by Katherine Habley on June 14th, 2015
Jaqueline Winspear’s latest Maisie Dobbs novel is an intriguing mystery sure to engage readers even if not familiar with the popular series. The title comes from a quote by Albert Einstein, “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” Set in 1937 at the precipice of World War II, the psychologist/private investigator’s life has been turned upside down with the untimely death of her husband and subsequent miscarriage four years earlier. After a trip to India to find solace, Maisie is still grieving and just not ready to return to London and her concerned father and stepmother. She disembarks in Gibraltar where the Spanish civil war is happening just across the border. There she comes across the body of a man, Sebastian Babayoff, while out walking one night. He was a photographer and Sephardic Jew, and the circumstances surrounding his murder cause Maisie to want to find out the truth about his death. Having something meaningful to sink her teeth into helps lift Maisie out of her depression and suicidal thoughts. She begins her investigation in the British garrison town full of refugees trying to piece together the bits of information she gathers from Babayoff’s family and the Jewish community. Complications arise when she herself comes under scrutiny and she finds herself being investigated by the British Secret Service. The period detail is descriptive and accurate about life and times on “the Rock.” This novel will be appealing to readers of historical fiction and followers of the intrepid protagonist.
by Susan Craig on July 28th, 2015
Years ago, as I got too busy with work and children to maintain a large vegetable garden and be able to pick that perfect tomato exactly when it was perfect, I put my gardening efforts into flowers (they do have that perfect moment too, but you don’t have to pick them and, hopefully, others will enjoy them if you can’t!) and started buying vegetables at Farmers’ Market. Over time I came not only to appreciate the fresh local produce, but the people who grow it. Many with a ready smile, some more taciturn, all with a connection to the Iowa soil.
I recently checked out a book at the Library that made me think of these local farmers. New Prairie Kitchen by Summer (Honest!) Miller, photographs by Dana Damewood. The subtitle of the book is, “Stories and seasonal recipes from chefs, farmers, and artisans of the Great Plains.”
The recipes are great, but the book is far more than a collection of recipes. The author has visited the people and places where the food is grown and where it is prepared, and she tells their stories. She is from Nebraska and there are more Nebraska stories than elsewhere, but Iowa is represented. The photographs — of the people, the food, and the landscape, are simply marvelous.
This is a book to savor in many ways. I can see some of my regular Farmers’ Market vendors in the next edition.
by Katherine Habley on July 27th, 2015
Kate Anderson Brower spent four years covering the Obama White House for Bloomberg News and is a former CBS News staff member and Fox News producer. In her well-researched book of stories, conversations, and secrets about the presidents and their families from Kennedy through Obama, I found details shared by the people who keep the White House running smoothly a fascinating look behind the scenes of the famous people who have lived there. Though I rarely read the gossip magazines unless I’m waiting in a doctor’s office, I did feel like the gossip shared in Brower’s book was an interesting and intimate look at White House occupants in my lifetime. I’m old enough to remember exactly where I was when I learned the news that John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. The author shares details of Kennedy’s philandering and Jackie’s chain smoking, of their closeness in the loss of a son, Patrick, and the directions for JFK’s funeral that Jackie gave so stoically. Brower describes the work the White House staff do to ready the residence for the next family to move in with less than a day to do so. LBJ comes across as the bawdy, loud bully married to Lady Bird who acquiesced to his every mood. His angry criticisms of his bathroom shower and the fun his daughters and other president’s children had in the White House entertaining their friends are all fair game for the author’s reporting. Covering the resignation of Richard Nixon and his stiff and formal presence in the residence, we learn about a few of his more private thoughts and conversations with staff. I chuckled when the Fords made it clear that they didn’t want separate bedrooms. Clearly Ronald Reagan is portrayed as a friendly gold ol’ boy but Nancy is shown to be a rigid perfectionist and a very difficult person to work for who dominated her husband. I particularly enjoyed hearing about the affable George Bush and wife, Barbara, who was completely down to earth and popular with the staff. The author shared stories about the Clintons including Bill’s fall from grace and Hillary’s reaction in the aftermath of the Monica Lewinsky affair. Shouting matches and things being thrown unsettled the residence staff. All the workers commented about what a sweet girl Chelsea was how carefully the Clintons protected her from the press. George W. Bush is discussed in light of 9/11 and learning about how Laura Bush spent the hours after the attack was surprising. Finally, Barack Obama and Michelle are giving their space in the book in mostly flattering stories. Michelle’s insistence about their daughters not being spoiled and having a relatively ‘normal’ life while living in the White House is shared. So are the lavish state dinners for foreign dignitaries described and feuds between the chefs are mentioned. Found on the New Non-Fiction Book shelf, The Residence; Inside the Private World of the White House was a quirky and interesting summer read.
