Tag Archives: Holly

I Resolve… to Swap Seeds!

In late 2013, I found myself drunk with possibility.  So long, stinky 2013!  It’s time for  a new year!   A new life!  I concocted about 100 new year’s resolutions.   Start rock climbing!  Paddle board all summer! Learn to kayak! Eat a ridiculously clean diet!  Plant and grow more food!  Read 52 books!  Purchase all clothes second hand! Fix up the bike and ride it everyday! Cook dinner at home every night! Remember every niece and nephew’s birthday! Be a better person!  Stop eating so much cheese! Have never-ending patience! Do more yoga! Train your dogs  to not act bananas!  Slow down! Quit caffeine!

You may have guessed that my list was a little too long and ambitious. The new year hit and I realized that I needed to manage my expectations.  Sadly, I can’t do it all.  Maybe I wouldn’t want to –  who wants a life without caffeine?  So, first step: whittle down the list to my priorities.  Second step: learn how to make things happen. I did what any linguistic learner would do. I read some helpful articles and blog posts about how to actually make resolutions work.  It’s all about systems and support, my friends!

I broke down my resolutions into manageable chunks, and have hacked away at them by asking for support and by creating systems that I can use to tweak my schedule. It’s almost spring, so  now the focus is on things I can do outside. I am going to build my gardening skills. Luckily, I work at the Library, which offers  a plethora of tools to do just that.  We have a great collection of gardening and cookbooks.  We also have actual gardens and a seed library.  And we have programs to help us become better, more sustainable gardeners.  On Saturday, March 15th, in collaboration with Grow Pittsburgh and Phipps Conservatory, we will offer our second annual Seed Swap.  This is a great way to get you motivated for the gardening season.  In addition to the actual swapping of seeds, there will be workshops. We’ll have a seed starting workshop at 12 pm and a seed saving workshop at 1pm next door in the Oversize Room.

So don’t get overwhelmed by resolutions or by the fear of finding a way to work gardening into your schedule.  All you must do is come to the library.  We have you covered with the support you need to become a great gardener.

Happy swapping!

Holly

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We’re Going Big with the Big Read

The Big Read is a nationwide celebration of reading, and locally the initiative is spearheaded by CCAC.  It is a “month-long series of free outreach events designed to promote literacy, reading and open dialogue within our community.”  The Library can definitely get behind this mission, and as such we have a schedule chock-full of events to celebrate this year’s book, The Things They Carried.

This is a beautifully rendered story about the Vietnam War, and the library is working within this theme to present talks, discussions, and film screenings on themes related to veterans.  Below is a well-rounded list of options!  Many of the book discussions will have free copies of the book to give away, courtesy of CCAC.

Beechview

3/6/2014. 6-8 pm Dr. Todd DePastino

 Todd is co-founder and director of the Veterans Breakfast Club, a nonprofit organization dedicated to gathering veterans of all eras and generations together to share their stories of service. Todd will tell extraordinary WWII stories of veterans living in the region and his quest to preserve and celebrate them.

Carrick

3/11/2014, 6-7 pm Book Discussion 

Tuesday Evening Books Presents: a book discussion of The Things They Carried

3/25/2014, 6-8 pm Vietnam War Documentary

Downtown and Business

3/18/2014, 12:15 pm Return With Honor documentary

American Experience examines the lives of American pilots who became prisoners of war in Vietnam and describes their struggles in captivity.  This documentary includes rare footage of prison camps and captured prisoners.  Narrated by Tom Hanks.  Presented by PBS.

Hill District

3/18/2014 1 pm Tuskegee Airmen: A Neighborhood Legacy.

Join a discussion and film on historic Tuskegee Airmen, focusing especially on those men and women from the Hill District community.

Lawrenceville

3/11/2014, 7 pm Buzz: Pairings: The Things They Carried Book Discussion

 On 3/11, we’ll discuss The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien at the Lawrenceville Library. On 3/25/14, we’ll discuss Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers  at a neighborhood location. Check http://clpbookbuzz.wordpress.com for more information.

3/29/14, 2-5 pm Classic Film

Watch and discuss a classic film about a young man who volunteers to fight but quickly discovers that the Viet Cong are not his greatest enemies. This academy award winning film is rated R and includes extreme violence and language. Participation in this program is limited to individuals aged 18 and up.

