In the world of children’s literature, picture books are the shining jewels that we admire for their beautiful illustrations and imaginative stories. Nonfiction titles are often seen as unglamorous workhorses, judged on their ability to meet educational standards in imparting information to their young readers. While there is certainly a necessary place for curriculum supporting, report fodder nonfiction, there is plenty of room on the shelves for nonfiction that captures the imagination as well as presenting the facts.
I’m relatively new to audiobooks, having listened to my first one a few months ago, but I agree with my colleagues who say they are a great way to pass the time on long drives, during a run or cleaning the house.
I also agree with them that a narrator makes, or breaks, the audiobook.
There are several I’ve started but couldn’t finish because I didn’t like the narrator’s voice. One of these books was even read by the author, but she did not sound at all like I thought she would. For some odd reason even I can’t explain, that did not sit well with me. I returned the audiobook on my OverDrive app and checked out the physical book instead.
I recently finished listening to I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: My Life as a Co-Star by Judy Greer. She also voiced the audiobook. If the name isn’t familiar, I’m sure it will be after you Google it. With more than 16 working years in Hollywood, and 90+ film and TV credits to her name, she’s one of those actors who seems to be in everything.
She’s a star, yet she isn’t. She’s worked with George Clooney and Paul Rudd and Jennifer Lopez, but can still run to a 24-hour drug store without fear of being recognized. In fact, if/when she is recognized, the people who stop her aren’t sure why they’ve stopped her. Best of both worlds? The work, some fame, but no paparazzi?
This was an entertaining memoir. Greer is funny, honest – some might think she’s too honest, but I loved it – and anyone who’s curious about what happens behind-the-scenes in Hollywood will get a little bit of gossip. Not dirt – she’s not stupid; she still has to make a living – but the next time you see a celebrity looking like the wish they were anywhere else on the red carpet or at a press junket, Greer’s book will explain why both aren’t fun.
I recently enjoyed the book Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. I love books about food (Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle is one of my all-time favorites) and Kitchens of the Great Midwest not only vividly captures the sensory experience of some terrific meals, it also evokes memories of my own Midwestern childhood and the foods I grew up with.
It has a unique structure: Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character, and sometimes there are jumps forward of several years at a go. This left me wanting more with every chapter change.
Here’s an excerpt of Amazon’s synopsis: When Lars Thorvald’s wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine–and a dashing sommelier–he’s left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He’s determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter–starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva’s journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that’s a testament to her spirit and resilience.
I didn’t want to put this book down. It was funny and sweet, and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to the characters.
Dottie Ray, an Iowa City legend, passed away on Tuesday, August 6. I feel so fortunate that I was able to be her guest on the Dottie Ray Show with Jen Jordan, the recycling coordinator for the City of Iowa City, to talk about an ECO Iowa City, an 18-month initiative to create a greener Iowa City. Dottie so liked the idea of the environmental partnership between the library and recycling center that she let Jen and me be her guests on a monthly basis. (She told us to keep quiet that we were booked each month because one of her goals was to keep the Dottie Ray Show fresh and new. Jen and I were so thrilled that we had her wide audience that we never told anyone about our special treatment.)
Dottie’s career in journalism spanned more than seven decades, beginning while she was a high school student in Eagle Grove, Iowa, working on the student newspaper and the yearbook. At 17 she began her first job in Iowa journalism working Saturdays at the Eagle Grove Eagle. After completing two years of junior college Dottie, (Dorothy) Klein transferred to the University of Iowa in 1942 as a junior. She joined the Daily Iowan staff, writing obituaries. She also worked for Wilbur Schram, head of the journalism school, typing articles he submitted to the Saturday Evening Post. Schram encouraged her to apply to be the editor of the Daily Iowan. She followed his advice and was in the running against two other finalists for the editor-in-chief position, both men. When she was selected as editor, many were surprised, and when she hired an all-female staff, the reaction was even greater. In fact, her decision to lead an all woman staff, made state-wide news. John Gerber, in his book on the history of the University of Iowa, “A Pictoral History of the University of Iowa”, included a photograph of Dorothy Klein and her all-woman staff, in a chapter on campus changes from 1934-1964.
