Posted in Adult, Bingo 2021, Biography & Memoir, Bookish Bingo, Nonfiction

Bookish Bingo: Memoir of a Female Adventurer

Summer is winding down, and now is the perfect time to mark off another square on your Bookish Bingo card! Whether you’re looking for a title to carry to the beach or a page-turner to carry you away while on a staycation, these books are sure to take you on an adventure.  From the Midwest to Mongolia, from caves deep beneath the sea to flights 30,000 feet in the air, these authors have seen it all—and lived to write the tale.

Starting close to home, Melanie Radzicki McManus’s Thousand-Miler: Adventures of Hiking the Ice Age Trail details her experience walking 1,100 miles of ancient trails throughout the state of Wisconsin.  McManus is not on a leisurely stroll; she is endeavoring to set the record for a female thru-hiker on this trail.  With humor and compassion, she shares stories of her fellow thru-hikers, describes communities near the trail, and digs into the history of the trail.  You’ll see our state through a different lens and might be inspired to walk a mile or two on the Ice Age Trail.

Our community was settled largely by immigrants from Germany, so it seems fitting that our next stop is that country.  Schadenfreude, a love story: me, the Germans, and 20 years of attempted transformations, unfortunate miscommunications, and humiliating situations that only they have words for is perhaps the longest book title in our catalogue. Rebecca Shuman is a typical Jewish American teen when she encounters her first love—a teenaged boy with a volume of Franz Kafka in his backpack—which leads to the discovery of her real love: all things German.  For the next twenty years, Schuman visits and lives in Germany, trying in both a literal and metaphorical way to make herself understood and to understand. It’s a bildungsroman told with great wit and humor, a snapshot of a young woman discovering herself in a country that’s piecing itself back together after the end of the Cold War.

There’s a trite but rather true impression that most little girls go through a horse-mania phase.  Mine was mostly expressed by repeated readings of Black Beauty.  Author Lara Prior-Palmer, however, decided to sign up for a 1,000-kilometer (621 mile) horse race. In Mongolia. On a whim. As detailed in Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race, Prior-Palmer is nineteen and all at loose ends when she sees an ad for the Mongolian Derby—a race that recreates Genghis Khan’s horse messenger system. She impulsively decides that riding a series of 25 wild ponies across the steppe is the next logical step in her life-long love of horses and riding.  The teenager is woefully underprepared for this race, bringing along scant equipment and unable to work the GPS.  Her win is a testament to her grit, determination, and competitive spirit.  And yet, because of Prior-Palmer’s frank avowal of her foolhardiness (and her spite towards another competitor), manages to save this memoir from the all-too-familiar narrative of the gritty underdog making good.

If you want to mark two squares with one book for the Bookish Bingo Challenge, Imagine Wanting Only This is the one for you.  Kristen Radtke spins her tale in the form of a graphic memoir, relating scenes and circumstances with a combination of lyrical prose and black-and-white art. Loss of a beloved uncle combined with the unwitting desecration of a photographer’s memorial lead the author into a fascination with ruins. Traveling from Cambodia to Colorado, Radtke’s pursuit of these places reveals an existential restlessness, a fear that settling down and settling in means eventual decay into a ruin herself. If you have never thought of a comic book as an art form capable of moving and challenging its readers, Imagine Wanting Only This will shift your perspective.

Perhaps no other author on my list exemplifies the female adventurer as well as Jill Heinerth.  She led teams that discovered long-submerged ruins of Mayan civilization, and she is the first person in history to dive deep into an Antarctic iceberg.  Her memoir Into The Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver detail her transformation from office drone to renowned cave diver.  Her prose is crisp yet conversational, alternately thrilling with its description of danger and charming with its depictions of underwater marvels.  From the opening sentence to the final paragraph, Heinerth sets the adrenaline rushing and the imagination free.

Other recommendations:

What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding: A Memoir
Kristin Newman

TV comedy writer Kristin Newman spent her 20s and 30s watching her friends get married and start families.  Unwilling to either settle down or become the sad single girl, Newman instead spent months each year travelling around the globe.  She details her adventures with an easy, infectious humor and delves with equal aplomb into self-reflection.  Why is it, exactly, that every obstacle sends her on a transatlantic flight?