Main, First Floor

3/13/2013 6:30-7:45 pm The Things They Carried Book Discussion

Bound  Together is a collaborative book discussion. In March, we’ll  discuss The Things They Carried at the Carnegie Museum of Art, with some views of the Carnegie International to boot.

4/17/2014 1 & 6 pm  Books in the Afternoon

Books in the Afternoon will feature discussions of The Things They Carried.

Mt. Washington

3/13/2014 7:00 pm  The Big Read in Pittsburgh:  The Things They Carried.

Mt. Washington will host a lively book discussion.

Woods Run

3/11/2014 11:30 am Book Discussion of  The Things They Carried

Copies will be available at the circulation desk.  Refreshments will be served.

Happy Big Reading!

Holly

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I Fought the Law… and I’m a Pittsburgh Mayor!

This week marked the inauguration of Pittsburgh’s 60th mayor, Bill Peduto.  I’ve lived in Pittsburgh going on eight years, and have only experienced two mayors.  And so I became curious about who’s been minding the shop  all these years.  I was surprised (or maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised?) to find out just how many of our leaders have run afoul of the law.

Our very first mayor (burgess, officially), George Robinson, was arrested by George Washington for participating in the Whiskey Rebellion.  To learn more about this Western Pennsylvania moment of revolt, check out some of the most popular books of that era, and if you just want to celebrate whiskey and toast our first mayor, whip up some cocktails with our Fight for Your Right to Imbibe list.

A government inspector is tarred and feathered during the Whiskey Rebellion, which took place in...

George Robinson is the guy with the stick.

Then there is the even more curious case of one Joseph Barker, the “Anti-Catholic” party candidate, who served as mayor from 1850-1851.  He won as a write-in candidate while serving a jail sentence for indecent language and inciting a riot.  He was released from jail for one day for his inauguration.  The next day, the governor pardoned him.  Barker is also  notable for two arrests during his term, for assault and battery and possibly kidnapping.  He was decapitated by a train, and you can visit his grave at Allegheny Cemetery, if you are so inclined.

Joseph Barker

Thinking about his next street sermon: “How to get elected mayor from jail.”

William McNair was mayor during the disastrous St. Patrick’s Day Flood of 1936, but is mostly known for a disastrously contemptuous relationship with City Council.  When he resigned in October of 1936, he then quickly tried to renege on his resignation.  The City Council had had enough, and refused him.  He was jailed for two hours in April of 1936, for refusing to pay a numbers runner who had been found innocent. McNair wasn’t a fan of  gambling, but he did love to play the fiddle, and even played on the radio.  A New York Times article was titled: MAYOR M’NAIR FALLS TO GET RADIO GONG; Pittsburgh Executive, Just Out of Jail, Performs on Amateur Hour and Berates Foes.

The face of someone who once put his desk in the lobby of the city-county building. (Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

Still hankering for more knowledge of Pittsburgh’s quirky mayors?  Check out our the Pittsburgh research page on our website, or visit the Pennsylvania Department‘s skilled researchers  at the Main Library.

Holly

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The Last Word For 2013

A group of us got together and decided that the last blog post of 2013 should be a shared effort, with each of us offering a notable quote from something he or she read during the 2013 calendar year.  So we each humbly offer you our last words for the year that was 2013.  Just a note: we’ve preserved any idiosyncratic formatting when it seems important to the meaning and impact of the quote.

Scott

In the midst of a tough year I oddly found myself reading Dante for the first time in my life.   Here’s one of many quotes that stuck with me.

Midway upon the journey of our life
I found myself within a forest dark,
For the straightforward pathway had been lost.
Inferno, Canto I  by Dante Alighieri

Don

The best invitation to a classic novel ever comes in the form of this quote from the book itself: Steppenwolf, by Hermann Hesse:

Anarchist Evening Entertainment
Magic Theater
Entrance Not For Everybody

For Madmen Only!

Natalie

I am not from West Virginia but I married a true mountain man who grew up in the hollows of the southern part of the state. Reading Dean King’s The Feud over the summer gave me a new perspective of this bloody family history that helped mold the state, its inhabitants and the nation.

Mountains make fighting men. No matter where in the world you go, you’ll find that’s true. – Ralph Stanley

The Feud: The Hatfields & McCoys. The True Story by Dean King; 2013; Forward

Jess

I’m currently reading The Little Women Letters and as to be expected, it’s put me in the mood for Louisa May Alcott‘s original text.  This line has always stuck with me:

I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.

