About Lisa

Lisa is a Northwest Historian at the Everett Public Library. To find out what she is reading, check out her GoodReads feed at http://www.goodreads.com/LisaLab

Book Club Adventures

A long time ago, in a job/city far away, I was tasked with forming a book discussion group. As a fairly introverted person whose previous work experience was along the lines of solo archival work with just a dash of librarianship, I found the idea a bit terrifying. Would I have to talk? With real people? Shudder to think. Little did I know that hosting the book group would soon become one of my favorite parts of the job.

The Adventures of Augie March CoverThings didn’t start out all that easy, though the pay-offs tended to be pretty satisfying. On one memorable occasion none of my small group of regulars were able to attend. At the very last minute I had one woman, previously unknown to the group, ask to set up an alternate meeting date to discuss the book. We met over lunch, and she proceeded to rip into everything she disliked about my selection for about 20 uninterrupted minutes (The Adventures of Augie March). She actually told me that she wanted to meet so that she could tell me how much she hated the title. After she’d gotten it all out of her system and my ears stopped burning, we actually settled down to a really great, in-depth discussion of the book. I happened to have loved the book, so there was some really lively back and forth. After that she never missed a meeting.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo cover imageMy fledgling club didn’t gain much traction until I picked a current bestseller to discuss. Attendance for our Girl with the Dragon Tattoo discussion was triple the usual amount. This was both a blessing and a curse. From the large group that attended we gained many new regulars. On the downside, the group was large and unwieldy and the flow of conversation was a bit awkward. Lesson learned? If you want to kick-start a new club consider picking something that’s new and hot. If you want to ensure success in the long run, pay attention to what your regulars are into and choose your reads wisely.

Mill Town cover imageFast forward to the present day where I find myself, once again, at the helm of a young book club. This time I get the chance to experiment with doing a themed club: local history and literature. Amazingly, our first meeting was well-attended and lively. We decided to do a mixed approach, where we led off with a mini-lecture on a related topic and then launched into the discussion. This worked wonderfully with Mill Town, which tells the story of Everett’s early days up until the notorious Everett Massacre; our group really enjoyed seeing the book’s pages brought to life with images from our archives. Our second title, The Mushroom Hunters, was a more intimate discussion with some folks who were very interested in foraging and the politics surrounding it. We swapped stories and recipes, and everyone left having learned something new. It was a treat to get to talk with people who were genuinely enthusiastic about the selected title.

The Beginning of a Mortal cover imageThis month we host our third discussion in the series: Max Miller’s The Beginning of a Mortal. I’m excited to see how things go. My colleague and I picked Miller’s autobiographical work of fiction because he wrote extensively about his childhood in Everett. I loved the book’s lively vignettes of daily life in Mill Town highlighting the good, the bad, and the ugly with humor and compassion. As an additional perk, the book is sprinkled with charming pen illustrations of the author in his Huck-Finn-like adventures about town. So if you’re like me and have a thing for hobos, shingle mills, and history, come to the Northwest History Room to grab a copy from our book club set. We’d love to see you at our meeting on August 25th, at 6:30pm in the Main Library Training Room.

Ghosts in the Shelf

Voodoo Hoodoo SpellbookAs librarians, we love it when our patrons get excited about the materials we purchase for them. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing a title we’ve ordered fly off the shelf and accumulate holds; it’s a good sign that we’re on the right track to knowing what our readers want. Occasionally there’s a downside to success: when we can’t keep a title on the shelf because people don’t want to return it. When titles go unreturned we charge the guilty party and replace the books right away, either with copies of the same book, or with something more updated. We often order multiple copies of replacement books to accommodate the obviously high level of interest. Over time, the librarians who buy books in different areas of our collection have come to notice specific titles and topics that go A.W.O.L. more frequently than others. Some may not be too shocking to some, while others may be a bit of a surprise. Here’s what our book selectors have to say about what some readers just can’t get enough of at the EPL:

Essential Bicycle Maintainance & RepairAccording to Richard, bicycle repair manuals often ride off into the sunset, and sex instruction books frequently go undercover.

Pat reports that books on growing and cultivating marijuana go up in smoke.

Alan frequently has to reorder rock star memoirs on addiction recovery.

