Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Food Culture of Alice Waters

When you eat fast food, you not only eat the food that is unhealthy for you, but you digest the values that comes with that food. And they're really about fast, cheap and easy. It's so important that we understand that things can be affordable, but they can never be cheap, because, if they're cheap, somebody's missing out. The fast food culture tells us that, you know, cooking is not something important, and it can be in the basement, it can be in the back, when, in fact, it's the most important work that we do. I think it is the unrealistic values of a fast food culture that are really making us very unhappy, that we're all going a little crazy. We spend as much searching for our cell phone than we do preparing a meal.
~Alice Waters, "Brief But Spectacular"

With her new memoir coming out, Coming to My Senses: The Making of a Counterculture Cook, we thought we'd give a little blog space to Alice Waters, often called "the mother of American cooking." Alice Waters opened a little restaurant called Chez Panisse in 1971 in Berkeley, California, and in the 40-plus years since has been a tireless advocate for organic food, slow food, school lunch reform, and local sustainable agriculture. She's been the recipient of several awards and honors - her 2015 National Humanities Medal "proving that eating is a political act, and that the table is a powerful means to social justice and positive change. "

Eating at Chez Panisse looks like a tremendous experience. The Restaurant is downstairs, offering a three to four course dinner with the menu changing nightly, "each [course] designed to be appropriate to the season and composed to feature the finest sustainably sourced, organic, peak-of-their-season ingredients, including meat, fish, and poultry." The Café, upstairs, features "moderately priced à la carte menu for both lunch and dinner." The website describes the experience more poetically than we could ever hope to:

Alice and Chez Panisse are convinced that the best tasting food is organically and locally grown, and harvested in ways that are ecologically sound by people who are taking care of the land for future generations. The quest for such ingredients has always determined our cuisine. For over 45 years, Chez Panisse has invited diners to partake of the immediacy and excitement of vegetables just out of the garden, fruit right off the branch, and fish straight from the sea. In doing so, Chez Panisse has established a close network of suppliers who, like the restaurant, strive for both environmental harmony and delicious flavor.

But, don't think Alice Waters herself will be whipping up your dishes. Since the birth of her daughter in the early 1980s, Alice Waters has served as executive chef - she "contribute[s] to the collaboration of the kitchen...oversees Chez Panisse, writes cookbooks, helps design menus and tries to preserve local food traditions," but she hasn't cooked anything in their kitchen in 30 years. There are a variety of chefs at Chez Panisse - different ones for the restaurant, the café, for pastry - and alumni of the kitchens include Jeremiah Tower, Samin Nosrat, and Cal Peternell.

Are you interested in food activism? Alice Waters supports Slow Food International, which is concerned with topics such as bee population decline, food waste, protecting family farming, and GMOs, and she founded the Edible Schoolyard Project, with its mission being "to build and share a national edible education curriculum for pre-kindergarten through high school...envision[ing] gardens and kitchens as interactive classrooms for all academic subjects, and a sustainable, delicious, and free lunch for every student." Do you agree with her about the importance of "help[ing] people understand the relation of food to agriculture and relationship of food to culture?" Even if you're not as hardcore as Alice Waters, you might still enjoy her cookbooks - New York Times bestsellers and recommended for "everyone who wants to learn to cook, or wants to become a better cook." Learn more about the food culture of Alice Waters with some of the titles listed below.

For Children

Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious by Jacqueline Briggs Martin

Fanny in France: With French Adventures and French Recipes by Alice Waters

Cookery by Alice Waters

My Pantry

The Art of Simple Food and The Art of Simple Food II

In the Green Kitchen: Techniques to Learn By Heart

Chez Panisse Fruit

Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook


American Masters: Alice Waters and Her Delicious Revolution

In addition to her own books, Waters has provided the foreword to cookbooks by various other chefs, including Joanne Weir, David Tanis, Cecilia Chiang, the Cheese Board staff, and, one of our favorites, Niloufer Ichaporia King, if you're interested in other cookbooks with a similar ethos.


The 10 Dishes That Made My Career: Alice Waters [First We Feast]

Alice Waters, Chez Panisse, and Her Farm-To-Table Journey [CNN]

Life's Work: An Interview with Alice Waters [HBR]

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Top Circulating: Biography

The Yellow Books, 1887 . Fine Art. Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest. Web. 18 May 2016.
“Knowledge is like money: To be of value it must circulate, and in circulating it can increase in quantity and, hopefully, in value.”
― Louis L'Amour, Education of a Wandering Man  

In the library, "circulation" means a lot of things.  What's sometimes called the "library card desk" is also known as "circulation".  When we look at a book's record, we count how many times it has checked out as its "circs". The library's collection floats (items checked out at one branch and returned at another stay at the branch at which they are returned), but its items circulate.