Holly

I can identify with Scott: 2013 was a tough year, so this lady was diving head first into self-help books, while she’d spent most of her life rejecting them.  At the end of the year, I was recommended the best self-help-book-that-isn’t-a-self-help-book: Letters To A Young Poet by Rilke.  Rilke praised solitude so highly, and I’ve found solitude to be a great friend.  So apologies for getting a little emo – but this is the quote hit me the hardest this year. And here’s to 2014, may it bring you all peace, love, healing and good books!

Embrace your solitude and love it. Endure the pain it causes, and try to sing out with it.

Art by Scott M. Fischer, copyright held by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Art by Scott M. Fischer, copyright held by Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

Leigh Anne

There’s a gorgeous quotation near the end of Quiet Dell, Jayne Anne Phillips’s astonishing novel based on actual events, that captures what I’ve been feeling about the darkest nights of the year, and the return of the light. The passage is taken from composer David Lang‘s work “again (after ecclesiastes),” which you can listen to here.

these things make me so tired

I can’t speak, I can’t see, I can’t hear

what happened before will happen again

I forgot it all before

I will forget it all again

Suzy

I took one book with me on my epic bike tour and it was The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (somehow in the midst of all those Women’s Studies classes during undergrad I missed reading it). I’m not sorry because I read it exactly when and where I needed to.

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them. Whenever I’m sad I’m going to die, or so nervous I can’t sleep, or in love with somebody I won’t be seeing for a week, I slump down just so far and then I say: “I’ll go take a hot bath.”

Richard

I’ve written about Phlip Caputo’s The Longest Road : Overland In Search Of America, From Key West To The Arctic Ocean before, but it merits another mention.  In an age dominated by “social media”, how connected are we as Americans; how tolerant are we as individuals?  Which is greater, the ties or the divisions? What is it about being Americans that we discover as Caputo, his wife Leslie and their 2 dogs traverse almost 12,000 miles from Key West to the Arctic Circle and back?

“Kaktovic had the architectural charm of a New Jersey warehouse district: a dirt airstrip, a hangar, houses like container boxes with doors and windows.” – Philip Caputo

Irene

In 2013 I fell in love with the illustrations of Kay Nielsen.  Fairytales have always been one of my favorite genres, and his illustrations perfectly capture how beautiful and disturbing the stories are.  The stories in East of the Sun and West of the Moon are more adult than you might imagine, full of violence and even (implied) sex.  Unlike many other fairy tales I’ve read, in which the princess waits for the prince to rescue her, several of these stories feature strong heroines who need to go to great lengths to rescue their handsome princes (or themselves).  In one of my favorites, The White Bear, the heroine is constantly reaffirming her bravery and strength.  This repeated refrain perfectly illustrates what I love about this character:

“Are you afraid?,” said the North Wind.
No, she wasn’t.

Melissa F.

David Levithan‘s newest young adult novel, Two Boys Kissing, is groundbreaking on a level rarely seen. It speaks to the very truth about what it means to be human, to be vulnerable, to be your own true self.  As one of my favorite books of 2013, it’s an incredibly affecting (and very important) read for teens and adults alike.

The first sentence of the truth is always the hardest. Each of us had a first sentence, and most of us found the strength to say it out loud to someone who deserved to hear it. What we hoped, and what we found, was that the second sentence of the truth is always easier than the first, and the third sentence is even easier than that. Suddenly you are speaking the truth in paragraphs, in pages. The fear, the nervousness, is still there, but it is joined by a new confidence. All along, you’ve used the first sentence as a lock. But now you find that it’s the key.

May your 2014 be full of confident first sentences.

spotted at Someecards.com

spotted at someecards.com

Tara

I’ve been a bit of a hermit these past few years, so I found inspiration in 2013 from artist and writer Miranda July to go outside on occasion and take a look around. In her book/art project It Chooses You she writes:

Most of life is offline, and I think it always will be; eating and aching and sleeping and loving happen in the body. But it’s not impossible to imagine losing my appetite for those things; they aren’t always easy, and they take so much time. In twenty years I’d be interviewing air and water and heat just to remember they mattered.

