A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold

Guest post by Laura V.

Published 70 years ago, A Sand County Almanac was a prescient body of work for its time. Today, overlooking some dated cultural and technological references, it remains just as relevant, if not more so. Leopold was born and raised in Burlington, Iowa. The nonprofit Leopold Center in Baraboo, Wisconsin, serves as headquarters for the Aldo Leopold Foundation and visitor center and marks the spot on which he died of a heart attack while fighting a wild fire in 1948.

In the first section, A Sand County Almanac is divided into months. Leopold explores the cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena surrounding his weekend home “the shack” in Baraboo, Wisconsin. He was a conservationist, forester, philosopher, outdoor sportsman, and exquisite writer. He is a more modern version of the rugged nature writer in the vein of Emerson and Thoreau. He sometimes uses literary devices that are simple in their architecture but absolutely delightful to read. My favorite is his use of felling a seasoned dead oak as a vehicle to recount the history of the land on which his farm is situated. I also like the Odyssey parable in the second section.

The second section is entitled, “Sketches Here and There” where he talks about his travels through various states, Canada, and Mexico. The essays show his maturation into the naturalist and conservationist he became. These recollections are often sad, with his description of lost ecology when settlers colonized various locations. His writing is nonetheless a joy with his observations and musings on the local habitats.

The final section is called “The Upshot” he describes the need for an ethic toward the land that diverges from the one perpetuated for millennia, man as ruler over nature therefore he is free to use it however he pleases. He argues for a broader imagining of respect for our land that isn’t solely measured through economics.

This book is timeless and beloved among conservationists. It would have probably continued to sit on my reading wish list, however, had it had it not been for my enrollment into the Scott County Master Conservationist Program. The book was required reading and we were each given a copy. I hungrily devoured it like a banquet of both familiar and new ideologies. I just wish the agricultural community specifically and the general public as a whole would have heeded his advice.

The Master Conservationist program was an excellent course at Nahant Marsh through Iowa State University Scott County Extension. We had several exciting field trips in which we visited natural areas in and outside the Quad Cities. I learned a great deal through firsthand experience in the fields and prairies. The course included many informative readings and videos. I loved the classes and Brian Ritter, the Executive Director’s wit and humor made them even more enjoyable. It was fun to converse with like-minded individuals who were learning along with me. I encourage everyone with an interest in conservation to register for the next program in 2020!

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

don't you cryDon’t You Cry is a psychological mysterious thriller. It falls along the same lines as Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, but I found the twists that happened in this book to be less predictable, at least to me. Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica is a twisting tale of deception, obsession, strangers, friends, and missing people. Quinn Collins is a young woman living in downtown Chicago with her roommate, Esther Vaughan. Everything seems to be going perfectly fine in Quinn’s life until she wakes up one morning and discovered that Esther has disappeared from their apartment without a trace. reporting Esther as missing only results in Quinn being told that Esther will probably come back in 48-72 hours and she should just wait. Quinn decides to take matters into her own hands and goes through Esther’s room looking for any clues. What she finds there leads Quinn to question who Esther really is and where she has disappeared to.

Alex Gallo is an eighteen-year-old boy working at a coffee shop an hour outside Chicago. Alex lives in this small lake town with his alcoholic father across from an old abandoned house that everyone thinks is haunted. One day, a mysterious woman walks into the coffee shop and Alex finds himself drawn to her. Alex is quickly pulled into Pearl’s spell, feeding and clothing her even though he knows nothing about her. Alex gets closer and closer to Pearl and realizes that he actually knows almost nothing about the town that he lives in.

While Quinn searches for Esther and Alex tries to learn more about Pearl, there are other factors simmering in the background of the book that demand the readers attention. This book is told in alternating voices, a fact that I enjoyed since I listened to this book through OverDrive and was able to dive into the characters more. Mary Kubica does a fabulous job of weaving a missing person story with family drama, mysterious pasts, old ghost stories, and alternate life stories. The tension slowly lives under the surface of this book until the end when the narrative explodes. Highly recommended.


