Embracing Life: Women Who Published After 40

In a culture that often disregards older people with life experience, it is sometimes easy to feel that creative potential is higher when you’re younger. All of these female authors have dispelled that myth by publishing first novels after the age of 40. They prove that you do not need to succumb to cultural expectations of aging. Their tenacity and spirit confirm that the creative spark within continues to be a vibrant force as we age.

Following are some favorites from such authors, plus a few more in this book list.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor is orderly, kind and lonely. She works as a finance clerk during the week and goes home every Friday night, heats up a pizza, drinks some wine, and does not talk to another person until Monday. Eleanor may be socially awkward, but her singular observations about people and life are hilarious and steer her toward a hopeful future.

Honeyman’s debut is a heartfelt, funny look into the life of a seemingly ordinary anti-heroine who goes on an emotionally courageous journey.

Gail Honeyman spent two years writing Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine while working full-time at Glasgow University. She started working on the novel as she found herself on the brink of turning 40. The beginning of the book won the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2014, and the completed novel created a fierce bidding war, ultimately earning Honeyman a seven-figure advance.

The Given World

by Marian Palaia

In The Given World, main character Riley does not travel a straight line in her journey from 1960’s Minnesota to San Francisco in the ’70s, and then to post-war Vietnam in search of her MIA brother.

To quote Palaia, Riley’s coming-of-age story ends up being “something that looks something like redemption might look after it has been buried in a pile of refuse under a pile of rocks for a very long time.”

Read this compelling interview with Marian Palaia.

Anything Is Possible

by Elizabeth Strout
This new novel by Strout is similar in structure to her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Olive Kitteridge in that it is a collection of short stories about interconnecting inhabitants in the small town of Amgash, Illinois. Amgash is where Lucy Barton was born, and she is the protagonist from Strout’s previous novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton. Strout published her debut novel, Amy and Isabelle (1999), in her early 40s.

Calling Invisible Women

by Jeanne Ray

There comes a certain age a woman reaches when she begins to feel invisible — to both her family and society. Clover wakes up one morning to find that she is actually invisible. Eventually, she finds a support group of like-bodied women. They discover that they can effect change in meaningful ways, whether or not they are seen and noticed by others. Calling Invisible Women is a surreal, humorous and thought-provoking story.

Jeanne Ray published her first novel, Julie and Romeo Get Lucky (1998), at age 60, after a 40-year career in nursing. Check out this interview with her about her writing life.

Books Nominated for Lesser-Known Awards

No doubt you’re familiar with, or have at least heard of, the Nobel Prize in Literature and the Pulitzer Prize for Letters, Drama and Music. You probably even know about the Man Booker Prize. Those are the big literary awards, and you’ll often find some overlap between their shortlists. You’ll also often find that your friends have some of those finalists on their end tables and Kindles. But what if you want to read books that get nominated for lesser-known awards?

We can help with that.

The following literary awards will be presented this month. Let’s take a look at six books that are shortlisted for recognition, shall we?

American Library Association’s Carnegie Medal

 


Swing Time 

by Zadie Smith

2017 Finalist — Fiction

This novel swings back and forth between race (from the protagonist’s black activist mother and working-class white father, to the white mega-star building a school for girls in rural Africa); privilege and luck; wealth and poverty; Africa, London and New York; friendship and animosity; strong women and weak ones; the importance of education; and many other themes.

A limited-in-personality narrator begins her story the day after being fired from her job. She gets a message from a bitter childhood friend and begins to reminisce on her life, nonlinearly remembering the moments that brought her to her current situation. As she admits from the outset, “I had always tried to attach myself to the light of other people … I had never had any light of my own. I had experienced myself as a type of shadow.”

The total impact of the story is lessened by using this particular type of narrator, but at the same time, her passivity and her desire to absolve herself from everything that has happened around or to her allow the reader to understand the narrative beyond the veil intentionally created by this unreliable protagonist.


The Firebrand & the First Lady: Portrait of Friendship: Pauli Murray, Eleanor Roosevelt, & the Struggle for Social Justice

2017 Finalist — Nonfiction

While Eleanor Roosevelt is no stranger in American history books, civil rights activist and teacher Pauli Murray is far less well-known. It may surprise some to find that Roosevelt, old enough to be Murray’s mother, came to know, then admire and form a tight friendship with the young, educated, but poor black woman. Murray initiated the relationship with an angry letter to FDR, sending a copy to the first lady in hopes the president would have a better chance of seeing her missive. From there, the two started a politely contentious correspondence that gave each woman insight into one another, themselves, and the country in which they both lived.