Also, when life gets either too heavy or too dull, a little absurdist British humor never hurts:

“What problems? We’re on the pig’s back, charging through a velvet field.” — Bernard Black, from the BBC television show Black Books

Eric

The following  is the first line of Chapter 3 of  Robert Kaplan’s book Balkan Ghosts: A Journey Through History. This chapter is about Macedonia. This line encapsulates a lot of how Kaplan looks at the world he navigates in this book. Maybe we can take a tip from him, and not just look at the world around us, but read the world around us. Happy New Year!

The landscape here needs to be read, not just looked at.

Abbey

I read a lot of young adult books and I have loved many of them. However, I find it rare for many other readers to love young adult books. This quote and this book though have stuck with me for a long time, and the book has been enjoyed by many other readers I know, adult fiction and young adult fiction lovers in general.

“That’s the thing about pain,” Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. “It demands to be felt.”

From The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green

Maria

My new favorite quote this year relates to all the big changes in my life the last few years, something I instinctively struggle against, preferring the calm waters of routine. As soon as I read it, I instantly felt better.

The only thing constant in life is change. — François de La Rochefoucald, Maxims

Amy

I offer this bit of wisdom from Professor Farnsworth (of Futurama fame) as the perfect antidote for taking-yourself-too-seriously.

There’s no scientific consensus that life is important.

From Into the Wild Green Yonder by, erm, some TV dudes.

Happy New Year!

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Stacking ‘Em Up: Our Favorite Reads From 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a library blog in possession of a good staff must be in want of a best books post. Library workers are frequently their own best customers, passing titles back and forth with reckless abandon, buttonholing colleagues in stairwells to insist they check out the book that kept us up late swooning (or shivering). Nothing brings us more joy, however, than turning those efforts outward and sharing our favorites with you.

The Eleventh Stack team consumed a mountain of reading this year (probably taller than Richard, and he’s pretty tall). Here are some of the ones we enjoyed most.

Maria:

turncoatThe Turncoat by Donna Thorland

Though labeled historical fiction, this book has a passionate and sizzling romance at its heart, so I would call it historical romance as well. The first book in the Renegades of the Revolution series, I loved this dangerous romance set amid the intrigues of Revolutionary War Philadelphia. Quaker country-girl-turned-rebel-spy Kate Grey falls for British officer Peter Tremayne despite their opposing allegiances. I especially enjoyed its life meets fiction aspect as George Washington, John Andre, General Howe, and Peggy Shippen all make appearances here. I look forward to reading more in the series from this debut author. Thorland, who is also a filmmaker, made a fascinating book trailer; I think it would make a great movie.

detroit

Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

My poor hometown. Native metro-Detroiter and award-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff writes a raw and thoroughly readable portrait of the Motor City’s state of emergency, from its abandoned neighborhoods, horrible city services, double-digit unemployment rates, and rampant crime to the die-hard residents who refuse to give up. A moving and frightening account of the decline of a great American city.

Melissa F.

I spent most of 2013 hanging out with some questionable, unreliable, but incredibly memorable characters from the Gilded Age.  You don’t get much more eyebrow-raising than Odalie from The Other Typist, Suzanne Rindell’s debut that has been described as “part Hitchcock, part Patricia Highsmith, and part Gatsby.” It’s a phenomenal, can’t-put-down read that I’ve been recommending all year long.  Also of note is The Virgin Cure , Ami McKay’s historical fiction story of a twelve year old orphan in 1870s New York that is based on the true story of one of her relatives.  

The OrchardistAnd then there was benevolent Talmadge from The Orchardist. I adored Amanda Coplin’s luminous debut novel with its grand, overlapping themes of morality and religion, of being one with the earth and the eternal struggle of good versus evil. It’s been compared to The Grapes of Wrath (this one is way better). Like Steinbeck, Amanda Coplin joins the list of authors who have given us a true American classic.

(Other highly recommended books in case the Gilded Age isn’t your thing: Tenth of December and In Persuasion Nation, both by George Saunders; Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan; Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys, The Bird Saviors, by William J. Cobb, When It Happens to You, by Molly Ringwald (yes, THAT Molly Ringwald!), Still Life with Oysters and Lemon and Dog Years by Mark Doty (listen to the audio version); Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon, and Songdogs, by Colum McCann.)

What can I say? In the words of Sinatra, it was a very good year.

