In Defense of Food

In Defense of FoodIs your head spinning from all the conflicting studies about what you should or shouldn’t eat? Michael Pollan makes a case for eating simply in this, his follow up book to The Omnivore’s Dilemma. He isn’t concerned with calorie counting or faddish lists of do’s and don’ts, but rather promotes a balanced, reasonable and pleasurable approach to food. Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. With so many “edible foodlike substances” on the market, Pollan advocates eating whole foods our grandmothers would recognize rather than the processed foods that claim to be nutritious. Fellow foodies will find this a refreshing book by a man who clearly loves good, real food. This is a great read to inspire lots of shopping at the local Farmer’s Markets this spring.

Also check out Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life for more ideas about how to eat local and fresh.

Take a listen to Michael Pollan’s talk given in Iowa City on WSUI radio’s Live from Prairie Lights

The Last Great Race

Iditarod sled raceAlaska, with it’s stunning scenery and distance from the continental United States holds a romantic place in the minds of most American’s. There is still wildness there, and vast spaces and untamed land and its people are tough and maybe a bit eccentric. You expect things to be bigger and wilder and more spectacular in Alaska, and usually it delivers.

Today marks the beginning of one of sports more spectacular events, the running of the Iditarod sled dog race which opens with a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage. Often called the Last Great Race, the Iditarod covers 1150 miles over snowy, rugged terrain across wild Alaska. It is held to commemorate the 1925 life-saving run made by sled dog to deliver serum to avert a diphtheria epidemic in Nome, Alaska. The official site of the race gives you a ringside seat to the spectacle offering streaming video, history of the race, up-to-the minute news, bios of mushers and dogs, an interactive map of the route, a tracker which lists each competitor and their position in the race and weather reports. From start to Red Lantern (the traditional award given to the last finisher) you can join in the excitement of the event from the warmth of your living room.

If you want to find out more about the Iditarod and it’s colorful history, the library has several books on the subject in the 798.8 call number area, including Gary Paulson’s lyrical Winterdance: the fine madness of running the Iditarod.

Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch

The Garden PrimerSpring is coming. Really, it is. And despite evidence to the contrary, it’s coming soon. Now is the perfect time to get serious about planning your garden – those juicy tomatoes and glorious flowers don’t plant themselves you know!

The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch has long been one of my favorites – there is something about her writing style that makes you think “Sure, I can grow that. No problem.” Encouraging and practical, she covers everything – from digging the garden bed to how to grow a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, flowers and bulbs – without being overwhelming. Topics include composting, growing native plants, dealing with critters and essential garden tools. A new, revised edition has just been released with updated plant varieties and additional topics; recommended garden practices are now 100% organic.

And if you’re landless or just don’t have the time to garden but still love to eat well, the Davenport Farmer’s Markets open for the regular season on May 3! (Until then, winter markets will be held at the Freight House on March 1 and April 5)

Murder in the National Parks

nevadabarrflashback.jpgDo you like to visit the National Parks? Do you like murder mysteries with a little romance thrown in? Check out the Nevada Barr mysteries. Her heroine is Anna Pigeon, a National Park Service Ranger who runs away from Manhattan after the death of her first husband. Each book deals with a murder in a National Park as Anna moves from post to post. Her descriptions of each park are great, making you want to visit. Flashback takes place in the Dry Tortugas National Park which is seventy miles off Key West. The story includes a current murder as well as the history and lore of the island, which is the site of historic Fort Jefferson. Anna’s sister Molly finds letters written by their great-great aunt who lived at the fort during the Civil War. With the letters providing the history of the fort and Anna’s description of her current posting at the park, you feel you are really there. After I read the book I had the opportunity to visit Key West and take a catamaran trip to Fort Jefferson; Nevada Barr’s vivid descriptions were right on the mark..

New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker

New England Soup Factory CookbookJust in case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve been having a dozy of a winter with rain, freezing rain, snow and sub-zero temperatures all making headlines. And, I hate to be the one to tell you this but warmer temperatures are still a few weeks away for the Midwest.

What better time for the warmth and comfort of homemade soup? The New England Soup Factory Cookbook by Marjorie Druker will provide you with dozens of ideas. Soups as varied as “Wild Mushroom and Barley” and “Curried Crab and Coconut” as well as familiar favorites such as “New England Clam Chowder” will inspire you. Luscious photos may tempt you to chew on the pages (please don’t) and the stories of the restaurant (a long-time favorite located in Boston) will keep you entertained.

It just might be enough to get you through those last few weeks of cold and snow.

The President’s Table by Barry Landau

The President’s Table by Barry LandauHappy President’s Day! Every third Monday in February has been set aside to observe the birth anniversaries of Abraham Lincoln (February 12) and George Washington (February 22), although it is now generally used to honor all former US presidents.

Ever wonder what goes on at those lavish Presidential State Dinners? The beautifully illustrated The President’s Table: Two Hundred Years of Dining and Diplomacy by Barry Landau gives us a unique picture of the world and work of the Presidents. Showing us history from a social rather than strictly factual viewpoint, Landau makes history fascinating and personal. Included are photographs of menus and invitations, descriptions of meals served, and details of trends in entertaining which reflect the birth, growth and dominance of the United States.

The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean

Madonnas of LeningradThe past is still vivid to Marina, even though the present fades in a fog of age and approaching Alzheimer’s. Now elderly and living in America, as a young woman she had been a docent at the State Hermitage Museum in Leningrad. When Leningrad comes under siege during World War II, Marina and the other museum workers carefully hide the priceless artworks, leaving the frames behind as a promise of their eventual return. Marina painstakingly memorizes each painting and sculpture, memories she can escape to as the winter and continuing siege worsen, memories that now seem more real than her current life. Interspersed with vivid descriptions of the artwork and the suffering of the Russian civilians, this is a beautiful book about the power of memory.

Graphic Novels — Fun for New Adult Readers

Call of the Wild graphic novelDo you know a struggling reader? Check out our Learning Center at the Main Library!

We have many new graphic novels packaged along with audio CD’s and/or cassette tapes. Using them together, one can listen to the words while reading, thereby reinforcing the words one sees on the page. Also, since graphic novels arebooks for struggling readers very similar to comic books in format, they are more appealing to teens or adults who don’t like to read. We have many classic titles that are often required reading in high school. We also carry other Hi-Lo (high-interest, low-reading level) materials and literacy aides. Check them out!

Little known fact about Frank Lloyd Wright

Death in a Prairie HouseThe most pivotal and yet least understood event of Frank Lloyd Wright’s celebrated life involves the brutal murders in 1914 of seven adults and children dear to the architect and the destruction by fire of Taliesin, his landmark residence, near Spring Green, Wisconsin. Unaccountably, the details of that shocking crime have been largely ignored by Wright’s legion of biographers—a historical and cultural gap that is finally addressed in William Drennan’s exhaustively researched Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders.

Supplying both a gripping mystery story and an authoritative portrait of the artist as a young man, Drennan wades through the myths surrounding Wright and the massacre, casting fresh light on the formulation of Wright’s architectural ideology and the cataclysmic effects that the Taliesin murders exerted on the fabled architect and on his subsequent designs.

Brothers by Da Chen

Brothers by Da ChenDo you like historical fiction? Try Brothers by Da Chen. The book takes place in China during the Cultural Revolution and concerns two brothers, Tan and Shento, one born to wealth and privilege , the other to poverty and shame. The story follows their lives as they grow to manhood and fulfill their destinies. Though a work of fiction, the author has also written memoirs of his life in China, and this book draws upon his experiences during those tumultuous times.