Whether you’ve got a novel in you, or a short story, or a poem… or you like journaling, or you want to write your family history, or you’re curious about any other kind of writing… the library can help! Full disclosure, this blog post is going to have some good writing resources in it, but it’s also an excuse for me to plug the fact that we have some writing programming going on as well! The groups are meeting virtually, of course, but the Sheboygan County Writers Club has two meetings, a large-group meeting and a small-group workshop, every month! Here are the links to the meetings for March: large group here, small group here.
But even if you can’t make it (or aren’t interested in that), there’s plenty of other library resources that can help out with writing. For instance…
Poets & Writers Magazine is one of, if not the, best-known magazines about writing. In addition to having articles and essays about the craft of writing and interviews with all sorts of different writers, they also have an extensive Classifieds section at the end with information about upcoming writing contests, calls for submissions from literary magazines and agencies, people offering editing services, and all sorts of other resources for writing, editing, and publication.
Do you enjoy reading letters, emails, texts, or other people’s diary entries? Then epistolary novels are for you. Plainly explained, an epistolary novel is a story told through correspondence. Written in a series of epistles, meaning missives or journal entries, the reader gets an intimate view of the characters’ innermost thoughts and experiences as the story unfolds. As a reader, you cannot help but connect with these characters and think of them as acquaintances by the novel’s end.
Are you new to epistolary novels and don’t know what to choose? I recommend three of my all-time favorites: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, Sleeping Giants, and Griffin and Sabine. The former is a heart-warming, post-war story of friendship, love, and resilience. The middle is a science fiction-mystery-thriller featuring extraterrestrial robot warriors. The latter is filled with exquisite illustrations, and you get to physically open some of the letters which are contained in envelopes between the pages.
Maybe you crave a good heartbreaking but empowering tale like Code Name Verity, the story of two friends caught in the snares of WWII espionage, or Speak, the recount of a teen’s high school struggles post-rape, or The Power, the speculative discussion between two authors on what might have happened when females became the physically dominant gender.
If humor is what you’d prefer, check out The Screwtape Letters, a satire on human foibles discussed through missives passed between a bureaucrat from Hell and his incompetent apprentice; or consider Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging, a Bridget Jones’-style tell-all journal of a year in the life of a British teen.
Fancy something a little more scandalous? Try the French epistolary novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses. You might be familiar with the films it inspired: Dangerous Liaisons and Cruel Intentions. Of course, there is also The Diary of Anaïs Nin. Yes, THAT Anaïs Nin.
Whatever satisfies your prying inclinations, there is an epistolary novel calling your name, so don’t fight it. Indulge and enjoy it guilt-free. After all, it was written for you, reader.
The American Library Association recently announced the winners of the 2021 Youth Media Awards. High quality media for teens and children were awarded for their excellence under different categories. I’ve listed some of these remarkable award winners below and included links to our catalog so you can reserve your copies today!
John Newbery Medal
The John Newbery Medal is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. This year’s winner is When You Trap a Tiger, written by Tae Keller. In this story, a magical tiger from Korean folklore appears to Lily after she moves in with her dying grandmother. Something was stolen from the tiger long ago and an incredible deal is offered for its return.
I’m from Michigan originally, and it still amazes me that people spend time arguing about New York versus Chicago pizza when this question has been definitively answered for almost a century: neither one, you should be eating Detroit pizza. Rectangular pan pizza where the cheese goes out to the edge, making a beautiful browned crust, and the fat in the cheese (Wisconsin brick, to be genuine) melts down into the bottom of the pan and gives you a crispy slightly-fried crust? Yes, please! And if you don’t live somewhere where you can get Detroit-style pizza (sorry, Pizza Hut, your pizza was fine, but we can do better), why not try making it at home?
The introduction to this book mentions both Buddy’s Pizza (which is where Detroit-style pizza originated) and Jet’s Pizza (which is the Detroit-based chain that took it nationwide), so you know the author knows what he’s talking about. I think this book has the best crust recipe that I’ve tried, and you can mix things up with some non-Detroit-style pan pizzas if you want, too!
If you haven’t already heard, Mead Library assembled a 2021 reading challenge in bingo form. We think it’s a fun way to push past your reading comfort zone while working towards a goal. Bookish Bingo Challenge bingo cards can be picked up in-house at the first floor desk, or click HERE to download and print at home. If you are interested in more community while working through the challenges, consider joining our Goodreads group HERE.
Check in on Mead’s blog periodically throughout the year for reading suggestions that focus on a particular square. I’m getting things rolling today with my personal favorite square, Make a new recipe from a cookbook. I LOVE cookbooks. Like, I’ll just read em like a magazine. What’s not appealing about the big, colorful photos, the possibilities, the kitchen anecdotes, the food history. Love it. Below, I list my recent favorite cookbooks and what it was like to cook a new (to me) recipe from each of them.
Yotam Ottolenghi might not be a household name in every home, but it should be. He and his business/cooking partner Sami Tamimi have been producing gorgeous cookbooks since 2008. The books tend to stick with a similar format but shift in focus. Jerusalem, for instance, explores the food eaten by the authors growing up as an Israeli and Palestinian, respectively, in the city of Jerusalem. Each recipe features a color photo of the dish as well as a diary-like entry contextualizing the food in relation to the authors’ memories.
I chose to make Mejadra which is considered comfort food in the Middle East. The recipe called for a ton of crispy crunchy onions which are then mixed with lentils, rice, and warming spices that have been bloomed in oil. It was deceptively simple and called for such humble ingredients that it verged on shocking how delicious it turned out. Simple ingredients can yield fabulous results. This is the versatile kind of recipe I could make for a week’s worth of lunches, or serve to a group along with dinner.
This delightful cookbook first passed through my hands back when I was a library page. One of the many perks of the job was seeing new material come through the building. I would usually have a little stack to take home with me at the end of shift, and Well Fed, Flat Broke caught my attention thusly. I liked the pretty photography of the finished recipes. I liked the chatty, familiar way blogger Emily Wight wrote introductions to chapters and recipes. I liked the concept of cooking great food with inexpensive ingredients. It just grabbed me, you know? I’m still not cool with some of Wight’s staple ingredients, such as SPAM. I just can’t do it. I just can’t. My apologies to the SPAM-stans among us, but it is a bridge too far.
The recipe I decided to try was the underwhelming-sounding “Breakfast Beans”. I am a bean enthusiast. Beans are cheap, plentiful, tasty, versatile, and shelf-stable. Basically, I had to saute diced celery with garlic before adding a can of white beans, some rosemary, and the surprise ingredient of the day, fish sauce. After adding in a few more things, the whole concoction is served over toast and topped with a fried egg. And brother, I got to tell you, one sure-fire way to get me to eat a thing is just put a fried egg on top. The dish turned out great and I know I have another go-to recipe under my belt for when I don’t want to eat a fried egg all by itself.
Mexican food, or more accurately Tex-Mex, is my favorite food to cook. I love the big, bold flavor that comes from chilis and cumin and garlic. I love that the ingredients in Tex-Mex cooking tend to be inexpensive and readily at hand, which is a running theme in my cookbook consumption. I also love the family aspect of Tex-Mex cooking, since most recipes yield quantities meant to feed a crowd.
In the before-times, I would spend all day, literal hours, making elaborate trays of enchiladas from scratch to feed my loved ones around a big table. While a communal meal is off the (dinner) table for the time being, I found that during Safer-At-Home, cooking huge quantities of food was soothing, and hey, it freezes pretty well, too. The enchiladas in this cookbook are the best I’ve ever made, but I was also pleased to find the non-enchilada recipes to be more than solid. I made Sopa de Fideo, or vermicelli soup for the first time back in the depths of April 2020. It’s basically Tex-Mex Spaghettios but actually good to eat. It’s a really forgiving recipe and does not require the rigor that some of the other recipes call for. Sylvia Caseres’ The Enchilada Queen Cookbook helped take my cooking from tentative to confident, which is what any cookbook worth its salt and seasoning should do.
Here are some additional popular and beautiful cookbooks to get your culinary juices flowing:
The cookbooks listed above are all available in the Monarch catalog, often in multiple formats. If none of the selected titles are making your brain spark, please note Mead Library and the broader Monarch library system have access to literally THOUSANDS of cookbooks. We can help find the right cookbook for anyone based on regional cuisine, dietary needs, and complexity. As always, we are here to help connect people to the library materials they need, cookbook or not. Never hesitate to reach out for recommendations and troubleshooting, and enjoy your Bookish Bingo odyssey all of 2021.
