Online Reading Challenge – Mid Month Check

Hello! How is your reading going with this month’s Reading Challenge subject, Fashion? Have you found something you’re enjoying, or have you hit a dead end? If you’re still looking, here are a couple of movie s to consider.

Phantom Thread with Daniel Day Lewis in his final role before retiring from acting about an exclusive London fashion house in the 1950s.

Coco avant Chanel starring Audrey Tautou about the early life of Coco Chanel and how it influenced and affected her life and career.

McQueen a documentary about the extraordinary life, career and artistry of fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

Dior and I is another documentary, an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at Raf Simon’s first haute couture collection as artistic director of the House of Dior.

How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan

Guest post by Laura V

As someone born after the 1960s counterculture revolution, I had only heard horrifying tales about psychedelics.* I knew to steer clear of any schoolmates who “dropped acid.” Imagine my confusion over the past several years as I’ve been hearing about people flocking to retreats led by Shamans who administer ayuhausca in South America and reporting positive results. That didn’t align with my lifelong understanding of these substances.  I recently spotted Michael Pollan’s latest book here at the Library and knew he could help with my cognitive dissonance.

Michael Pollan is a fantastic writer who delves deeply into relevant topics for his best-selling books. In How to Change Your Mind, he unravels the history of psychedelic drugs. The discovery of LSD seemed to be a threshold into a new facet of treating psychiatric patients, curing addiction, and treating anxiety. The United States government even experimented on people with it. The title is a double entendre referring to the personal use of psychedelics to gain an altered state of mind and to the shifting attitudes about psychedelics among the medical field and general public.

Pollan deliberates over the reasons for the demise and demonization of psychedelic drugs, including the obvious one, Timothy Leary. Politics and the counterculture are directly involved. Pollan examines a few notorious characters and several earnest and dedicated proponents along the way. I liked that he included the science of how psychedelics work on the brain. It was neuro-nerdy. He chronicles the quiet re-emergence of psychedelics into clinical and academic research.

This book is as fascinating as it is hopeful. Current researchers are finding similar results to the earliest studies of psychedelic drugs assisting smokers overcome the habit. There was a poignant story of one of the terminally ill cancer patients who were given psychedelics to help alleviate the fear of death. The results were life changing not only for the patient, but also for those surrounding him. There are a number of other potential uses for these drugs, including treating PTSD and depression.

I listened to the audio version read by the author himself and I enjoyed it. I’m curious where this “new” research will lead. Michael Pollan may just have shown me how to change my mind about this topic.

*Hollywood celebrity, Art Linkletter’s crusade against LSD comes to mind. While reading this book, I used the wonder of the Internet (something we didn’t have in my youth) to learn about this story a bit more since it had seared itself into my impressionable mind at the time. I discovered his daughter committed suicide and the toxicology reports did not reveal substance use that night. Shame or the stigma surrounding suicide may have motivated the Linkletter family when they used an already-circulating urban legend about a girl jumping out of a window on LSD to explain her death.

Travel Talk – Going Solo

I’ve just returned from a holiday in London, England. The weather was lovely, the cherry trees were in bloom and the museums and landmarks were magnificent. I ate some excellent food (scones with clotted cream! fish and chips!), wandered through gorgeous neighborhoods such as Notting Hill and Belgravia and visited some of the finest museums in the world including the Victoria and Albert Museum, the National Gallery and the Tate Britain. I indulged in my love of gardens by visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (although, this is England, there are gardens everywhere!) and my love of photography by taking pictures of, well, everything! It was, in short, a wonderful trip.

And I did it all solo. No travel companion, no tour group. Just me.

Traveling solo can be hard and I certainly experienced a few bumps and mishaps. Apparently I have no sense of direction and inevitably, when I exited an Underground station (the public transportation system in London), I would go in the exact opposite direction that I needed. Every. Time. And I had to make every decision – where to go, when to go, where to eat, how to get somewhere. There is no one to point out and share any of the many new things you come across, or laugh with over any of the absurdities.

But it can also be incredibly rewarding. I may have always started going the wrong direction, but I also eventually figured it out – on my own – and got to my various destinations. I’m very proud of how I mastered the Underground with barely a blip, from Heathrow airport to central London and then all around London. If I wanted to sleep late or turn in early, I could and if I ate scones with clotted cream every day (which I did), there was no one to question my life choices. There was also no one wondering why the heck I was holding up progress by spending 10 minutes taking pictures of the same tree (I was experimenting with light settings and angles!) There is a huge amount of freedom when you travel solo, and a lot of valuable learning about yourself and what you’re capable of.