by Katherine Habley on July 27th, 2015
A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope by Tom Brokaw was a quick read that I enjoyed. I remember watching Brokaw as the anchor of the NBC Nightly News for years and also appreciating his thoughtful coverage of Presidential elections. To me, he was always intelligent, articulate, and reassuring in reporting the news. Then I got to hear him in person at the University of Iowa a few years ago after his book, The Greatest Generation, was published. Once again, his presence was so warm and familiar, his sense of humor very apparent, and his Midwestern values obvious. In his latest book, quite different from his others, Brokaw talks about the 2013–2014 year he spent battling multiple myeloma, a treatable but incurable blood cancer. After the diagnosis, Brokaw the journalist decided to keep a diary of his time dealing with the ups and downs of cancer treatment. His journal recounts his frustrations with the medical team in not communicating with each other well enough in coordinating his treatment. He talks about the importance of patients taking an active role in their own treatment, and the critical role of caretakers, nurses, and rehabilitation specialists. But he also takes a broader look at health care and aging in America and how fortunate he was to have the financial resources to pursue the best doctors at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere. The question I ask myself frequently, “what do other people do who don’t have health insurance?” is one posed by the author as well. His memories of important world events and interviews he’s done with famous world leaders are scattered throughout his memoir. For someone with a very charmed life to talk about his illness and ultimately offer hope to others facing devastating news about their own mortality, his book says a lot about the man himself who counts each day reading, writing, fishing, and time spent with his beloved family and friends, a precious gift.
by Brian Visser on July 24th, 2015
I love movie lists. They’re a lot of fun and usually spark some good-natured debates. The BBC recently asked a group of international film critics–which included critics from magazines, newspapers, television and online–to create lists of the 10 movies they felt were the greatest in American cinema. They then used those to create a list of 100 films using a point system giving 10 points for a #1 pick down to 1 point for a #10 pick. Here are the top 25 with links to our catalog:
25. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
24. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
23. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
22. Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
21. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
20. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
19. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
18. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
17. The Gold Rush (Charlie Chaplin, 1925)
16. McCabe & Mrs Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
15. The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
14. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
13. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
12. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
11. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)
10. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
9. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
8. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)
7. Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952)
6. Sunrise (FW Murnau, 1927)
5. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
3. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
2. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
1. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
A few of the movies are out-of-print or just not available on DVD. Here’s the page where they break-down the top 25, and this page has the whole top 100 list. The list has already generated talk online for notable omissions like no films by the Coen Brothers or Wes Anderson. What do you think? How many of these films have you watched? Any of your favorites not make the cut?
by Kara Logsden on July 23rd, 2015
Frank Lloyd Wright Home & Studio
Recently I celebrated a birthday that ended in a ZERO and my husband gave me a “day away.” I chose a day in Oak Park, Illinois touring the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio followed by a walking tour of his neighborhood.
I really enjoy historical fiction novels based on the lives of real people. A few years ago the book Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland inspired a Spring Break trip to New York City to see Tiffany Glass. After reading Nancy Horan’s Loving Frank and T.C. Boyle’s The Women, I’ve wanted to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio in Oak Park as well as Taliesin in Spring Green, WI.
The tour in Oak Park was wonderful. The volunteer guide was very knowledgeable and I learned a lot about Wright’s architecture, style and philosophy. The tour was light on personal details but that was OK. Books can fill in the details there. It was amazing to see Wright’s experimentation through the many homes we walked by in the neighborhood and the evolution of his style.
If you are looking for a getaway, I’d recommend reading the two historical fiction novels about Frank Lloyd Wright and then heading to Oak Park for a day.
If you are looking for more adventures in Oak Park, the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home and Museum is just a couple blocks from the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. We didn’t get a chance to tour the Hemingway Museum, but if you are interested, you might consider reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain before you go. Enjoy
by Mimi Blankenship Coupland on July 21st, 2015
Often in my civilian life I am recognized and greeted by patrons, whether at HyVee, the bus stop, even on the plane home at Christmas. Sometimes it isn’t me though – it’s my identical twin sister who also lives in Iowa City. Instead of regaling you with anecdotes of a twin’s life, I’ll let these authors enlighten you about these special siblings.
