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Books to Buoy You Through Your Quarter-Life Crisis

Books to Buoy You Through Your Quarter-Life Crisis

By Crystal Hicks, Adult Services Librarian

As we hear more and more about millennials, we often hear about the “quarter-life crisis,” a period in early adulthood marked by feelings of stress and inadequacy about finding success in careers, relationships, or personal life. According to a recent survey by LinkedIn, 75% of millennials say they have experienced a quarter-life crisis; as a millennial myself, this statistic rings true. I experienced my own seven years ago (which led me to librarianship), my husband wrapped his up within the last year, and many of my friends have struggled with how to succeed as adults. Fortunately, there are books for everything, including quarter-life crises. If you are a millennial or know of someone going through their own crisis, these books can help.

By far the biggest stressor for millennials is finding the right job, so why not check out Richard N. Bolles’s classic What Color Is Your Parachute? Bolles updates this tome regularly, so you can look at the 2018 edition and find information about how the internet affects the job hunt and how to succeed in the current job market. Better yet, Bolles goes beyond job hunting and helps you figure out who you are, what you want from life, and the best way to go after it. If you’re just as confused about what career to pursue as you were before college, give this book a look.

If you’re in further need of guidance, the library has plenty of advice books out there. You might be interested in Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown, which gives advice about the many, many aspects of being a successful adult. Welcome to Your Crisis by Laura Day focuses on how to use your current crisis as a catalyst to figure out what you want in life and move towards it. For help with awakening your creative side, try Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic, which encourages readers to approach life fearlessly in order to open themselves up to their intuition and creativity. Lastly, for a good all-around advice book, read Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, a compilation of her Dear Sugar advice columns. Strayed practices radical empathy in answering her letters, accepting everyone and finding absolute value in their lives and emotions, all while dealing out hard-hitting truths.

Memoirs offer a more personal touch than traditional advice books, as you can follow along with the authors as they rise to the challenges of their lives. For a look inside a real quarter-life crisis, try Noelle Hancock’s My Year with Eleanor. After being fired from her job, Hancock decided to follow Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice to “Do one thing every day that scares you” in order to work her way out of her rut. Mindy Kaling’s memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? contains Kaling’s often-hilarious thoughts about all kinds of things relevant to millennials, from her career struggles to romance and body image. Finally, Jenny Lawson’s Let’s Pretend This Never Happened is an irreverent, shoot-milk-out-your-nose-funny memoir that will remind you that you’re not alone in having a crazy life. And trust me: when compared to Lawson’s stories, your life’s definitely not that crazy.

If fiction is more your speed than nonfiction, rest assured that we also have novels that can help you feel less alone in your quarter-life crisis. Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake follows Gogol Ganguli, a first-generation Indian-American, as he grapples with the weight of his namesake (a titan of Russian literature) and the burden of his parents’ expectations. Jennifer Close writes about a circle of best friends in Girls in White Dresses, following them through their twenties and thirties as they face their own quarter-life crises and build their adult lives. For a wider perspective on the struggles of adulthood, read The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling, a Dickensian novel about the secrets and shames of the residents of Pagford. Rowling’s novel serves as a welcome reminder that, no matter what class or age group someone is from, everyone is living behind a façade of some sort in order to project success to the world at large.

Hopefully, these books can give you or a millennial you know some comfort while working through a quarter-life crisis. Even if you’re not experiencing a life crisis, the library has plenty of books to interest everyone. Stop by the Reference Desk for some recommendations, or just browse until something piques your interest.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Ruthless Tide: Recalling the Johnstown Flood

Ruthless Tide: Recalling the Johnstown Flood

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

A couple years ago, Al Roker received significant praise for a book entitled The Storm of the Century.  That memorable book recounted the worst natural disaster in American history, the 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston, Texas, leaving some eight thousand dead and crushing buildings throughout the town.  Reviewers particularly noted Mr. Roker’s careful retelling of historical detail, as well as the compelling stories of some of those caught by ravaging winds and high waves.

Now Roker has written yet another riveting tale of historical disaster.  Ruthless Tide is an investigation into the 1889 flooding of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a horrifying event that took the lives of over 2000 people and wiped out whole towns.  This account, however, is not a natural disaster of the scope of the Galveston event.  This time, Roker explains how man-made modifications triggered the tragedy.

Spreading across a low-lying valley, Johnstown was a steel-producing town.  It was situated below an earthen dam along the South Fork of the Conemaugh River.  At one time, there had been a large reservoir, but the dam was not maintained and eventually partially collapsed and began leaking water.  The area behind the dam then became something of a wetland, useful only as grazing land.

