are likable, but I think what's most important is having characters who are realistic and that readers can relate to. For me, this is where Anatomy of a Misfit misses the mark. Instead of having authentic characters, the characters were caricatures of themselves.

What I struggle with now is how to understand how and why this book has resonated with so many people. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to figure it out--all the five star ratings it's getting baffle me. As a librarian, though, I think it's important for me to at least try to figure it out, because something about this book appeals to a lot of people, and knowing why will help me be a better librarian, and, perhaps, a better reader.

Have any of you experienced a similar situation? If so, let me know in the comments!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier (1926-2009) is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. She began taking photographs in 1949, but rather than trying to parlay her skill into a career in photography, she became a nanny in the 1950s, first in New York and then in Chicago, her chosen profession for about 40 years.  Maier continued to photograph street scenes, self-portraits, and more (her collected works number over 150,000), often dragging the children in her care with her as she sought out new spots to take pictures. Financial problems in the early 1970s left her unable to develop her own film, and she gave up photography altogether sometime in the late 1990s. By this time she had amassed a huge collection of photographs and undeveloped film which she kept in storage as she veered between homelessness and living in a studio apartment provided by her former charges. In 2007, one of her storage lockers was auctioned off for delinquent payments, and many of her negatives were bought by John Maloof, a Chicago historian and collector, who brought her photographs to light. Sadly, Maloof was only able to track down Meier after her obituary was published.

Find out more about this elusive artist with items from our catalog!

Finding Vivian Maier [DVD]

Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows by Richard Cahan, Michael Williams

Vivian Maier: Street Photographer edited by John Maloof

Eye to Eye: Photographs by Vivian Maier by Richard Cahan


Vivian Maier Photographer

Finding Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier's Chicago

The Heir's Not Apparent: A Legal Battle Over Vivian Maier's Work [New York Times]

Vivian Maier and the Problem of Difficult Women [New Yorker]

Monday, January 12, 2015

Best Books of 2014

We compiled 18 lists* to bring you the best books of 2014.
10 Votes
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

9 Votes

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

8 Votes
Euphoria by Lily King

Lila By Marilynne Robinson

The Paying Guests by Sara Waters

Redeployment by Phil Klay

7 Votes
Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

6 Votes

All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu

Family Life by Akhil Sharma

The Martian by Andy Weir

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

5 Votes
Bark: Stories by Lorrie Moore

The Blazing World by Siri Hustvedt

The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín

4 Votes

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill

Deep Down Dark by Hector Tobar

3 Votes
The Magician's Land by Lev Grossman

Song of the Shank by Jeffery Renard Allen

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

On Immunity by Eula Biss

Little Failure by Gary Shtenygart

My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

A printable version of the entire list can be found here.

Amazon, Brainpickings, Bookbub, Bookpage, Bustle, Buzzfeed, Flavorwire, Hudson Booksellers, Huffington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Library Journal, New York Times, Publisher’s Weekly, Real Simple, Salon, Slate, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Lessons From the Dead: Funeral Practices and Forensic Science

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.
~Mark Twain

We first heard of Caitlin Doughty through her webseries "Ask a Mortician", which answers questions about pet death, Viking funerals, traditional or natural burials, and more - everything about a mortician's trade you might be curious about, but afraid to ask, presented in a fashion that might just make you laugh out loud. Her new book, Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, is a New York Times Bestseller. As Doughty says, "Accepting your own mortality is like eating your vegetables: You may not want to do it, but it's good for you."*

We've written on abcreads before about mortality, but we thought now might be a good time to revisit the topic. For the mystery buffs, we've included a section about forensic science.

Funeral Practices

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes: And Other Lessons From the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty

Freezing People Is (Not) Easy: My Adventures in Cryonics by Bob Nelson, with Kenneth Bly and Sally Magaña, PhD

Forensic Science

Working Stiff: Two Years, 262 Bodies, and the Making of a Medical Examiner by Judy Melinek, MD and T.J. Mitchell

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell

Silent Witnesses: The Often Gruesome But Always Fascinating History of Forensic Science by Nigel McCrery

Murder on the Home Front: A True Story of Morgues, Murderers, and Mysteries During the London Blitz by Molly Lefebure

The Poisoner's Handbook: Killer Chemistry [DVD]

Bosnia's Million Bones: Solving the World's Greatest Forensic Puzzle by Christian Jennings.

The Inheritor's Powder: A Tale of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science by Sandra Hempel


11 fascinating funeral traditions from around the globe [TEDBlog]

12 Strange Funerals and Funeral Traditions [Mental Floss]

What Do Forensic Scientists Do? [American Academy of Forensic Sciences]

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Forensic Science Technicians [U.S. Department of Labor]

The CSI Effect [The New Yorker]

A Cheerful Mortician Tackles the Lighter Side of Death [NPR]*