Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Booknote: Wonder Women

Sam Maggs, Wonder Women: 25 innovators, inventors, and trailblazers who changed history. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2016.  ISBN: 978-1-59474-925-4.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: women and gender studies, history
Format: paperback
Source: Galley provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

I wanted to like this book more, but the author's constant narrative interruptions, interjections, and invasive comments in the text just got too annoying. The best way to describe the experience is like going to watch a new movie with someone who has seen it already, and while the movie is playing, she won't shut up about it and let you watch it. What could have been a neat learning experience was more aggravating than anything else.

Now, if you can  get over the author's constant fangirl interruptions, you can find a lot to like in this book. The book contains the stories of 25 amazing women. These were women philosophers, inventors, scientists, medical doctors, adventurers, innovators, and spies. More importantly, odds are good you never heard of many of them. Why? They are usually left out of history books. Plus, as often  happens to women, men took the credit for things the women did and went on to fame and glory. The author is here to right wrongs and give these great women the credit due to them. Additionally the book is a good source of inspiration for young girls. When young girl says she wants to be a doctor or astronaut, and she needs inspiration, hand her this book.

The book is organized into five thematic chapters. Each chapter has five stories. In addition, each chapter also features short narratives, a paragraph or so each, of other women not to be missed. Each chapter then ends with  a short interview/Q&A with  a career woman today. The book also features a bibliography (or rather will feature one. The galley I got for review did not include the actual bibliography, so I cannot comment on what sources the author may have used).

I'd say one of the best things you can do for a young girl is to get her this book. Despite my initial reservations, I think it is a good source for inspiration and learning. It fills gaps in the history that have been ignored for too long. The book is good for middle school readers and up. It is definitely  recommended for public libraries for placement in their children and young adult collections. I am sure a few adults will enjoy it too.

3 out of 5 stars.

Friday, December 02, 2016

Reading About The Reading Life: December 2, 2016 edition

Welcome to another edition of "Reading about the reading life" here at The Itinerant Librarian. This is where I collect stories about reading and the reading life. Basically, these are items related to reading, maybe writing and literacy, that I find interesting and think my four readers might find interesting as well with a little commentary. As with other features I do on this blog, I do it when I have time or feel like it. Comments are always welcome (within reason).  

Once more, it  has been  a bit of a while since I have done one of these. We are down to one full week of classes and then finals week at the college, so I am making a little time before the holidays really hit. Please remember to come back for my traditional holiday posts series later this month. Meantime, let's have a look at the reading world this month.

Booknote: The Birth of Bourbon

Carol Peachee, The Birth of Bourbon: a Photographic Tour of Early Distilleries. Lexington, KY: University of Kentucky Press, 2015. ISBN: 978-0-8131-6554-7.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: photography, Kentuckiana, bourbon whiskey, distilleries
Format: hardback coffee table book
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

Carol Peachee went out to seek the remains of old whisky distilleries in Kentucky. She then photographed them. The result is a beautiful, at times a bit somber compilation of photographs that raise the format to an art. For some, this is preserving history and getting a glimpse into the past. We see the ruins and remains, and we can imagine what working on one of these distilleries and producing bourbon may have been like. For a brief moment we can travel back in time thanks to the author's photos.

The organization of the book is very simple. Jim Gray provides a short introduction. Then we get the photos. These are full color photos of various sizes showing various parts of buildings and machinery of the old distilleries. The conditions of these old distilleries varies; some are in a bit better condition than others. Some are about to be demolished, and she got there right on time to catch that one last glimpse of the past. A strength in the work is the author's ability to often catch small details that can be very revealing. Each photography is fully captioned so you know where it is and what you are looking at.

Fans of Kentucky bourbon and its history will likely enjoy the book. This is also a good book for photography enthusiasts whether they like bourbon or not. The author has truly created a good tribute to an important slice of Kentucky history. Libraries collecting Kentuckiana should get this book.

4 out of 5 stars.

* * * * * 

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Booknote: Tastes Like Chicken

Emelyn Rude, Tastes Like Chicken: a History of America's Favorite Bird. New York: Pegasus Books, 2016. ISBN: 9781681771632.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: chickens, poultry, history, foodie
Format: e-book galley
Source: NetGalley

I tend to like microhistories, so I thought this book would be a good selection. The book looks at the chicken from domestication ten thousand years ago or so to today's popularity. It was not always the case that chicken was popular. For instance, in America's colonial days, chickens were not  seen as valuable, and farmers rarely bothered to pen them in.

