by Anne Mangano on November 25th, 2015
I am always happy when an annotated edition of a work arrives at the library. I love the stories behind the stories, the tidbits, the facts, and the history of a book. We have a number of these editions at ICPL. But I am especially excited about the newly published The Annotated Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) edited by John Matteson. Matteson is known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Eden’s Outcasts, which focuses on the relationship between Louisa May Alcott and her father. In this annotated edition of Little Women, he weaves family and personal information, photographs and illustrations, geographical and historical references, as well as recipes into Alcott’s narrative. There is an 1844 recipe for beef tea, which Jo has to fetch when Mr. March surprises the family when he returns from the war. There are a number of May Alcott’s paintings and drawings throughout, including the Greek figures she drew on the walls of her bedroom at Orchard House. And there is a great deal of background information, from the tensions between the current established society and the new Irish and German immigrants in 19th-century New England to explanations of all the Charles Dickens’ references—and there are plenty.
Aside from Matteson’s annotations, it is also a beautiful edition in its own right. I love the way the publisher’s choose to print “The Pickwick Portfolio” with columns, different typeface, and bordering some of the text, giving it the feel of a 19th-century newspaper. There is also a great biographical essay on how the March family resembles the Alcott family and what events inspired the narrative. If you haven’t read Little Women in a while or would like to read it for the first time, this edition won’t disappoint.
by Anne Mangano on November 14th, 2015
I am currently reading Sarah Vowell’s latest book, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, which now has added relevance in light of the sad news from Paris. In a statement yesterday, President Obama said, “France is our oldest ally. The French people have stood shoulder to shoulder with the United States time and again.” And Lafayette’s shoulders were the first in this friendship; they were right there next to George Washington.
In Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Vowell focuses on Lafayette’s time in the Continental Army starting with how he got there. Lafayette, a French aristocrat, wasn’t even 20-years old when he embarked to America and had to trick his family and King Louis XVI to make the journey. He pretty much ran away. Before setting sail across the Atlantic, he went back to apologize when he heard how angry everyone was, but he wasn’t really sorry. He then “disguised himself in a courier’s get-up, made a U-turn for Spain, and sweet-talked an innkeeper’s daughter he had flirted with en route to point his trackers in the wrong direction.” Why would he do all this? It was a mix of identifying with the American cause and looking for adventure.
Vowell argues that Lafayette came to the colonies thinking he would find a united army fighting for a common cause. This assumption was far from the truth. Congress couldn’t agree on who should run the Continental Army, much less on how to pay to supply the army. The troops were in shambles, barely trained and without shoes or clothing. And there was a great deal of in-fighting among Washington’s staff. But Lafayette found a place for himself, so much so that the only thing Americans could agree on was Lafayette. He became a beloved national hero, even though he wasn’t our “national.”
Like always, Vowell is very funny. Her writing blends her love of the subject, personal anecdotes of her research process, and of course, sarcasm.
by Anne Mangano on November 6th, 2015
Nothing cheers up a room or warms the heart (and hands) like a crackling fire. And the chopping of wood, the stacking of a woodpile, and the building of a fire all bring one a great sense of accomplishment. But you are probably doing it all wrong, and just in time for fireplace season, Norway is here to help.
Lars Mytting’s Norwegian Wood: Chopping, Stacking, and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way was recently translated into English. This is the definitive firewood book in Norway, spending almost two years on the nation’s bestseller list and inspiring a television program, “National Firewood Night.” Of course, this book is filled with practical information: the best trees for firewood, the correct age of a tree for felling, as well as different splitting techniques. But there is also the philosophical, such as thoughts on the relationship between man and fire and if your woodpile says something about your character. The whole book, such length on such a topic as firewood, seems a little particular. But it is also sort of beautiful too. Mytting is passionate about fires and this book is definitely a labor of love. And why wouldn’t Norwegians take firewood seriously? In Lillehammer, the average temperature in January is 16 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mytting writes, “Here it comes. The cold time. The great time…Winter’s here.” Norwegians are not the only ones who experience “the cold time.” Remember, on December 1st of last year, there was a high of 15 degrees. But we get through it. And if you would like to build the perfect fire to help you through “the great time,” Norwegian Wood will coach you through it from the right tree to the best wood stove. Norwegian Wood will also help you through any winter, as any of Murakami’s novels are good company for trying times.
by Anne Mangano on October 3rd, 2015
This October is shaping up to be an exciting month for books. Not only are we currently celebrating the Iowa City Book Festival this weekend, but the list of authors who have new books this month is impressive. Want proof? Here is a selection of what’s coming out this month:
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
The Clasp by Sloane Crosley
M Train by Patti Smith
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks Read the rest of this entry »
by Anne Mangano on May 26th, 2015
I always found spring the hardest season for cooking. Fall has an abundance of squash and sweet potatoes. You can do so much with summer tomatoes and eggplant. But spring, there are lots and lots of greens. And asparagus. You eventually grow tired of both. However, one of my favorite things about the Farmers Market is exploring new ingredients, which matches nicely with one of my favorite things about the library’s cookbook collection: finding new recipes. And through both of these Iowa City institutions, I’ve learned that I am wrong about spring. There are many ingredients available and dishes to make with them.