JessBurial Rites, Hannah Kent

If you’ve had good experiences with Alice Hoffman and Geraldine Brooks (Kent even gives a shout out to Brooks as a mentor in her acknowledgements), then this is for you.

In rural Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir has been tried and accused of murder – and now must await execution in her home district. No prison means she’s forced upon a family who obviously wants nothing to do with her. Over the next months, Agnes is put to work on the farm. She slowly begins to open up about her messy past to a young priest, chosen for a long ago kindness, and to the wife of the household, who begins to see a Agnes as woman who has been worn down by a harsh life. Based on true story of one of the last two executions in Iceland, Kent deftly blends some amazing research with strong prose to weave a story about woman who was truly a victim of her circumstances.

SuzyTraveling Sprinkler, Nicholson Baker. Suzy really enjoyed this book a lot, but is not here to tell us about it because she is off riding her bike someplace not currently buried under several feet of snow. We are extremely jealous of very happy for Suzy, and hope she comes home soon to tell us more about the book.

Leigh Anne

Much to my surprise, the two books I’ve enjoyed most this year were both set during World War II. I’ve never been much of a war buff, but that’s a testament to how the power of good fiction can make you more interested in history. In this case, the novels were Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity.

Life After Life –the tale of an Englishwoman who keeps reincarnating as herself and trying to kill lifeafterlifeHitler–has cropped up on a number of best/notable lists this year, including the New York Times, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and I’ve already reviewed it earlier this year, so let me just say this: what an ending. When I read the last few sentences, and the light bulb over my head finally went on, I was amazed at how cleverly Atkinson had made her point: no matter how hard we strive as individuals, we can never act out of context. We always need other people to help us achieve our objectives, even if we are strong and clever.

verityCode Name Verity takes us behind enemy lines as Verity the spy and Maddie the pilot tell their stories in alternating sections. The crux of this novel–which I also reviewed earlier this year–is truth: who’s telling it, who’s hiding it, and how flexible it can be depending on how high the stakes are. For Maddie and Verity, the stakes are very high, indeed, and I loved that the book, while intended for a teen audience, didn’t shy away from the horrors of war…or deliver a tidy happy ending. If you want a great portrait of what it must have been like to be a teenager during WWII, pick up this novel….but be prepared to have All Of The Feelings. If you adore Wein as much as I do after you’re done, you’ll want to move on to her 2013 release, Rose Under Fire, in which pilot Rose Justice is captured and sent to the concentration camp Ravensbruck.

It was really hard to pick my favorites from what turned out to be an amazing run of excellent reading this year. Some other books I devoured include Letters From Skye (historical romance), Longbourn (historical fiction), and The Son (epic southwestern family saga). And now I must stop, before I blog your ear off…

bookcover Joelle 

I do love fantasy books! My favorites for this year were The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Both of these books have already achieved positive critical acclaim, but I will add mine:

The Golem is created by a mysterious and mischievous Rabbi as a bride for a young man who is set to travel to New York from Poland. The Jinni had been trapped for centuries in a lamp which also made its way to New York City. They both try to fit in to society with their separate supernatural talents, but recognize each other as different right away. It is interesting to see these magical beings from two different cultures coming together. The author creates characters with unusual and distinctive personalities.

ocean Neil Gaiman is the master of creating fantasy worlds that do not follow any specific cultural tradition, yet are somehow universal. A man journeys back to his old home town, and is drawn to a place only half remembered. The reader is transported to the mind of a seven year old, a time in a person’s life when one is very vulnerable, and when one can accept magic as a matter of fact.
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Holly
Nestled behind the International Poetry Room on CLP-Main’s second floor, you’ll find one of my favorite places in the Library.  The Oversize Book Room is home to volume upon volume of giant, gorgeous books. These are books that are graphic-heavy, photo-heavy, and often really heavy in weight, and therefore they do not fit on our regular book shelves/make great impromptu weapons.  Fashion, art, landscape photography, crafts and home repair are some of the subjects that you can find here.   One day while helping a patron find another book in this section, I stumbled upon the splendid  Jack London, Photographer. This is my favorite book of 2013 because it exemplifies what I love most about the Library and the serendipity that lives here.  I had no idea that Jack London was a photographer, and a talented one at that!  This gem contains somewhat disparate, at least in terms of location, photo collections.  They are a fascinating  look at early 20th century history through the eyes of a classic author.  Chapters have titles like ” The People of the Abyss,”  which is a stark look at impoverished Londoners in 1902. Battlefields are a subject as well, such as  those of  the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 and the Mexican Revolution of 1914.  I loved this book because it was a rejuvenating break from my usual reading of text-heavy new fiction and new nonfiction.