Some surprises for us on on our top circulating biography list! Many are new, but there are some that have been out quite a while. Keep in mind when you peruse this list that some books written about specific people are not shelved in the Biography section (i.e., not filed under Biography and the subject's last name) - for example, a new biography called Goethe: Life as a Work of Art is filed in the 800s (Literature, in Dewey Decimal Classification); Bruce Springsteen's memoir, Born to Run, is in the 700s (Arts & Recreation); and a biography of Guy Burgess, Stalin's Englishman, is filed in the 300s (Social Sciences).

Top Circulating Biography

1.  Prince Charles by Sally Bedell Smith
2. Al Franken by Al Franken
3. The Secrets of My Life by Caitlyn Jenner
4. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
5. Coach Wooden and Me  by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
6. Settle For More by Megyn Kelly
7. Teacher Man  by Frank McCourt
8. Grace Notes by Katey Sagal
9. Cravings by Judy Collins
10. Charlton Heston by Marc Eliot
11. Bossypants by Tina Fey
12. Black Lotus by Sil Lai Abrams
13. No Life For a Lady by Agnes Morley Cleaveland
14. A Life in Parts by Bryan Cranston
15. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
16. Tell Me Everything You Don’t Remember by Christine Hyung-Oak Lee
17. Are You Anybody? by Jeffrey Tambor
18. Portraits of Courage by George W. Bush
19. Ernest Hemingway by Mary V. Dearborn
20. Being a Dad Is Weird by Ben Falcone
21. Richard Nixon by John A. Farrell
22. Dig If You Will the Picture by Ben Greenman
23. The Last Lion, Winston Spencer Churchill by William Manchester
24 Elizabeth Bishop by Megan Marshall
25. Pioneer Girl by Laura Ingalls Wilder

What's a good biography you've read recently? Did you find one as riveting as Salvador Dalí seemed to find his own (below)?

Salvador Dali reading his biography, 6 May, 1959. Photograph. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 4 Aug 2017.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Books, Beverages, and Bites

Cup of coffee on book. Photo. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 8 Jul 2017.

Seems like almost everyone can relate to the cozy feeling of curling up with a good book and a delicious drink. Whether it be coffee, tea, or something a bit stronger, there's really nothing better than sipping while you read. That's why I was jazzed when I came across Tequila Mockingbird: Cocktails with a Literary Twist by Tim Federle -- a recipe book that shares my love of cocktails, mocktails, and even snacks while simultaneously pairing them with some fantastic reads. As an added bonus, the drinks and treats are named with fantastic puns. Prepping for a book club would be especially convenient with many popular titles and hilarious drink name combinations like One Flew Over the Cosmo's Nest (p. 15) and Fahrenheit 151 (p. 97).

And if you happen to enjoy a good movie as well, you'll be pleased to know that Federle has that covered, too. Gone With The Gin: Cocktails with a Hollywood Twist is his follow-up recipe book which adds the same delicious twist of pairing beverages and foods with popular and classic movies. 

Whether you're hosting a book club, movie night, or just gearing up to enjoy some alone time, there's something for everyone. It's not just Tim Federle, either. I've found a few other entertainment and literary recipe books through my curiosity and hope you get as much enjoyment from them as I have!

Movie Night Menus: Dinner and Drink Recipes Inspired by Films We Love by Tenaya Darlington

To Have And Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion by Phillip Greene

Cocktails for Book Lovers by Tessa Smith-McGovern

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Featured Author: Margaret Maron

Mystery author Margaret Maron burst onto the scene with the first novel of her Sigrid Harald series in 1981; her Deborah Knott series (for which she is beloved by us) did not begin until 1992. In the intervening years, Maron has won Edgar, Agatha, Anthony & Macavity Awards; been the President of Sisters in Crime; received the Grand Master Award from Mystery Writers of America; and many other accolades.

As of this writing, Margaret Maron has called time on both of her long-running series. She has not ruled out writing stories -which is how her career began 40 years ago -  she is "ready to be done with contracts and deadlines" though she has "learned to never say never." (!) Ohio public radio station WYSO 91.3's Book Nook program has applauded Maron's choice: "Don't you love it when somebody has the good grace to go out at the top of their game?" We'll miss Sigrid and Deborah, but we certainly applaud Margaret Maron's future plans, which include wading into her TBR pile.