But all of that changed in 1879 when some enterprising businessmen like Henry Fick and Andrew Carnegie decided to restore the dam, create a man-made lake behind it, and construct the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club.  Designed as a private resort for wealthy investors, the club boasted restaurants, available sailboats, even lakeside homes for its members.

Unbeknownst to most people, the old sluice gates which were designed to release water when the lake overfilled, were either removed or disabled.  In addition, the dam was reinforced with clay to which stone was attached.  Finally, a fishguard, made of iron rods suspended from the inner walls of the dam, prevented the cherished stock of black bass from escaping the lake.  With the outlying buildings and amenities in place by 1881, the resort was fully operational.

The year 1889 brought freakish weather trends over the Memorial Day weekend.  While the Johnstown residents were used to some flooding, the usual rains quickly developed into a 24-hour total of 11 inches.  The already saturated ground could not handle the volume, and so city streets and basements accumulated water.  The lake water above the town rapidly approached the top of the dam and the structure was soon compromised.

Why read this book?  First of all, it is an example of how human intervention can bring about disaster.  After the flood, a few of those most affected by its force instigated lawsuits to compensate for their losses, but the courts and lawyers hired by the shareholders of the club quashed those efforts.  This led to a new age of liability, during which those who created the danger had to bear the responsibility of the damages.

A second appealing aspect of the book is in its exact details.  We reader learn all about the early industrialists who built the steel empire.  We discover the progression of errors that caused the dam to fail.  We learn about the force behind a wall of water that easily upended train cars and leveled homes.  We discover the flukes that can spare or destroy lives in a very short time period.

Perhaps the most appealing feature of the book is its attention to the stories of individual townspeople.  The tale of little Gertrude Quinn is particularly poignant.  Separated from her family during the confusing flight, the six-year-old became a legendary figure in Johnstown’s history.  And the heroic efforts of some to save others is truly admirable.  Thomas Magee, for example, managed not only to save his store’s cash, but also to work with other store employees, pulling people to safety and supplying food to those who were stranded.

In all, this is a finely crafted book, with compelling human drama and a solid historical telling.  You will not regret this reading experience.

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Patriotic Films for July 4

Patriotic Films for July 4

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

July 4, Independence Day, the beginning of the dog days of summer. It is hot, period. After the grilling and the picnicking, and the fireworks, it’s time to escape into the coolness of the indoors. It’s time to sample some of the best in patriotic movies at this patriotic time of year.

Let’s start with a Frank Capra classic from 1939, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Jimmy Stewart stars as a newcomer to politics appointed to fill the term of a deceased Senator. Little does he realize that he was selected as someone who won’t ask questions. But Mr. Smith does just that when he learns of a pork barrel scheme to build an unneeded dam on the site of a proposed camp for Boy Rangers. Cynical Senators and their cronies attempt to besmirch his reputation, but Mr. Smith stays steadfast to his principles.

Do you remember watching the miracle on ice? Director Gavin O’Connor portrays the underdog 1980 U.S. Hockey team in “Miracle.” Kurt Russell stars as coach Herb Brooks, who leads his group of amateurs against a powerhouse Soviet team in the medal round at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympics. The Americans beat the Soviets 4-3, advancing to the gold medal game.

Hostile aliens attack Earth in Roland Emmerich’s “Independence Day.” With most of the world’s major cities destroyed, survivors U.S. President Bill Pullman, eccentric computer genius Jeff Goldblum, and hotshot Marine pilot Will Smith lead a last ditch effort to save the planet from annihilation. All this as the July 4 weekend approaches.

Apollo 13,” by director Ron Howard, is a true story of American ingenuity and perseverance. Stranded a couple of hundred thousand miles from home, astronauts Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks), Fred Haise (Bill Paxton), and Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon) struggle to survive the aftermath of their liquid oxygen tank failures. With the mission to land on the moon scrubbed, and faced with freezing conditions in the spacecraft and dangerously rising CO2 levels, Mission Control races against time and the odds to bring the astronauts home.

Director Edward Zwink portrays the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first Black regiment in the Civil War in “Glory.” Matthew Broderick is Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, the son of abolitionists, who volunteers to lead the regiment. Facing nothing by prejudice and the hatred of both their White comrades as well as the enemy, the 54th wins glory ay Fort Wagner, South Carolina. Not by winning the day, but by their courage and heart.

