furiously happyFuriously Happy: A Funny Book about Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson is the story of one woman’s journey through mental illness and the many places she finds herself. Jenny has been battling mental illness her entire life, so she considers herself to be an expert at how she handles her crippling depression and anxiety. She’s an expert at terrible ideas and writing a funny book about horrible things may be her best terrible idea yet.

Jenny believes in living her life furiously happy. Her depression, anxiety, and other myriad mental illnesses may run her life at certain moments, but she has decided that in the moments when she is not hiding in her bedroom, she’s going to live furiously happy. She’s going to do anything that pops into her head, anything stupid or irresponsible like having a raccoon rodeo with your cats or trying to convince your husband that having kangaroos would be a good idea. This book is packed full of stories of Jenny turning moments when things are just fine into amazing moments for herself, her daughter, and her husband. Because she doesn’t know exactly when her next down swing may happen, Jenny chooses to LIVE her life and not just survive it.

Jenny has written this book as a way to show the rest of the people in the world that the best way to live our lives is to embrace our weirdness 100%. She wants to show that by building up furiously happy moments in our okay moments, we are arming our brain with positive moments when those same brains decide to fight against us and try to kill us. Her moments of hilarity are paired with moments of such brutal honesty that you’ll find yourself on one page in the kitchen with Jenny as she plays with her taxidermied raccoons and then a few pages later sitting in the bathroom with her as she cries and pulls out her hair until she bleeds. The dichotomy between those beautiful, loving moments of happiness and the flawed, immensely overflowing, just trying to survive moments is where Jenny thrives. She encourages you to embrace yourself no matter what label you’re given and to find ways to find joy and happiness no matter what.


This book is also available in the following formats:

salt and silverSalt & Silver traces the journey of Johannes Riffelmacher and Thomas Kosikowski as they travel through Central and South America – reporting on all the best surfing locations, chronicling the stories of local surfers and restaurant owners, and compiling recipes representative of each area.

The narrative begins in Cuba with beautiful images of the city and the beaches, as well as stories related to the Cuban surfing community and a discussion of popular Cuban dishes. Next is a tour of Mexico–first with street tacos, a trip through Mexican markets, and day spent in the urban graffitiscene of Guadalajara; then with Tostadas de Pulpo (Octopus Crackers), Shrimp and Portobello Burgers, and glimpse into small town life in the remote surfing town of San Pancho. The Mexican leg of the journey draws to a conclusion with 7-meter-waves, BBQ, and Tajine in Rio Nexpa, as well as “a perfect righthander barreling of a point” in the scenic La Ticla. After Mexico comes a long list of sites and sounds as the two men make their way through Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, and finally Chile, exploring the beaches and waves, as well as the kitchens of each location.

Interspersed throughout the pages of the trip are more than 90 regional recipes, over 250 stunning photographs, and a wide array of tips and stories ranging from social commentary on the Cuban surf scene to pointers on how to rent a “Hamaquera” in La Ticla for $3 a night. (description from publisher)

what phil's havingI enjoy a good travel documentary, but what really hooks me in are the ones that focus on the local food that can be found and enjoyed when you are on vacation. I’ll Have What Phil’s Having is what I would call a food travel documentary and definitely fulfilled my wish for more of a focus on food than the sites that you would see in a traditional travel documentary.

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having follows Emmy Award-winner Phil Rosenthal, the creator of the hit show Everybody Loves Raymond, as he travels around the world looking for fantastic food in various countries and cities. Phil visits six sites: Tokyo, Italy, Paris, Hong Kong, Barcelona, and his hometown, Los Angeles. At each place, he seeks out what he thinks to be the world’s best food, looking for chefs, ground-breaking style-setters, and leaders in the culinary world to expand his palate and find places where both locals and tourists go to find the best food.

What I loved about this documentary is that Phil was looking for restaurants and chefs that both kept the food traditions of their communities alive and also were working to create new foods, ideas, and restaurants. He acknowledges that he looks for places that both tourists go to, but that going off the beaten path and looking for places that the locals know of will sometimes lead you on a new adventure.

This documentary caught and held my interest because of the wide variety of food he tested, the places he visited, and because of his hilarious commentary and facial expressions as he experienced anything new for the first time. He also gives tours of the famous and historical sites around as enticement for visiting the places that he is at as well. Highly recommended.

road trip usaNow in its seventh edition, Jamie Jensen’s best-selling Road Trip USA is better than ever.

