Tag Archives: Kaarin

can’t stop, won’t stop

You may have noticed an explosion in the publication of memoirs these past few years.  Someone likes to write about his living experiments; someone else had an incredibly miserable childhood; or maybe someone just has a really funny personal blog.  Well, I, for one, am thrilled with this trend!  Whether it’s an opportunity to imagine a parallel life for myself, a way to learn from someone else’s experience, or a reminder of all that we humans have in common, I actually can’t stop reading these memoirs, nor do I want to.

I am currently reading Fit2 Fat 2Fit: The Unexpected Lessons from Gaining and Losing 75 Lbs. on Purpose, by Drew Manning, in which he describes his experience as a personal trainer who really wanted to understand where his clients were coming from when they struggled to lose weight or get in shape.   It definitely falls in the category of wanting to learn from someone else’s experience, since I don’t want to try it myself!

Last week I read A Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost: A Memoir of Three Continents, Two Friends, and One Unexpected Adventure, by Rachel Friedman.  Since college, I have played with the idea of traveling or living in another country on a grand adventure that would shake me out of my day to day habits and struggles.  With this book, I could find out what another rule-following, by-the-book-living young woman experienced when she did just that.

Before that one, I read the story of a woman whose doctor did not detect her pregnancy – even after she listed all the classic symptoms – and who finally found out she was pregnant after she was six months along.  Alice Eve Cohen’s What I Thought I Knew is both fascinating and appalling, and was another memoir I couldn’t put down.

A few months ago, I had to return and re-reserve Bright Lights, No City: An African Adventure on Bad Roads with a Brother and a Very Weird Business Plan, by Max Alexander, which chronicles the many ups and downs of building a sustainable, profitable, and useful battery business in Ghana.  I usually give up on a book I can’t finish in three weeks, but I had to know how they fared as they doggedly pursued this dream.

I also went through a period of how-i-survived-hideous-illness-or-injury memoirs, including Learning To Breathe: One Woman’s Journey of Spirit and Survival, about Alison Wright’s near-death experience in a bus crash in Laos (as well as her many other adventures as a globe-trotting photojournalist) and My Life, Deleted, by Scott Bolzan, who lost his memory after falling and hitting his head on the bathroom floor.  The best of those, though, was My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D.  This woman becomes a brain scientist twice!  Talk about inspiring…

And then there are the spiritual memoirs, my absolute favorites:

Mary Pipher’s Seeking Peace: Chronicles of the Worst Buddhist in the World tells the story of what happened after her book, Reviving Ophelia, became a surprise bestseller.  Donald Miller decides to make a great story of his life in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years:  What I Learned While Editing My LifeTake This Bread:  A Radical Conversion, by Sara Miles, describes her conversion experience of taking communion and follows it by leading her church to start a food bank.  And of course, anything by Anne Lamott.  I just started The Accidental Buddhist: Mindfulness, Enlightenment, and Sitting Still, by Dinty W. Moore, and I’m looking forward to chapters like “Just Sitting: I Obsess a Lot, and Then I Get Distracted” and “Buddha Bug, Buddha Being: You Are What You Eat.”

What I can resist, for some reason, are celebrity memoirs or war memoirs.  I’m just picky that way, although I’m sure I would make exceptions (Bossypants, for example, is one I’m tempted by, but haven’t tried yet).  How about you?  Are you a memoir fan?  Have any suggestions or favorites?  I could go on and on, but now it’s your turn.

-Kaarin

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what’s that word??

To have a conversation with me lately is like playing charades. I start a sentence such as, “Would you order me two . . . whatsits?”  Then this game follows. “What’s the word for the round thing you put stuff in and write an address on and the people in the blue-grey shorts deliver it, and you use it so that your whatchamacallit doesn’t get bent?” And then, if you’re as good as my colleagues are at guessing what I’m talking about, I say, “Yes!  A mailing tube!  Thank you! That’s what they’re called.” I’m sure it’s very rewarding.

As someone who really enjoys words and aspires to have an extensive vocabulary, I keep reminding myself that it’s only temporary. I hope. If this continues for too long, I may find myself looking for these titles:

10 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary 10 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary, by the Princeton Language Institute and Tom Nash

Quick Vocabulary PowerQuick Vocabulary Power: A Self-teaching Guide, by Jack S. Romine and Henry Ehrlich

100 Words Every Word Lover Should Know100 Words Every Word Lover Should Know, by the editors of the American Heritage dictionaries

Better Word PowerBetter Wordpower, by Janet Whitcut.

More Words You Should KnowMore Words You Should Know, by Michelle Bevilacqua.

Smart WordsSmart Words: Vocabulary for the Erudite, and Those Who Wish to Be, by Mim Harrison.

Vocabulary SuccessThe Vocabulary of Success: 403 Words Smart People Should Know, by C. Edward Good.

Word NerdWord Nerd, by Barbara Ann Kipfer.

Wish me word luck. Or would that be brain luck? 

– Kaarin

p.s.  I realize after re-reading this post that it’s not like charades at all, but rather like Taboo, or possibly some other board game that I can’t think of at the moment.

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get inside a book

As any regular reader of this blog will know, the library is much, much more than books. Yet our history is built on books and all they provide, and many library lovers are also book lovers. And we have two upcoming programs that for book lovers are sure to enjoy.

First, next Tuesday, August 2, we will be having a bookmaking workshop as part of the HOW: Hands-On Workshop series. Hannah Reiff of Paper Breakfast press will be demonstrating how to make three simple kinds of books, and you will get a chance to try each of them.  Then, on Saturday, August 6, Lucy Stewart, Assistant Curator of Education at the Carnegie Museum of Art, will be giving a free lecture on the History of the Book as part of the People’s University lecture series. She will trace the book and its form from ancient to modern times, the many ways it has changed, and the ways that artists have responded and used its various structures.