A fully solo international trip like this one isn’t for everyone of course, or for every trip. But I encourage you to try it someday if you haven’t already. Even going off on your own for a day or an afternoon can be very rewarding, especially if your interests are different from the people you’re traveling with; for instance, they want to go golfing but you’d really like to visit a museum. A lot of tour groups have built-in free time which would be perfect to venture somewhere on your own. If you need help (or get lost like I tend to), ask someone. I have found that most people are friendly and happy to help, especially when you are polite and respectful of local customs.

Need a little more encouragement? Here are a few books to check out.

The Solo Travel Handbook: Practical Tips and Inspiration for a Safe, Fun and Fearless Trip by Sarah Reid for lots of practical advice.

Alone Time: Four Seasons, Four Cities and the Pleasures of Solitude by Stephanie Rosenbloom for inspiration.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed for an epic solo adventure.

What about you? Have you ever traveled solo? Where did you go? And how did you like traveling on your own? Tell us in the comments!

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild on Nintendo Switch

Guest post by Wesley B

Nintendo Switch games have arrived at The Library! We now have 40+ games for Nintendo’s new portable console available for checkout, with more on the way. I have thoughts on lots of them, and they’re all worth playing, but I have to start with what has become one of my all-time favorite games.

Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is aptly named, as it breathed fresh life into what is perhaps gaming’s most storied franchise. Since the release of A Link to the Past in 1991, Zelda games have followed a familiar formula: the hero Link adventures from dungeon to dungeon, finding a unique item within each that you use to solve its puzzles and slay its guardian, before finally fighting the final boss, rescuing the titular princess, and saving the kingdom of Hyrule from the forces of darkness.

Breath of the Wild marks a radical departure from this formula. Within the first hour or so, Link already has every item he’ll need for the rest of the game. More importantly, after clearing the initial tutorial area, the entire map opens up to him. He is, as Sartre wrote, “condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does. It is up to him to give life a meaning.”

In real life, the concept of radical freedom can be a curse – hence Sartre’s use of the word condemned. Fortunately, life in Hyrule is a lot less complicated, and so exercising your freedom is an unadulterated blessing. The developers at Nintendo have crafted a vast, beautiful open world for Link to explore, filled with rolling plains, verdant riverlands, lush rainforests, vast deserts dotted with oases, snow-covered mountains, and more. Best of all, Link’s paraglider and ability to climb basically anything he sees make traversal a true joy, uninhibited by the pitfalls of invisible walls and insurmountable terrain so common in every other open world game.

Of course, there’s more to the game than sightseeing (although admittedly I’ve spent a large portion of my playtime with the game’s camera feature). Hyrule is not just vibrant but vital as well; there are settlements teeming with colorful characters to meet, and the wilderness is filled with outposts manned by enemies who will test your mettle. I could go on endlessly about this game, but ultimately its true joy is to be found in exploration and discovery, so rather than spoil any more of that experience for you, I’ll simply suggest that you check it out and see for yourself.

Online Reading Challenge – May

Hello Again Challenge Readers!

It’s a new month and time for a new topic. This month our topic is: Fashion!

One of the first books I ever bought for myself, through a program at my elementary school was The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter. I am still enchanted by the beautiful language and imagery of the mice sewing an exquisite vest at night to help the elderly tailor. I love the language of fashion – “twists of thread” and “cherry-coloured silk” and “gold-laced waistcoats” and buttonholes with stitches so tiny “they looked as if they had been made by little mice!” I’m sure Beatrix Potter inspired my love of words and details and encouraged a great respect for craftsmanship. And so this month we celebrate the world of fashion in its many forms.

For historical fiction, try The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott about a young seamstress to a fashion designer who survives the sinking of the Titanic. I loved The Gown by Jennifer Robson which details the lives of the women who embroidered Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth’s wedding dress. Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini is based on the true story of Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, a woman who was born a slave, bought her freedom and became Mary Todd Lincoln’s seamstress.

For contemporary fiction, you can’t beat the snark in The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger about the cut-throat world of fashion magazines. For something a little less ruthless, go for The Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff about a woman running a shop that specializes in vintage dresses.