If you haven't yet read any of Maron's award-winning mysteries, we encourage you to check them out! She created Sigrid Harald, a homicide detective with the NYPD, based on her experiences living in New York with her husband during the early years of their marriage. Deborah Knott is a North Carolina district judge - the change of setting reflects the author's upbringing "where the Piedmont meets the Sandhills" of that state, though she emphatically declares the character is not based on her own family life. Maron says she chose these professions for her detectives because "Other, more inventive writers can make it seem perfectly logical that a schoolteacher or real estate agent or cookie-baking mom would keep stumbling over murders that they could solve with their civilian skills, but I needed a sturdier reed on which to lean."

Sigrid Harald series
9 titles, with 2 available in the library catalog currently, Fugitive Colors and Take Out (the last 2 books of the series) 

Deborah Knott series
20 titles, beginning with Bootlegger's Daughter and ending with 2015's Long Upon the Land

These two characters of have a ying-yang relationship in Maron's mind - she created Deborah to be the opposite of Sigrid in many ways. Interestingly, Sigrid and Deborah are distantly related, and you can view Deborah's family tree - she's the youngest of a family of twelve - on Maron's website. The two detectives meet in Three Day Town, the 17th book in the Deborah Knott series.

Ms. Maron has also written a few non-series titles - try Last Lessons of Summer, for which she won North Carolina's Sir Walter Raleigh Award.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Christian Fiction: Recommended Authors

Stories of Christian allegory have been rife throughout European literary history. What is catalogued as Christian fiction at your local library "does not have to involve an actual event or character in Bible history. A novel can be Christian in this sense merely because one of its characters either comes to a Christian understanding of God and of man's need for salvation from sin, or faces a crisis of his or her faith." What the genre and its most renowned publishers, such as Tyndal House, Zondervan, WaterBrook, Love Inspired, and Howard Books, have in common is a strict standard for content - as one publisher proclaims on its website, to it seeks to "minister to the spiritual needs of people, primarily through literature consistent with biblical principles" or, as another says, it publishes "...books that seek to intensify and satisfy a reader’s elemental thirst for a deeper relationship with God." As Deborah Bryan put it at the 2009 Mountain Plains Library Association/Kansas Library Association conference, in the handout for her presentation "Books For the Soul," authors writing for these publishers must "accept the infallible authority of the Bible; address life’s dilemmas through faith in Jesus; and believe that Jesus is divine, died, and rose again for the sins of humankind and that he will return again as a judge and a warrior. There are often certain 'taboos' or offensive content that [the authors] are not allowed to write about." There is a stereotype that Christian fiction is "popular with a certain readership, mostly white, female, and coming from an evangelical Protestant background," but there are countering claims that readers "love this genre because it quenches their inner thirst for knowledge, spiritual guidance, and, yes, entertainment" and that CF has started to embrace diversity, both in characters and storylines, and there has been significant genre crossover from CF's many subgenres - historical, romance (both contemporary and historical), mystery/suspense, literary fiction, legal thrillers, Amish.

It has been suggested that there has been a decline in the market for Christian fiction in the past few years - some companies have stopped publishing it altogether, or slimmed down their output - but mass market production for the genre continues to be strong. So show your support for CF by checking out some of these authors, available in the library catalog:

Terri Blackstock

Wanda E. Brunstetter

Colleen Coble

Dee Henderson 

Karen Kingsbury

Beverly Lewis

Ruth Reid

Francine Rivers

Joel C. Rosenberg

Randy Singer

Susan Sleeman

Lauraine Snelling

Michelle Stimpson 

William Young

If you'd like more suggestions, consider checking out the Christy Awards! This annual award, program of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA), is given to "honor Christian novels of excellence, imagination, and creativity." The award takes its name from Catherine Marshall's 1967 classic of the genre, due to be re-released this year. An alternative is the Carol Awards, awarded annually by the American Christian Fiction Writers to recognize "the best Christian fiction published in the previous calendar year." Also try the ACFW's Fiction Finder site.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Unusual Detectives

Revelations of a Lady Detective. Revelations of a Lady Detective. Image taken from Revelations of a Lady Detective. Originally published/produced in George Vickers: London, 1864. George Vickers: London, 1864. . Fine Art. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 4 Aug 2017.
It seems like from the beginning of detective fiction, authors tried to give their detectives a hook - making them unusual, and therefore memorable. Generally regarded as the first detective in fiction, Le Chevalier C. Auguste Dupin is a gentleman detective who solves cases to amuse himself. Sherlock Holmes plays the violin and boxes; he is a master of disguise and a habitual user of cocaine. Agatha Christie seems to use her fictional author character, Ariadne Oliver, to bemoan the folly of creating a detective that is too unusual - Oliver's detective, Sven Hjerson, is Finnish and a vegetarian, and Oliver is often at her wit's end plotting her novels with those traits, which she knows little about, in mind.