Lands Of Lost Borders: A Journey On The Silk Road
Kate Harris

Author Kate Harris dreamed of being an explorer when she was a young girl. Unfortunately, the world had already been discovered and mapped long before she grew up in a small Ontario town. In between studying at Oxford and MIT, Harris and her childhood friend decided to travel the Silk Road by bicycle.  Cycling through miles of remote countryside, Harris begins to wonder about the definition of “explorer.” It is someone who discovers something, or is it someone who lives life outside of boundaries, discovering themselves?

Without You, There Is No Us: My Time With The Sons Of North Korea’s Elite
Suki Kim

It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields– except for the 270 students at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room. Suki Kim offers a moving and incalculably rare glimpse of life in the world’s most unknowable country, and at the privileged young men she calls “soldiers and slaves.”

French Ghosts, Russian Nights, And American Outlaws: Souvenirs Of A Professional Vagabond
Susan Spano

In 1993, the New York Times debuted a new feature, the Frugal Traveler, in its pages. Susan Spano was the first columnist, and she took her readers on fascinating trips around the globe. French Ghosts, Russian Nights, and American Outlaws is a collection of some her most beloved pieces. Join Spano as she journeys from the Artic Circle to Java, from China to the Andes Mountains. Through her tales, Spano lives her philosophy of life and travel: Go forth and find meaning. And return home with a tan, whenever possible.

All The Way To The Tigers: A Memoir
Mary Morris

Mary Morris was supposed to be going on sabbatical. Instead, an accident left her in a wheelchair for three months while she endured two surgeries, extensive rehabilitation, and doubts about her ability to ever walk again. While reading Death In Venice, she was captivated by the lines, “He would go on a journey. Not far. Not all the way to the tigers.”  Morris decided then and there that she would travel all the way to the tigers.  She spent weeks over a three-year period in India, searching for the world’s most elusive predator, learning about and finding a deep connection to the wild cat. Told in over a hundred short chapters, Morris weaves a multi-layered tale of determination, family, travel, and growth.

Book descriptions are courtesy of Monarch Catalog, except Schadenfreude, a love story: me, the Germans, and 20 years of attempted transformations, unfortunate miscommunications, and humiliating situations that only they have words for—provided by Amazon.

Posted in Adult, Bingo 2021, Teen & Young Adult

Read a Book Set in a Country That Has Never Hosted the Olympics

Now that the 2021 (2020?) Tokyo Summer Olympic Games have ended we all have additional time to work on our Mead Bookish Bingo Challenge. Below, I assembled several titles that will let you cross off the square for “Books set in a country that has NEVER hosted the Olympics”.

For instance, did you know that despite having over 50 countries registered with the International Olympic Committee, there has never been a modern Olympic games hosted by any country in the entire continent of Africa? This is largely due to the extreme cost attached to hosting an Olympics. Beijing reportedly spent $40 billion to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. If that big ol’ price tag is a deterrent for wealthy nations, imagine the strain this would have on a developing country. While there is talk of the games coming to Senegal far down the road, we must make due in the meantime. 

Chile
The House of the Spirits (1982) by Isabele Allende

Democratic Republic of Congo
The Poisonwood Bible (1998) by Barbara Kingsolver

Guatemala
Grave Secrets (2002) by Kathy Reichs

India
Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line (2020) by Deepa Anaparra
The God of Small Things (1997) by Arhundhati Roy
Murder in Old Bombay (2020) by Nev March

Nigeria
Akata Witch (2011) by Nnedi Okorafor
My Sister the Serial Killer (2018) by Oyinkan Braithwaite

South Africa
Born a Crime (2016) by Trevor Noah
Cry, the Beloved Country (1948) by Alan Patton

The titles listed above represent the tiniest sliver of literature produced in un-Olympic-ed nations. From travelogues to groovy science fiction, there is a pantheon of literature to choose from to get this bingo square crossed off. 

Do you still need a Mead Bookish Bingo card? It’s not too late to complete a row. Pick up a copy at the first or second floor desk at Mead or print your own out HERE. Would you like a little more community while you work on our bingo card? Consider joining our Goodreads group HERE.

If none of the titles listed appeal, contact us for additional recommendations. Please do not hesitate to reach out for help requesting materials, troubleshooting our ebook platforms, or anything else, really.

Posted in Bingo 2021, Bookish Bingo, Graphic Novels & Memoirs

Bookish Bingo: Read a Graphic Novel, Graphic Memoir, or Manga

How has your Bookish Bingo Challenge been going? We’re approaching the halfway point of 2021, so it is by no means too late to finish up a row, or start completely from scratch to reach your bingo goal. Not sure what the Bookish Bingo Challenge is, or need a copy of the bingo sheet? Click HERE. Also, take a look at past installments of Bookish Bingo blog posts for inspiration HERE

This week’s post focuses on the “read a graphic novel, graphic memoir, or manga” square. My public school experience happened to line up with the place in time when we stopped saying “comic books” and started saying “graphic novels”. Really high-falutin’ and academic types might even have uttered “sequential art” when trying to frame comic books as a serious literary and artistic medium. My seventh grade english teacher quickly did an about-face at my proposed book report on Art Spiegleman’s seminal Maus, when told that it had won a Pulitzer Prize that year; a first for any comic. Anyone familiar with this remarkable title will understand how Spiegleman’s work helped usher in a truly golden age of graphic novels, manga, comics, comix, funny pages, or however you know the medium. Take a look at the list below for some additional high-chroma recommendations.

Graphic novels:

Black Panther: World of Wakanda (2017) written by Roxanne Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates; gone are the days when comics were known for shoddy writing. Gay and Coates are some of the country’s greatest living authors, so we should all take a moment to appreciate the depth of talent at work in all aspects of contemporary graphic novels.

Check Please! (2018) by Ngozi Ukazu; there’s a trope in queer fiction in which gay protagonists are subjected to unceremonious deaths, overt gay-bashing, or some other violent consequence of homophobia. I’m begging you to read this book not only because it is an absolute delight, but gay characters are defined by their thoughts and actions, not by their trauma. Also: PIE!

A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories (1978) by Will Eisner; widely considered the first modern graphic novel. Eisner is so important to the medium they named the award for industry achievement and innovation after him. Take a look at the list of Eisner award-winning work HERE.

Love and Rockets (1981-1996) by Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez; I, personally, cannot talk about American comic history without mentioning the Hernandez brothers. They gave voice to minorities and women in an industry that still isn’t always welcoming to these populations, as well as define the post-underground generation of comic artists.

Usagi Yojimbo (1987-present) by Stan Sakai; follow masterless bunny samurai Miyamoto Usagi around a 17th century Japan populated with anthropomorphic animals. This long-running series is packed full of awesome action, Japanese mythology, folklore, and humor. Does Usagi seem familiar? It might be because he has been known to join the Ninja Turtles on adventures, as well.

Here’s NPR’s list of 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels from 2017 for additional reading recommendations. 

Graphic memoirs:

El Deafo (2014) by Cece Bell; perennial favorite of middle-grade readers, and rightly so. Full of heart, humanity, and humor.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2007) by Alison Bechdel; you may also recognize Bechdel’s name from the eponymous “Bechdel Test” which is a simple if imperfect way to evaluate female representation in fiction. Read more about it HERE, because honestly it’s fascinating.

Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (1991) by Art Spiegelman; aforementioned as perhaps THE book that helped comics reach mainstream notoriety.

Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood (2004) by Marjane Satrapi; I learned more about the 1979 Iranian Revolution from this book than the entirety of my formal education. See also: the animated movie adaptation.

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers (2018) by Ben Passmore; named one of NPR’s favorite comics of all time.

Need even MORE excellent graphic memoir recommendations? Take a look at the list assembled over at Bookriot

Manga:

Akira (1984) by Katsuhiro Otomo; the manga that launched a thousand obsessions. As with many middle-Americans, Akira was my first encounter with anime which then extrapolated into my first encounter with manga. The influence of both film and book on modern media cannot be overstated. Watch the movie and marvel at its late 80s technical excellence and totally badass soundtrack.   

High School Debut (2004-2013) by Kazune Kawahara; beloved romance series known for its straightforward charm. 

O Maidens in Your Savage Season (2017-present) by Mari Okada; this one comes highly recommended by fellow librarian Carol, and if one can trust anyone’s opinion, it’s hers. This is a great title for women and girls who are tired of seeing themselves objectified from hell to breakfast in manga (and plenty of American media as well, to be fair). 

One Piece (1997-present) by Eiichiro Oda; this long-running, best-selling adventure series will publish its 100th volume later this year.

Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror (1998) by Junji Ito; horror manga tends to be filled with super gross, intense depictions of gore and violence. This three-volume series goes easier on the reader without scaling back the genuine creep-factor. 

I will admit manga is a personal blind spot for me, so please take a look at THIS list from Bookriot for further recommendations. One thing I love about manga is that many tend to be published as long-running series, so if one book is appealing there are likely to be dozens more (looking at you, One Piece).

For a great introduction to the main genres of manga, take a look at THIS excellent guide published by the New York Public Library. 

At one time the word “comics” might have conjured the blurry, three-color lithography of Sunday papers, superhero rags made famous by DC and Marvel, and not a lot else. Superheroes and newspaper funnies are still valid and important, but the form has come a long way over the years, which benefits us all. Framed as a gateway to broader reading, many reluctant readers morphed into avid book lovers after connecting with a graphic novel they loved. My gateway comics were Archie Comics and Herge’s Tintin; these were the first books I ever read on my own & cemented my positive relationship with reading. Hopefully, the books and lists above will provide Bookish Bingo players ample inspiration of their own. All titles listed above are available via the Monarch catalog. For help requesting materials or additional book recommendations including but not limited to bingo square challenges, we would love to hear from you via phone (920-459-3400), email (publicservices@meadpl.org), chat, or in-person.

Posted in Adult, Bingo 2021, Bookish Bingo, Poetry

Bookish Bingo Challenge: Poetry or Verse By a BIPOC Author

It’s time for another post to help you out with our 2021 Bookish Bingo Challenge! Below, you’ll find some recommendations for books of poetry by authors who are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color. I’ve tried to focus on new releases in this post as well. Some of the poets might be unfamiliar, but perhaps even those whose names you recognize will have a new book listed that you weren’t aware had come out!

And because no post like this could hope to be comprehensive, and because poetry particularly lends itself to anthologies, I’ve also added a little bit at the end about relevant ones. Descriptions below taken from the publishers via Edelweiss+.

An American Sunrise by Joy Harjo (2019) – or listen on Audiobook!

A stunning new volume from the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States, informed by her tribal history and connection to the land.

In the early 1800s, the Mvskoke people were forcibly removed from their original lands east of the Mississippi to Indian Territory, which is now part of Oklahoma. Two hundred years later, Joy Harjo returns to her family’s lands and opens a dialogue with history. In An American Sunrise, Harjo finds blessings in the abundance of her homeland and confronts the site where her people, and other indigenous families, essentially disappeared. From her memory of her mother’s death, to her beginnings in the native rights movement, to the fresh road with her beloved, Harjo’s personal life intertwines with tribal histories to create a space for renewed beginnings. Her poems sing of beauty and survival, illuminating a spirituality that connects her to her ancestors and thrums with the quiet anger of living in the ruins of injustice. A descendent of storytellers and “one of our finest—and most complicated—poets” (Los Angeles Review of Books), Joy Harjo continues her legacy with this latest powerful collection.

Continue reading “Bookish Bingo Challenge: Poetry or Verse By a BIPOC Author”
Posted in Bingo 2021, Bookish Bingo, Film, Uncategorized

Bookish Bingo Challenge: Watch a Movie with Subtitles on Kanopy

I don’t know about you but I have closed captioning on my TV at all times. Whether it’s due to my hearing, or wonky volume settings on the actual television, I can’t make hide nor hair of certain programs without subtitles. Since I like to have CC on anyway, I’m baffled when people won’t watch a foreign film because they “don’t want to read a movie”. Hey to each her own. This leads me to the latest installment of blog posts related to a square on Mead’s Bookish Bingo Challenge bingo card: Watch a Movie with Subtitles on Kanopy. If you have never used Kanopy before, why not give it a try and knock off a bingo square at the same time? Below, I listed several excellent films that as of this post’s writing, are available on Kanopy.

To access films with subtitles, log in and click on “BROWSE”. Hover over “MOVIES” and select “WORLD CINEMA” from the drop down menu. The following screen will provide lists of films by world region or interest area such as “Award Winners”.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014) directed by Ana Lily Amirpour

Vampire movies are pretty sweet, right? Nothing better UNLESS it’s an Iranian vampire movie with a feminist tilt. Shot in sumptuous black and white, the girl, of walking home alone at night fame, is actually an undead eldritch horror wandering the streets of Bad City and eating people. The compelling and beautiful cinematography is punctuated by alternating scenes of horrific violence and/or tender understanding between adrift souls, and those who lack them. The Middle Eastern Cinema section of Kanopy contains dozens and dozens of movie titles that have probably never played at an American cinema, and certainly not in Sheboygan. I, for one, relish the chance to see a story narrated in an unfamiliar tongue, and still understand what the hell is going on, all praise be to subtitles. 

