Books and Beyond
When I was young, our family lived near my grandmother. On some evenings I spent the night with her at her very splendid apartment in a beautiful building on Connecticut Ave. in Washington, DC. My earliest memories of that apartment were the elevator operator, Calvin, taking my parents and me and up in the creaky elevator with the accordion door he would carefully open and close and the flowery, dusty and a bit dank smell of the apartment. My grandmother and I would have Ritz Crackers, “rat” cheese and apple slices for dinner. She would enjoy hers with a glass of sherry and I would have a small green glass bottle of Coca Cola. After dinner, I would watch her put her hair up in pin curls using bendy fabric covered strips. She was a force in my young life and I loved her. My mother never lived close to my family and still my children had a rich relationship with her. I am entering that wonderful world of grandmothers and am thinking of my mother and her mother. I will be far away from my first grandchild. I will visit often and finally learn about Skype and FaceTime.
Wondrous child: the joys and challenges of grandparenting edited by Lindy Hough; foreword by Jane Isay
Some assembly required: a journal of my son's first son by Anne Lamott; with Sam Lamott
Making toast: a family story by Roger Rosenblatt
I always love hearing about the inspiring efforts to build libraries or bring books to children in third world countries, such as the Donkey Mobile Libraries and The Camel Bookmobile (fiction based on a true story). Turns out a nonprofit group here in Arvada is doing the same thing. They are called SCOPE International, and among other projects, they develop school and community libraries in Kenya. They have an exhibit of bright and interesting photographs on the display wall at Standley Lake this month, and they are having a reception this Saturday, July 13 at 2:00 in the Standley Lake meeting room. Come learn more about their noble endeavors and adventures!
Buettner is a longevity expert who has traveled around the world and talked with folks who have lived extraordinarily long lives – many over 100 years! He worked with both local and international experts to do a more formal study of the habits and traits that these long-lived folks exhibit. The results are useful for anyone who wishes to live a healthier, longer life. Social contact is vital, along with certain diets and exercise that have proved helpful time and again. Personal stories from all over the world make this lively and interesting reading.
Ever heard of Minority Report, Blade Runner, or Total Recall? These are movies based on novels by Science Fiction writer Philip K. Dick. Writing mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, this prolific author has had ten novels and short stories (so far) turned into movies. He’s received a number of Science Fiction writing awards as well. PKD’s works often deal with the idea of reality. Protagonists are faced with determining the true nature of the world in which they exist. Memory is suspect; assumptions turn out to be wrong. The author’s common man hero must work his way through a morass of obstacles to arrive at the truth. Here are three good introductions to his work:
Selected Stories of Philip K Dick
This book is a good introduction to the author and his works and the stories are arranged in order of when they were first written. In the third story, “Paycheck,” PKD hits his stride and keeps on going. Read “Autofac,” “We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,” and “Imposter” to get a sense of the author at his best.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
The question here involves what it means to be human. If androids can pass as humans - and not just in the way they look - does that make them the same as flesh and blood people? PKD paints a world destroyed by war, where live animals are rare and precious, and most people have left Earth to colonize other planets. This is the novel on which the movie Blade Runner is based.
The Man in the High Castle
A Hugo award winner, this novel postulates an alternative world, circa 1962, in which Germany and Japan won World War II. America has been split between those two countries. Slavery is legal, the few remaining Jews are hiding, and the two former Axis allies are not too happy with each other. A complex and thought-provoking book in which the I Ching figures prominently, PKD creates a vision of America as a third world country struggling to find its way.
Do you ever have days that leave you feeling as if you've been run over by a train? You know the best remedy for that? Exercise! You know what makes that even better? Music! And where's a great place to try out new music? The library!
I love it when the lyrics or the beat can put a spring back in my step and help me combat those stress chemicals. Here are a few songs from my current playlist that restores me to a semblance of "I'm okay and the world is okay."
"Born this way" by Lady Gaga, from Born this Way
"Don't hide yourself in regret,
Just love yourself and you're set"
"Don't Bring me Down" by Electric Light Orchestra, from All Over the World
"Daddy I'm fine" by Sinéad O'Connor, from Faith and Courage
"I'm going away to London
I got myself a big fat plan
I'm gonna be a singer in a rock 'n' roll band
And I'm gonna change everything I can"
"Private Conversation" by Lyle Lovett, from The Road to Ensenada
"And the moral of this story
Is I guess it's easier said than done
To look at what you've been through
And to see what you've become"
"Keep on singin' my song" by Christina Aguilera, from Stripped
"They can say all they wanna say about me
But I'm gonna carry on
I'm gonna keep on singing my song"
"Sexy and I Know It" by LMFAO, from Sorry for Party Rocking
"Perfect" by Pink, from Greatest Hits -- So Far!