Game of ThronesAndrea says that in the young adults section, books by Ellen Hopkins are frequent offenders. One disappearing nonfiction title that gave her a chuckle had something to do with being an ethical hacker.

In Zac’s area, he has to replace a lot of graphic novels. Some eternally-popular titles include Sin City Vol. 1, The Eye of the World, The Game of Thrones, Y: The Last Man, The Lucifer series, and Batman:The City of Owls.

Cover image from Numerology for your FamilyFor my part, books in the occult and new age areas (reading crystals, casting spells, astrology, etc.) can be an issue. Bibles, bible study books, and devotionals are often not returned. My favorite not returned title was a self-help book on impulse control. My guess is that the borrower really needed it.

Other problem areas include automotive repair, true crime, diet and medical advice, gardening and homesteading, herbalism, foraging, computers and technology how-tos, cookbooks, tattoo design, crafting, test prep, and home projects.

For the most part it seems like the materials that most frequently go unreturned at the EPL are items that people might need at their side for quick reference. There are a lot of manuals (hands-on or spiritual) for getting through day-to-day problems, or self-improvement. Occasionally these books make their way back to our shelves after long absences. One can only hope that this means the borrowers finally fixed whatever issues were plaguing them.

While we may find some humor in the variety of materials that our patrons can become overly-attached to, missing items can be a serious problem if left unchecked. Library staff constantly work at following up on long-overdue items to make sure that materials are where they need to be when our readers want to check them out. So to our loyal readers, if you happen to be sitting on a cache of late materials, be kind and get them back a.s.a.p so that someone else can enjoy them.

Tackling Mixology

Summer is fast approaching, and the social calendar is already filling up. One of the things my husband and I enjoy most is hosting groups of friends at our place for dinners and parties. When we host get-togethers, I always gravitate towards the kitchen, while Dan plays mixologist. There’s something about mixing cocktails that has always spooked me by seeming a bit too precise. In order to get over this fear, I decided to hunt down some accessible books on how to make the perfect drink for the perfect party. Here’s my short list:

Cover image of DIY CocktailsDIY Cocktails: a Simple Guide to Creating your Own Signature Drink by Marcia Simmons and Jonas Halpren. This is one recipe book where it’s in your best interest to start at the beginning and read on through. I tend to pick up cookbooks and dive right into the middle, skipping all the intro materials, but the beginning of this book is extremely helpful in explaining the nature of cocktail recipes, the tools and measurements used, and how you can improvise. From there, the authors provide you with recipes for many classic and obscure drinks, as well as creative ways to personalize them to make them your own. This appeals to me because I tend to ‘riff’ on the dishes I like according to what I happen to have in the kitchen at the time; this book allows you to do the same with your liquor cabinet.

Cover image for The Punch BowlThe Punch Bowl: 75 Recipes Spanning Four Centuries of Wanton Revelry by Dan Searing. I was first attracted to this title because punch seems to work well when entertaining large groups of people. Upon closer inspection, I found that this book was actually 2 parts alcohol, 1 part history: a perfect ratio for a historian hostess. Early sections of this book are devoted to the history of punch, how old recipes are modernized, and information about antique punch-serving equipment. Liberally sprinkled through the book are lovely photos of punch bowls, service sets, goblets, and well-garnished drinks. The recipes themselves are a mix of very accessible drinks with common ingredients and impossible beverages with ingredient lists that seem unlikely to be filled unless you live in a major city or have a lot of time on your hands. I guess that’s understandable when you take into account the fact that the author includes beverages that were en vogue hundreds of years ago. Thankfully the former outweighs the latter and makes this book a worthwhile read.

Cover image for Cocktails for a CrowdCocktails for a Crowd by Kara Newman. This is essentially the light version of The Punch Bowl. Most of the cocktails listed in this book are designed to be served in pitchers or bowls to make life easier for hosts. Absent are the random obscure ingredients, unless they are simple items that you could make at home to enhance your recipe. In the front part of the book there is ample information about preparing garnishes, as well as infused bitters and syrups. This seems like an excellent pick for beginner mixologists who aren’t in the mood for a history lesson.