Author Patricia Bell-Scott says she first intended to merely publish the letters between these two women but realized there was more to the story than just their correspondence. Thus, the chapters are a mix of historical background and explanations of the culture and societal norms of the time as well as the letters, building a complex path from anger and dissatisfaction from one party and hesitation and placation from the other to a place of mutual admiration and respect.

Recommended for readers who enjoy epistolary biographies about American history, the civil rights era, and/or women in history.

BAILEYS Women’s Prize for Fiction

As in this BAILEYS, because Irish cream and books go hand in hand in the U.K.

Baileys Irish Cream

 


Do Not Say We Have Nothing

2017 Finalist

A Canadian novel, complex in its look at student refugees fleeing the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests as well as the earlier Chinese cultural revolution, wrapped in an overall theme of music and the question of freedom. Is there such a thing?

This is not a light novel, nor is it quickly read or easy to forget. It takes some effort to follow and parse. There is a lot of explanation throughout of Chinese language(s), music, even mathematics. It’s not told in a linear fashion but, instead, jumps back and forth from a mother and her daughter and their not-quite-kin houseguest at the end of the 1980s to 1960’s China under Chairman Mao’s regime, and then forward to the current day as the last recipient of these stories is trying to tie up loose ends and solidify what she’s learned.

This book is long and it wanders, which may be off-putting to some readers. The writing is strong, but it will be frustrating to those who desire brevity. However, if you’re interested in learning more about China during and after the Great Leap Forward, as well as the impact Chinese communism has had on the generations since, this is your book.

The Sport of Kings

2017 Finalist

This is being hailed as the next Great American Novel and it might be just that. Or it might be problematic in its look at racism, misogyny and elitism in the American South. This is the only book in this post written by a white person.

It opens with James Henry Forge, the antithesis of Atticus Finch, his son, Henry, and their shared ancestry dating back to the opening of the Northwest Territory, when their forefather and his slave traversed the Cumberland Gap and laid claim to the land that has been Forge property ever since. While some parcels have been sold off over the years, the main house and the surrounding acreage have made a good living for the family of privileged white gentleman farmers until Henry and his obsession with thoroughbreds change the landscape, literally and figuratively. His daughter, Henrietta, is expected to continue her father’s dream of breeding the country’s finest horse, but their enterprise is compromised after Henrietta hires a black ex-convict whose skills with the Forge stock are unparalleled.

The writing is gorgeous, though intentionally pretentious. It’s a long-winded, meandering tale that will appeal to some and irritate others, and it is full of humanity’s more vile aspects. I suspect this will garner both praise and criticism in equal measure.

The Lammys

 


Will Do Magic for Small Change

2017 Finalist – Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror

This is more magical realism/urban fantasy than sci-fi, fantasy or horror, incorporating both African and American folklore and legends. It begins with Cinnamon Jones at her older half-brother’s funeral. She’s black, she’s poor, she’s friendless and awkward. She and her mother do not get along and all she has left in the world is “The Chronicles of the Wanderer,” a journal her late brother bequeathed to her.

The story is told through both Cinnamon’s life in Philadelphia in the 1980s and via chapters of “The Chronicles of the Wanderer,” a diary of sorts penned by an alien who came to Earth in 1893 to collect stories and found him/herself in Dahomey during its fall. The alien is taken in and named Taiwo by an ahosi, a warrior wife of the soon-to-be deposed king. The two stories weave together as “The Chronicles” help Cinnamon navigate the most tumultuous years of her life.

Of the six books listed here, this was my least favorite. While I enjoyed the overall tale quite well, the writing style was an obstacle to my reading experience, leaving me frustrated and annoyed. Regardless, it’s an innovative look at family and friendship, art and magic, past and future, and love and faith — and it makes for a fine summer read.

Another Brooklyn

2017 Finalist – Lesbian Fiction

A short novel but not necessarily a quick read, this story follows an unreliable narrator as she turns from the present to face her past, recalling her girlhood in rural Tennessee through her teenage years in Brooklyn. It’s a coming-of-age tale that touches on before and after, dreams and reality, race and class, the meaning of friendship, and the accuracy of memory.

Fleeing grief in the 1970s, August and her father and brother move from their Sweetgrove land in Tennessee to a Brooklyn neighborhood, not far from where the father grew up. The siblings are told to stay indoors during their father’s workdays, a prison sentence after being raised on open land. However, there’s life outside their apartment window and they both eventually win their freedom. August navigates her new world, slowly becoming a teenager, learning her body, flirting with sexuality, and understanding that there’s power in numbers and danger in solitude. She and her friends wear razor blades in their knee socks and plan to grow their nails though they are never able to stop biting them. Summers are hot, the girls know all the top-40 songs, and they believe education will get them to where they want to be. Then, suddenly, they’re women, no longer friends, and only one has followed the path she set for herself. As the narrator remembers her past, she wonders if things would have turned out differently had the girls been raised on jazz, a music that would have reflected their lives and emotions.

Woodson is best known for her young adult novels. While this does follow a group of teenagers closely through much of the story, it’s not aimed at a young adult audience. It exposes some ugly truths about a girl’s coming of age, about a family’s ability to cope with pain, and about how far we’ll go to forget what we don’t want to remember, all framed in lively, gorgeous prose. I highly recommend listening to this one.

 

You might have noticed many of these books contain similar themes. Maybe that’s the nature of contemporary literature or maybe I have a superpower that allows me to choose random books that tie together really well. I enjoyed reading these simultaneously and consecutively because I was allowed the pleasure of comparing and contrasting character experiences, especially the coming-of-age stories, as well as how past affects present and how written stories can influence generations to come. However, if you feel you’d be bored reading the same themes over and over, there are plenty more shortlisted titles from which to choose. Douglas County Libraries doesn’t have all the finalists in all the award categories, but these are available for your reading pleasure.

Let’s kick off summer with award-potential literature!

Stranger Than Fiction: True Stories From the Medical World

A couple of weeks ago I came across an article about poisonous plants and their role in medicine. Not only was the article interesting on its own, but it started me on a kick of medical reading. No, no, I don’t mean dusty old anatomy books or the latest diet craze how-to’s. I’m talking about true medical stories that offer intriguing and unusual insights into both the human body and the medical industry — the stuff that reads like fiction because it just doesn’t seem possible or probable.

Check out these five true tales and see if you agree.

Stiff

by Mary Roach

Mary Roach is the queen of investigative science writing. As her narratives expand, she goes from neophyte to knowledgeable and takes her readers along for the ride.

In Stiff, we learn about what actually happens to bodies that have been donated to medical pursuits. Sometimes disturbing, sometimes uplifting, I found the balance of the macabre and the optimistic pretty reasonable. However, I have to admit that I put it down a couple of times to take breaks from the darker bits.

Roach covers a variety of modern practices, such as forensic research and surgical techniques. She also addresses the history of the cadaver in medicine, which is interspersed throughout the book to offer background on how important the human form has been in developing quality medical care.

Patient H.M.

by Luke Dittrich

In Patient H.M., the author uses the story of Henry Molaison to contemplate medical ethics and take a serious look at the impact on the individual that often follows medical breakthroughs.

Molaison suffered from epileptic seizures, and in 1953, the author’s grandfather performed an experimental surgery to try to stop them. In removing several sections of brain tissue, the surgeon was successful in reducing the impact of the seizures, but it also caused Molaison to permanently lose his short-term memory. Subsequent studies of Molaison, who passed away in 2008, led scientists to a much better understanding of how human memory works. But the question remains: at what cost to the individual?

 

 

Dreamland

by Sam Quinones

Although this book came out in 2015, it’s back on people’s radars — I think because opiate addiction has been in the news a lot lately. And I think it’s an important read to not only help us consider the role of opiates in modern America, but also to consider how we got to this spot.

Like several on this list, Dreamland offers a look at history, as well as the current era. Unlike the other titles, though, it is rather sweeping in scope; the book delves not only into the medical industry, but also into organized crime, domestic life, economics and politics.

Reading this book will leave you feeling more knowledgeable about an important topic that affects people in our community on a daily basis. Plus, it’s insightful and highly readable. While I can’t say that Dreamland is an enjoyable book, per se, I can say that I know and understand more than I did before.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

by Rebecca Skloot

Whether or not you’ve already read it, you’ve likely heard about the adaptation of this book into a mini-series on HBO — that’s how much drama is involved in this true tale.

In the early 1950s, Henrietta Lacks’ doctor removed cells from a tumor in her body and gave them to research scientists in the same facility without her knowledge. The cells, unlike any the researchers had worked with before, did not die. Able to be grown, frozen and divided without killing the cells, Ms. Lacks’ unethically gathered tissue became the most widely used human cells in medical research.

Author Rebecca Skloot writes about her journey to discover the background of these important cells. And, as she investigated, the greater issues of medical morality, social divides, and family crisis also came into view. This complex read gives form to the story of a woman who unknowingly saved many lives, as well as her family who helped uncover the tale.

 

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness

by Susannah Cahalan

One day, Susannah Cahalan is going about her business as a reporter working in the heart of New York; the next, she is waking up in the hospital with no memory of the past month. Diagnosed with a myriad of different, and sometimes contradictory, medical issues, Cahalan was identified as having everything from bipolar disorder to Alzheimer’s disease. The author shares her own story, which is as much a mystery as a medical tale, narrating her own attempt to piece together what happened in her missing month.

So many medical stories are written from the outside-in that it was nice to find one written by the person who lived through the whole thing. Cahalan is a good writer who doesn’t shy away from sharing her tough story. While this memoir might inspire some readers toward paranoia (I know I had my moments), it’s also a story about coming out on the other side and getting your life back together.

On Being Different

I want to encourage some interactive “vandalism,” something I typically wouldn’t do as a library professional. But, please, hear me out. It’s for the sake of good mental health.

Jenny Lawson is one of my favorite people. Her popular online persona, The Bloggess, has overflowed the internet, spawning two humor-laden memoirs and a third book that is a little different: It’s both a coloring book of pictures she drew on a book tour — because it gave “my hands something to do so they don’t destroy me” — and short essays and affirmations, written simultaneously to herself and to everyone during a particularly heavy depression. It’s called You Are Here: An Owner’s Manual for Dangerous Minds, and it’s really a form of therapy created by a person who knows therapy because she’s been there. Like, probably this week. Twice.You are here

Since the release of You Are Here, Jenny has been re-tweeting pictures taken by her fans of pages they’ve colored. One picture tweeted by @dustmote_, a member of #thebloggesstribe, is of a note she’d written in a library copy of the book.

speckled light (@dustmote_) _ Twitter

(Photo courtesy of Sarah Ohme, aka @dustmote_, used with permission)

Lovely penmanship, right? But it’s that message, the acknowledgement that the next person holding the book may feel fragile, may feel like an outsider, may feel overwhelmed and lonely, but even so, that person is not alone. There are others in that same space, unseen, perhaps, but there nonetheless. That’s important. That message inspired me.

In some Douglas County Libraries copies of this book, there are stickers inside the front covers that ask you to not write in the books. In other copies, there are messages asking you to join the celebration that is You Are Here. Those are the interactive copies. I invite you to help those books undergo a journey. Color in them, share your stories, help each other through tough times, offer encouragement and support. Look at what others have done and gain inspiration or, at the very least, the knowledge that you’re here, we’re here, and you’re not alone. That is, after all, the intent.

Let’s make these books into living documents, each one unique. They will become a representation of Douglas County, and we’ll archive the copies once they’re out of circulation so they can continue to help, guide and inspire the next generation.

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

If you’d like to re-create what Jenny did, whether it be for your own mental health or just the fun of it, we have useful resources! Check these out.

 

Drawing in Black & White
by Deborah Velasquez

Whether or not you’re an artist, this will give you tips and tricks for being comfortable drawing monochromatic pictures.

The Great Zentangle Book
by Beate Winkler

You know those doodles that turn into neat patterns? Have you always wondered how to make them, or find yourself creating geometric landscapes while on the phone? Get more out of your doodling by learning to zentangle!

 

Becoming a Great Essayist/Writing Great Essays
An online course on essay-writing

The cover art shown here is what Great Courses uses for its online course and DVD course, only the titles are slightly different. Don’t worry about it. You get all the same information from the online class as you do from the DVDs.

 

Check out these other items of interest, as well.

 

Additional Resources

If you need something beyond the items Douglas County Libraries offers, these resources can provide additional help.

Remember: You are here, but you are not alone.

The Season of Audie Awards

Who doesn’t love listening to a great story? So many of my own activities are enhanced by audiobooks — my daily commute, working around the house and garden, and road trips with family. There’s just something about a talented audiobook performer who takes you inside a story in a way that the written word sometimes does not. Well listen up, everyone, because it’s Audie Awards time again.

The Audio Publishers Association has announced the Audie Award® finalists for Audiobook of the Year and for Excellence in Design, Excellence in Marketing, and Excellence in Production. The winners of the Excellence Awards will be announced at the Audio Publishers Association Conference on May 31, 2017, in New York. The Audiobook of the Year winner will be announced at the Audie Awards Gala on June 1, 2017.

Meanwhile, here are some ideas for your listening pleasure, some of which are on the Audie Awards short list.

breath-audio

When Breath Becomes Air

by Paul Kalanithi; narrated by Sunil Malhotra & Cassandra Campbell (Autobiography/Memoir finalist)
The personal account of the life and death of Dr. Paul Kalanithi, a dutiful son, loving husband, new father, and gifted neurosurgeon. Kalanithi died in March 2015 from lung cancer at the age of 37. This deeply moving memoir, written for his daughter, reveals how much can be achieved through service and gratitude, and the importance of living with courage and resilience. It also sheds light on the paradox of being both physician and terminal patient. Kalanithi’s wife, Lucy, also a doctor, bears witness to the couple’s difficult journey in the epilogue read by Campbell.

belgravia-audio

Julian Fellowes’ Belgravia

by Julian Fellowes; narrated by Juliet Stevenson (Fiction finalist)

Fellowes, the genius behind Downton Abbey, presents a richly detailed melodrama set in 1840’s London. Stevenson expertly gives voice to the personalities within this family saga, weaving a tapestry of British class and regional accents, ages and genders, and spot-on period pacing.

bassoon-audio

The Bassoon King: My Life in Art, Faith & Idiocy

by Rainn Wilson; narrated by Rainn Wilson (Humor finalist)
Self-described nerd Rainn Wilson gives an accounting of himself in this memoir, which will probably appeal to fans of Wilson’s character from The Office. In fact, Dwight Schrute provides the book’s foreword. On becoming an actor, Wilson proclaims, “I had moved from regular geek/nerd to the very top of the geek/nerd hierarchy, DRAMA geek/nerd.” The author shares such nuggets as “Compendium of Comic Sidekicks,” “The Greatest Albums of the Early Eighties,” and “Shitty Jobs” (busboy, security guard, dishwasher, traffic-counter guy). He also delves into finally marrying the love of his life, becoming a father, and rediscovering his Baha’i faith.

view-from-cheap-seats-audio

The View From the Cheap Seats

by Neil Gaiman; narrated by Neil Gaiman (Narration by an Author finalist)
Here, Gaiman presents a collection of nonfiction essays on a wealth of topics — from art and artists to dreams, myths and memories. He is a master storyteller. His distinctive, funny and well-honed style has earned him copious deserved accolades. What’s more, Gaiman proves that sometimes it’s OK for authors to narrate their own recorded books. It helps if you are Neil Gaiman.

hillbilly-elegy-audio

Hillbilly Elegy

by J.D. Vance; narrated by J.D. Vance (Nonfiction finalist)

Big buzz around this one makes me want to get my hands on it (even though it’s also read by the author). Although he is only 32 years old, Vance has a few stories to tell. His extended Appalachian family faced terrible hardship in the form of profound poverty, drug use, and unstable family life. Now a graduate of Yale University Law School, Vance shares how he escaped the cycle of poverty that threatened to dictate his path in life. With the help of his grandmother, a handful of caring teachers, the U.S. Marine Corps, and his own determination, Vance was able to gain both a pathway out and a very personal view of white poverty in America.

car-talk-science-audio

Car Talk Science: MIT Wants Its Diplomas Back

by Tom Magliozzi & Ray Magliozzi; narrated by Tom Magliozzi & Ray Magliozzi (Original Work finalist)
Oh, how I miss the Car Talk guys, aka Frick and Frack, on National Public Radio. How wonderful that we have a chance to listen to them in their recent recorded books, including this compilation of all-time favorite Car Talk calls that veered away from cars into the amazing world of science. Tom and Ray are not only smart, they are funny. This is great listening for — you guessed it — a road trip.

news-of-world-audio

News of the World

by Paulette Jiles; narrated by Grover Gardner (Booklist 2017 Outstanding Audio Narration)
Put me on the spot and ask me about my favorite book of late. Well, this would be it. The only way to possibly enjoy it more is to listen to Gardner’s colorful and masterful expression of this glorious tale. In it, an orphaned Indian captive and an aging soldier are thrown together by chance and must endure a heart-rending but redemptive journey through post-Civil War Texas as unlikely partners. Exquisite.

curious-charms-arthur-pepper-audio

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

by Phaedra Patrick; narrated by James Langton (Booklist 2017 Outstanding Audio Narration)
Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life, much as he did before he lost his wife, Miriam. But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, Arthur finds a lovely gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. So Arthur sets off on a kind of scavenger hunt to discover the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met. Along the way he bumbles onto a journey to hope, healing and self-discovery. It is Langton’s delivery of this story that creates a draw for the most discerning listener.

hidden-figures-audio

Hidden Figures

by Margot Lee Shetterly; narrated by Robin Miles
I mention this one because, well, this story is everywhere! Why not listen to the book while you’re at it? Just when you think you know your American history, here is another true story that goes to show the breadth of what we may not know. Amazing people doing amazing things makes for satisfying listening.

Be sure to check out this list of all the Audie finalists for 2017.

Spring Into Mindful Change

Spring is a season I always anxiously await. Longer, sunny days, beautiful scents, and colorful spring flowers bring new energy and joy into everybody’s life. It is a season of awakening, rebirth and rejuvenation. There is no better time than spring to take care of your mind, spirit, body and surroundings. Need a little inspiration? Try these books.

book-of-joy

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

by Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, Douglas Carlton Abrams
This book is a record of conversations between two of the most spiritual men of our time: the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The conversations took place when both men met in April 2015 to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday. These two extraordinary men, who have experienced many difficulties in their lives yet still find joy in each day, make the effort to answer the critical question of our time: How do we find joy in the face of life’s inevitable suffering? The book also reveals what true friendship is about. This book allows you to experience the happy moment of their first embrace and their emotional goodbye, as well as their moments of deep reflection on life, humorous stories, and genuine laughter in between.

hygge

The Little Book of Hygge

by Meik Wiking
According to the World Happiness Report of 2017, Scandinavian countries are home to the happiest people in the world. The United States ranks 19th in the current report. For Danish people, in particular, their happiness results from a style of life or a philosophy called Hygge. This little book, written by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, offers Danish secrets for happy living. You will even find a few yummy Hygge recipes.

essentialism-2

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

by Greg McKeown
I don’t know about you, but I tend to sign myself up for every task or event that comes my way. I think of it as an opportunity to experience something that will add flavor to my life. Essentialism explores the dark side of that behavior. Too many tasks and too many responsibilities can cause anxiety and change the fun of new experiences into nightmares. The results of your work might not be what you expect, and your satisfaction might disappear. In the end, it’s about the choices you make. The key is to choose wisely. This book is a must read for anyone who struggles with time management, productivity, and feelings of stress and overwork in life.

life-changing-magic

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

by Marie Kondo
When people think about spring, they often think of spring-cleaning. You can’t deny the happiness and satisfaction that come from your clean and well-organized surroundings. Whatever it is — your home, garden or office — when the space is clean and organized, it gives you the feeling of calmness, peace and joy. Kondo is a guru on the subject! Her philosophy on decluttering and organizing is appreciated by many people who find cleaning to be a challenging task. The Japanese art of organizing will truly change your life!

what-doesnt-kill-us

What Doesn’t Kill Us: How Freezing Water, Extreme Altitude and Environmental Conditioning Will Renew Our Lost Evolutionary Strength

by Scott Carney
This book was recommended by my brother-in-law, who was inspired by the Dutch fitness guru Wim Hof and his extreme exercise methods — which he is now implementing in his own life. The positive effects of these methods are noticeable already. Hof says he is able to control his body and his immune system thanks to mental and physical practices he is dedicated to. The author, Carney, didn’t believe Hof and started an investigation to prove Hof a liar. Instead, Carney became the method’s biggest supporter when he found it was based on scientific principles.

poems-women

Poems That Make Grown Women Cry & Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

Lately, these two poetry anthologies have captured my attention. I always enjoy poetry, and I believe that reading poetry is the best way to finish a day. It is essential to take some time to reflect on your life journey, set your imagination free, and get lost in the beauty of poetical forms and meanings. Did you know that poetry has therapeutic benefits? It can help with memory and calm your mind. Looking for more choices? Try these.

Happy spring reading!

Happy National Preservation Week!

keepsakes-unsplash-roman-kraft-60298-blogThink preservation! This year’s National Preservation Week is April 23-29, and there’s no better time to think about preserving our personal and shared collections of items and heirlooms.

National Preservation Week is brought to you by the Association for Library Collections & Technical Services (ALCTS), a branch of the American Library Association (ALA). The intent is to bring awareness to the importance of preserving precious items and keepsakes, and to emphasize what can be done to preserve those items and other public collections. U.S. institutions are estimated to hold more than 4.8 billion items and American libraries hold 63 percent of this whole, with countless more held by other individuals and families in society.

What Is Worth Saving?

According to the ALCTS there is a treasure trove of important items that should be preserved, including architectural drawings, artifacts, audio and video recordings, diaries, genealogical information, letters, maps, memoirs and reminiscences, minutes and reports, photo albums and photographs, printed materials, professional and business papers, and speeches and lectures. You may have many of these things at home, thinking they’re safe. So what’s the big deal?

It turns out that many of the items noted above are susceptible to damage from several environmental factors. According to ALCTS, causes of deterioration include light exposure, heat, moisture, and pollutants like dust. The ALCTS estimates that 1.3 billion items within the U.S. are at risk from these factors.

Tips for Protecting What’s Precious

The ALCTS offers many resources and tips to help you preserve your family heirlooms, including these:

  • Move precious items out of the attic or basement and into a bedroom closet or a clean, climate-controlled part of your house.
  • Minimize handling of your items.
  • Make copies of important items and label them.
  • To preserve your really important treasures, the ALCTS recommends consulting with a preservation or conservation professional who can view your items. However, if you would like tips for preserving family photos, letters, documents, etc., you can view recommendations and submit your own questions online to preservation expert Donia Conn.

Douglas County History Research Center: Your Local Resource

If you need extra help in preserving your valuable keepsakes, Douglas County Libraries offers an invaluable resource: the Douglas County History Research Center (DCHRC), located in our Castle Rock – Philip S. Miller branch at 100 S. Wilcox St. Here you can find archivists with experience in preservation, and you can also find exquisite items from local lore.

Book a visit with an archivist by calling (303) 688-7730. You can also check out the DCHRC’s web page to learn more about this great resource and local historical topics.

National Library Week: April 9-15

PAlibraryNational Library Week was created by the American Library Association (ALA) in the mid-1950s to celebrate the contributions of the nation’s libraries and librarians, as well as promote library use and support. The theme of National Library Week 2017 is “Libraries Transform.”

Libraries Transform  

According to the ALA, libraries and library staff can transform communities by going beyond their traditional roles and providing more opportunities for community engagement. Here at Douglas County Libraries (DCL), there are a variety of new, interesting events and programs for patrons of all ages. To see upcoming happenings, visit the Library Events page at DCL.org, and click Events Calendar. You can sort this calendar by event type, age group, location, and other options.

Other Ways Libraries Contribute

ALA cites the importance of libraries to society for their “role in leveling the playing field for all who seek information and access to technologies.” At DCL, you can use computers, the internet, and a plethora of online databases for access to a wealth of knowledge on all sorts of subjects. You can even check out a mobile hotspot and access free internet in your home or car. If you’re thinking about taking a long car ride with your family, you can use this mobile hotspot to access movies and games on the internet and not use up your data plan.

That’s not all! Did you know you can also check out a sewing machine, loom and spinning wheel? Our Check Out Colorado program allows you to check out a State Parks pass, and you can visit local science and cultural institutions like Dinosaur Ridge, Butterfly Pavilion, and History Colorado Center with an Adventure Pass. All you need is your library card!

According to ALA, one of the most important ways libraries transform communities is the way in which “libraries support democracy and effect social change through their commitment to provide equitable access to information for all library users regardless of race, ethnicity, creed, ability, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic status.” At DCL, all are welcome to use our print and digital media, attend our early literacy and adult programming, and spend time in the creative learning environments within our buildings.

So don’t be a stranger! Visit your local DCL branch, celebrate National Library Week with us, and get to know a librarian today.

Worried About Fake News?

fake-news-blog

Fake news has become a widespread worry lately, and websites carrying fake news can look quite legitimate and professional. Today’s fake news could be entirely fabricated or it could just misinterpret facts or misrepresent data. It is up to you, the reader, to be vigilant and make sure the information is accurate.