Bum boxer slash debt collector, Rocky Balboa, gets his chance to fight for the heavyweight championship in “Rocky.” Released in 1976, directed by John Avildsen, and written by Sylvester Stallone, “Rocky” is the inspirational story of a failure who doesn’t know when or how to quit. The film spawned six sequels.

Directed by Michael Curtiz, from 1942, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” is a musical biography of playwright, entertainer, and composer, George M. Cohan. Played by James Cagney, the real Cohan was born on the 4th of July in 1878. He moved from child performer in his family’s vaudeville act to successful Broadway playwright. He composed hundreds of popular songs including “Over There,” “The Yankee Doodle Boy,” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag.” President Franklin Roosevelt awarded Cohan the Congressional Gold Medal. He was the first person in any artistic field to receive such honor.

Steven Spielberg’s biopic, “Lincoln,” portrays the final few months of the 16th President. At the beginning of 1865, Abraham Lincoln is pushing for the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution to abolish slavery. He believes the end of the war is in sight and that the possibility of freed slaves being re-enslaved by the former Confederate States is unacceptable. Daniel Day Lewis is Lincoln in this Academy Award winning film.

Finally, “The Sandlot,” directed by David Mickey Evans, harkens back to a simpler time. This is the magical summer in the early 1960’s when clumsy, unathletic, Scotty Smalls joins the gang at the sandlot. Through hours and hours of baseball, swimming, and wild adventures about a ferocious beast with an appetite for baseballs, Smalls becomes part of the team, whose leader becomes a legend.

The library can help you beat the heat this Independence Day with these and other films on DVD, Blu-Ray, and thousands of films across all genres available for free download through Hoopla.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Fantasy Audiobooks for the Road

Fantasy Audiobooks for the Road

By Diedre Lemon, Adult Services Librarian

Summer is here! And with it comes the lure of long car rides. My husband and I find audiobooks pass the long miles of summer travel to western Kansas. In May, I found myself devouring Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan. This book is the third in a series about the god Apollo who has been sent to earth as sixteen-year-old Lester Papadopoulos. He becomes a servant and friend to young Meg McCaffrey. Apollo/ Lester and Meg need to work together because they have to save the world from evil, ancient Roman emperors. I turn into a fangirl waiting for these humorous young adult novels, and I love listening to audiobook versions.

Sadly, it is now June, and I am trying to find another audiobook.  I also have to keep in mind something my husband might enjoy as we plan car trips this summer. For me, a great audiobook comes down to one of two things: the story or the narrator. Here are some ideas while Game of Thrones is checked out.

One author my husband enjoys and who meets my great audiobook definition is Brandon Sanderson. Sanderson is an excellent fantasy author who has a number of great books and audiobooks. He is similar to George R.R. Martin (but less homicidal) with beloved characters. The Stormlight Archives series engrosses listeners with its alternating narrators and rich detail of the world Sanderson creates. His characters are also vast and rich. I will warn you: the books are long, and Sanderson has only released book three, Oathbringer, in a ten-novel series. Additionally, Sanderson uses the same universe for all of his novels, which links them all together, and some characters cross over into other series, too. The Sanderson world stays the same, while the time period changes.

If you find yourself wanting to immerse yourself into Sanderson’s world slowly, then I suggest The Rithmatist. So far, this series has one book with an anticipated sequel due out any time. This series is more of a young adult series, and as a result, I found myself in a familiar world filled with magic and a familiar voice. The narrator of this series is the same one who reads for Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives. The Rithmatist tells the story of Joel, who studies Rithmatics, but who is not a Rithmatist. Joel and his friend Melody, a Rithmatist, must solve the mystery of kidnapped Rithmatist students from Armedius Academy while learning how to use Rithmatics—magic that uses chalk—to fight Chalkings, who are two-dimensional drawings. The duo must also work together to compete in the end-of-summer melee tournament.

If all else fails, then I usually listen to my go-to author, Neil Gaiman. I will listen to anything and everything that Gaiman reads himself. Neverwhere or The Ocean at the End of the Lane are two favorite audiobooks that Gaiman narrates. Neverwhere tells the story of Richard Mayhew who helps a young woman named Door. Suddenly Richard now finds himself in a parallel London—London Below. In London Below, Richard must face shadows, monsters, sinister characters, and an angel on his quest to help Door. Mixed with terror and humor, Neverwhere takes listeners on a fantastic journey to a London that could exist beneath the one most people know. BBC also created a full cast audiobook version, which I highly recommend.