Cover image for Beer CocktailsBeer Cocktails by Howard and Ashley Stelzer. For those of you who haven’t been introduced to the world of beer cocktails, this a game-changer for casual get-togethers. The recipes in this book are a far cry from the beermosas and makeshift micheladas my friends and I would whip together using car camping ingredients on groggy Sunday mornings. Beer Cocktails is helpfully arranged by style of beer, so that you can start your experimenting with beers that already appeal to you.

Happy mixing – enjoy responsibly!

Tie on Your Big Girl Shoes and Run

Motivation

Motivation

Though it often comes as a surprise to friends, family, and even total strangers, I enjoy running. If I were ever to take on a triathlon, the organizers would politely put me in the Athena or Clydesdale category. I, on the other hand, embrace the term fathlete. As you’ve seen from previous posts, I like to eat, but I like being active just as much. While these two things don’t seem to be at odds to me and others I’ve met with similar habits, some ‘healthier’ people can have a hard time not judging a book by its cover. An example: I recently had a yoga instructor at a retreat ask me if I did any physical activity at all when I told her I rarely practiced yoga. Her reaction when I told her I played ice hockey a couple times a week and was training for my third half marathon was worth the sting of her initial derision. Namaste.

This kind of ‘fitter than thou’ attitude is pretty prevalent in fitness literature. For folks like me, it’s hard to find resources that encourage a healthy lifestyle and at the same time don’t tell you how horrible it is to be in your body. So, to throw a bone to all my larger-than-life-fitties out there, I’ve compiled a list of non-judgmental helpful books to help you reach your goals.

Unapologetic Fat Girl's Guide to Exercise coverThe Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise by Hanne Blank is a body-positive manifesto. Though the early chapters are aimed at motivating individuals who aren’t currently active, there are some nuggets of wisdom that everyone could use. I especially like her points on intent. Many people are active out of a vague sense of guilt that they should be doing something to improve themselves. Blank urges readers to move because they genuinely enjoy the activity, not because they feel it’s expected of them. There’s loads of other info in here about choosing the right activities, partnering up for success, selecting the best gear for your needs, and more.

The Runner’s Field Manual: A Tactical (and Practical) Survival Guide by Mark Remy is a great place to start if you’re interested in getting into running. This guide gives you advice on everything from knowing proper path etiquette, to how to run up an incline, to the proper way to run past roadkill without gagging. I appreciate that the authors and editors took the time to mix useful advice with a heavy dose of humor. The only thing that was lacking was information about proper nutrition while training – thankfully there were two other books ready to swoop in and answer all my questions.

Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance coverSomewhere in the back of my head there is a vague awareness that what you eat and when you eat it has a major impact on performance and progress. My lack of clarity on this topic probably explains why I actually gained weight while training for my last half marathon  instead of slimming down (here’s a hint: it wasn’t muscle building – it was the large pizzas I’d crave after training runs). Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes is a moderately-technical book that gets into the different nutrients found in foods, which ones you need to aid your performance and recovery, and what foods would be the best ones to consume. Nutrient Timing for Peak Performance takes things a step further and helps you figure out how much of what foods you need to consume before, during, and after different activities. My apologies upfront to anyone who dreads math – to use this book you’re going to have to crunch some numbers to figure out what plans are best for your build. I also appreciate the helpful meal plan examples at the end of the book to make things even easier.

Here’s a bonus book for those of you who are gluten-free and head-scratching at all these carb-heavy meal plans. The Gluten-Free Edge provides alternatives to the usual pre-event pasta dinners to help you on your way. Readers are also treated to a whole chapter of gluten-free recipes at the end to help put in practice all that you learn.

Healthy Tipping Point coverLastly, if you’re just looking to make some lifestyle changes to add more activity and a better sense of well-being to your life, Healthy Tipping Point has some really useful tips. While the main purpose of the book is to get the reader to make healthier choices for his or her own good, the author urges them to accept that thin and lean may not be the healthiest body type for each individual. More emphasis is placed on finding each individual’s healthy weight and physique, rather than trying to shoehorn people into the current popular perception of health and beauty.