You bibliophiles can get ready for both programs with these titles that cover the art, craft and history of making books:

The Book as Art The Book as Art: Artists’ Books from the National Museum of Women in the Arts, by Krystyna Wasserman, with essays by Johanna Drucker and Audrey Niffenegger

Real Life Journals: Designing & Using Handmade Books, by Gwen Diehn

Bookbinding Basics Bookbinding Basics, Paola Rosati

The Penland Book of Handmade Books The Penland Book of Handmade Books: Master Classes in Bookmaking Techniques

The Art & History of Books The Art & History of Books, by Norma Levarie

-Kaarin

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flag waving

In honor of yesterday’s holiday, I want to offer you yet another way to celebrate Independence Day–one that lasts a little longer than the hot dogs and potato salad we typically celebrate with… books! (What did you think? That I was going to make fireworks come out of your computer?)

Stone Cold       

       

       

-Kaarin

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now you’re cooking

We’ve certainly had our share of hot summer days lately, haven’t we?  This is the kind of weather that means two things:  farmer’s markets and farm shares (aka CSAs, Community Supported Agriculture).  And that means it’s time for all kinds of warm-weather food:

Salad as a MealSalad as a Meal: Healthy Main-Dish Salads for Every Season, by Patricia Wells:  I have two of this author’s other cookbooks, and she has wonderfully tasty, simple recipes.  …………………………………………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………………..

Cold SoupsCold Soups, by Linda Ziedrich: If you haven’t tried gazpacho yet, here’s your chance. Plus lots of other refreshing soup ideas! ……………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………………………………………………………………….. ………………………………………………………………….

Garde MangerGarde Manger: The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen, by Culinary Institute of America Staff: Pronounced “gahrd mahn-ZHAY,” this is a French term for the cold pantry where cold buffet dishes are prepared and other cold foods are stored. But that’s just the tip of the ice sculpture (another item sometimes created in the garde manger). This book starts with salads and cold soups, and includes cured and smoked foods, sausage, terrines and pâtés, cheese, condiments and other hors d’oeuvres.

Recipes from an Italian SummerRecipes from an Italian Summer, by Joel Meyerowitz and Andy Sewell:  Not only does this cookbook have recipes for all kinds of summer food, but it also contains beautiful photographs of the Italian countryside, along with a guide to summer food festivals if you’re ready for a trip.  ………………………………………………….  ……………………………. …………………………………………………………………………………………………….

The Perfect ScoopThe Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments, by David Lebovitz:  A former pastry chef at Chez Panisse gives us standard and not-so-standard recipes for the most wonderful food on the planet.

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Happy eating!

-Kaarin

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Trivia night at the library!

Do you love trivia?  My guess is yes! Do you love the library? Of course you do!  Well, you are all ready then, to come down to Oakland for Trivia Night at the Main Library.  This Thursday, May 26th, from 6-7:30, the hosts of the Pub Quiz at the Brillobox will be guest-hosting a library-themed trivia night in the [not so] Quiet Reading Room on the First Floor.  I’m sure you’re hoping that these folks won’t be in attendance, although I can’t guarantee it.  Were it not library-related trivia, you could use some of these suggestions to get ready.  However, I do have some suggestions that may or may not help you out:

Libraries in the Ancient World Libraries in the Ancient World, by Lionel Casson 

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Library: An Unquiet History Library: An Unquiet History, by Matthew Battles

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The Story of Libraries The Story of Libraries: From the Invention of Writing to the Computer Age, by Fred Lerner

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The Most Beautiful Libraries in the WorldThe Most Beautiful Libraries in the World, by Guillaume de Laubier and Jacques Bosser

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Carnegie Libraries Across AmericaCarnegie Libraries Across America: A Public Legacy, by Theodore Jones

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Good luck!  And see you Thursday!

-Kaarin

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Square Azaleas

As I was walking to work today, I happened past a building with square azaleas in front of it.  You know you’ve seen them: a wildly-blooming bush full of bright pink or yellow flowers that has been trimmed into a formal shape, as if to keep it in check.  As if we wouldn’t want those gorgeous flowers to get out of control and take over the landscape.  Seeing people taming nature that way reminds me of all the ways that our various human tendencies limit beauty, often from our trying to do what we think is right.

While that phenomenon brings me a certain amount of melancholy, I am fortunate to have books and movies that counter that feeling.  For example, I just recently read Claire Dederer’s Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, a memoir of a young woman and her struggle with perfectionism.  She sends her back into agonizing spasms trying to be the perfect mom and decides to try yoga, which gives her a choice of continuing that painful path or trying another.  Another author who writes about the process of coming into a more authentic sense of self (which I seem to be interpreting as beauty) is Sue Monk Kidd.  Both the main character in her novel The Mermaid Chair, and she herself in her memoir The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, experience a profound blossoming that, while perhaps rather messy-looking, brings them closer to who they truly are.

One movie, originally a play, that portrays the beauty of one woman letting herself go a little wild is Shirley Valentine.  In it, a bored and lonely housewife in Liverpool gets an opportunity to go to Greece for a vacation and risks her marriage to do so.

Lest you think that this theme applies only to women, let me tell you about Donald Miller and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  While writing the screenplay based on his book Blue Like Jazz, Miller realizes that due to a certain amount of risk aversion and laziness, his life lacks the elements that make both stories and life interesting.  Inspired to make some small changes, he finds himself in a completely new and beautiful way of living.

Of course it’s your turn now.  Tell me how much you love perfectly trimmed bushes, or send me suggestions for books or movies about the beauty of going wild.

-Kaarin

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