Gaiman always has some chilling elements in his works. The Ocean at the End of the Lane includes this creepy element typical of Gaiman’s work, but he also includes magical realism. The novel is told in flashback form as the narrator returns home for a funeral, then finds himself at the house at the end of the lane. Visiting with Mrs. Hempstock, the narrator remembers her daughter, Lettie, who befriended him as a child. He recalls their adventure to defeat a creature and save the world as we know it. At the end of the novel, readers are left wondering if the narrator just remembered a childish fantasy he created with Lettie, or if it all really happened.

I understand fantasy–whether it be dark fantasy, high fantasy or regular fantasy–might not be your cup of tea. However, I can say nothing passes the miles like an enthralling audiobook. Manhattan Public Library has numerous audiobooks for you to check out. Should you find yourself halfway through your trip with no audiobook, then you can use our digital platforms like Sunflower eLibrary and Hoopla to ease your travel.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

One Man’s Obsession with Museum Rarities

One Man’s Obsession with Museum Rarities

By Marcia Allen, Technical Services and Collections Manager

I know nothing about fly fishing.  I knew little about the fashionable craze to obtain exotic feathers during the 19th century.  I had never heard of the British Museum at Tring, nor had I known of Edwin Rist’s past.  Yet all of those factors are a part of a wonderful new nonfiction title.

While fly fishing outside of Taos, New Mexico with his guide, avid fisherman and author Kirk Wallace Johnson learned about Victorian salmon fly-tying.  His guide proudly showed some of his expertly tied specimens that he considered more artistic than useful.  This led to a discussion about a little known theft that Johnson vowed to investigate, and that obsession became a book that took Johnson several years to complete.  But what a book it is.  The Feather Thief is an amazing piece of writing that explores obsession, greed, and even the craft of fly-tying itself.

Of all the thefts from world-renowned museums, the plundering of the ornithological collection at the British Museum of Natural History at Tring, England is one of the oddest.  In 2009, American Edwin Rist managed to thwart security measures, thus allowing him to steal hundreds of rare bird feathers and skins. He not only made away with a priceless treasure, he also evaded capture for a long time.

Many of the stolen items were collected during the 19th century by a naturalist named Alfred Russel Wallace.  Wallace was intrigued by insects and birds and made several dangerous voyages to the Amazon and Bermuda, among other destinations.  He collected specimens by the thousands and sold many of them to the British Museum.  He was particularly interested in the golden-plumed Bird of Paradise and finally captured one on the Aru Islands.  Wallace, a contemporary of Charles Darwin, came to believe in the importance of evolution through natural selection and urged other scientists to preserve his found treasures for future study.

The discovery of those 19th century specimens by Wallace and other naturalists led to a craze in collecting bird feathers.  Women’s hats sported feathers and skins, and Victorian fly-fishermen collected feathers for fly-tying.  As a result, bird populations throughout the world were decimated in the late 19th century, and many rare species virtually disappeared.

And that’s where Edwin Rist enters the story.  As a teenager, he developed an interest in Victorian fly-tying and he took lessons from some of the best teachers in America.  He became quite proficient in tying and earned honors at contests for his artful creations.  The major obstacle that he and other devotees of the skill faced was that so many of the exotic feathers the Victorians used were either no longer available or very expensive.

Rist was also a talented musician and was invited to study and play with the London Royal Academy.  While in London, he learned about the collections at Tring and became obsessed with them.  A visit to the museum, during which he casually opened drawers containing valuable specimens, made him realize that security measures would be easy to circumvent.  He convinced himself that he should steal the skins for their future artistic potential.

Exactly how many feathers and skins did Rist manage to steal?  Did he sell them or keep them for himself?  Were the specimens recovered?  Was Rist charged with the crime?  How did the museum staff react?  How did the network of Victorian fly-tiers respond?  Did the author of the book interview Rist?   For answers to these and other questions, you must read this exceptional book.  I promise you will be amazed by the Victorian craft, by the historical experiences and collections of Alfred Russel Wallace, and by Johnson’s dogged investigation into the crime.  This book is true-crime reading at its very best.

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The History of American Food

The History of American Food

By Rhonna Hargett, Adult and Teen Services Manager

My memories of my grandmother are full of cooking. She could go into her tiny kitchen and produce meals that still make me hungry remembering them twenty years later. She learned to cook on the farm, so she could take plain food and mix it up to make a variety that wouldn’t get boring over the lean times or through the winter months.