My Stomach: the Strong, Sensitive Type

Cover image from The Intolerant GourmetI love to eat. I can demolish healthy foods, spicy foods, exotic foods, comfort foods, or the type of horribly unhealthy grub you’d find at state fairs. I take on all comers; the problem is, my digestive tract won’t. Last year I was diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity. Luckily I dodged the Celiac, allergy, and intolerance bullets (there’s a difference – link opens a PDF), but I still pay a price when I decide to snack on some doughnuts. Thankfully, the food industry in the States is rapidly becoming more gluten-free aware. Gluten-free products are springing up on store shelves and restaurants are adding new items to their menus. For all the cooks and bakers out there, there’s a wealth of new cookbooks being published every year.

Whether you’re avoiding gluten because your body hates it or you’ve decided to cut back for other health reasons, I have a list of books from our collection that I’d recommend checking out. I picked these titles because they all do a good job of explaining some things about being gluten free that can be confusing. Some cover the different reasons why people go gluten free, while others navigate the tricky waters of creating a dynamite gluten free flour mix for baking. Some of them have really handy lists of things you should and shouldn’t eat on a gluten free diet, while others have charts for properly cooking the different grains and beans being recommended in the recipes. I also like these books because they don’t rely too heavily on store-bought, pre-made items (gluten free breads, pastas, dressings, etc.) opting to teach you how to make those items in your own home instead. So, here is my list with some notes:

Cover image from The Gluten-Free VeganThe Gluten-Free Vegan by Susan O’Brien. This book has great explanations about being vegan, gluten free, and choosing organic goods. Those who are lactose intolerant or allergic to eggs may also find The Gluten-Free Vegan useful because it goes into alternatives products for cooking and baking. For those looking to cut back on refined sugars, there’s a section on organic sweeteners.

The Intolerant Gourmet by Barbara Kafka. Kafka stocked the back of this book with great charts for cooking times, water to grain/bean ratios, and more. This title is also a good pick for those who are lactose intolerant.

Cover image from Gluten Free 101Gluten-Free 101 by Carol Fenster. I think this title does the best job out of any of the cookbooks of introducing the reader to the reasons why someone might need to live a gluten-free lifestyle. You can tell that the author is speaking from years of experience and she is there to ease the reader through making the changes they need to make. Aside from the encouraging intro, the recipes themselves look delicious and easy to follow. While Fenster often uses canned ingredients in her recipes, cooks can easily substitute dried or fresh items at home if they want to avoid the extra sodium. Her emphasis in this book is on quick and easy recipes, so the shortcut makes sense.

Cover image for Gluten Free BreakfastGluten-Free Breakfast, Brunch, & Beyond by Linda J. Amendt. If you have suffered under any delusions that being gluten-free is an inherently-healthy lifestyle, this book will destroy them. Each chapter is sprinkled with glorious full-color photos of waffles, crepes, pies, and so much more to make you pack on the pounds. Use this resource wisely if you’re choosing to be gluten-free for weight-loss reasons.

Gluten-Free Whole Grains by Judith Finlayson. After learning I couldn’t eat wheat or rye without causing trouble, my eyes were opened to a world of grains I never knew existed. Reading through the lists of things that I COULD eat, all I could do was wonder how I was supposed to prepare them. This book is really helpful in explaining how to use both familiar and exotic grains in ways that show off their unique flavors and textures.

Happy cooking!

A Day in the Life: Local History Librarian

Last weekend the Northwest History Room celebrated its 37th anniversary. For those who are well acquainted with our local history department, this longevity comes as no surprise. The uninitiated, on the other hand, may be wondering what we’ve been doing with ourselves all this time. In order to giver you a clearer picture, I thought I’d take you through a day in my life as a local history librarian:

Picture of jar with image of the Everett courthouse on lid.Early in the day I received a call from a woman who had acquired a little porcelain jar. On the lid was a lovely painting of the 1897-8 Everett courthouse building, and on the bottom was an inscription related to ‘B. W. Fargo.’ My caller was interested to find out whatever she could about the building pictured, and if possible, her jar. I asked her if she could send me a photograph of the jar and told her I would see what I could find out.

Black and white photograph of courthouseMy first stop was to check our resource files. Our department keeps files of clippings and other documents in a row of file cabinets, but we also keep a large digital file of scanned documents and photos, as well as typed histories of people and places. These files serve as an excellent shortcut when we’re looking into notable people and places in the area, because a lot of the work has already been done in the past. Here I was able to find the exact dates of the courthouse, as well as some historic photographs to send the caller.

