Reviews

Blood, Bones & Butter

Before I became a librarian, I worked in the restaurant industry for 10 years.  I learned to cook from my dad and had dreams of going to culinary school to become a chef.  Career changes happen, but I am still drawn to cooking shows and spend a lot of time reading books about food, food policies, eating, and food history --think Bittman, Kurlansky, & Kingsolver.  When it came out recently, I knew I had to read Blood, Bones & Butter: the Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton. 

Hamilton is owner and head chef at Prune, a well-reviewed and established restaurant in New York. This book sets out her love of food from her parents to her on-the-fly education in New York City catering.  Her path to recognition and establishment later in life is both gory and determined. Being a woman in this business can be ugly and Hamilton both investigates and dismisses this fact.  What she does well is understanding the connection between food and family and what it means to be part of this process on both an intimate and grander scale.     

Fifty Animals that Changed the Course of History

If you're an animal lover (and who isn't?), you'll love this book. Fifty Animals is full of fascinating facts and anecdotes that describe our symbiotic and other relationships with interesting creatures through time.

Do you admire your friend's bright red shirt? If so, tell her that for centuries the best and most durable red dye came from Mexico and was shipped as far away as Asia. This red dye came from thousands of insects named chochineal. It takes about 70,000 insects to make just a pound of it. Since the advent of chemical dyes, it's seldom used in textiles any longer, but it now employed as a safe colorant for food.

The lowly donkey otherwise known as ass, has a reputation for being incredibly dumb, when in fact, they are smart, very adaptable animals that have carried our heavy loads for centuries throughout the world.

The wise and majestic elephant--my favorite mammal--we unfortunately coerced into war. In fact, the sight of just one of these intelligent beasts carrying archers and slingers reportedly so terrified the defenders of early Britain that the poor Anglo-Saxons were routed by the Roman army.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

I don't read enough young adult fiction, so when I came across The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight with its intriguing title, I decided to jump in. It tells the story of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan who is flying across the Atlantic to attend her father's wedding but only under duress.

"The Professor," as she tags him, left Connecticut a year ago for a four-month stint at Oxford, but never returned home to the family. He asked for a divorce from Hadley's mom, and Hadley has been seething ever since. Reluctantly, under pressure from both parents, she's boarding a plane at JFK International Airport.

The first thing that happens is she misses her plane. This really complicates things because she only gave herself a window of five hours from arrival at customs to being a bridesmaid at a London church. She gets scheduled on a jet three hours later. Hadley asks a woman to watch her bags and the woman angrily accuses her of breaking the law, but a handsome youth with a charming British accent offers to help.

Staycations in Indiana

Vacation time will soon be here. With gas prices high and disposable income low, it may be another good year for a staycation. Those of us living in Indiana can plan some great overnight trips or even day trips to fun and interesting places throughout Indiana.

The Indiana Room collection has many travel books to help you plan a fun outing.

Just a few examples include the following books.

If you like the unusual and just plain weird, consult Weird Indiana by Mark Merrimen. The Tunnelton Tunnel in Lawrence County is included, the world's first Ferris wheel turned into a bridge near Tifft and the ever popular Gravity Hill near Mooresville are also included.

Indiana Curiosities by Dick Wolfsie is in it's third edition. Arranged by geographic area, this guide lists and describes unusual museums, statues and businesses. The Italian Chapel at Camp Atterbury, built by WW II Italian prisoners of war, Dr. Ted's Musical Marvel's museum near Santa Claus and the Cass County Carousel in Riverside Park in Logansport are just a few examples of entries.

Dreaming in French: the Paris Years of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis

Confession: I tried to learn French once.  Years ago, I signed up for a New Orleans Free University class in what should have been a great place to learn French or at least Cajun. But each week the instructor came to class "under the influence."  Even though he shared some wild Paris stories and jumped on and off the teacher's desk, my French never improved.

I've always enjoyed books about experiencing the world through the lens of a new culture. Alice Kaplan's excellent Dreaming in French is a very fun and compelling read. In clear beautiful prose, she writes about how living in France changed the life courses of three smart and gifted women: Jackie Bouvier Kennedy, Susan Sontag, and Angela Davis. 

Each of them spent time in France on the cusp of womanhood. In many ways, France and French culture affected not only how they viewed the world but their entire lives afterward.

In 1949 Jackie travelled to Paris by ship as part of a contingent of Smith College students spending the year abroad. It was soon after World War II and she was placed with a former WWII resistance fighter whose husband had died in a camp doing slave labor for the Nazis.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

In 1885 the year of its US publication, a number of public libraries banned The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from their stacks. According to the American Library Association, it was the fifth most-frequently-challenged book in the United States in the 1990s. Despite strong arguments that the book supports positive racial themes, Huck Finn has been controversial from the beginning.  Last year NewSouth Books published a sanitized edition, effectively keeping this book in the news and on the minds of both those who have loved and hated this classic American book.  When was the last time you visited Huck Finn? Interested in learning more and sharing your ideas?

Join us next week for a panel discussion of this story that continues to both attract and repel members of our community. Does Huckleberry Finn belong in the literary canon and in our schools? What does it reveal about race relations, art and the power of language?

Pages