Our blog about books, authors and reading

We All Scream for Ice Cream!

IceCreamMemorial Day weekend is right around the corner and hot days are near. For many people this means firing up the grill.  Interested in shaking up your grill routine?  The library has loads of cookbooks with many new ideas -- for both meat eaters and vegetarians.

Maybe grilling isn't your thing.  Once the weather turns hot, and the fresh fruits start arriving at the Market and the grocery stores all I want to do is make ice cream.  I recently checked out the excellent Ice Cream and Frozen Desserts by Peggy Fallon and marked about 20 pages of interesting and often easy recipes to try including Chocolate Chipotle Ice Cream, Black Forest Frozen Yogurt with Chocolate and Cherries, and Quick Caramel-Pecan Light Ice Cream.  There are also chapters on sorbets and non-dairy frozen desserts.

The Ultimate Ice Cream Book by Bruce Weinstein delivers over 500 recipes covering many different types of ice creams, sorbets and granitas.  He also gives ideas for recipe variations and toppings.  Pictures aren't included, but this serves as a fairly straight forward reference and would be great for beginners.  Read more »

Blood, Bones & Butter

BloodBonesButterBefore I became a librarian, I worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years.  I learned to cook from my dad and had dreams of going to culinary school to become a chef.  Career changes happen, but I am still drawn to cooking shows and spend a lot of time reading books about food, food policies, eating, and food history --think Bittman, Kurlansky, & Kingsolver.  When it came out recently, I knew I had to read Blood, Bones & Butter: the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. 

Hamilton is owner and head chef at Prune, a well-reviewed and established restaurant in New York. This book sets out her love of food from her parents to her on-the-fly education in New York City catering.  Her path to recognition and establishment later in life is both gory and determined. Being a woman in this business can be ugly and Hamilton both investigates and dismisses this fact.  What she does well is understanding the connection between food and family and what it means to be part of this process on both an intimate and grander scale.     

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Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History

ISBN: 
9781554078974

If you're an animal lover (and who isn't?), you'll love this book. Fifty Animals is full of fascinating facts and anecdotes that describe our symbiotic and other relationships with interesting creatures through time.

Do you admire your friend's bright red shirt? If so, tell her that for centuries the best and most durable red dye came from Mexico and was shipped as far away as Asia. This red dye came from thousands of insects named chochineal. It takes about 70,000 insects to make just a pound of it. Since the advent of chemical dyes, it's seldom used in textiles any longer, but it now employed as a safe colorant for food.

The lowly donkey otherwise known as ass, has a reputation for being incredibly dumb, when in fact, they are smart, very adaptable animals that have carried our heavy loads for centuries throughout the world.

The wise and majestic elephant--my favorite mammal--we unfortunately coerced into war. In fact, the sight of just one of these intelligent beasts carrying archers and slingers reportedly so terrified the defenders of early Britain that the poor Anglo-Saxons were routed by the Roman army. Read more »

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

ISBN: 
9780316122382

I don't read enough young adult fiction, so when I came across The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight with its intriguing title, I decided to jump in. It tells the story of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan who is flying across the Atlantic to attend her father's wedding but only under duress.

"The Professor," as she tags him, left Connecticut a year ago for a four-month stint at Oxford, but never returned home to the family. He asked for a divorce from Hadley's mom, and Hadley has been seething ever since. Reluctantly, under pressure from both parents, she's boarding a plane at JFK International Airport.

The first thing that happens is she misses her plane. This really complicates things because she only gave herself a window of five hours from arrival at customs to being a bridesmaid at a London church. She gets scheduled on a jet three hours later. Hadley asks a woman to watch her bags and the woman angrily accuses her of breaking the law, but a handsome youth with a charming British accent offers to help. Read more »

Staycations in Indiana

ImageVacation time will soon be here. With gas prices high and disposable income low, it may be another good year for a staycation. Those of us living in Indiana can plan some great overnight trips or even day trips to fun and interesting places throughout Indiana.

The Indiana Room collection has many travel books to help you plan a fun outing.

Just a few examples include the following books.

If you like the unusual and just plain weird, consult Weird Indiana by Mark Merrimen. The Tunnelton Tunnel in Lawrence County is included, the world's first Ferris wheel turned into a bridge near Tifft and the ever popular Gravity Hill near Mooresville are also included.