Way back when this blog was starting out, I did one of my very first posts on International Mysteries. I love mystery novels, and I especially enjoy ones set in other countries. This time around, I’m going to share some mystery TV shows set in other countries (and not only the United Kingdom because there are a million of those!). International travel might be off the table right now, so here’s the alternative – you get to see another country, and there’s a zero-percent chance of getting murdered!
There are five seasons of this show (which ended in 2017). They are set in (and were made in) Australia, but they are also historical – specifically, the late 1950s. Dr. Blake is a medical doctor who also works as the medical examiner when needed, which leads to him getting involved in investigating murders. The supporting characters are also good – especially the foil his character has in his housekeeper, Jean.
When something troubling happens in the news, it can be overwhelming for adults to try to make sense of it all, and it can be even more difficult for children. Here is a list of resources for caregivers that can help kids process major news events, and the general stress of these turbulent times.
Above: Mead’s Bookish Bingo Challenge bingo card. Pick up a copy at the first floor desk or download and print your own HERE.
Returning to work or school after the holidays can be such a complete bummer. Pour some social distancing fatigue, light sedition, and general pandemic horror on top of that and welcome yourself to 2021, or The Year We Hope Won’t Totally Suck. What do we do, however, to get ourselves to look forward and not back? How do we make it through another freezing and drab Wisconsin winter after all that? It is with pleasure that I announce my new favorite distraction: Mead’s Bookish Bingo Challenge. Here’s how it works:
List your title, used only once, and submit your completed Bingo – down, across or diagonal – to firstname.lastname@example.org or in-person at Mead Public Library to receive a small prize and an additional entry in the Summer Library Program drawing for your first Bingo. If you complete the Bingo card, and submit it by December 31, 2021, you will be entered into a drawing for a surprise gift.
It’s that time of year when we can take a moment to look back on our experiences of the past year and look forward to what’s to come in the new year. I decided to take a look back on what our young readers checked out the most this past year. Books from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series were the top six circulating titles from our children’s fiction collection. This series has maintained its popularity for over a decade now! The series follows a boy named Greg as he records his humorous experiences with middle school in his journal. Comical illustrations accompany his daily journal entries in this series that now includes 15 books. For fans of this series who may be looking for a new-to-you series for the new year, I’ve created a list for you all to check out below. I’ve included our catalog summaries of the first book of the series with each recommendation. Be sure to click the links below to request your copy through our catalog!
“Who wouldn’t want to live in a treehouse? Especially a 13-story treehouse that has a bowling alley, a see-through swimming pool, a tank full of sharks, a library full of comics, a secret underground laboratory, a games room, self-making beds, vines you can swing on, a vegetable vaporizer and a marshmallow machine that follows you around and automatically shoots your favorite flavored marshmallows into your mouth whenever it discerns you’re hungry. Life would be perfect for Andy and Terry if it wasn’t for the fact that they have to write their next book, which is almost impossible because there are just so many distractions, including thirteen flying cats, giant bananas, mermaids, a sea monsters pretending to be mermaids, enormous gorillas, and dangerous burp gas-bubblegum bubbles!” Take a look at the rest of The Treehouse series here.
According to the New York Times list of best selling books, some likely suspect heavy hitters top the list for 2020 including James Patterson and Ernest Cline. While I totally understand the comfort of a favorite author, why not ring in the New Year with some new authors? Below, I listed three best-selling books or authors of the year and their lesser-known read-alike counterparts.
Did you like Ready Player Two (2020) by Ernest Cline? Try Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits (2015) by David Wong.
Ernest Cline hit the big time in 2011 with his massively popular Ready Player One. You read it. I read it. The neighbor kid read it. It was a satisfying, if vacuous bit of distracting fun, and while I haven’t read the sequel, I suspect RP2 is much the same. Where RP1 was heavy on pop-culture references and 1980s nostalgia, David Wong is all about the future, baby! In Futuristic Violence, protagonist Zoey Ashe unexpectedly inherits billions from her estranged father. She and her cat Stench Machine are then forced to contend with a city full of jacked up monster men out to live-stream her demise. I’ve been a fan of Wong since his days as editor-in-chief over at Cracked, and his genre fiction does not disappoint. How funny is this book? Two words: burrito drone. On the other side of the funny coin is some truly gut-churning (futuristic) violence, so a big heads-up to you on that.