Below, I’ll share some books pulled together by my coworker, Erica, that would be perfect for this challenge. There are separate sections for adult books and teen books; descriptions have been taken from our catalog or the publisher. If you’re looking for children’s books, check out this previous blog post by Bree, Love Your Mother Earth!
Featuring 144 short and fascinating nature essays grouped by season, this beautifully illustrated volume serves as a trailside companion year-round. Find out about black bears and blackbirds, walleyes and woodchucks, snow geese and snow fleas, all in your own backyard. Nature lovers of all ages will appreciate Buchholz’s breezy style and wealth of outdoor knowledge.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.”
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.
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.
Happy Pride month! June is for celebrating queer culture and remembering the innovators and agitators who fought for, and continue to fight for gay rights and freedom. While there is much work to be done, it’s important to take some time to reflect on the progress made. Commemorate and celebrate along with the community by engaging with queer-created content. Below, I list books and movies to educate and entertain alongside the celebration.
Anyone who has been paying attention to publishing trends over the past decade should be pleased to notice the availability of more and more diverse books. Whether you’re talking romance, sci-fi, memoir, or history, there is something for everybody. And guess what? You don’t even need to be gay to enjoy all this great content.
In the Dream House: a Memoir (2019) by Carmen Maria Machado; considered one of the best books of 2019, Machado uses horror tropes to explore the impact of abuse in same-sex relationships.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (2017) by Mackenzie Lee; being gay in contemporary times is still, sadly, fraught with danger. This book explores the stifling conventions of 17th century nobility and how they impacted people who are not content to live within the bounds of convention. Lots of fun, with a third book in the series debuting this fall.
Pet (2019) by Akwaeke Emezi; I have for sure blogged about this book minimum once before, and I will admit it’s likely I will blog about it again, but this book is so good. Just. So, so good. It’s fantasy, but real. It’s the future, but not too far away. Monsters come in all forms, and Pet examines them with great feeling and humanity.
Sissy: a Coming-of-Gender Story (2019) by Jacob Tobias; assigned male at birth, Tobias uses their story to explore how a stringent gender binary is keeping us from fully being who we really are. Might want to read someplace you won’t get looked at funny for laughing out loud.
Wow, No Thank You (2020) by Samantha Kirby; Super funny collection of essays about the author’s life.
All About My Mother (1999) by Pedro Almodovar; considered one of Almodovar’s best. Riffing on golden age of Hollywood sensibilities and Betty Davis, this is the story of a mother’s journey across Spain to inform her estranged husband of the death of their son.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999) This movie will devastate you. Don’t watch it alone and don’t watch it if you cannot stomach violence. Do watch it to gain some understanding about the dangers of being trans in a world that doesn’t want trans people to exist. Hillary Swank won Best Actress for her portrayal of Brandon Teena which now leads us to some fascinating conversations about trans actors representing themselves on screen.
Moonlight (2016) directed by Barry Jenkins; this is hands-down one of the most beautiful movies ever made. We follow protagonist Chiron through three life phases as he grows from a boy into a man. Another worthy exploration of race and sexuality in America. And let’s not forget about the best acting of the year coming from Mahershala Ali as Juan, one of the only adults to show young Chiron an ounce of tenderness. Currently available on Kanopy.
Paris is Burning (1990) directed by Jennie Livingston; this wonderful, shiny and bright documentary explores the African American and Latinx ballroom drag scene of 1980s Harlem against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, homophobia, transphobia, and racism. If you enjoy Ryan Murphy’s Pose, you have to watch Paris is Burning. I don’t make the rules here, just do it.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) directed by Celine Sciamma; gorgeous 17th century love story between two women. Now available on Kanopy.
Many of the books and movies mentioned above can be found on Mead’s Pride book display, located on the first floor, until the end of June, 2021. All titles are available in the Monarch catalog, often in multiple formats, as well. Don’t see anything that grabs you? We are thrilled, THRILLED to help you find what you are looking for. That goes for any genre or topic piquing your interest at any particular time, diverse or not. Never hesitate to reach out for book recommendations or tech help, we love that stuff. And remember: just because we celebrate in June doesn’t mean we go without Pride all year long.
Don’t forget to check back next week for a list of LGBTQI+ graphic novels!
The last year has been a stressful time. Needless to say, quite a few people will likely still be dealing with some anxiety when everything finally dies down. I’ve collected a few books to help you learn ways to handle that anxiety. You’ll find our catalog’s description of the book under each title.
“We are living through one of the most anxious periods any of us can remember. Whether facing issues as public as a pandemic or as personal as having kids at home and fighting the urge to reach for the wine bottle every night, we are feeling overwhelmed and out of control. But in this timely book, Judson Brewer explains how to uproot anxiety at its source using brain-based techniques and small hacks accessible to anyone. We think of anxiety as everything from mild unease to full-blown panic. But it’s also what drives the addictive behaviors and bad habits we use to cope (e.g. stress eating, procrastination, doom scrolling and social media). Plus, anxiety lives in a part of the brain that resists rational thought. So we get stuck in anxiety habit loops that we can’t think our way out of or use willpower to overcome. Dr. Brewer teaches us map our brains to discover our triggers, defuse them with the simple but powerful practice of curiosity, and to train our brains using mindfulness and other practices that his lab has proven can work. Distilling more than 20 years of research and hands-on work with thousands of patients, including Olympic athletes and coaches, and leaders in government and business, Dr. Brewer has created a clear, solution-oriented program that anyone can use to feel better – no matter how anxious they feel.”
Environmental issues have been receiving increasing attention in recent years. Earth is facing a lot of problems, many as a direct result of human activity. With Earth Day coming up on April 22nd, this is a great time to remember to bring awareness to the issues our planet is facing and what we can do as individuals and communities to help care for our planet and keep it healthy. Have a conversation with the kids in your life about what it would mean to them to have a healthy place to live and what they can do to help make that happen. Take this day as an opportunity to show Mother Earth some love and participate in an environmentally friendly activity together. Some fun and easy ideas you may want to consider trying include: taking a walk and picking up trash around your neighborhood, planting a tree, planting a pollinator garden, repurposing unwanted items, doing a closet cleanout and donating no longer needed items for others to use, or creating an art masterpiece from recycled materials. Remember, the kindness we show our planet doesn’t have to take place on just one day. We can take steps to reduce our negative impact each day through simple acts. Supplement your environmentally friendly activity with a book that covers an environmental issue of interest. I have some nonfiction children’s book recommendations from our library that will educate and inspire kids to find ways they can help our planet and prevent issues from worsening.
Sesame Street fans will appreciate the basic information given in this book that introduces younger readers to the concepts of recycling, reusing, and reducing in an effort to care for the environment. Sesame Street characters provide explanations for why we need to do these things, along with clear examples of how we can easily do them. Abby Cadabby gives readers the idea to reuse a can to hold pens, Oscar recommends eating foods that don’t have wrappers to reduce waste, and Rosita shows us a set of chairs that are made from recycled plastic. Delightful illustrations also include photographs of children demonstrating ways they help to take care of the environment.
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.
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.
The holiday season is revving up, admittedly a bit different than in previous years. Favorite traditions may not be possible this year and, gift budgets may be tight, so why not considering making ornaments for your tree or others. I found a few relevant books, and I’ve included their descriptions from their publishers.
“Author Carolyn Vosburg Hall presents 25 projects for beautiful and decorative ornaments to adorn Christmas trees and the home for the holiday season. Each project includes detailed, step-by-step instructions, as well as colorful photographs. The ornaments can be made using common craft supplies such as polymer clay, paper, embroidery floss, beads, and glue, and are suitable for all skill levels.”