Photograph of the ruins of the courthouseThis particular courthouse was designed and built in 1897 by architect A. F. Heide at the corner of Wetmore and Pacific. It was operational until 1909, when it was ravaged by a fire. County operations moved into an adjacent annex while Heide oversaw restoration work. Little more than load-bearing walls were able to be salvaged, so a new Mission-style facade was constructed and opened in 1911.

Photograph of Polk City DirectoriesNext up was figuring out who or what ‘B. W. Fargo’ referred to. For this I turned to our collection of Polk City Directories. Polks, as we call them, are similar to today’s phone books, except they lacked phone numbers in the earlier years and generally gave more information out about the businesses and individuals listed. You can often use Polks to find out a person’s occupation, spouse’s name, address, and sometimes even annual salary. When looking up a business you can find out the address, owner, and type of business.

Scan of Polk directory pageBy looking in the Polks, I discovered that Bert W. Fargo and Elizabeth Goerig owned and operated a business at 1809 Hewitt Avenue (blocks from the courthouse) called Fargo B W & Co. This business was concerned with selling crockery, art goods, furniture, and other domestic products. According to our Polks, the company operated under that name from roughly 1901 to 1905.  While there are no records in our collection from this business, it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to assume that this company either produced or commissioned souvenir ceramics of the courthouse and possibly other Everett landmarks. From the dates in our Polks, we may be able to date the jar between 1901-1905.

I was able to find all of this information out using our resources in about two hours. We frequently do the same for visitors looking into the history of their families or buildings that they’re curious about. That’s just a small portion of the work that we do as local history specialists. If you’d like to learn more about our work, or if you have a local history question related to the Everett/Snohomish County area, please feel free to get in touch.

The Quest

With the holiday season already far in the rear-view mirror, and the joys of summer still months off, I’m deep into winter escapist reading. This season I seem to be drawn to books about people on quests. Whether it’s for healing or wild edibles, each writer I’ve engaged with has taken me along on a fascinating journey of discovery. Here are three titles that will set your mind wandering:

The Mushroom Hunters cover imageThe Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of Secrets, Eccentrics, and the American Dream  (Langdon Cook)This title is a great fit for foodies, hikers, lovers of the Pacific Northwest, and those who appreciate investigative journalism that takes you deep inside the story. I enjoyed traveling off the beaten path, literally and sometimes legally, with Cook and his group of wild food foraging contacts. This is a good book to pick up if you’re the type of consumer who is interested in where your food comes from and why it costs what it does. I found it remarkable that items that you can find at any upscale market reach the selling table as a result of so many moving (and potentially unreliable) parts.

Fairyland cover imageFairyland: A Memoir of My Father  (Alysia Abbott). In some cases, quests can be taken without traveling at all. In Fairyland, author Alysia Abbott journeys back into her unorthodox childhood using her father’s prodigious journal archive. Abbott’s path twists and turns through the complexities of being raised by an openly gay single father at a time when the nation was only first awakening to the gay rights movement. Along the way the author pulls no punches describing her father as loving though aloof and herself as too self-involved to be able to see that he needed her as much as she needed him. Despite these and other hurdles, this small family managed to create a home in improbable places. While readers are often left with a sense of regret for opportunities lost, the overall tone of the memoir is one of grace and acceptance.

Wild cover imageWild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Cheryl Strayed). Part of my own personal quest this January is to finish this book; I’m currently in the middle of it. Like Alysia Abbott, Cheryl Strayed had an unusual upbringing. After her abusive father exited the picture, her mother barely scraped by raising her small family. When she eventually remarried, the family moved to the wilds of northern Minnesota where they built their own tar-paper cabin and lived off the land. Though this lifestyle may sound difficult, the family was happy. Strayed goes on to marry shortly after high school and seems to have things on track until her mother suddenly dies of lung cancer. Unable to cope with her loss, Strayed spirals out of control and moves out on her own. In order to regain focus after her divorce, she picks up a guide to the Pacific Crest Trail and decides to set off on her own. One part travelogue for the curious traveler, and one part memoir for those working through their own loss, this book has a lot to offer to the questing reader.