Authors still like to put their detectives in unusual milieus. For every gritty police procedural out there, you can find many titles and series (particularly cozies) featuring detectives and detecting teams from every walk of life - coffeehouses managers, tea shop owners, herbalists, crossword creators, knitters, and beyond.

Here's a handful of unusual detectives to pique your interest:

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie
1950s vicar

Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by C. Alan Bradley
11-year-old sleuth and aspiring chemist

The Hearse You Came In On by Tim Cockey
Maryland morticians

Deception on All Accounts by Sara Sue Hoklotubbe
Cherokee banker

Celine by Peter Heller
elegant, aristocratic private eye

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
Chet the dog, companion of an Arizona private investigator

Wine of Violence by Priscilla Royal
11th century prioress

Top o' the Mournin' by Maddy Hunter
tour guide

Summer of the Big Bachi by Naomi Hirahara
Japanese-American Hiroshima survivor and gardener in Los Angeles

Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon
private eye and Sixties music fan 

Gun With Occasional Music by Jonathan Lethem
hard-boiled detective in the near future - mystery has elements of sci fi

Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams
detective who investigates based on the fundamental interconnectedness of all things

The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon
Jewish refugee and detective in the Alaska panhandle

The Robots of Dawn by Isaac Asimov
science fiction detective

Whiskey on the Rocks by Nina Wright
real estate broker

My Heart May Be Broken, But My Hair Still Looks Great by Dixie Cash
The Domestic Equalizers, hairdressers

Wanna Get Lucky? by Deborah Coonts
customer relations representative in mega-casino

Eight of Swords by David Skibbins
tarot card reader and former activist

The Disciple of Las Vegas by Ian Hamilton
forensic accountant

Want more unusual detective choices? Check out the Job of Series Character list on the website Stop, You're Killing Me, "a resource for lovers of mystery, crime, thriller, spy, and suspense books...listing over 4,900 authors, with chronological lists of their books (over 57,000 titles), both series (5,800+) and non-series. Use the alphabetical author and character links or the special indexes." It's a favorite resource of ours! You can also search our Books & Literature guide, which provides you with links to booklists on various topics and our own literary research eResource NoveList (free with your valid library card!).

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Unreliable Narrators

Used with permission of Powell's Books, Inc.
If you follow Powell's Books, a Portland, OR independent bookseller since 1971 (their flagship store is called Powell's City of Books), on Facebook, you will often find them posting pictures of in-house displays and asking you what you're reading this weekend. We were particularly intrigued by their "Unreliable Narrator" display.

We're not going to tell you in what way each of these narrators are unreliable, but don't read this post if you don't like spoilers, because all of these narrators are misleading you in one way or another - they may be the guilty party; they may be insane; they may just have personal bias. But none of these books will end up exactly where you thought they might.

Why are we writing about them, you might add, if it's  a possible spoiler situation? Well, as the web site TV Tropes attests, "As an author, this is a difficult trick to pull off. It is a lot easier to tell a straight story than it is to deliberately mislead the audience." They also list a couple of techniques - "Framing Device, ""Literary Agent Hypothesis," and "Rashomon-style," to give you specific examples. Let's give the authors credit for coming up with such inventive plots that turned their stories upside-down!

We don't really think about it normally, but when you pick up a book, "there's an element of trust that the person telling you the story is telling the truth, at least as far as they know it." That's why Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, one of our favorite unreliable narrator titles, was so startling and mystery-convention-breaking back in 1926. The reader expects to have to figure out whodunnit, but also expects to be given the facts, the truth, to work with.