Dottie Ray’s career in broadcast journalism began at WSUI, (now part of Iowa Public Radio), with a show aimed at women. In a 2013 interview in Emily Busse’s series on Iowa Women in Journalism Dottie Ray recounts her history with KXIC. “Gene Clausen convinced her to come on their radio station at KXIC, stationed above what is now Pancheros at the corner of Clinton and Washington streets. Every Saturday, Ray became “President Alice” for half an hour. Any child who had their birthday the week before or the week after could attend the “birthday party on the radio” with cupcakes from the local bakery and chocolate milk from the dairy. For two years, she “just played and talked and had fun” with kids on air. After a couple years, Clausen had an idea for a new show, The Dottie Ray Show. To accommodate her needs, they put together a studio in Ray’s own living room. Every day for about 40 years, Ray came on the air at 11:45. Women at home sat down for lunch and listened to Ray’s show, followed by news. Ray recalls how a mother once wrote her explaining that the habit of listening to the show had become so routine, that when the music that precedes The Dottie Ray show came on in the afternoon randomly, her four year old ran to get the peanut butter out for lunch.
After about 40 years, she said, “women went back to work and homes were empty.” People began listening to radio outside the home — in the car or at work — and Ray decided it was time to end her show. But the station, now owned by Clear Channel, didn’t want to lose her show. “They said, ‘No, no no. What about doing it in the morning?’” she said. So the show moved to 8:45 a.m. “I thought, ‘That’s OK. I can get it out of the way and it will be a graceful way to bow out because you’ll lose all your listeners,’” she said. “And just the opposite happened. We moved it and now people are in cars going to work or yoga or whatever.”
The Dottie Ray Show ended in 2014. From the round table in her apartment she interviewed more than 32,000 guests. Each guest was greeted by Dottie with the offer of a cup of coffee and a request to pull up a chair. Dottie’s program was community journalism at its best. She helped to share the story of Iowa City and Johnson County and promote many many worthy causes. Every Monday through Friday, for more than five decades, Dottie Rays shared with the KXIC audience what was happening in their community.
Dottie Ray was, of course, more than her radio program. When I shared with Patty McCarthy, Development Director at the Iowa City Public Library, that I was going to write a blog post on Dottie, she said Dottie was not only a great friend and supporter of the Library, but that in 1982 she and Ann Feddersen were the first co-Presidents of the newly created Friends of the Iowa City Public Library organization. Dottie contributed to a multitude of community organizations and promoted initiatives for the betterment of the community. If you would like to learn more about this amazing woman’s life, watch another remarkable Iowa radio broadcaster, Ellen Buchanan, interview Dottie in a 1990 interview that is part of Tell Me Your Story. This past June, a documentary of Dottie’s life, Staying Tuned: The Dottie Ray Story, premiered at the Coralville Center for the Preforming Arts. The Documentary was produced with private funding including grants from the Iowa Arts Council, Humanities Iowa, and the Community Foundation of Johnson County. A copy of the documentary will be available later this year.
I, like many people I work with and see here at the Library, am interested in genealogy. I’ve done a little bit of research here and there, mainly on my mother’s side of the family. Her maiden name is Klein, her father’s first name was Henderikus, and this ended up being a good name to start with. Aside from the fact that it was often misspelled, it is a somewhat unique name which made it a little easier to trace, and I was able to find him in the census records, as well as documentation of his family’s immigration from the Netherlands. Working backwards, I eventually hit a genealogy jackpot, when I found someone from the Netherlands who had done the research for the same relatives I was looking at, all the way back to the 1600s.