In Separated @ Birth: A True Love Story of Twin Sisters Reunited (2014) by Anais Bordier and Samantha Futerman, two sisters discover each other’s existence because of a video on YouTube. Told from alternating viewpoints, this book chronicles that beginning of their relationship, their first face-to-face meeting, and other milestones. Even if you are not adopted, nor a twin, this heartwarming memoir will make you smile.
There are two related items: one is a companion documentary “Twinsters” released in 2015; the other is an article in the 12 July 2015 New York Times Magazine titled “The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogata” about two sets of twins switched at birth and raised as fraternal twins.
Trading Faces (2009) is the first book in a series written by identical twin sisters Julia De Villers and Jennifer Roy. It introduces Payton, the “pretty” one, and Emma, the “smart” one. Because of a wardrobe malfunction, they must switch clothes and identities for the day. Needless to say, that becomes not the only time; however, they learn that it’s okay not to adhere so rigidly to labels and how to use their individual skills to help each other as well as others.
This final suggestion is a fascinating novel; I have read it multiple times. The Third Twin (1996) by Ken Follett features Dr. Jeannie Ferrami who is studying nature versus nurture. She is raped but the suspect claims his innocence. Further investigation uncovers another man with identical DNA. And, as the title indicates, there emerges a third character. Part mystery and part thriller, the plot is quite intricate and intriguing.
Nowadays, multiple births are common. Even if you are not lucky enough to have congenital buddies, you can experience some of the joy here.
by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on July 21st, 2015
The Iowa City Parks and Recreation Department and the University of Iowa Community Credit Union announced the line-up for this month’s live music at the Iowa City Farmer’s Market several weeks ago, which could make this post seem outdated, but it’s not.
Tomorrow’s Market Music performers are the Awful Purdies. If you don’t get the chance to see them perform from 5 to 7 p.m., you can check out their music through the Library’s Local Music Project.
The Local Music Project is a collection of albums by eastern Iowa musicians available for free download to your computer. We also have music by David Zollo in this collection. He performed at the market on July 8.
The musical line-up for the rest of July is as follows:
- Wednesday, July 22: Awful Purdies
- Saturday, July 25: Ryne Doughty
- Wednesday, July 29: Lew Knudson
Market Music is scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays and 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays.
by Melody Dworak on July 20th, 2015
Recently I wanted to take a new cookbook home with me, but I was on my bike and didn’t want the extra weight. The answer to my woes? Finding an e-book cookbook!
I wound up checking out the Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker and found an excellent (and easy!) recipe for slow cooker risotto. And I am excited for leftovers tonight.
Here’s how to browse what cookbooks we have available through Digital Johnson County on OverDrive. Read the rest of this entry »
by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on July 20th, 2015
My family recently celebrated seven years in our house. That might not seem like a big deal, but it’s the longest we’ve ever lived at one address.
The only downside of establishing roots is the stuff that tends to multiply when you aren’t moving every year or so. I realized when I opened the linen closet with an armful of clean towels that couldn’t fit on the shelf that it was time to purge.
I started in the kitchen, emptying the drawers of multiple utensils (no one needs three pizza cutters) before tackling the unfiled filing drawers stuffed with bank statements, health insurance claims and the passport I thought I lost in 1997. (If you aren’t sure where to start, the Library’s collection of de-cluttering and home organization books can be found on the second floor.)
I coordinated the “our-house-is-too-full-of-stuff” cleansing with my children’s changing of their rooms. Now that they are in their teens, we no longer need to use the fourth bedroom as a toy room. My son moved into that one and my daughter gave up her tiny room for his former bedroom.
Before this could happen, though, they had a decade’s worth of toys to sort through. That took about a week and in the end I was surprised with how much they were willing to relinquish. Except for books.
The books on the shelves in the toy room when stories long-since outgrown, but too beloved to part with. Amelia Bedelia, George and Martha, Arthur and D.W., and Captain Underpants are part of their childhood, just like Anastasia Krupnik, Karana and Rontu, and Harriet M. Welsch were part of mine.
We reached a compromise, moving the dollhouse bookshelf to my daughter’s old bedroom, now the office, filling it with the books they don’t want to keep on their bedroom bookshelves. Later, I went through the storage tub of books I held on to after moving out of my parents’ house, adding them to the collection.
What books from your childhood do you hold close to your heart?