Don

For me this was an unusual year, and my reading reflected all the strangeness. I found myself reading old (Kim by Rudyard Kipling), new (A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki), rereads (The Final Solution by Michael Chabon and The Fall by Albert Camus), pastiche (The Mandela of Sherlock Holmes by Jamyang Norbu), Buddhist fiction (Buddha Da by Anne Donovan), science fiction (Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone by Ian MacDonald), and the truly, wonderfully bizarre (Duplex by Kathryn Davis).

Part of the unusual nature of all this is the fact that, thematically, there is a great deal these books have in common. There are all kinds of connections between them, come to think of it. And really, there is not a book listed above that you can go wrong with, but, since we are picking favorites, here we go…

My favorite book of the year turns out to be a tie between the first two listed: A Tale for the Time Being, and that hoary old chestnut, Kim. Both of these books surprised, in different ways. I was frankly stunned by how good Kim (and Rudyard Kipling) is. I’d always thought of Kipling as just another dead old white guy, with a penchant for British colonialism and simplistic stories, who might easily be ignored for, oh, 50-plus years or so. And was, by me.

It really is delightful to wake up every day and realize how very, very wrong you can be.

timebeing

Ozeki’s book is difficult to describe, so I’ll let the author speak for herself (from her website):

A Tale for the Time Being is a powerful story about the ways in which reading and writing connect two people who will never meet. Spanning the planet from Tokyo’s Electric Town to Desolation Sound, British Columbia, and connected by the great Pacific gyres, A Tale for the Time Being tells the story of a diary, washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, and the profound effect it has on the woman who discovers it.

Kim is part quest–for self and for meaning–, part old-fashioned adventure via the time-honored motif of the journey, and, consistently, a fine, penetrating story on what it means to be human.

Yes indeed, how very good it is to wake up each and every day.

Melissa M.

5In5Of course my favorite book this year was a cookbook, specifically Michael Symon’s 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners. I’ve watched this man on television so many times now that as I was reading the recipes I could hear them, inside my head, being read to me in his voice. Now, Michael does cheat the five ingredients rule a little because he uses items from his pantry that are not part of that total number. The first section of the book, after the introduction, is a list of what items should be in your pantry at all times. These include things like extra virgin olive oil, a variety of vinegars, pasta, canned beans, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and other spices. You probably already have most of those in your kitchen cupboards, so no worries there. The recipes are not complicated; most have only 3-4 steps. This is food you could cook on a weeknight and would want to eat. Plus, who wouldn’t love a cookbook with a chapter called “On a Stick”? Foods on a stick rule!

There you have it! Your turn. What were your favorite reads of 2013, whether new finds or old favorites?

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A Tale of Two Everdeens

I recently was blown away by The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, in all its Imax glory.  A few days later I found myself chatting with some colleagues, one of whom was re-reading Far From the Madding Crowd, the Thomas Hardy classic novel featured the inspiration for Katniss’ surname Everdeen.  Bathsheba Everdene is Hardy’s female protagonist.  Katniss gets her first name from an edible plant, while Bathsheba gets hers from the Old Testament. Her namesake was the wife of David and mother of Solomon.

Both Bathsheba and Katniss are brave, bright and resilient women living in a man’s world.  But they don’t get everything right and must learn, often the hard way, in order to survive their respective narratives.  Suzanne Collins says in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, “The two are very different, but both struggle with knowing their hearts.”

Thomas Hardy writes of Bathsheba that “when a strong woman recklessly throws away her strength she is worse than a weak woman who has never any strength to throw away.”  If you’ve read Thomas Hardy’s tome, you’ll remember that Bathsheba does indeed work toward throwing away her strength, and more than once.  The reader often decides right away that Gabriel Oak, Hardy’s male protagonist, is a wonderful man, but Bathsheba cannot see it.  Both Gabriel and Bathsheba have some growing up to do. The growth for her occurs in managing a farm and suitors, while trying to maintain a good reputation in rural 19th century England.

Photo courtesy of thingsthatmadeanimpression.wordpress.com.

