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Posts Tagged ‘nonfiction’


Patience has Virtues

by Frances Owens on April 22nd, 2016
Patience has Virtues Cover Image

I have enjoyed the graphic novels of Daniel Clowes for 10+ years, which isn’t saying much as he was first published in 1989, but for a creator to keep making things I liked as teenager and still enjoy as an adult is quite a feat.  My first introduction to his work came after seeing the 2001 movie Ghost World which he wrote along with  director Terry Zwigoff (who spoke recently at Film Scene as part of the Mission Creek Festival).  The movie, which is fantastic BTW, is based on the graphic novel of the same name and has all of the quirkiness and themes common to Clowes’ oeuvre.

Patience, Clowes’ latest is no different.  Blending storytelling whimsy, colorful artwork, and digging into human thought and emotion this graphic novel is a treat for fans.  It starts off like most other of Clowes’ work in that it just seems like a story of one person’s internal conflicts, but then plot twists!  And genre blending!  What starts off as a seemingly narcissistic not particularly compelling story turns into a time traveling tale of revenge!

However it is not your average time traveling adventure, after all it is still written by Daniel Clowes.  He does a great job with addressing typical time travel problems, think Marty McFly’s disappearing siblings in Back to the Future, but also sticking with tried and true themes of loneliness and the very personal nature of memory.  While I prefer Clowes’ earlier works that are more character studies of outsiders, his recent venture into stronger storytelling is a welcome maturation in my opinion.

Anywho, if you like Daniel Clowes, you’ll like Patience.  If you’re not familiar, or you’ve never tried his stuff, pick it up!

A Sugar Creek Chronicle – Cornelia F. Mutel

by Jason Paulios on April 22nd, 2016
A Sugar Creek Chronicle – Cornelia F. Mutel Cover Image

The latest in the Bur Oak Books series from the University of Iowa Press is Cornelia Mutel’s account on climate change as seen from the mixed oak woodlands in rural Johnson County, Iowa. The book is cleverly structured to follow the four seasons during the year 2012, each season features daily journal entries detailing weather and climate notes. Interspersed are notable updates on various woodland species in the acreage alongside Iowa natural history. Paired with the day-to-day of 2012 country living are complimenting memoir sections detailing growing up in Madison, her mother’s early death, and parenthood in Iowa City.  

Her writing is organized and passionate, her love of the natural world is infectious and I often found myself considering putting down the book to wander a nearby nature trail. Throughout all the meditative trail walking anecdotes filled with chipmunk scurrying and spring ephemeral blooming are sobering climate science facts and how they are impacting all these things we care about. Her research is presented in small digestible amounts and her teaching background is evident in the way in which she breaks down complicated earth science processes. 

The Millionaire and the Bard

by Heidi Lauritzen on February 23rd, 2016
The Millionaire and the Bard Cover Image

I always wondered why the Folger Shakespeare Library is in Washington DC, and not in England; now I know. The Millionaire and the Bard is a fascinating read about Henry and Emily Folger, a husband-and-wife team who spent their married life researching and acquiring Shakespeare’s works, and then built a library to house them.

There’s something for everyone: the history of the publication of Shakespeare’s works; the cut-throat competition in the acquisitions race for the limited number of copies of the plays; the philosophical question of where Shakespeare’s works should reside—in their home country or abroad; how the Folgers decided what the building that housed their collection should look like.

Henry Clay Folger worked his way up in the Standard Oil companies, and eventually became chairman of the board of Standard Oil of New York. He and his wife lived humbly, though, and funneled all of their financial resources into collecting printed editions of Shakespeare’s works. They were largely self-taught book collectors, and nurtured alliances with antiquarian booksellers and collectors. Emily Folger kept detailed records of their acquisitions, and when the collection outgrew their home, they began storing the documents in warehouses.

The Folgers were especially interested in the First Folio, the first collection of Shakespeare’s plays which was published seven years after his death. Today it is believed that 233 copies exist of the approximately 700 copies that were printed in early 1600s. The Folgers acquired 82 First Folios, along with thousands of other manuscripts, books and art about Shakespeare and ephemera such as playbills and prompt books.

The Millionaire and the Bard is great background reading in advance of our opportunity to see a First Folio edition for ourselves. The University of Iowa Libraries will be the Iowa stop this fall on a nationwide tour of a First Folio from the Folger Shakespeare Library.

 

Houseplants make it feel like spring

by Beth Fisher on February 20th, 2016
Houseplants make it feel like spring Cover Image

Winters are long in Iowa.  By the time the middle of February comes around, Mother Nature begins to tease us with bright sunny days.  But look at a calendar and you’ll see that we are still more than a month away from Spring.

If you’re itching to get your hands in the garden there is something you can do now that might make it feel like spring – get a new houseplant!  Tovah Martin’s new book “The Indestructible Houseplant – 200 beautiful plants that everyone can grow is “for all the windowsill-gardener wannabes… For all the folks who hankered for houseplants but didn’t know where to start, and for all the people who picked up the wrong houseplant and thought its hasty demise was their fault, this book is for you.”

The Idestructible Houseplant is both a good reference book and a fun read. (Yes, books can be both.) If you’re looking for a book on houseplants and you want to look up just one plant, hit the index in the back and it will tell you where to turn. Or hit the table of contents for her list of 200 plants and go from there.

But if you’re looking for a fun read, start at the very beginning.  Tovah Martin is an entertaining writer. Her snappy style and entertaining storytelling will get you hooked. She’ll tell you the story of how she got hooked on houseplants, how the idea for this book came to be, what her home is like and how she tested plants to come up with her 200 surviving “indestructibles.”

The 200+ page “Gallery of Indestructibles” lists her choices in alphabetical order.  Each new plant begins with an entertaining page or more describing the plant, a beautiful color photograph, and half-page table listing the plants features: it’s common name(s), Latin name, a rating (easy or easiest), size range, foliage description, other attributes, desired light exposure, water requirements, optimum night time temperature, rate or growth, soil type, fertilizing, issues and ideal companions.

indest1

The last 40 pages take you through what she calls “The Details” –  choosing a plant; general cautions about plant toxicity; light, humidity and temperature considerations; choosing and preparing a container.  The list of sources are mainly in Connecticut, but all have websites.

There is one thing I was surprised by.  The groupings called “Ferns” and “Ivy”  are examples of when the author groups plants into a family.  The information is general rather than specific to any of the individual types found in the index.  Not that the information isn’t good, but it might not be appropriate to ALL the different plants in either family.

This is a great gardening book, and I’m definitely adding it to my wish-list.

Under-the-Radar Read

by Melody Dworak on February 8th, 2016
Under-the-Radar Read Cover Image

I can’t stop talking about this memoir of African American life and prison life in the 19th Century. The Life and the Adventures of a Haunted Convict by Austin Reed is “the first known prison narrative by an African American writer,” editor Caleb Smith wrote in the Yale Alumni magazine. The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library purchased the manuscript, and Random House published it as a book this winter.

This book is a remarkable find. Perfect for history buffs, rare manuscript nerds, and African American prison researchers, this book was written by an African American man born free in the 1820s but living much of his life in confinement. Reed was a natural storyteller and his memoir reads like a novel. He documents his experiences both in prison and as a free man, the cruelties of the whip and other 19th Century torture tactics as well as adventures and opportunities he encountered while living free.

This book has not received a ton of press at this point. The New York Times highlighted the find in 2013 before the manuscript was edited for publication, and the Smithsonian Magazine picked up the story for its arts and culture section. It doesn’t have a long holds list and we’ll be buying the e-book and e-audio versions soon.

If there is one nonfiction book you read in 2016, make it Austin Reed’s groundbreaking memoir.

 

Calm down this year

by Mary Estle-Smith on January 5th, 2016
Calm down this year Cover Image

In today’s stress filled world many people are looking for a quick and easy method of winding down when they need to.  One method  that has been around for a very long time is meditation.

Meditation has waxed and waned in popularity over the years and seems to currently be experiencing a resurgence of interest.  It has been scientifically and medically proven that meditation can help people to relieve anxiety, quit smoking, lose weight, and achieve other life and behavior modifications that new year’s resolutions are all about,  so what better time to check it out?

Here are a few example of titles in our collection that may inspire you to get you started:

      Jacket.aspxHJacket.aspx3This last one so my horse and I (and perhaps you and yours) will become one zen-like entity in the new year.

Can’t hurt to give it a try!

ICPL Top Picks for 2015: Nonfiction

by Meredith Hines-Dochterman on December 29th, 2015
ICPL Top Picks for 2015: Nonfiction Cover Image

From exploring romance through Tinder to sharing the stories of everyday people on the streets of New York City, this year’s crop of nonfiction titles run the gamut from humorous to thought-provoking, inspiring to contemplative.

Nonfiction is always a popular category among ICPL staff  (We work at a Library; of course we love learning!), so we apologize now if our picks for the best nonfiction titles of 2015 add  to your never-ending reading list.

ICPL’s BEST NONFICTION BOOKS OF 2015nonfiction

  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
  • Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America’s Gutsiest Troublemakers by Nick Offerman
  • Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert D. Putnam
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on Their Decision Not To Have Kids by Meghan Daum
  • Humans of New York: Stories by Brandon Stanton
  • Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson
  • Mama Tried: Dispatches from the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenthood by Emily Flake
  • The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey by Rinker Buck
  • The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Stacy Schiff
  • The Man Who Wasn’t There: Investigations into the Strange New Science of the Self by Anil Anandaughtersthaswamy
  • Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey from East to West and Back by Janice P. Nimura
  • The Shepherd’s Life by James Rebanks
  • The Millionaire and the Bard: Henry Folger’s Obsessive Hunt for Shakespeare’s First Folio by Andrea betweeMays
  • Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris
  • So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Domo arigato

by Todd Brown on December 22nd, 2015
Domo arigato Cover Image

Admit it. You want to build a robot. You just saw Star Wars and you still need to get some gifts for your family. I get it. It makes perfect sense to build a robot. When you think about it, who would not want to build a robot?

The problem is that wanting to and having the skills to are very different things. After all, there are a lot of wires, flux capacitors and doodads in there that you have no idea how to connect to each other. Not to mention which end of a soldering iron you should hold. It makes a big difference and I have the scar to prove it. But guess what, the Library has books on all of that.

 

electronicsMake: electronics : learning by discovery

Start with the basics. Positive is +, negative is -.

 

 

 

 

Make : more electronicsmoreelectronics

Then go beyond the basics.

 

 

 

 

arduinoMake : Arduino bots and gadgets : learning by discovery

This will give your robot a brain. It won’t clean your house, but you have to learn how to crawl before you can clean the house.

 

 

 

 

 

Make : sensorssensors

You want your robot to interact appropriately with it’s surroundings so it is going to need sensors. Otherwise it will just walk into walls and ignore you when you tell it to clean house, sort of like teenagers.

 

 

 

Make : 3D printing3d

You might not have all of the gears and exoskeleton parts just lying around. With a 3D printer you can create almost whatever parts you need.

 

 

 

 

Make: rockets : down-to-earth rocket sciencerockets

Will your robot have a jet pack or maybe foot thrusters? Yes it will.

 

 

 

 

Thrusters probably need rocket fuel of some sort.

 

 

 

 

 

Make : wearable electronicswearable

If you need a gift for someone with automatonophobia but still want to give them something made of wires and leds this might be good book to look at.

 

 

 

 

 

Next year start shopping or building sooner. You are welcome.

Uproariously funny and irreverent take on modern pregnancy and parenting

by Melody Dworak on November 3rd, 2015
Uproariously funny and irreverent take on modern pregnancy and parenting Cover Image

Emily Flake’s Mama Tried: Dispatches from the Seamy Underbelly of Modern Parenting hilariously pokes fun at experiences of expectant and first-time parents, particularly those of women who established careers and were fully independent thinkers before deciding to start a family.

At eight months pregnant myself, I peeled through the first third of her book, howling with laughter every few pages or so. I can identify with dealing with “swole” feet and eating cookies to make the baby kick (and just to eat cookies). This book was much needed comic relief for my final stretch as a pregnant lady.

Read the rest of this entry »

In Search of the Best Paleo Cookbooks

by Heidi Kuchta on October 21st, 2015

As I have perused the masses of so-called Paleo (read: veggie and meat based, no-to-little grain and dairy) cookbooks here at ICPL, I have had to be brutally honest with myself. Am I really going to use a mandoline slicer (which I don’t own) to cut zucchini into long, thin slices that can be used like noodles? No. Might I benefit from a new coleslaw recipe or two (or three?) Heck yes. Might I substitute mashed sweet potatoes for the less nutritious white potatoes in a shepherd’s pie? Sure. Does a grain-free coconut-based “oatmeal” sound like an amazing make ahead breakfast? Yeah! OK – onward.

One thing I have learned and had to accept is that most paleo cookbook authors have differing opinions on certain foods. Some people swear that white potatoes are fine – “nutrient rich” even, others claim that they’re trash. Eggs and so-called “nightshade vegetables” like tomatoes and peppers are ingredients that some laud and others eschew. At the end of the day, it’s a lot for me to just give up grains, so I have welcomed cookbooks with strict and less strict sensibilities alike.

So, here’s my fave paleo cookbPaleo Lunchesooks (so far)

1. I have used this cookbook the longest and can vouch for the deliciousness of many recipes herein! I love the egg muffin recipe for making ahead for quick breakfasts. My favorite salad recipe in this book is the Wild Tuna, Orange, and Parsley Salad. Runner up favorite recipe is the simple and amazing Chicken, Celeriac, and Mustard Salad Wrap. I had never previously eaten celeriac (celery root), and now I consider it my favorite slaw veggie! The coconut crepe recipe in the cookbook is an amazing Naan substitute for Indian food or a good wrHomegrown Paleoap-maker.

Also check out Diana Rodgers’ most recent collection of recipes, The Homegrown Paleo Cookbook!

 

2. TheZenbelly Cookbook Zenbelly Cookbook By Simone Miller is so much fun to read, and the recipes are mostly pretty simple. I’ve never cooked a whole chicken or made my own broth: after reading this book I now feel confident enough to do both. Also, the photography is a visual gift: Before each recipe is a photo of all the ingredients needed to make it. This visual guide is so helpful to figuring out at a glance whether I have what I need for a recipe or not. Recipe highlights include Pork Chops with Stone Fruit Slaw, Jicama Slaw (because I am slaw-obsessed), Cauliflower ‘Rice’, Sesame Shitake Broccoli, and Moroccan Shepherd’s Pie.

3. One-Pot Paleo by Jenny Castaneda: One Pot PaleoYES! The concept of this cookbook is perfect for me, a woman sans dishwasher. It is also full of flavorful and fun ideas: Plantain Chilaquiles, Loaded Spanish Tortillas, Brussels Sprouts Favorite, Honey Dijon Salmon Steaks and many other good-looking seafood recipes.

4. Nourish by Rachael Bryant is another visually pleasing cookbook, like Zenbelly. I enjoyed its recipe for Coconut Oatmeal IMNourishMENSELY. Other good recipes from here include Butternut Squash Skillet with Leeks and Spinach, Pork Belly Carnitas (cuz duh, Carnitas), and Bison Chili.




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