I recently took a reading journey through the history of food in the United States. We don’t often think about why we eat what we do, but there is a long history of cultural and economic forces that affect what we put on our tables.

A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman takes us back to a time when nutrition education and extreme poverty converged into one of the greatest food challenges our nation has ever faced. People did as much as they could for themselves by learning new ways of cooking and preserving foods. Farmers returned to a bartering system because so few could afford to buy their products. I enjoyed the story of a farm girl who was tired of the egg salad sandwich she took to school every day because her family had no buyers for their eggs. Another girl was tired of peanut butter and jelly because they couldn’t afford eggs or meat. After envying each other, they happily traded sandwiches. Extension taught homemakers how to stretch their food dollars and maximize yields from their gardens. Lessons and necessity produced a shift from food as a satisfying and tasty part of life to the nutritional baseline of food – what is absolutely necessary for survival. Recipes from the time are included, which aren’t necessarily appetizing, but demonstrate clearly how desperate the situation was.

The poverty was too deep and wide-spread for self-sufficiency to solve the problem, however, and the government and charity organizations stepped in with bread lines and food distribution, creating the first versions of food stamps and the school lunch program. Ziegelman also delves into the cultural and political attitudes of the time towards charitable giving and tells how these views affect us even today. This compelling narrative illuminates a period in our history when our ideas about food underwent a huge shift.

In Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman examines eight flavors commonly used in the American diet—black pepper, vanilla, chili powder, curry powder, soy sauce, garlic, monosodium glutamate, and Sriracha – and tells their stories. Lohman’s first job was as part of a family in an historical reenactment village, where she got the opportunity to cook with the ingredients available in Ohio in 1848. Her experience led her to wonder why we use different ingredients now and when those shifts took place. For instance, Americans used to regularly use rose water in their cooking, but now we mostly use vanilla. Vanilla became popular because of a scientific discovery that had nothing to do with food: the simple fact that adding salt to ice lowers the freezing temperature of water. This well-researched and delightful exploration of American flavors includes historic recipes and Lohman’s personal experience with, and opinion of, each flavor.

After examining these books, I can see how American history is displayed regularly on my dinner table when we have gravy like my grandmother used to make, curries, stir fries, and vanilla ice cream for dessert.  Economics, science, and culture have affected every dish on our table. These fascinating narratives about the history of our diet will have you looking at your meals–and culture–in an entirely new way.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Libraries Rock and Kids Will Be Groovin’

Libraries Rock and Kids Will Be Groovin’

By Jennifer Bergen, Children’s Services Manager

It’s that time of year again when the Children’s Room is abuzz at the library. Kids are out of school and streaming in our doors, ready to find the perfect books for summer vacation. The annual Summer Reading program is underway with the super cool theme, “Libraries Rock!” Programs will highlight musical topics, and as always, all ages can join our summer reading challenge to see how much you can read, earning prizes along the way.

Children’s librarian Rachel Carnes has chosen some amazing picture book biographies to read during the Biblio Beatniks club for kids going into 4th-6th grade.  Award winning authors Lesa Cline-Ransome and James E. Ransome created the gorgeously illustrated book, “Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George.”  Joseph was born on a plantation in 1739, the son of an enslaved woman and a plantation master. He was provided an education and violin lessons, and became famous as a violinist and composer, performing at the same time as Mozart and getting equal sized crowds. Another week will feature Troy Andrews’s “Trombone Shorty,” describing the New Orleans musician’s determination to join the Treme brass band playing an instrument twice his size.  Every week, kids will be inspired learning about a musician who beat the odds. They will also view fascinating short videos of performers, and create a musical instrument to take home.

In the weekly clubs for K-3rd graders, Ms. Grace will feature stories and music from different countries around the world, including Ghana, Iran, India, Japan, Ireland and Argentina. “The Girl with a Brave Heart” is a tale from Tehran by Rita Jahan-Fouruz that retells an old fairy tale. A child, who does not feel brave, must retrieve something from a scary neighbor. The old woman tells young Shiraz to complete 3 destructive tasks first, but Shiraz instead chooses to do helpful things. In return, the old women magically rewards her. However, when the tasks are repeated by Shiraz’s jealous stepsister, the result is not the same.  Each book read aloud will provide interesting discussion from the kids, and they will get to watch some traditional music and dances.