The book is well researched, but it is a slogging and slow read, especially the early chapters where the author basically drowns the reader in minutiae. If you are expecting an interesting narrative with an engaging reading pace, then this book is not for you. I barely managed to finish it in order to write this short review.

If I have to recommend the book, I'd do so for academic libraries where the school has a strong culinary sciences program or maybe strength in food history and/or agricultural sciences. For my library, I would only order this if it was requested. This is not a book for popular readers. The description of the book says this is in the spirit of Mark Kurlansky's Cod. I'd say skip this book and go read one of Kurlansky's books instead.

1 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

Friday, November 25, 2016

Booknote: The Mastery of Self

Miguel Ruiz, Jr, The Mastery of Self: a Toltec Guide to Personal Freedom. San Antonio, TX: Hierophant Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-938289-53-8.

Genre: nonfiction
Subgenre: spirituality, self-help
Format: hardcover
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County Public Library

I have read the father's book, The Four Agreements. I initially thought the book was written by that same author due to the very similar cover styles, but it turns out the son writes too, and he has written two other books.

The main idea of The Mastery of Self is to help readers let of of past beliefs and restraints, created by  domestication, so you can make choices that reflect who you truly are thus creating harmony withing yourself and the world around you. That is a tall order, but the author leads you through it step by  step. The author argues that we are architects of of our reality, of our personal dream, which we can change if we so choose. If you've read other books in this series, you'll know the idea of the personal dream is very important. Ruiz Sr. and Ruiz Jr. are not the only ones who use this theme. You can also find it in the writings of Paulo Coelho.

The book is arranged as follows:

  • a short message from the publisher
  • an explanation of key terms. This is basically a small glossary
  • a short introduction from the author
  • nine chapters that have the lessons
  • his wish for readers, where he summarizes and concludes the book

While I do like the concepts presented in the book, my main issue with  the book is that the author may seem way too optimistic for the world we live in. I'll admit that part of it may be me living in the U.S. during the lousiest election season ever combined with the fact that I've met and/or witnessed one idiot too many. For those folks, I cannot help but wonder what kind of personal nightmare they are living in. So, based on that, the author comes across as either way too optimistic or outright naive.

Yet, for those who want to change and make things better for themselves, you can find some good advice in this book. His analogy of the dinner party is a  good teaching tool. Though he can also be repetitive at times, he does take you step by step to build the mastery of self in order to have a better life. At the end of the day, much of the lesson boils down to the only one you control is yourself, so work on yourself and gradually make the world around you better. It's not a new lesson; I've read it before, but I will grant for some readers this could be the book to help learn it.

To aid with learning, in addition to his short stories and commentaries, the author offers specific exercises you can try out to put theory into practice. These exercises can range from a simple meditation to short writing exercises to help with reflection. If readers have the time, these may be the best part of the book.

For me, the book was just OK. The pace could be slow at times, and the content can be a bit repetitive. But the exercises are worth trying out. For other readers, I think their mileage may vary. If you have read Ruiz Sr.'s books, this can be a good follow-up. Personally, I liked The Four Agreements better.

2 out of 5 stars.

* * * 

Additional reading notes:

The author assumes that you do go out and about in the world. Solitude is good, but we thrive with others:

"Since you are reading this book, it's likely that you don't live in a cloistered monastery or ashram, or all alone high atop a mountain. You have chosen to engage in the world, and you want to enjoy yourself in the process. Solitude can be a great tool for healing and communion with oneself, but it is our interactions with others that will allow us to thrive and enjoy an active life. If life is like a carnival, you have come to ride the rides" (3). 

As a highly functioning introvert, I treasure and appreciate my solitude. I also live and work in the world as librarian and educator, my work in helping others, so I appreciate the point he makes.