The high cost of fashion can be found in books such as Triangle: the Fire that Changed America by Dave Von Drehle which recounts the horrific Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in 1911, one of the worst industrial accidents in US history that led to laws requiring safer working conditions. Overdressed by Elizabeth Cline looks at “the high price of cheap fashion”. If you’d like to step away from “fast fashion” The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees helps you build a wardrobe of clothes you love and want to wear. And Mending Matters by Katrina Rodabaugh teaches visible mending and just how beautiful it can be.

I’m going to read Nine Women, One Dress by Jane Rosen about one perfect little black dress and how it affects the lives of nine different women.

Do you see something you’d like to read? Be sure to stop at any of the Davenport Library locations and check out our displays for even more ideas!

 

 

Online Reading Challenge – April Wrap-Up

Hello Fellow Readers!

How did your reading about reading go this month? I have just one word for how mine went – fail! Argh! I had every intention of reading a book this month, in fact I had three titles as possibilities. I also thought I would have lots of down time this month but in fact I did not. Everything came together (in a bad way) to keep me from getting much reading done.

Has this ever happened to you, where you go through a period of not having time to read, or nothing catches your attention? While I don’t think I’m in a full-blown reading slump (I’ve already read a book for next month!), I have struggled in the past with reading inertia. If this dread syndrome ever happens to you, here are some ideas to  get yourself back on the reading train.

How to Break Out of a Reading Slump from Bookish

19 Ways to Beat a Reading Slump from Book Cave

Bookish Things to Do While in a Reading Slump from Book Riot

And for a bit of humor: 10 Stages of a Reading Slump from Odyssey

Now it’s your turn – what did you read for April? Have you ever been in a reading slump and if so, how did you get yourself out of it?

Online Reading Challenge – Mid Month Check In

Hello Challenge Readers!

How is your month of Books about Books going? Have you found something you just can’t put down? Please let us know if you have!

If you’re still struggling to find something for the April Challenge, how about trying a movie? There are some fun ones!

Notting Hill with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Ah, the classic rom-com. A famous actress stumbles into a tiny, quaint bookstore in London, meets the charming and diffident owner and the rest, after the resiquite obstacles are overcome, is history. Lovely.

You’ve Got Mail with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Another classic, this time set in New York City. A major bookstore chain moves into the neighborhood and pushes out the tiny children’s bookstore. It’s a blast-from-the-past with aol and dial-up (and big bookstore chains aren’t doing so well now) but still sweet and funny.

The Princess Bride with Cary Elwes and Robin Wright. It’s a storybook brought to life! One of the best films ever, with lots of scene-stealing funny bits and and an endless supply of great lines.

The Bookshop with Emily Mortimer. In 1959 England, a young widow follows her dream and opens a bookshop in a small, conservative coastal town.

And you can always watch a movie made from/inspired by a book! (The book is almost always better, but that doesn’t mean the movie can’t be fun too) My favorites are some of the many adaptations of Jane Austen’s books, but there is almost a limitless list to choose from!

Travel Talk – April

When I was little, my family would go on a road trip every August. We would pack the car with snacks and coolers and suitcases filled with swimsuits and flip flops and head out to explore these United States. My Father loved history and natural beauty, so our summer vacations centered on the National Parks and historic sites. (To this day I’ve never been to a Walt Disney park, but have been to many, many Civil War and Revolutionary War sites and National and state parks!) Even now, when summer rolls around and it gets hot and sticky, it reminds me of  driving along endless highways watching America roll past from the backseat of my Dad’s Pontiac, following our route on road maps (this was looooong before GPS!) and the excitement of seeing new landscapes. It gave me the travel bug early on (and a love of history apparently) My parents may not have realized it, but these summer vacations became a legacy that continues to shape and influence me.

And yes, of course the Library has books to help you with your road trip plans! From the basics on where to stay and what to see, to books that spark your imagination. Not sure where to go? Try tailoring your trip to your interests. How fun would it be to spend the summer visiting Major League (or Minor League) baseball parks? Or looking for the best homemade pie or barbecue or craft beer in Iowa (or other defined area)? Maybe you’re not into history like my Dad, but you love trains or gems and rocks or flea markets. Believe me, there’s a road trip for just about any interest waiting for you.

If you prefer your road trips from the comfort of your living room, we have plenty of armchair road trip travel books too. Here’s a selection to get you started:

America for Beginners by Leah Franqui – a widow from India travels across America in search of her son.