Read the rest of this entry »
by Anne Mangano on May 7th, 2015
Erik Larson knows how to tell a story. In The Devil in the White City, he masterfully intertwines the story of the 1893 World’s Fair with that of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who thrived in the growing city of Chicago. In the Garden of Beasts follows the diplomatically unexperienced William Dodd, a professor assigned to the post of American Ambassador to Germany as the National Socialist Party rose to power. Larson’s latest book, Dead Wake: the last crossing of the Lusitania is another fascinating story told well.
There are many ways to tell this one. There’s the conspiracy angle. Did Britain let the Lusitania come along a German submarine because it believed this type of sinking would push the United States to enter World War I? There’s the negligence angle. Did Captain Turner ignore crucial information about active submarines off the Irish coast and not respond appropriately to the threat? Larson’s angle is that this story is about people. He makes individuals’ experience come alive on the page, whether it is the Lusitania’s passengers, U-20’s Captain Schweiger, or President Wilson in his courtship with Edith Bolling Galt. All of these stories are expertly woven to create a compelling and tense narrative that was hard to put down but just as hard to read. The Lusitania’s sinking was a terrible event. It sank it eighteen minutes. Almost two thousand people perished. As I began to know more and more about these individuals, the weight of their fate became heavier and heavier.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the Lusitania’s sinking.
by Anne Mangano on February 26th, 2015
Interested in finding historical population statistics for Iowa? Although the US Census Bureau’s website has a lot of great information, it isn’t the easiest to navigate and its historical data is few and far between, particularly in specifics. If you need a quick fact, you might wish to contact the State Data Center, which is part of the State Library of Iowa. The State Data Center collects information from the US Census, other federal agencies, and Iowa’s state agencies to provide population, housing, business, and government statistics. They have a number of reports on their website, including data profiles for the current year. Can’t find what you are looking for? Contacting them is significantly faster than looking through the Census’s website.
You can contact the State Data Center Monday through Friday 8-4:30:
By phone: 800-248-4483
Or chat through their website here.
by Anne Mangano on February 19th, 2015
Rachel Cusks’ most recent work, Outline, follows an English author’s time in Athens teaching a creative writing class. The novel is broken up into ten chapters, each centering on a different conversation the main character has with her friends, her students, and the people she meets during her time there. The main character herself is somewhat anonymous to the reader, rarely discusses herself directly, but things about herself and her life are revealed in these exchanges. You don’t get the normal narration of what the character thinks and feels except in relation to who she meets. You get an “outline.”
If you like deep character studies and self-reflective narration, or even a complicated and evolving plot, then this isn’t your book. This is very much not your book. However, I found Outline palette-cleansing. The conversations are thoughtful and well-conceived and there are some interesting stories related to our narrator that will keep you on your toes. In one chapter, her writing class goes around the room and tells a story that involves an animal and one such story is riveting (I’m not going into detail here because it was one of the most surprising and heartbreaking segments of the book).
If you are looking for a quick, yet literary and provocative read, then I recommend you check out Outline.
by Anne Mangano on February 6th, 2015
There are many books on infant development that contain pages and pages of text. Authors use word after word after word after word to explain the science behind this and the philosophy behind that. These books are great. They are fascinating and I want to read them someday. But if you are a new parent, your attention span is limited. You are tired, overscheduled (or unscheduled), and if you have extra time, it’s probably not devoted to reading anything extensive. However, there is a natural curiosity to know what is happening and what is coming up next. It is an exciting time of rapid development with changes occurring weekly. That is why I really like DK’s Watch My Baby Grow. This book provides week by week (for the first month) and month by month information on developmental milestones during the first year. But, like any DK book, it also has a lot of visuals, charts, and photographs. It provides a perfect mix for a tired, but curious mind.
The book follows the growth of one baby, Melisa, through her first year. The editors took a picture of Melisa at regular intervals to depict her development. The photographs are beautiful and well-laid out with Melisa in a white infant bodysuit amongst a white background. For scale, a white rabbit stuffed toy was placed next to her for each shot. The photographers had specific photos they wanted to capture in their depiction of infant development. Not all of them worked and there are little blurbs about what they wanted to photograph and why they were unable to do so. You will also find dedicated sections on newborn life, the development of the senses, physical and intellectual growth, communication, and personality.
Watch My Baby Grow is a fun and rewarding book. If you want to dive deeper, there are many great infant development books in our parenting section.
by Anne Mangano on October 9th, 2014
Looking forward to the Homecoming Parade? Or perhaps, you need to plan an escape route out of downtown. Either way, there are a few informational sites to help you get the best seat or find an alternate way around Washington and Gilbert Streets. The parade starts Friday, October 10th at 5:45 pm.
The Press-Citizen has an overview of what to expect from a description of the parade route to street closures. You can find it here: http://www.press-citizen.com/story/news/local/2014/10/08/iowa-city-announces-closures-changes-ui-homecoming/16948975/
For detailed street closures, no-parking areas, changes to bus routes, and parade parking, check out the City of Iowa City’s announcement from last week: http://www.icgov.org/?artID=10008&navID=1515&type=M
For a map of the parade route, visit the Homecoming Iowa website: http://homecoming.uiowa.edu/parade/
Expect the parade to end around 8 pm.
If you do go, make sure to cheer for the Iowa City Public Library ‘s Book Cart Drill Team, as well as our parade mascot, Book Man.