Defining domestication. This is a concept I appreciate and makes sense to me. As I've grown over time, especially as I came to my heathen path, I've found the need to be aware of ways in which adults in my life domesticated me. I need that awareness in order to let go of those restraints so I can live a better and happier life. It is an ongoing journey. The author defines the term as follows:

"Domestication is the system of control in the Dream of the Planet; it is the way we learn conditional love. Starting when we are very young, we are presented with either a reward or punishment for adopting the beliefs and behaviors of  others in the Dream. This system of reward and punishment, or domestication, is used to control our behavior. The result of domestication is that many of us give up who we really are in exchange for who we think we should be, and consequently we end up living a life that is not our own. Learning how to spot and release our domestication, and reclaiming who we really are in the process, is a hallmark of a Master of Self" (5). 

The author goes on to point out that in the Toltec tradition two powerful forces, types of love, shape our agreements, attachments, and domestication. These are unconditional love and conditional love. We need to seek living with  unconditional love for ourselves and others. Unconditional love is defined:

"When unconditional love flows from our hearts, we move through life and engage other living beings with compassion. Unconditional love is recognizing the divinity in every human being we meet, regardless of his or her role in life or agreement with our particular way of thinking. A Master of Self sees all beings through the eyes of unconditional love, without any projected image or distortion" (32).

I will be the first to admit that seeing the divinity in certain people can be extremely hard. You honestly wonder if some folks even have any to start with.

You are responsible for having integrity in what you say, not for how others take it. This is not a new maxim, but it is an important one to remember: 

"Thus, I am only responsible for the clarity and integrity of what I say-- not what others hear and feel-- because I don't control others' perception" (40). 


"Of course, this truth is not meant to be a license to say or do something is unkind or intentionally hurtful (to be considerate of others is a also a choice we have), but we understand that when we break the chains of our domestication, this news can be hard for our domesticators and those trying to domesticate us to handle, especially at first" (55-56). 

A most dangerous idea is that of scarcity and the illusion that you are deficient or not good enough. It is an ancient idea; religion has often imposed it; for example, the Christian myth of Eden and Original Sin. It has domesticated so many into believing they have an inherent internal deficiency, causing all sorts of grief and damage in the process. It was something even I had to let go, and once I did, became a heathen, and learned to love myself, a bit of liberation came. It's still a work in progress. The author writes on this, and this I believe is important, especially if you want a more peaceful, harmonious life:

"Of all the false ideas that you have been domesticated to, the idea that  you are not enough may be the most damaging, so let me be absolutely clear on this matter: You are more than enough. You are perfect and complete as you are. You are not flawed, damaged, or irredeemable. Much of the suffering you experience is self-inflicted, and it can be traced back to believing this untruth. This feeling of unworthiness is the primary reason you withhold unconditional love for yourself. The most effective thing you can do to bring about change in your life is to let this flawed idea go. Once this false belief is replaced with unconditional self-love and self-acceptance, the myth of scarcity crumbles, and comparison and competition with others in its wake" (146).

* * * 

This book qualifies for the these 2016 Reading Challenges:

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Some treats for Thanksgiving 2016

Before I take some time with The Better Half and our daughter for Turkey Day (a.k.a. Thanksgiving Day), allow me a moment to wish all four of my readers a happy and safe holiday. If you are traveling, please be careful and safe; put the cellphone down while you drive, and for the love of  your deity of choice, please drive sober. Given that this year has been a tense one, including the 2016 elections in the United States, I am including some articles on how to cope and survive in case politics decide to rear out its head.

Here are then a few links to articles and posts with some trivia and information I hope you find interesting and/or useful with some comments from me. As always comments from you are always welcomed within reason.

