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!”