The Stranger in the Woods

by Tom Jordan on May 12th, 2017

The stranger in the woods: the extraordinary story of the last true hermit is about a man named Christopher Knight who chose to live alone for twenty-seven years in the woods of Maine. His camp was isolated enough to go unnoticed but near enough to other cabins that he could steal what he needed to survive.sitw

There are so many fascinating parts to this story, but I don’t want to share too much because discovering the how and why of Knight’s life is largely what makes it worth reading. One thing: he claimed never to have built a fire. So surviving the winters wasn’t easy.

The book’s author, Michael Finkel, is such a compelling storyteller that he could write on almost any subject and I would read it. I read his True story: murder, memoir, mea culpa ten years or so ago. It’s about Finkel himself, a man accused of murdering his wife and children, and the two men’s relationship. I finished the book in the middle of the night after a couple hours of reading. I remember standing in front of the bathroom mirror and staring at myself trying to get the horror out of my head…but you should read it!  ICPL no longer has a copy, so you’ll have to make an interlibrary loan request here.

Early in my reading of this book, I imagined Knight as a handsome idealist (like Emile Hirsch playing Christopher McCandless in Into the wild) following the road less traveled by. His project was awesome and noble and he was living true to himself. I’m not as introverted as Knight, so a month or two would do it for me, I thought. As I read on, I became more conflicted. What license does the inclination toward extreme introversion give a person? I’m not referring to his theft of nearby cabins, though that’s a worthy question. The burglarized cabins’ owners, by the way, ranged from being very sympathetic to Knight to feeling terrorized by him.

At what point does a natural inclination become pathological, and when is it appropriate for others to treat it that way? If Knight had secluded himself in an apartment in a city and had burglarized neighbors, would we see it differently?  Of course we would.  Though extreme solitude is suspect, it seems less so or not at all when it is directed at nature.

And what about his family? Knight had no contact with anyone and he never sought any. His parents and brothers had no idea where he was or if he was even alive. As a parent, I think of my own children and how difficult this would be. Your path is to live a life of solitude, you say? I will miss you, but it’s your life. You disappear and we never hear from you again? Well, that’s cruel. And yet, Knight’s family, like himself, is at the far end of the spectrum. They are inclined to be left alone.

We see a bit of Knight’s life in the book after his solitude is ended. He doesn’t die, but there is a death of a sort. I can’t imagine merely surviving and being in nature and that being enough. Then again, I can usually tolerate being around other people.

The Big Five

by Tom Jordan on May 10th, 2017

You’ve heard of Deepak Chopra, I’m sure.  Being healthy, wealthy, and spiritual – he covers it all.  You could spend the next year of your life reading and listening to his work at ICPL.

Deepak’s brother, Sanjiv Chopra, is pretty special too.  Sanjiv is a professor at Harvard Medical School, and, like his brother, he’s authored many works.  Here are the two together in 1973.  Sanjiv is on the right.deepak-and-sanjiv

His latest is The big 5: five simple things you can do to live a longer, healthier life. I find it easy to overlook books like these. They’re everywhere you look, and what does any one have to offer that ten or a hundred others do not? Read the rest of this entry »

Celebration(?) of Spring

by Mary Estle-Smith on May 1st, 2017

The great thing about spring  every year, is the window of super ambition to get after projects around my house and yard.  While this window is sometimes remarkably small,  I do want to take advantage of it while I can.  There are always things I have been either wanting to do, or more likely, putting off for a long time that need attention.

If you are in project mode,  there  many materials that will help you get started and guide you through your various projects.  You can do a search for “home improvement” and come up with a bunch of choices. I have listed a few to get you started.

The Homeowners Ultimate Tool Guide is a good place to start.  My husband always stresses the right tool for right-toolthe job,  my skills used to lean toward a hammer and duct tape for way too many things.  I have now seen the error of my ways!  Also power tools are cool!

 

 

chix-fixChix can Fix   is a catchy title that I was attracted to.   I aspire to be a fixer.

 

 

refreshIf you have lower impact projects in mind Refresh Home can provide some inspiration for you.

 

I want to become a runner. Where do I start?

by Melody Dworak on April 25th, 2017
Running icon by Dillon Arloff, from The Noun Project (retouched).

Icon by Dillon Arloff.

Good question! It’s been such a beautiful spring so far, why *wouldn’t* you be inspired to start running? I, myself, have started running again and am happy to point out a free resource to take someone from the couch to a 5K.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Road to Jonestown

by Candice Smith on April 19th, 2017
The Road to Jonestown Cover Image

A couple days ago, I found myself uttering a sentence that seemed impossible, not only to say, but to believe: “Jim Jones did a lot of really good things!” Amazingly, it’s true; as a pastor in Indianapolis, IN, he served for many years and helped a great number people in various ways. Much of that gets overshadowed, though, by that one really bad thing he did. Jeff Guinn’s book The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple sets out to tell the whole story, the good and the bad.