Katniss’ struggles are bit more immediate and of course, often life-or-death.   But she does struggle to know her heart and to maintain her strength.  One refreshing thing about both Far from the Madding Crowd and The Hunger Games trilogy is that they provide enough substance in the plot to be sure that the love story is not the only story.   This is typically why Hardy’s title is considered a feminist novel, which is remarkable for a late 18th  century novel especially one written by a man.

Photo courtesy of thehungergames.wikia.com.

If you’re a fan of The Hunger Games but haven’t yet read Far From the Madding Crowd, check it out today!  That way you can say the book was better when a new movie version, starring Carey Mulligan and Matthias Schoenaerts, comes out next year.  This will be the 3rd movie, a testament to the classic status of the book.  The 1967 version stars Julie Christie and in 1998 Masterpiece Theater also took a crack at it.

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Happy Everdeening/Everdening!

Holly

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It’s Called Gratitude (And That’s Right)!

I can’t wait for Thanksgiving to express my gratitude, and I’m not organized to keep up with the Facebook post-of-thankfulness every day in November, though I do enjoy reading them – so keep it up, people! So I thought I might share a little of my thankfulness here.  Without further ado, and in absolutely no particular order…

Book Cover 1. Missy Elliot – If it weren’t for Missy Elliot, my work days would have considerably less glee.  I sit down at my desk, get my ear buds ready, and load up The Cookbook, Supa Dupa Fly, or a Missy-produced track like Let it Go and I breeze my way through emails, projects, and reports.  If you are walking by my office and see me grooving in my chair, don’t judge.  It’s science.

2. Library Staff.  The coolest people work at the library.  They make mustache displays, plant chalkboards with interesting questions, recommend books online and in the library, answer ridiculously difficult questions in the Reference Department, visit you where you work, play and belong.  This is an inspiring place to work everyday, and I’ll never tire of blubbering over the myriad ways my colleagues engage the community in literacy and learning.

After Hours @ the Library: Happy Hour 3. After Hours – Speaking of engaging the community, I am thankful to work at a library that throws such cool events.  After Hours is a chance for you to party at the library after we close!  The next one is this Friday, 6-9, at our Squirrel Hill location.  It is with much regret that I admit that I will be out of town for this weekend, because I’ve had a blast volunteering at previous After Hours.  I’ve dressed up as Grandma Nut from Candyland, and was one of many Waldos, all for your enjoyment.  The night always includes libations, tasty food, fun games and mildly educational activities!

http://vufindplus2.einetwork.net/bookcover.php?id=.b28331618&isn=067973743X&size=large&upc=&oclc=35840728&category=&format=4. Bury Me Standing – This is the book I read before bed each night, recommended by a colleague with excellent taste.  I am learning so much about Eastern Europe and the Roma people. It’s quite topical if you’ve been keeping up with the political issues in Europe this fall, specifically of the Roma in France, or the recent scandals with children in gypsy encampments in Ireland and Greece.

http://vufindplus2.einetwork.net/bookcover.php?id=.b32077889&isn=9781861899088&size=large&upc=&oclc=760973096&category=&format=

5. The Medieval Kitchen,by Hannele Klemettilä, is the book I have just finished.  I’ve been on a nerdy nonfiction kick lately.  There is a longstanding obsession with medieval times, spurred on in part by my literary crush on Chaucer and my affinity for anything written by the Gies, a husband and wife duo who wrote extensively about the period.  I recommend Life in a Medieval City and Women in the Middle Ages : both will enlighten you!  The Medieval Kitchen also discounts some myths around how medieval folks lived and ate.  Their diets were rich in herbs, vegetables, and seasonal fruits.  The poor unintentionally lucked out by missing gout, as that disease was preserved for the meat-gorging rich.  This book is filled with fascinating little tidbits, such as:  almond milk helped everyone get through fasting periods, when dairy and meat were prohibited by the church.

6. Dogs – It’s been well-documented that I’m a sucker for a big slobbery dog – so much so that we now have not one but two big slobbery shelter dogs (see above, MCA joined Frida in January).  And I am in good company, as other librarians have written of the joys of dog companionship.  No, we are not all cat people!  And yes, I do talk about my dogs all the time. Maybe I am a little obsessed.

Where is your gratitude going these days, Pittsburgh?  Please do share in the comments!

Holly

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