Spotting Fake News

Keep these things in mind. (Sources: Harvard Library, http://guides.library.harvard.edu/fake; Indiana University East Campus Library, http://iue.libguides.com/fakenews)

  • Headlines usually appeal to emotion to make you feel happy, sad, angry or scared.
  • Articles might be fake if they are difficult to verify and do not include links that trace back to the source.
  • It might be hard to tell who the author is or to gauge his or her expertise.
  • The publication date is also very important in determining an article’s accuracy, since information can have an expiration date. For instance, in 2006 Pluto lost its status as a planet and became a dwarf planet, so any articles claiming Pluto is a planet would be false after 2006.
  • URLs are also a really good clue to determine legitimacy. Well-established news sites include the name of the news agency and end with the domain .com. However, you should pay close attention to the full domain name. Did the article come from nbcnews.com.co? That extra “.co” should be a red flag of something suspicious.  Some domains like .com, .org and .net can be acquired and used by anyone. Other domain names ending in .edu are reserved for colleges and universities, while .gov indicates a government website.

Here’s a great example of a fake news site.

Tired of Misinformation?

If you really want to avoid fake news, Douglas County Libraries (DCL) can help. You can access researcher-vetted content on the Research page at DCL.org. Here you can find reputable news articles, scholarly and peer-reviewed journals, e-books, business and financial resources, consumer research, and much more.

You can easily search any of these databases from a computer at the library. Or if you prefer to do your research from home, all you will need is your library card and PIN (which is typically the last four digits of your phone number).

So go explore. DCL is here for you.

Spice It Up With Korean Cookbooks!

I am a cookbook addict.

It’s a good thing that Douglas County Libraries (DCL) has such an amazing selection of cookbooks, otherwise I’d need to buy another bookshelf. One of my favorite things to do is immerse myself in a new cuisine for a while. This winter I’m doing Korean. Luckily, Aurora is chock full of Asian markets that stock more exotic-sounding ingredients. I’ve made many a trip to H Mart and Pacific Ocean Market. If you’ve never been, I highly recommend a visit — especially on the weekends when they have free samples. I had my first-ever persimmon the other day! (It was delicious, even though it basically looked like a tomato.)

These are some cookbooks I’ve checked out from DCL. I enjoyed them so much I bought my own copies. You can check out these and more of our Korean cookbooks here.

 

KFood

by Da-Hae and Gareth West
KFood has solid recipes. The dish shown is a type of Korean stew called jjigae. I knew I had to cook it myself after tasting the amazingly delicious version at Tofu House in Aurora. I may not be at Tofu House’s level yet, but KFood’s recipe was a hit with my friends on my first try! Another dish everyone loves is the gochujang meatloaf. I altered the recipe a little bit by using a plucot habanero jam, rather than the apricot version it asked for, in the glaze. (I’d bought the jam at the Parker Farmers Market and just had to use it!) I think this book excels with its Korean-American fusion recipes.

Seoul Food

by Naomi Imatome-Yun
Though Seoul Food covers all manner of dishes, I’ve been primarily trying the side dishes and anju, which is basically bar food. These tasty dishes are great for get-togethers. The dish I posted above is goguma mattang. It’s a dish of steamed and crisped sweet potatoes tossed with chopped walnuts and a honey-sugar glaze, then sprinkled with toasted black sesame seeds. It is incredibly simple to make and oh-so-tasty. The other sides have been just as easy to make, and they really add a special zing to the ordinary meals I pair them with.

Cook Korean!

by Robin Ha
This one was a new concept for me — a cookbook that is also a comic book! My favorite cookbooks have plenty of photos, usually showing step-by-step instructions. The drawings in this book are just as useful. The format allows interesting facts about Korean culture and food to pop up, as well. The dish above is a simple steamed egg dish that was delicious and easily customizable. And I learned an interesting cooking technique. The egg was steamed in that bowl in a larger pot, so that made for fewer dishes to clean!

Koreatown

by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard

I’ll end with Koreatown. It has the infamous kimchi white chocolate snickerdoodle recipe that intrigued half my co-workers and horrified the others. I did get compliments on them! (And I ate too many myself.) Who knew that spicy fermented cabbage would work so well with a mellowing white chocolate? This cookbook not only has a great blend of traditional and fusion recipes, but it also includes compelling, personal tales about Korean food in America.