by Tom Jordan on May 18th, 2015
A friend recommended Blood and Thunder: an epic of the American West to me awhile back, but I was reluctant to read it. It had been some time since I had read a history and had unreservedly enjoyed it. Take Charles Mann’s 1491 and 1493, for example. They’re both great. You will be enlightened, and you will learn all sorts of fascinating things if you read them. I’ll go ahead and say that you will be a better person. But I’d guess that you’ll also find the level of detail tedious at times.
My experience with Hampton Sides has been different. He is a master storyteller.
In Blood and Thunder, Sides focuses on the American Southwest from the 1840s to the 1860s and on the life of Kit Carson in particular. Carson participated in the conquest of the West and gave his loyalty to the American military and government. He also married two Indian women and spoke many Indian languages. Popular westerns of the time – blood and thunders they were called – portrayed Carson as a swashbuckling hero protecting settlers from marauding Indians. More contemporary histories have tended to the reverse these roles. Sides is more interested in telling stories about human beings whose actions and motivations are complex and develop over time. The story of the Navajo people and their land is particularly interesting.
Hellhound on his Trail is both history and true crime, and it’s riveting. Martin Luther King, Jr’s last days are chronicled and details of his assassin’s life and flight from justice are doled out at a measured pace. The manhunt for King’s killer, who had been living under an alias or two, was massive, and it eventually reached overseas. Please note that Sides gives no credence to the government conspiracy theory of the assassination, so you’ll have to look elsewhere (one-star Amazon reviews) if you’re inclined that way.
I’ll give his latest, In the Kingdom of Ice, another thumbs up. I’m about a third of the way into it, and I’ve never looked forward more to hearing about shivering, miserable sailors in the Arctic. The mission was operating on the notion that there might very well be an open polar sea. There was a current in the Pacific Ocean, it was thought, similar to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic, and that current was flowing through the Bering Strait and warming the Arctic Ocean at the Pole. They imagined the wonders.
by Maeve Clark on May 12th, 2015
Not only do wild flowers emerge in the spring, but wild animal young do, too. We’ve had questions about what to do when someone has found a nest of baby bunnies or a young robin on the ground or even a fawn without a doe nearby. Our natural inclination to think the young animal has been abandoned, but that may not be the case at all. Books on animal rescue and rehabilitation as well as websites devoted to wildlife suggest that the first step you take is determining whether the young animal is orphaned, injured or just fine.
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) posted the article Leave Wildlife Babies in the Wild . “If you find an animal baby that appears to be on its own, don’t worry. Generally, one of its parents is nearby, watching. They’re teaching their offspring to be independent, and in the case of danger, some animal parents will take off in order to create a distraction away from their young,” suggests the DNR.
The Humane Society of the United States cautions that “unless the animal appears injured or in distress, there may be no need to rescue them.” They do suggest you follow up if -a cat or dog presents the wild animal to you; there is evidence of bleeding; there is an apparent or obvious broken limb; there is a featherless or nearly featherless bird on the ground or the baby animal is shivering or there is a dead parent nearby.
The next step, according to the DNR is to contact a certified wildlife rehabilitator. The DNR maintains a list on its website. If you cannot reach a rehabilitator, you should contact your conservation officer or animal control officer. If you would like to learn more about what an wildlife rehabilitator does, Talk of Iowa, an Iowa Public Radio program, recently hosted several rehabilitators and they shared their stories of helping return the young back into the wild.
by Todd Brown on April 30th, 2015
Have you ever watched a video on Youtube, which then led you to another and another. Then you realize you have fallen down the rabbit hole. I sometimes do that with books. I will be reading a book which references a person, a subject or another book. So I will run out to the stacks to see what we have on that. This leads to having multiple partially read books, which I may or may not ever finish.
It started when I saw this author on one of the morning talk shows and ads for it kept popping up on websites. He suffered from PTSD, drug abuse and a lot of bad choices, leading to an on-air panic attack during a live news broadcast. The book is about his search for a way get his head on straight. Along the way he meets people like Eckhart Tolle, Depak Chopra, and Ted Haggart.
Full Catastrophe living
This is one of the authors and books mentioned in the previous title. Kabat-Zinn started the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, to help people dealing physical and mental traumas. I made it about half way through this book before…
The Obstacle is the way
While reading, online either about Kabat-Zinn or meditation in general, I found this title on the Tim Ferris book club list. It is a collection of stories about a lot of successful historical figures and they would turn losses into wins. It leans heavily on the stoic philosophy of Seneca and Marcus Aruelius. I actually didn’t read this, I listened to it in the car. I feel like I miss things because I am not entirely focused on listening while I am driving.
Meditations and The stoic philosophy of Seneca
The previous book had a lot of quotes from these two men so I thought I would checkout more of what they actually said. Sadly, I am not sure if I opened either of these books. Maybe some day.
A guide to the good life
Since I wasn’t going to read the previous two I thought I would at least try to find something else which would summarize their works. The cover looks sort of depressing but it really isn’t. It starts with a brief history of Stoicism, followed by general psychological techniques such as negative visualization and meditation. It also gives advice on specific problems like handling anger, dealing with insults, and death.
The Nerdist way
Reading through all of the above books I saw a lot of things which I thought would be helpful for teens, I have two of them. But I knew mine would not have any interest in investing the time in those books. I stumbled across this one which seemed like it might be a little more appealing to them. I don’t know if I would put them in the nerdist category, but they are both gamers so I thought that aspect might draw them in. Plus the Body section has illustrations of a bear with a headband doing exercises! It is divided into three sections Mind, Body and Time. I made it through most of the Mind section before I passed the book on to my son. He seemed interested in at least looking at it.
by Todd Brown on April 24th, 2015
At least I haven’t read them in the way that most people read books. I mostly read nonfiction, usually how to do or make something instead of just facts. I rarely read books cover to cover. I skim them and find the parts that either have the information I am looking for or a part that grabs my attention. That makes writing about books a little more difficult for me. While searching through my Reading History to find something to write about I noticed a few recurring themes.
I have always been fascinated by patterns. One small thing repeated over and over can create something big and beautiful. This has been a repeating pattern in my reading history. I would check them out, head to the craft store for supplies and see what I could make. Below are a few of many I have checked out and have not read.
The complete book of decorative knots
My parents were a little confused when I asked for a book about Turk’s head knots for Christmas a few years ago. But it came with a little, adjustable tool and hundreds of knot patterns to make. The Library doesn’t own that book, but we do have several about knots. The complete book of decorative knots is one I have checked out several times. It is well illustrated and covers Turk’s heads as well as globe knots, mats and a variety of other knots which look pretty cool when done.
Chain maille jewelry workshop
For a little while I was slightly obsessed with chain mail, as well as Viking knitting. The Library has several books which cover the basics of making chain mail. I think all of them have projects that they work through step by step. Most also have gallery sections to show what various artists have created with chain mail to help you find some inspiration.
I liked this so much that I bought my own copy. This involves a LOT of paper folding to make grids and then making patterns by folding the grid in different ways. These look great and if you put a light behind it you get a totally different pattern. Twofer! I adapted one of these patterns to make a lamp shade for a lamp I built.
Unit polyhedron origami
This is another one that I bought. Also another one that I used for two lamp shades. Basically this is folding a piece of paper into a interlocking shape and then doing that over and over until you have enough of these shapes to assemble them into a variety of larger geometric shapes.
Arm and finger knitting
Before the Library owned this book I made a great infinity scarf for my significant other. I was kind of excited to find out we had purchased this book. Personally I didn’t care much for most of the projects in it but it does still show how to arm knit in general. Once you know that you can go out and find or make your own patterns to knit.
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by Melody Dworak on April 22nd, 2015
Last month I wrote about my efforts to cook in big batches to make weeknight dinner decisions easier. Turns out, you can make breakfast for a week, too. This is not what I had set out to do when I picked up the Biscoff cookie and spread Cookbook, but it was a delightful fringe benefit.
What is Biscoff spread, you ask? In short: creamed cookies. The spread is as decadent as it sounds. In normal cookies, you have regular things like *air* taking up space, wasting precious room where sugar and fat could go. Biscoff spread wastes not a molecule, packing in sweetness at a 90 calories per tablespoon. Some people know the cookies as the ones they give out on airline flights. For me, the red, white, and tan jar of creamed goodness stared at me from the gifty section at the Bread Garden, and I had to try it.
The Biscoff Cookie and Spread Cookbook includes photos of desserts that look mouthwatering. You can see a few recipes on the Biscoff website, but these photos are nowhere near as scrumptious looking as the ones in the book.
Biscoff coffee cake
The recipe I baked was the Biscoff coffee cake. The crumble topping itself contains two sticks of butter and lots of sugar. The cake part under the crumble held enough moisture that it did feel like it melted in my mouth.
I’m looking forward to future Biscoff baking Sundays!
by Beth Fisher on April 13th, 2015
According to Wikipedia, Art Quilts are an art form that uses both modern and traditional quilting techniques to create art objects.
Local author, magazine writer, blogger, and quilter Linzee Kull McCray’s new book “Art Quilts of the Midwest” showcases the work of 20 artists whose works were inspired by life in the Midwest.
Tuesday evening, April 13th, Linzee will be here at ICPL to discuss the research and creation of her book. Astrid Hilger Bennet, who wrote the forward, will talk about art quilts and the fabrics used in them. Erick Wolfmeyer, the only Iowa artists included in the book, will show a 10 minute film about his work. Both Astrid and Erick will have quilts on display at the event. This event begins at 7:00 pm in Meeting Room A and is cosponsored by ICPL and Prairie Lights Books.
by Heidi Lauritzen on March 10th, 2015
Maeve Binchy, beloved Irish novelist who died in 2012, got her writing start as a reporter and columnist for The Irish Times. Maeve’s Times: In Her Own Words is a selection of her columns and stories that appeared in The Irish Times over five decades. These brief essays are as heartwarming and funny as her novels, but also contain serious commentary about the world around her. She reminds me of the American political writer Molly Ivins (who also died too young).
Binchy served as the “Women’s Editor” at The Irish Times in Dublin from 1968-1973; she was then transferred to London where she worked as a reporter and columnist. She resigned her staff position in the 1980′s but continued as a regular contributor to the newspaper.
Her reprinted columns are divided into groups by decade, and chart many societal changes you will recognize from the sixties to 2011. She observed and recorded everyday life, from conversations at the bus stop and in the neighborhood to giving the commoner take on national politics and the royal family. She was self-deprecating about her appearance and social skills, which just makes her easier to relate to and trust. And as is the case in her novels, the relationships among people are her best subject.
If you have enjoyed Maeve Binchy’s novels, I predict you will like this book too. But if her fiction was not quite your cup of tea, I encourage you to give her nonfiction writing a try. It is informative, observant and often funny–and always enjoyable.