This book is also available in the following formats:

The New Midwestern Table by Amy Thielen

new midwestern table“The Midwest is rising,” writes Minnesota native Amy Thielen – and her engaging, keenly American debut cookbook, with 200 recipes that herald a revival in heartland cuisine, is delicious proof. Amy Thielen grew up in rural northern Minnesota, waiting in lines for potluck buffets amid loops of smoked sausages from her uncle’s meat market and in the company of women who could put up jelly without a recipe. She spent years cooking in some of New York City’s best restaurants, but it took moving home in 2008 for her to rediscover the wealth and diversity of the Midwestern table, and to witness its reinvention. The New Midwestern Table reveals all that she’s come to love – and learn – about the foods of her native Midwest, through updated classic recipes and numerous encounters with spirited home cooks and some of the region’s most passionate food producers.

With 150 color photographs capturing these fresh-from-the-land dishes and the striking beauty of the terrain, this cookbook will cause any home cook to fall in love with the captivating flavors of the American heartland. (description from publisher)

Storm Kings by Lee Sandlin

storm kingsStorm Kings is a riveting tale of supercell tornadoes and the quirky, pioneering, weather-obsessed scientists whose discoveries created the science of modern meteorology.

While tornadoes have occasionally been spotted elsewhere, only the central plains of North America have the perfect conditions for their creation. For the early settlers the sight of a funnel cloud was an unearthly event. They called it the “Storm King,” and their descriptions bordered on the supernatural: it glowed green or red, it whistled or moaned or sang. In Storm Kings, Lee Sandlin explores America’s fascination with and unique relationship to tornadoes. From Ben Franklin’s early experiments to the “great storm war” of the nineteenth century to heartland life in the early twentieth century, Sandlin re-creates with vivid descriptions some of the most devastating storms in America’s history, including the Tri-state Tornado of 1925 and the Peshtigo “fire tornado,” whose deadly path of destruction was left encased in glass.

Drawing on memoirs, letters, eyewitness testimonies, and archives, Sandlin brings to life the forgotten characters and scientists who changed a nation—including James Espy, America’s first meteorologist, and Colonel John Park Finley, who helped place a network of weather “spotters” across the country. Along the way, Sandlin details the little-known but fascinating history of the National Weather Service, paints a vivid picture of the early Midwest, and shows how successive generations came to understand, and finally coexist with, the spiraling menace that could erase lives and whole towns in an instant. (description from publisher)

All Iowa Reads – Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos

The Iowa Library Association has announced the All Iowa Reads title for 2011 – it’s  Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos. Be sure to watch the Davenport Public Library newsletter for the announcement of programs and discussions of this book throughout the year.

In 1978, Hope Jones, mother of three, is swept away during a tornado. Her body is never found. Twenty-five years later her children – Larkin, Gaelan and Bonnie – still struggle to understand their loss and to find their place in the world. The sudden death of their father brings them all home again, forcing them to come to terms with their history and each other.

Set on the open plains of southwest Nebraska, the writing and atmosphere evoke the rural Midwest effortlessly – open skies, violent weather, the restrictions and freedoms of small towns. This is a complex story of grief, love and healing with touches of magical realism and characters that you come to care about.

All Iowa Reads Chooses Book for 2010

DriftlessThe 2010 All Iowa Reads book was announced at the annual Iowa Library Association conference at the end of October. Praised as a “quiet masterpiece,” Driftless is the newest novel by David Rhodes.

Rhodes has an interesting back story, so to speak. He was a rising young writer at the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, and had several books published in the 1970’s.

A  motorcycle crash in 1977, which partially paralyzed Rhodes,  ended his publishing career till Driftless came out this year.

Driftless shares a rhythm with the farming community it documents, and its reflective pace is well-suited to characters who are far more comfortable with hard work than with words,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.

Watch the Davenport Public Library newsletter for announcements of events and discussions concerning Driftless throughout 2010.