Inside, you’ll find cross-country routes and road-tested advice for adventurers who want to see the parts of America that the interstates have left behind. Jensen also includes mile-by-mile highlights celebrating major cities, obscure towns, popular attractions, roadside curiosities (if you’re looking for the world’s largest jackalope, you’re in luck), local lore, and oddball trivia. With full coverage of more than 35,000 miles of classic blacktop, Road Trip USA will take you off the beaten path and into the heart of America.

Features include: A flexible network of route combinations, extensively cross-referenced to allow for hundreds of possible itineraries; essential tips for the road; survival guides for two dozen cities; call letters of the liveliest radio stations; details on where to eat and sleep; full-color interior with more than 140 meticulously detailed maps. (description from publisher)

flyover lives For those of you not familiar with Diane Johnson, she is a writer who grew up right in the Midwest, in Moline, Illinois to be specific. Her Midwest roots can be found throughout her writings, specifically in her memoir, Flyover Lives.

Johnson grew up in Moline and writes that the Midwest was a place she wanted to escape from. She  eventually ended up in California and then in France, where the idea for this book sprang forth. At a house party in France, Johnson’s friend told her that Americans had an “indifference to history,” that that was why Americans were naïve and didn’t have as much of a grasp and pride in their history as the French did. When Johnson eventually made her way back to California, this conversation stayed stuck in her head. What if the people in the Midwest, otherwise known as the flyover states, also flew over their family history with little thought given to where they came from and the struggles of their ancestors? This bothered Johnson and she set out to find out more about her genealogy. This book serves as her rebuttal.

Accompanied with pictures from her life and her ancestors’ lives, Johnson weaves together a story about the hold that home has on us all and our twin desire to escape to other places and make a name for ourselves. Johnson and her readers will find similarities between their own lives and the descriptions of her ancestors and their eventual journey to the Midwest. The letters and memoirs Johnson discovered serve as the backdrop to her exploration of a proud family history that ends up in the Midwest with the potential to leak around the world.

Looking for more books by Johnson? You’re in luck! The library has a number of books by her like Le divorce, Le mariage, and L’affaire. Some of these books are also available in large print, e-books, and audio books. Le Divorce was also made into a movie. Interested in finding copies of those, either click on the titles or visit the library catalog and search.

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Psst, hey there, would you like to see something cool? Down by the arboretum in Dubuque, if you hike to the very back, climb over the old barbed wire fence and head west (watch your step for sink holes) you’ll find what remains of an old park, destroyed 100 years ago by a flash flood that killed five people. Here’s the old limestone bandstand and pavilion, and, if you look hard enough, the decaying remains of the roller-coaster. Be careful, though, since no one is sure if anyone’s allowed here.

Intrigued? So was I, way back when my curiosity easily overruled my common sense. It led me and my friends to the old Union Park, abandoned houses and zinc mines, caves and the subterranean network of cisterns and cellars underneath my neighborhood (don’t tell my mom, though.) It’s the same curiosity that drives the book “100 Places You Will Never Visit: The World’s Most Secret Locations,” by Daniel Smith. The places photographed and described in Smith’s book tend to fall more into the “you’ll never visit because it’s illegal/top-secret/destroyed/radioactive” and not “you’ll never visit because you’ve never heard of it” category, but the locations described are interesting, especially if you’re a fan of government conspiracies.

The book is heavy on speculation when describing places such as The Skunk Works, Mount Weather and – of course – Area 51. Smith also takes a turn at the politics of some off-limits areas, like Bohemian Grove (a California camp where the world’s most powerful meet, away from the public eye), the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The more interesting places described are those not located in North America (or, at least, are outside of the U.S.’s collective imagination) like La Basse Cour (“The Farmyard”) in Belgium, the unidentified structures in China’s Gobi Desert or the temple vaults of Sree Padmanabhaswamy in India. Again, most of these places are known, just off-limits to the public. But, the photographs, maps, and illustrations give the reader enough to at least pique curiosity.

If you looking for more lost cities and urban exploration, check out “Hidden Cities: Travels to the Secret Corners of the World’s Great Metropolises” by Moses Gates or “Explore Everything: Place-Hacking the City” by Bradley Garrett. Or, if abandoned places are more your style, try the TV series “Life After People,” Abandoned America” by  Matthew Christopher or my personal favorite “The World Without Us” by Alan Weisman.