"They don't like my jeans, they don't get my hair
We change ourselves and we do it all the time
Why do we do that? Why do I do that?"
It's almost time! With much-anticipated stores opening soon in Boulder and Denver, you may be interested in learning more about Trader Joe's, the iconic retail grocer. Trader Joe's stores are roughly half the size of today's super-grocers, yet manage to pull in twice the sales per square foot. Learn how the chain was founded, how "fun" is incorporated into daily work, and how value is combined with new merchandise to create key selling points. Although written in 2005, the book is still relevant today.
If you’ve ever eaten a garden-fresh tomato, you know that there’s a world of difference between home-grown and store-bought. While you’re waiting for those home-grown tomatoes to show up in your garden or at your farmer’s market, we offer you three books about growing tomatoes – as a commercial crop, in a backyard vegetable garden and on an organic farm.
Tomatoland : how modern industrial agriculture destroyed our most alluring fruit - Barry Estabrook. The author sees several round green ‘apples’ falling off a truck in Florida. When he discovers that the ‘apples’ are in fact tomatoes and just fine after falling 10 feet and hitting the pavement at 60 miles per hour, he decides to find out just how we got to this point.
The $64 tomato : How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden - William Alexander. The author wonders why the neighbor doesn’t mow the field where the kids play softball. Learning that the land belongs to him, not his neighbor, he decides to plant the ultimate vegetable garden. He soon learns that having a garden may produce wonderful vegetables but costs him more than he anticipates.
It’s a long road to a tomato : tales of an organic farmer who quit the big city for the (not so) simple life - Keith Stewart. For the first 40 years of his life, the author had no idea that he wanted to be a farmer, but in 1986 he traded his office job in New York City for a farm in upstate New York. His essays over the next 20 years range from the specifics of growing vegetables on his farm to agricultural issues that should concern all of us.
And while you’re reading, keep in mind that old John Denver song:
Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes
What would life be like without home grown tomatoes
Only two things that money can’t buy
That’s true love and home grown tomatoes.
Have you ever thought about what the library at Camp Delta, Guantanamo Bay might look like? I hadn’t until I came across an article in The New York Times Book Review highlighting the collection. A Tumblr site dedicated to the library and its holdings gives an insider’s view of this 18,000-item collection available to detainees. Predictable favorites include Arabic-language fiction and books on religion. Less predictably there are copies of Danielle Steel, Captain America and Harry Potter that have also seen good use.
For more on the library, read the article here.
The Red House by Mark Haddon
Mark Haddon, world-famous author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, crafts a new novel about two families who join together for a week-long holiday in a Wales country house. Brother Richard and sister Angela are estranged, with issues about the care they each gave in the last years of their recently deceased mother’s life. The siblings each have spouses and children, distinct personalities who come on vacation with agendas and personal troubles of their own. Haddon narrates the novel from all eight characters' perspectives and skillfully embodies them all, from the adolescent and insecure girls to 8-year-old Benjy who is confused about the fluctuations of emotions in the adult world. Isolated in the countryside, the characters have time to ponder and experience the truths about themselves and their family in this lyrically-worded and memorable novel.
Can’t decide whether it’s a mystery or a good science fiction novel you would like to read? You can have both! Here are three books that combine elements of both mystery and science fiction/fantasy under their covers.
The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters.
Asteroid 2011GV1 is going to hit Earth in six months. It will devastate our planet, wipe out civilization, and there is nothing that can be done. People are walking away from their jobs, the economy is plunging, and society is breaking down. This first in a trilogy has Detective Hank Palace investigate a suspicious suicide in a city where many people are choosing death in advance of the asteroid. Winters’ hard-boiled detective novel deals with the value of life in these circumstances, the reasons to keep working (or not) when life is about to end, and the role for justice in the few months remaining for pre-apocalyptic America.
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon.
A mystery noir, written with a nod to the likes of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, this novel is also an alternative history based in the Federal District of Sitka. Chabon considers a world where the Jews of the Holocaust have settled in a part of Alaska after World War II. With no Israel, this temporary refuge has been leased from the Alaskan Native tribes. Now sixty years have elapsed since the war and the lease is almost up. Within this climate of uncertainty Detective Meyer Landsman investigates a murder that has political and religious implications. Hasidic Jews are a Mafia-like presence, Yiddish is the primary language, and good delis are on every street corner.
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde.
First in a science fantasy series, Detective Thursday Next is assigned to a unit that specializes in literary crimes. Set in an alternative 1980s England, Next uses time travel as one tool in her current assignment: to find the kidnapped Jane Eyre and return her to her novel. As defender of the Prose Portal, the gateway between fiction and Thursday’s world, it is up to her to solve this crime before more characters are taken and even murdered. Full of wit and literary allusions.