Storytellers Jill, Hannah, Chelsea and Rachel plan to move and groove in storytimes.  Preschoolers will explore various music genres – rock, jazz, hip-hop, country and more – through hilarious picture books and fun dance moves and songs.  “Punk Farm” by Jarrett Krosoczka is always a crowd pleaser. When your favorite farm animals plug in the amp and put on their sunglasses, you know they are going to rock “Old MacDonald” like never before. Connie Schofield-Morrison’s spunky girl in “I Got the Rhythm” will make everyone want to stand up and clap, snap, shake and tap. Every page is full of movement and feeling with Frank Morrison’s illustrations exuding the joy of music. During interludes between stories, the children can shake and dance to songs like “Locomotion,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and Kris Kross’s “I Missed the Bus.”

Even the toddlers and babies can participate with beautifully illustrated picture books set to the lyrics of favorite songs like “Octopus’s Garden” and Bob Marley’s “One Love.” Did you know Kenny Loggins has entered the ranks of children’s book authors with several picture books, including a special 2016 version of “Footloose“? Now Jack (“jump back”) is the zookeeper, and he’s “howlin’ with the wolf pack.”  The book includes a CD with Loggins singing the silly and fun new lyrics so everyone can “slip on their dancin’ shoes” and cut loose.

In the tradition of storytelling, we are happy to host Richard Pitts this summer for “Stories with a Lot of Soul.”  His stories from the African American tradition will include audience participation, drumming, and singing.  Pitts describes them as “stories that make you laugh and be a little (not much) scared, and a few personal tales, too. There will be stories about animals and people, but all have a great moral to ponder.” On June 16, listening and participating with Mr. Pitts will be the perfect way to start off your Juneteenth celebration. Whether you are whistling, dancing, reading or rockin’ out, we hope you will find the perfect books, music and activities at the library this summer.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

New Books for the Outdoor Cooker

New Books for the Outdoor Cooker

By John Pecoraro, Assistant Director

Summertime is right around the corner. Time to get out of the house and fire up the Weber, because this is the start of the grilling season.

In 2016, sales of grills and barbecues in the U.S. topped 1.47 billion dollars. Over 79 million Americans have grilled out at least once during the past year. While the majority of grill owners (63%) use their grills or smokers all year, summer is the season that most comes to mind with the word cookout.

The library has dozens of cookbooks about the art of grilling and barbecuing, but I’d like to highlight some of the newest additions to the collection.

When you think barbecue, you usually think meat. Well, think again. “VBQ: the Ultimate Vegan Barbecue Cookbook,” by Nadine Horn and Jörge Mayer, includes over 80 recipes for grilling without meat. Concise instructions and plentiful photographs present such delights as eggplant gyros with tahini and yogurt sauce, and grilled butternut squash tacos topped with a cashew queso. One drawback to this book by German food bloggers is their mixed use of metric and U.S. measurements.

Weber has been a recognized name in barbecue grills and barbecue cookbooks since 1952. “Weber’s Greatest Hits,” by Jamie Purviance presents the best from the Weber Company archives. Arranged in course and ingredient based chapters, each recipe is accompanied by a full-page color photo. Recipes range from the unexpected, such as a grilled peach and blue cheese bruschetta, to the expected. There are recipes for three types of hot dogs, six burgers, and numerous steaks. This title is also available as a downloadable eBook from Hoopla.

For chef and food writer Matt Moore, pork butt is the cornerstone of good barbecue. In “The South’s Best Butts: Pitmaster Secrets for Southern Barbecue Perfection,” Moore collects stories and recipes from acclaimed barbecue joints throughout the South. Moore is the reader’s guide and mentor, explaining the proper use of ingredients and demonstrating the most effective smoking techniques. While the pork is smoking, Moore offers recipes for fantastic sides and appetizers, such as dry-rubbed smoked chicken wings, grilled potato salad, jalapeño creamed corn, and beer-batter fried pickles.

Self-professed weekend griller, Paula Disbrowe, presents a collection of recipes from the Food 52 website ( in “Food 52 for Any Night Grilling: 60 Ways to Fire up a Dinner (and more).” Disbrowe avoids lengthy marinades and low-and-slow cook times, favoring quicker methods so that the simple pleasures of a grilled meal can be enjoyed any night of the week. Using the author’s uncomplicated instructions, grillers of all skill levels will be able to prepare dishes such as crackly rosemary flatbread, porchetta-style pork kebabs, and sweet and smoky drumsticks.