Toured to Death

In Toured to Death, mystery writer Hy Conrad launches the exploits of Amy and Fanny Abel, a mother-and-daughter team of New York City travel agents unexpectedly turned sleuths.  Join this promising start to the Amy’s Travel Mystery series on the Monte Carlo to Rome Mystery Road Rally, the first European tour offered by our heroines’ fledgling niche-travel business.

With her mother Fanny’s support from across the Atlantic, Amy leads a group of twenty-four tourists through stylish French and Italian destinations as they hunt for clues to solve a fictional murder mystery.  Amy’s ambitious idea to combine a game of Clue with an Amazing Race-like competition unfolds smoothly…until actual murders begin to take place!  When one of of the tourists and the man hired to write the plot line for the mystery excursion are found dead, Amy and Fanny must put their heads together to keep the killer from striking again.  They soon learn that the writer’s story was based on a real-life murder case involving two of their current tour customers.  Working in tandem to solve the crimes, mother and daughter begin to overcome the loss of their partners, strengthen their relationship, save their agency’s reputation, and prepare for their next adventure!

If, like author Hy Conrad, you enjoy both mysteries and travel writing, pack your bags (including a magnifying glass) for Toured to Death and the Amy’s Travel Mystery series. Readers of “cozy” mysteries will be interested in this book’s unique take on the genre, and fans of TV’s Monk can compare how Conrad (a writer and producer for the series, as well as the author of novels based upon it) develops his detectives and other key characters for different formats.

100 placesEver wondered what it takes to get into Fort Knox? Fancied a peek inside the Coca-Cola Safety Deposit Box? Would you dare to visit Three Mile Island?

The world is full of secret places that we either don’t know about, or couldn’t visit even if we wanted to. Now you can glimpse the Tora Bora caves in Afghanistan, visit the Tucson Titan Missile Site, tour the Vatican Archives, or see the Chapel of the Ark. This fascinating guide book takes a look at 100 places around the world that are either so hard to reach, so closely guarded, or so secret that they are virtually impossible to visit any other way. (description from publisher)

fluent in three monthsBenny Lewis, who speaks over ten languages—all self-taught—runs the largest language-learning blog in the world, Fluent In 3 Months. Lewis is a full-time “language hacker,” someone who devotes all of his time to finding better, faster, and more efficient ways to learn languages.

Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World is a new blueprint for fast language learning. Lewis argues that you don’t need a great memory or “the language gene” to learn a language quickly, and debunks a number of long-held beliefs, such as adults not being as good of language learners as children. His proven techniques break down language learning myths and replaces them with practical “language hacks” that take advantage of the skills we already possess.

Fluent in 3 Months provides everything you need to make learning a new language fast, intuitive and fun. (description from publisher)

travels with caseyA moody Labrador and his insecure human take a funny, touching cross-country RV trip into the heart of America’s relationship with dogs.

“I don’t think my dog likes me very much,” New York Times Magazine writer Benoit Denizet-Lewis confesses at the beginning of his journey with his nine-year-old Labrador-mix, Casey. Over the next four months, thirty-two states, and 13,000 miles in a rented motor home, Denizet-Lewis and his canine companion attempt to pay tribute to the most powerful interspecies bond there is, in the country with the highest rate of dog ownership in the world. On the way, Denizet-Lewis-known for his deeply reported dispatches from far corners of American life – meets an irresistible cast of dogs and dog-obsessed humans. Denizet-Lewis and Casey hang out with wolf-dogs in Appalachia, search with a dedicated rescuer of stray dogs in Missouri, spend a full day at a kooky dog park in Manhattan, get pulled over by a K9 cop in Missouri, and visit “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan in California. And then there are the pet psychics, dog-wielding hitchhikers, and two nosy women who took their neighbor to court for allegedly failing to pick up her dog’s poop.

Travels With Casey is a delightfully idiosyncratic blend of memoir and travelogue coupled with an exploration of a dog-loving America. What does our relationship to our dogs tell us about ourselves and our values? Denizet-Lewis explores those questions-and his own canine-related curiosities and insecurities during his unforgettable road trip through our dog-loving nation. (description from publisher)