So, here's our list of some unreliable narrators you might not have heard of (we're going to assume you all know about Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train) or may have forgotten about (we hope you haven't forgotten Rebecca, another of our favorites). But, if you're interested in twisting your brain around more titles like these, Goodreads has a pretty comprehensive list. Just know, someone in the book is probably lying to you... 😲

The Three by Sarah Lotz

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

What Was She Thinking?: Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller

Fall by Colin McAdam

Atonement by Ian McEwan

How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman

John Dies at the End by David Wong

Where the Moon Isn't by Nathan Filer

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

New & Novel: Audiobooks

Portrait of Middle Eastern woman wearing headphones. Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016. Accessed 7 Jul 2017.
Audiobooks continue their meteoric rise. The Audio Publishers Association’s (APA) annual survey reports that audiobook sales in 2015 totaled more than $1.77 billion, an increase of more than 20 percent over 2014. It was the second consecutive year that audiobook sales have expanded by 20 percent, growth the APA chalks up to increasing awareness of the format and the popularity of digital downloads. The number of available titles expanded as well, from 25,944 in 2014 to 35,574 in 2015, an increase of 9,630, and the industry shows no sign of slowing down. So it’s no surprise that the tail end of 2016 and the first part of 2017 offer a dizzying array of options for audiobook fans. Some dearly departed authors will still have their voices heard in the coming months, and there’s a healthy mix of new talent and established masters in the audiobook arena.  
~Jason Puckett, "Listen & Yearn"

Whether you are looking for non-fiction crime or self-help, true stories of the famous and not-so-famous, fiction ranging from sci-fi to horror to young adult,the library system has a wide range of audiobook titles in a variety of formats! Don't limit yourself to a book on CD - you can also try a Playaway, or download an audiobook from Overdrive, hoopla, or RBDigital. Check out some of the library's more recent acquisitions, as recommended by Library Journal and BookPage (pick up a free copy of BookPage at your local library every month, while supplies last!).


The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden [eAudio]

Dragon Teeth by Michael Crichton

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle [eAudio]

The Final Day by William Forstchen [eAudio]

Caraval by Stephanie Garber [YA - Playaway, eAudio]

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey [eAudio]

The Night Ocean by Paul Lafarge [eAudio]

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai [eAudio]

Recluce Tales by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. [eAudio]

The Witch’s Vacuum Cleaner by Terry Pratchett [eAudio]

New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth [eAudio]

Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran [eAudio]

The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers [eAudio]

The Wingsnatchers by Sarah Jean Horwitz [J]

The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne [eAudio]

Wolf on a String by Benjamin Black [eAudio]

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce [eAudio]

Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore [YA - eAudio]

Rather Be the Devil by Ian Rankin [Playaway]

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney [eAudio]


Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman [eAudio]

My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King [Playaway]

Own It: The Power of Women at Work by Sallie Krawcheck [eAudio]

How To Be a Bawse by Lilly Singh [eAudio]

The Blood of Emmett Till by Timothy B. Tyson [eAudio]

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Midlife On Life's Terms

Fork In The Road , . Photography. Britannica ImageQuest, Encyclopædia Britannica, 25 May 2016.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.  
- Max Ehrman The Desiderata

At some point in our lives, if we are lucky, we will make it to forty years old....and beyond. There are unmistakable mild aches and pains and our metabolism goes out for cigarettes and never comes back. You find yourself saying insufferable things like, "What a nice young man" regarding someone in his thirties. Worst of all, the day comes when you're standing in the supermarket and the 1990s grunge music that defined the prime of your youth plays over the loud speakers as muzak while you contemplate a selection of calcium chews. The positive moments comes with deciding to take adult ballet classes, enroll in graduate school, and hearing yourself say assertive things like "no" that your people-pleasing younger self would have been unable to utter.

Stereotypes abound over the specter of aging hipsters growing older gracelessly. However, midlife can also give us an opportunity to hit a reset button on our creativity, ambitions, and relationships. The new responsibilities we are entrusted with provide growth and foster deep connections with our family and friends. We are held in the center of no longer being young, but old enough to see how we need to fearlessly prepare for old age and accept our mortality. It becomes possible to mellow out, forgive ourselves and others, and prepare for the next chapter of life, equipped with abundant knowledge about the creative, emotional, and spiritual possibilities for living midlife abundantly .

Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Pilgrimage by Jean Shinoda Bolen 

Crossroads At Midlife: Your Aging Parents, Your Emotions, and Your Self  by Frances Cohen Praver

It's Never Too Late to Begin Again: Discovering Creativity and Meaning at Midlife and Beyond by Julia Cameron

Life Reimagined : The Science, Art, and Opportunity of Midlife by Barbara Bradley Hagerty

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning by Claire Dederer

Menopause Confidential: A Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Thriving Through Midlife by Tara Allmen, MD