On the Road by Jack Kerouac – the classic “road trip in search of oneself” book that my parents certainly wouldn’t have approved of!

The Wangs vs the World by Jade Change – having lost all their wealth, a Chinese immigrant family drives from California to New York and along the way reevaluate the American dream.

Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson – coming to grips with loss and grief on a road trip with a friend.

I’m a Stranger Here Myself by Bill Bryson. Bryson sets about rediscovering his native country after living in England for many years.

Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. Now that’s a road trip – Lewis and Clark’s epic exploration of the west.

What about you? Do you love road trips? Do you have any planned for the near future? Any favorite anecdotes from a road trip?

 

Online Reading Challenge – April

Hello Challenge Readers and welcome to April! This month we’re going to be reading about a favorite topic of all of ours – Reading! The choices range from books about bookshops and libraries, to brave librarians (is there any other kind of librarian?!) to books within books. There’s no shortage of great titles! Here are a few of mine.

First and foremost, The Library Book by Susan Orlean. Centered on the 1986 fire that destroyed a huge part of the Los Angeles Public Library, Orlean delves into such diverse subjects as architecture, fire fighting, the history of Los Angeles and the presence of libraries in our lives. Beautifully written, it’s a love letter to libraries. (There’s a waiting list so if you haven’t read this, get your name on the list right away even if you don’t read it for the April Reading Challenge!)

The Giant’s House by Elizabeth McCracken is a very unusual romance between a small town librarian and a 7 foot tall giant. McCracken’s observations about librarys and librarians is spot on and the platonic love story is poignant and beautifully written.

Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan mixes a magical realism and an epic search for the answer to a hundred year old puzzle. The clues are hidden in books in a mysterious bookstore in San Francisco, patronized by an odd collection of characters. A fun and twisty read. Bonus: the cover glows in the dark! Really! I checked!

Want to read something classic? Try Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 or Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Science fiction readers will love Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series about a police force that guards anyone from getting into a book and changing it. For something more serious, try The Book Thief by Markus Zusak set in Nazi Germany or Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi about educating girls in Iran. Love graphic novels? Then The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffeneger is a great choice. Prefer something lighter? Try The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett which answers the question, what would happen if Queen Elizabeth became an avid reader? And if you haven’t read it yet now is the perfect time to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which is lovely and fun but with a serious undertone.

As always, there will be displays at each Davenport library location with lots of titles to choose from.

I am planning on reading The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield which has been on my list for a long time. Although, I’m also considering The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler. Or even The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy. Hmmmm. So many good choices. Any recommendations? And what will you be reading in April? Let us know in the comments!

New Community Experience Pass Now Available

You may already be familiar with the Community Experience Passes that are available at the Davenport Library. These passes give you free access to great local attractions such as the Putnum Museum, the Figge Art Museum and the German American Heritage Center. They are quite popular and we strive to add more experiences to our collection whenever possible. Today we are pleased to announce the addition of our newest Community Experience Pass – the Skip the Line I-74 Bridge Pass!

As you know, crossing the Mighty Mississippi River via the I-74 Bridge can be, shall we say, a bit frustrating these days. Traffic back-up, long lines, major detours – it all adds up to a great deal of waiting and perhaps a bit of colorful language. Yet for many, this is a vital pathway that must be tackled frequently, even daily. That’s where the Skip the Line I-74 Bridge Pass comes in! By-pass all the struggle of getting across the river and arrive at your destination happy and relaxed! It’s a Quad-Citians dream come true!

And they couldn’t be easier to use! Simply present your pass at the Grant Street exit if you are Illinois-bound or, if you’re heading to Iowa, at the 7th Avenue exit. A disgruntled construction worker will approach your car. Show him or her your pass and then use the code “there are no oranges in the canoe”. The seemingly unhappy worker will smile sunnily and reply “the albatross flies at midnight” and wave you toward the secret passage. That’s it! Easy peasy! Of course, if the construction worker seems confused and does not smile, you’ve run into someone that isn’t in on the secret. It’d be best if you abandoned your car and flee.

Community Experiences Passes are restricted to Davenport Library card holders only. They check out for one week and have unlimited use during that time. Passes can also be reserved, but not for a specific day or week. Overdue charges are steep – $30 per day! So enjoy your worry-free travel week, then return the pass promptly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April Fool! (sadly)