My father’s last name is Smith. I have resisted doing any research on that side of the family out of fear that I would be lost in a morass of Smiths in the midwest, unable to go much further than a couple generations. However, I recently decided to give it a try. Read the rest of this entry »
Inspired by my overabundant CSA hauls (Community Supported Agriculture) and the Farm to Street dinner next Thursday, I thought I’d put together a list of “Farm to Table” cookbooks.
This is a list of fantastic books that came out within the past year or so, books that feature vegetables in all their fabulous glory. I curated this list with the easy meal in mind. Check out one of these books, pour that glass of wine, and start cooking! Read the rest of this entry »
The Iowa City Public Library is celebrating our fifth year of offering free downloadable music from regional artists via the Local Music Project. This unique service allows ICPL cardholders to download over 80 albums from artists based in eastern Iowa. The project is currently limited to those living in Iowa City, Hills, University Heights, Lone Tree, or unincorporated (rural) Johnson County. The offerings are always changing with new albums added throughout the year from a variety of genres. Read the rest of this entry »
Lots of my library coworkers love podcasts, so we put up a display of our favorites this summer. (If you missed it, the full list is at the bottom.) I tried and thoroughly enjoyed three of the shows:
The Dollop: The Dollop is two comedians discussing a topic or person from American History. One guy, Dave Anthony reads about a topic or person from American History, and the other guy, Gareth Reynolds, has no idea what the topic will be about each episode, so he’s consistently shocked or confused. It’s hilarious and terrible all at once. (Recommended by Rachael) I agree – the episodes about “America’s Worst Lottery Winner” and “The Jones County Deserters” were both appallingly funny.
Judge John Hodgman: Do you ever feel you need someone to rule on life disputes with your spouse, co-workers, or friends to tell you who’s right? “Judge” and comedian John Hodgman does just that. (Recommended by Christina) The episode titles alone are entertaining: “Do You Want to Hoard Some Snowglobes?” and “Wrecks Libris.”
No Such Thing as a Fish: From the team behind long running British panel show QI (Quite Interesting) comes No Such Thing as a Fish. Every episode, four of the QI fact-checkers (or “elves” as they are called) scour the internet to present to you their four favorite humorous or interesting facts of the week. (Recommended by Kristin) I love QI — hosted by Stephen Fry and available on YouTube — and I’m glad to have even more of their random, bizarre facts.
Our full list of recommendations:
- 99% Invisible
- The Allusionist
- Answer Me This
- BBC The Conversation
- The Bugle
- The Dollop
- How Did This Get Made
- Judge John Hodgman
- The Last Podcast on the Left
- Myths and Legends
- No Such Thing as a Fish
- On the Media
- Reply All
- School of Movies
- Sleep With Me
- Snap Judgement
- Surprisingly Awesome
- Talking Theatre
- Think Again
- This American Life
- Welcome to Night Vale
- The West Wing Weekly
- Wolf 359
- WTF with Marc Maron
- You Must Remember This
Share your favorites in the comments!
My friends and I used to make decoupage gifts for one-another. One of my favorites is displayed in my office – a cartoon from Western Horseman my friend decoupaged onto a board showing a girl riding a horse. The caption is “If you can read this bumper sticker … you might be kicked.” (It still makes me giggle.)
I also remember working with my Mom to make decoupage gifts for the holidays – one year we decoupaged our school pictures onto small boards as a gift for our grandparents. Read the rest of this entry »
On KCJJ with Captain Steve and Tommy Lang this morning, Melody and I had a great time discussing what ICPL staff are reading this summer. Here are some of the books we talked about if you are looking for your next read:
My favorite book of the summer is Rush Oh! by Shirley Barrett. Our narrator and hero, Mary Davidson is looking back to the 1908 whaling season in New South Wales. That year her father, a whaler was having a very bad year—there just doesn’t seem to be any whales to catch. She was also in charge of the Davidson Read the rest of this entry »