I was six years old when Jonestown happened, and for most of my life, pretty much all I knew about the whole situation was that ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ meant that you’d fallen victim to the words and ideas of someone, most likely not a good someone. I knew nothing about Jim Jones the person, what he did, who followed him, why they were in Guyana (for a while, even the location of Guyana was a mystery to me). What happened in Jonestown is, of course, interesting in its own, horrific way, for many reasons: you’ve got a cult and its charismatic leader, some poison, meddling politicians, guns, and a very bad ending. Just as interesting, though, is how Jim Jones became that leader, and how he and his followers ended up the way they did. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Madness 2017: And the winners are …

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on April 17th, 2017

We counted the votes — all 1,073 of them — and we have our winners!

2017 BOOK MADNESS – CHILDREN’S BRACKET

The Giver by Lois Lowry

2017 BOOK MADNESS – TEEN AND ADULT BRACKET

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Thank you to everyone who participated! Patrons who submitted the winning brackets will be contacted this week with details about how they can claim their $25 gift certificate to Prairie Lights prize.

Remember, you can find the complete list of books in this year’s literary competition here.

Fresh Picks: Middle Grade Medley

by Morgan Reeves on April 11th, 2017

booksThere’s something for every interest on the New Juvenile Fiction shelves. I’ve collected a few standouts for middle grade readers to showcase today. Fantasy, mystery, sci-fi, adventure, realistic fiction, and even a novel in verse. Check out one of these terrific titles today.

 

 

 

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Book Madness Championship Round

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on April 10th, 2017

There’s just one week left in our 2017 Book Madness literary competition, with the following books still in the running for this year’s crown:

2017 BOOK MADNESS – CHILDREN’S BRACKET

The Giver by Lois Lowry vs. Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder

2017 BOOK MADNESS – TEEN AND ADULT BRACKET

1984 by George Orwell vs. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Be sure to stop by before the Library closes on Sunday for vote for your favorite title. We’ll announce the winning books, one in each bracket, on April 17!

Finished S-Town and feel some aural emptiness? Try these audiobooks.

by Melody Dworak on April 7th, 2017

s-town-fbI already love audiobooks (I’m an aural-o-gist!), so I didn’t think twice about whether to binge-listen to the S-Town Podcast or not. I split the seven-“chapter” (episode) podcast into two days of listening while editing image files at work and baking a lasagna at home. Now I’m scouring Facebook, Twitter, and even Reddit for any extra morsel of commentary, any images of the characters or the setting, to satisfy that emptiness completing the podcast listening left.

As my own personal auralogist, I decided to come up with a “listen-alike” list inspired by the thematic elements of S-Town. Here’s that bibliographic homage to the show.
Read the rest of this entry »

Michelle Hoover’s Bottomland is the 2017 All Iowa Reads selection

by Beth Fisher on April 6th, 2017
Michelle Hoover’s <em>Bottomland</em> is the 2017 All Iowa Reads selection Cover Image

There’s no short way to describe Bottomland – there are just too many sides to this story. Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, this fictionalized story begins in Iowa in the years after World War I. It is a story of rural farm life in the 1900’s, an immigrants story, a story about racism, a story about a WWI soldier who comes home with invisible yet life-changing wounds, and the story of a daughter who becomes the caretaker of her father and siblings. At its heart Bottomland is a family saga you won’t want to stop reading.

Rural life was not easy at the turn of the last century, especially for German immigrants like the Hess family. Julius and Margrit Hess were raising their six American-born children on a small farm in Iowa. As anti-German sentiment grew in the years before WWI, suspicions grew and neighbors began turning on neighbors. Margrit’s unexpected death, a brutal farm accident and WWI effect them all. But the Hess family stayed close, still living together on the 140 acre farm their parents staked on arriving in America. Until the night the two youngest daughters, 14  and 16 years old, vanish in the middle of the night without a trace.  Did they run away?  Were they abducted?  You’ll have to read it to find out.

The story is told through the voices of 5 main characters, but in a very nonlinear way that requires careful reading – or for me re-reading, as each of the narrators have their own view of the events as they occur, and may or may not actually be reliable.

A June 10th discussion of Bottomland will be part of the 2017 Adult Summer Reading program.  The discussion will be led by Glenn Ehrstine, UI Associate Professor of German and International Studies. Susan Craig, ICPL Director and member of the All Iowa Reads book selection committee, will give us a glimpse of how the All Iowa Reads books are selected each year.

For more information on All Iowa Reads go to the Iowa Center For The Book website.