How to Grill Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Flame-Cooked Food,” by Mark Bittman contains a whopping 1,000 recipes without overwhelming the reader.  Instead Bittman concentrates on variations of main ingredients, such as chicken breast (salt-and-pepper boneless chicken, crunchy breaded cutlets, and lemon chicken scaloppini with asparagus and feta) and steak (stuffed flank, and carne asada tacos).  Bittman’s book explores the infinite possibilities of grilling, with recipes for every part of the meal from appetizers, through main courses (including vegetarian main courses), to desserts.

Praise the Lard: Recipes and Revelations from a Legendary Life in Barbecue,” by Mike Mills and Amy Mills is a book of recipes and wisdom from the country’s foremost pitmaster. Mike, “The Legend,” is a barbecue Hall-of-Famer and four time barbecue world champion. Amy, his daughter, runs the barbecue consultancy, OnCue ( Their book includes nearly 100 recipes from the family archives, such as Ain’t No Thang but a Chicken Wing, Pork Belly Bites, and Prime Rib on the Pit.  Mike and Amy offer advice on achieving barbecue excellence at home, revealing a trilogy of secrets: right wood, right smoking, and right timing. This title is also available as a downloadable eBook from Hoopla.

Barbecue Sauces, Rubs, and Marinades – Bastes, Butters, and Glazes, Too,” by Steven Raichlen is available as a downloadable eBook from Hoopla. This is a revision of Raichlen’s bestselling encyclopedia of the flavor-boosters giving grilled food its character, personality and depth. In its pages you’ll find an international selection of flavors, such as Mexican, Cajun, Jamaican, Italian, and of course America’s own.

Whether you’re an expert grill master or a novice in the ways of the flame, the library has the barbecue books you’re looking for in both print and digital formats.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

NoveList Plus and Summer Reading

NoveList Plus and Summer Reading

By Jared Richards, Adult Services Librarian

There is nothing like the feeling of checking out your favorite author’s latest book, but unless your favorite author is James Patterson or Danielle Steel, you’ll probably have a bit of a wait before that next book comes out. The in-between is the perfect time to branch out and discover a new author or even dabble in a new genre entirely. The world is your oyster, and anything goes while patiently waiting on your favorite author.

The Manhattan Public Library is here to help in your literary explorations. We will always encourage you to stop by the library to speak with us or just wander around, serendipitously browsing our collection, but we know this isn’t always possible. That is why we offer so many resources that are available online, one of which is NoveList Plus.

NoveList Plus can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection. Whether on your laptop from the comfort of your own home, or surreptitiously on your phone from the discomfort of your nephew’s latest peanut shell puppet show, a reimagining of “Flowers in the Attic.” Let NoveList Plus be your escape, your rabbit hole to a world of new authors and books.

When dipping your toes into the pool of new-to-you authors and books, one of NoveList Plus’s strongest features is their list of read-alikes, which are authors and books that are similar to what you have searched for. In the search bar at the top of the screen, type in your favorite author or book, and click on the author’s name or book title to go to that page. Along the right side of your screen, you’ll find the list of read-alikes, which also provides an explanation for why that author or book was picked.

I recently fell down this rabbit hole and discovered Daniel H. Wilson and his new collection of short stories, “Guardian Angels & Other Monsters.” Wilson has a PhD and a Master’s degree in Robotics and another Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence, so it’s not surprising that his books and short stories focus on robotics, artificial intelligence, and science in general. The stories cover topics ranging from a robot bodyguard/nanny to meteorology, to a man training a mail-delivering robotic dog. It quickly turned into a “just one more story” kind of book, and I found myself up way past my bedtime on more than one occasion.

Another great feature of NoveList Plus is that they collect several reviews for each book from reputable sources, like Kirkus, Booklist, and Library Journal. “Uncommon Type” by Tom Hanks is a collection of short stories that has received generally positive reviews, and deservedly so. Of all the short story collections I have read, and I’ve read more than a few, “Uncommon Type” is one of the most eclectic. Hanks jumps from WWII to subtle psychic visions, to space travel and even to time travel. Given the title of the book, the cover art, and Hanks’ love of typewriters, it should be no surprise that each story mentions at least one typewriter, which leads to its own bit of fun, looking up each one to see what they look like. I recommend going with the audiobook version of this book because it is not only narrated by Tom Hanks, he also puts his Foley artist chops on full display, by performing his own typewriter sound effects when necessary.

A final aspect of NoveList Plus that I really like is the “For Fans of…” section, which provides a list of books for people who are fans of various movies and TV shows. For example, if you’re a fan of “Black Mirror” on Netflix, a show that brings “The Twilight Zone” into the modern era, you might like “The Circle” by Dave Eggers, a story that explores the potential issues of all the large internet and social media companies merging and gaining a little too much influence on our lives. You will also find recommendations for shows like “Westworld,” “This Is Us,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

NoveList Plus can help you discover a new author or get lost in a new world, whether it throws you into a fantastical past or a dystopian future. And there’s no better time than the present, because we may or may not have had a Spring, but Summer is upon us, which means the Summer Reading program at the library is just around the corner. Registration has already begun, and you can start keeping track of your minutes on June 1.

by Mary Wahlmeier Mary Wahlmeier No Comments

Life After The Magic Tree House

Life After The Magic Tree House

By Grace Benedick, Youth Services Library Assistant

If you have a child reading early chapter books, odds are, you have lost count of all the Magic Tree House books you’ve brought home. Although it may seem like the series goes on forever, eventually there will come a day when your reader reaches the end and finds themselves in a horrible plight—they have to find a new series. This is a tragedy which we have all experienced at some point in our lives, but the good news is that there are plenty of options!

If time-travel is their speed, then The Time Warp Trio by Jon Scieszka could be just the thing. In this hilarious series, three boys are transported through time and space by a magical book which always vanishes upon their arrival–forcing the boys to search for it in order to return home. If your reader wants fairy-tale style fantasy, try The Kingdom of Wrenly by Jordan Quinn. This series is about a prince and a seamstress’ daughter who have a habit of stumbling into quests and gallivanting all over the kingdom to complete them. In Tracey West’s Dragon Masters, a group of children live and train at their local castle in order to become dragon keepers. For mythology-inspired fantasy, Joan Holub’s Heroes in Training features ten-year-old Zeus and the other young Olympians learning to use their powers. In the sci-fi vein, we have the Alien in My Pocket series by Nate Ball, which starts when a tiny alien comes flying into Zack’s bedroom. After getting over the initial fear, Zack realizes that he’ll need to protect his new friend from the hazards of life on earth. Troy Cummings’ Notebook of Doom series is about a boy who moves to a new town, only to discover that it’s infested with monsters. He fights them off while keeping a record of his encounters.

When it comes to early-grade realistic fiction, Junie B. Jones is queen. If Barbara Park’s classic series was never your cup of tea in the first place, here’s an alternative: Nikki Grimes’ Dyamonde Daniel is a spunky, smart New York City girl who speaks her mind. After her parents’ divorce, she’s adjusting to life in a new neighborhood and making friends. Dyamonde takes the time to observe and understand people and supports her friends. The Jasmine Toguchi books by Debbi Michiko Florence are about an eight-year-old Japanese-American girl and her hijinks, from searching for an activity her older sister hasn’t already done, to attempting to convince her parents to get a pet flamingo. Jaqueline Jules’ series Sofia Martinez has a big, happy family, lots of curiosity, and a little Spanish vocabulary thrown in, with a glossary in the back. Sally Warner’s series Ellray Jakes is about an eight-and-a-half-year-old boy and all the fun and friendship drama in third grade. Here’s Hank is a collaboration between Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver about a klutzy second grade boy who always tries his best. The Anna Hibiscus series by Nigerian-born Atinuke are collections of sweet, short stories set in Africa, where Anna lives with her extended family and learns life lessons as she explores the world.

Animal stories are popular at any age, and if your young reader loves creatures of all kinds, then they’ll adore Lulu, because Lulu loves animals, too. The Lulu series by Hilary McKay is about a young girl and her growing family of pets, which are all rescues. Pet Rescue Adventures by Holly Webb is an episodic series which features a new cast of characters in each book. If you’re looking for animals that talk, there’s The Lighthouse Family by Cynthia Rylant. The Lighthouse Family is a set of quiet stories about a cat, a dog and three mice who live in a lighthouse and help other animals in trouble. For animal silliness galore, try Doreen Cronin’s Chicken Squad series, about four chicks who solve mysteries in the backyard. If your child prefers animals that take themselves seriously, there’s John Himmelman’s Bunjitsu Bunny, where zen lessons and problem solving accompany martial arts prowess.

Although it’s clear by now that the library has many choices for chapter books series, we know that sometimes it’s hard to move on. If nothing can replace the beloved treehouse yet, there’s always the nonfiction Magic Tree House Fact Tracker series by Mary Pope Osborne, which provides extra historical information to accompany her fiction series.