Indiana Curiosities by Dick Wolfsie is in it's third edition. Arranged by geographic area, this guide lists and describes unusual museums, statues and businesses. The Italian Chapel at Camp Atterbury, built by WW II Italian prisoners of war, Dr. Ted's Musical Marvel's museum near Santa Claus and the Cass County Carousel in Riverside Park in Logansport are just a few examples of entries. Read more »

Dreaming in French: the Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis

ISBN: 
9780226424385

Confession: I tried to learn French once.  Years ago, I signed up for a New Orleans Free University class in what should have been a great place to learn French or at least Cajun. But each week the instructor came to class "under the influence."  Even though he shared some wild Paris stories and jumped on and off the teacher's desk, my French never improved.

I've always enjoyed books about experiencing the world through the lens of a new culture. Alice Kaplan's excellent Dreaming in French is a very fun and compelling read. In clear beautiful prose, she writes about how living in France changed the life courses of three smart and gifted women: Jackie Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis. 

Each of them spent time in France on the cusp of womanhood. In many ways, France and French culture affected not only how they viewed the world but their entire lives afterward.

In 1949 Jackie travelled to Paris by ship as part of a contingent of Smith College students spending the year abroad. It was soon after World War II and she was placed with a former WWII resistance fighter whose husband had died in a camp doing slave labor for the Nazis. Read more »

Bloomington Reads Week

Bloomington ReadsNext week marks the 2nd year for Bloomington Reads Week, a public initiative sponsored by the Foundation of Monroe County Community Schools to focus on literacy and the idea of raising a community of readers.  This week is filled with fun programs to promote reading including a read aloud event at the Farmer's Market and a Bring Your Own Book lunchtime event on the courthouse lawn. 

One of the keystone programs for next week include Scott Russell Sanders speaking about being a writer.  He is an award-winning author and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Indiana University, and will speak about his lifelong love of reading and the path that led him to become a writer.

Mr. Sanders is the author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, including novels and collections of short stories and personal essays, as well as seven picture books for children. Among his honors are the Lannan Literary Award, the John Burroughs Essay Award, the Mark Twain Award, the Cecil Woods Award for Nonfiction and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.  Details below:

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Books Plus May

Grapes of WrathOn Sunday May 6th, come join us to discuss Steinbeck's masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck wrote this novel longhand in only five months. The story of the Joads during the depression-era has many parallels for many Americans today.

Please come and share your thoughts about this American classic. As always, we'll provide snacks and drinks.

Books Plus meets the first Sunday of each month. All are welcome. Join the discussion or simply come to listen.

No registration necessary. Drop in.

2 p.m., First Sundays

See the full spring and summer schedule below.

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Edgar Awards 2012

GoneThe Edgar Awards are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America and are often considered the most prestigious awards for the mystery genre. This year's awards were presented this week and the winners include:

Best Novel: Gone by Mo Hayder

Investigating a serial carjacker whose actual targets are young children in back seats, Jack Caffery teams up once again with police diver Sergeant Flea Marley, whose life is endangered by a discovery in an abandoned, half-submerged tunnel.

Best First Novel: Bent Road by Lori Roy

Celia Scott and her family move back to her husband's hometown in Kansas, where his sister died under mysterious circumstances twenty years before, and where Celia and two of her children struggle to adjust--especially when a local girl disappears.

Best Paperback Original: The Company Man by Robert Jackson Bennett

In 1919, the McNaughton Corporation is the pinnacle of American industry located in Evesden-a shining metropolis, the best that the world has to offer. But then eleven union men are butchered by hand in the blink of an eye. Now, one man, Cyril Hayes, must fix this and uncover the dark secret behind the inventions of McNaughton.

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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Huck FinnIn 1885 the year of its US publication, a number of public libraries banned The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from their stacks. According to the American Library Association, it was the fifth most-frequently-challenged book in the United States in the 1990s. Despite strong arguments that the book supports positive racial themes, Huck Finn has been controversial from the beginning.  Last year NewSouth Books published a sanitized edition, effectively keeping this book in the news and on the minds of both those who have loved and hated this classic American book.  When was the last time you visited Huck Finn? Interested in learning more and sharing your ideas?

Join us next week for a panel discussion of this story that continues to both attract and repel members of our community. Does Huckleberry Finn belong in the literary canon and in our schools? What does it reveal about race relations, art and the power of language?
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