Here are some other films from the Middle Eastern Cinema collection on Kanopy:

  • Halfaouine (1995) directed by Ferid Boughedir
  • Timbuktu (2014) directed by Abderrahmane Sissako
  • The Wind Will Carry Us (1999) directed by Abbas Kiarostami
  • The Women’s Balcony (2016) directed by Emil Ben-Shimon
  • Women Without Men (2009) directed by Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azari

Inferno (1980) directed by Dario Argento

Singling out a Dario Argento film to talk about Italian cinema is kind of fudging things since his productions lacked, how do you say? Ah yes, continuity, when it came to the language being spoken on-screen. His actors would often not speak the language in the script or even be able to talk to one another, and had to phonetically memorize lines only to have them overdubbed in post-production. The result is that single scenes careen back and forth from English to Italian and back without the actors breaking stride. Inferno is Argento at his creepy giallo best. See also: Suspiria (1977), also available on Kanopy. Similar to Inferno, Suspiria is light on plot, heavy on gorgeous color-saturated framing, and an insane prog-rock soundtrack courtesy of Goblin. Oh! And Udo Kier shows up eventually (heart eyes emoji).

Here are some other Italian-language films available on Kanopy:

  • 8 ½ (1963) directed by Federico Fellini
  • The Dinner (2014) directed by Ivano de Matteo
  • Il Posto (1961) directed by Ermanno Olmi
  • Love And Anarchy (1973) directed by Lina Wertmuller
  • Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (1963) directed by Vittorio De Sica

The Host (2006) directed by Bong Joon-ho 

Ope! Looks like I managed to talk about all horror movies again! Sorry, totally not sorry. Directed by Bong Joon-ho, who won a bunch of Oscars for 2019’s Parasite, The Host represents his third outing as a director. It broke screen and attendance records when it was released in Korea and remains one of their top-grossing films to this day. And, much like Parasite, thinking about The Host in hindsight feels like finding new secrets in a puzzlebox. Elements of slapstick, horror, melodrama, political satire, and more are in the fabric of this production. Those who love their monster movies with a huge dose of heart and humor will be delighted by The Host.

Here are some other Korean-language films available on Kanopy:

  • I Saw the Devil (2011) directed by Ji-woon Kim
  • Lady Vengeance (2005) directed by Park Chan-wook
  • Mother (2010) directed by Bong Joon-ho
  • The Royal Tailor (2014) directed by Wonsuk Lee
  • Seoul Station (2014) directed by Sang-ho Yeon

Fear not, Kanopy has non-horror movies for the non-spooky population. It’s just the direction my personal gravity has been pointing these days. Check back with the Mead blog often to get suggestions for other bingo squares throughout the year. As always, do not hesitate to reach out for troubleshooting help with tech stuff, or for additional recommendations. Before you know it, you’ll have a BINGO!

Posted in Adult, Bingo 2021, Bookish Bingo, Teen & Young Adult

2021 Mead Bookish Bingo Challenge: Read an Epistolary Novel

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.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live a day in someone else’s shoes?  Give Gabi, a Girl in Pieces, the chronicles of a young Mexican-American teenage girl trying to survive her final year of high school, or Letters from Black America, a nonfiction narrative history of African Americans told through their own letters, a read-through.  Looking for a little LGBTQIA+ inspiration?  Try The Perks of Being a Wallflower or Empty Without You: the Intimate Letters of Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok.

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.

For more titles, inspiration, and Bookish Bingo camaraderie, take a peek at the Mead’s Bookish Bingo Challenges group on Goodreads, and don’t forget to mark your 2021 Mead Bookish Bingo Challenges card!

Posted in Adult, Bingo 2021, Bookish Bingo, Nonfiction, Teen & Young Adult

Bookish Bingo Challenge 2021: Make a New Recipe from a Cookbook

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.


Jerusalem: a Cookbook (2012) by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

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. 

Well Fed, Flat Broke (2015) by Emily Wight

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. 

The Enchilada Queen Cookbook (2016) by Sylvia Casares

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.

Posted in Adult, Bingo 2021, Bookish Bingo, Teen & Young Adult

Introducing: 2021 Mead’s Bookish Bingo Challenge!


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 publicservices@meadpl.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.

Continue reading “Introducing: 2021 Mead’s Bookish Bingo Challenge!”