  • I usually start posts like this with  the fun stuff. As I mentioned though, things could get ugly during the family gathering. This has been a seriously tense year, and a lot of people feel hurt, afraid, angry, so on. As much as possible, you want  to avoid an emotional explosion during the dinner. This is a big reason why I am glad we are not traveling anywhere nor having anyone over for the holiday. I appreciate having some peace and quiet. However, I have noticed that quite a few articles on how to survive the dinner are making the rounds in the press. I have selected some examples. If you have to be with  family, I hope you find them useful if you need to use the advice: 
  •  Did you know there are 7 "places and townships in the United States named Cranberry, a popular side dish at Thanksgiving"? You can find neat trivia about the holiday and more in the 2016 Fact for Features piece for Thanksgiving from the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • A little humor from Bad Postcards. If you do not want to cook, going out for the meal could be an option as there are places that open for you to have a meal. On a side note, many moons ago when I was a waiter, I did in fact have to work at a hotel that served a Thanksgiving buffet. 
  • Are you cooking a turkey? If you bought it frozen, you probably should be thawing it out by now to have it done in time. Anyhow, here are some tips on how to cook the turkey so you do not give your guests food poisoning. Via USA Today. 
  • On a positive note, the overall cost of the typical Thanksgiving dinner seems to have gone down a little bit. This is based on a meal for 10 people. Story via The Rural Blog
  • However, a lower cost can still mean that people may overspend or make other money mistakes during their holiday shopping. Via Wise Bread, here are "10 Things You'll Waste Money on this Thanksgiving." Hopefully you read this beforehand so you can avoid the mistakes. I can certainly agree on  the tip about serving food no one really likes. For the love of cripe, can you all stop serving the same mediocre green bean casserole or whatever other hideous side no one wants to eat? Maybe it is time to break it to Aunt Bertha who keeps bringing it that no one eats it, and it ends up in the trash after the dinner.
  • Apparently mistakes to avoid is a theme in the press this year for Thanksgiving. Via BuzzFeed, here are "17 Thanksgiving Mistakes Everybody Makes." Actually, make that almost everybody else. In our house, we really minimize or avoid these altogether. For example, we do not eat a turkey in our house, the issues with  turkeys are happily avoided. The article does include some information links to avoid the mistakes. 
  • Mental Floss has a nice infographic on "7 Common Thanksgiving Hazards and How to Avoid Them."
  • One of the things I find pretty dreadful about Thanksgiving are the leftovers. Why the heck people see a need to cook a ton of food they are not able to finish in a sitting, then end up eating (or attempting to eat) the leftovers for the next month  or so is beyond me. Especially so when if you are still stuck with  Aunt Bertha's hideous side casserole (see link above) a couple of weeks later. So here are "Seven tips for a waste-free Thanksgiving." Story via The Christian Science Monitor
  • Are you one of those people who has an eternal guilt trip because, oh holy shit, you ate a second piece  of pie during the Turkey Day dinner? Dude or dudette, just chill and "eat your damn pie." As long as you take care of yourself the rest of the year, a little indulgence is fine, and you will feel better. Story via Vox
  • But if you must serve healthy food at the dinner, well, here are some recipe ideas for "25 Healthyish Thanksgiving Dishes You'll Actually Want to Eat" from BuzzFeed.
  • Or you can go the opposite direction away from healthy and for fun have an all-candy Thanksgiving dinner that includes a gummy turkey. See story at Foodiggity
 Bonus Black Friday links: Once you all have slept off the turkey induced coma and maybe had a good night's sleep, some of you might be going out for Black Friday.
  •  Just for fun, here are some vintage Black Friday ads, from the Library of Congress. You thought the aggressive early shopping advertising was just a problem now?  Check it out back in 1918. 
  • And as you head out for Black Friday, here are "8 Frugal Skills You Need to Survive Black Friday" via Wise Bread. Good luck out there. If you do Black Friday, have fun, but try to keep the stress low and not to spend too much.

Booknote: Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump

G.B. Trudeau, Yuge! 30 Years of Doonesbury on Trump. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-4494-8133-9.

Genre: graphic novels and comics
Subgenre: humor, political humor
Format: paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County Public Library

Note: I read this shortly before the 2016 elections in the United States.

Doonesbury has been warning us about Donald Trump for a while now. This compilation is divided by decades: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s, which brings us pretty close to today. The last comic in the collection is dated April 24, 2016.

What I really found amusing about this collection was not so much Trump himself, but how he touches the lives of the other characters in the comic. From Duke getting hired as captain of Trump's giant yacht to Boopsie working as hired eye candy, their misadventures and situations make the comic work as political commentary and humor. Very often Trump is in  the background, but his huge presence can be felt. As for Trump himself, he is larger than life in the book.

Unlike a lot of people in the United States, the author has been paying attention. The comic is actually a pretty good document of Trump's bad business deals, his womanizing, and  his other terrible traits. Trump did not just emerge out of the ether; he blustered and bullied his way to his presidential run (and as of this post, President-Elect of the United States). You may laugh at some of his antics, because some are ridiculous, but then you realize the guy was serious.

The volume makes for good timely reading in the election season. This is one public libraries, and some academic libraries, need to pick up for their collections.

4 out of 5 stars

This  book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges: