Crazy Fall Publishing Part 2: September 8th

Welcome to part 2 in the Crazy Fall Publishing series! If you’re just joining us, here’s the skinny: I’m highlighting the books being released each week that I am most excited to read. The list is totally subjective, but gives you an idea of what kind of ginormous TBR I have going on.

Without further ado, here are the hot new releases coming out this week I am just dying to dig into:

a is for arsenicA is for Arsenic: the Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup
Summary: Agatha Christie used poison to kill her characters more often than any other crime fiction writer. Poison was a central part of her stories, and her choice of deadly substance was far from random; the chemical and physiological characteristics of each poison provided vital clues to the discovery of the murderer. Christie demonstrated her extensive chemical knowledge (much of it gleaned by working in a pharmacy during both world wars) in many of her novels, but this is rarely appreciated by the reader. Written by a former research chemist, each chapter takes a different novel and investigates the poison used by the murderer.
Why I’m stoked: I was actually required to read a Christie novel in high school, And Then There Were None. Ever since then I was totally hooked on mysteries, especially Christie, since she’s one of my mom’s favorites. As an adult I watched every single episode of Poirot with David Suchet that I could get my hands on. Since I can’t read any new Agatha Christie stories, reading the science behind her favorite plot device is the next best thing.

autobiography of james t kirkThe Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman er, Captain Kirk
Summary: This book chronicles the greatest Starfleet captain’s life (2233–2371), in his own words. From his birth on the U.S.S. Kelvin, his youth spent on Tarsus IV, his time in the Starfleet Academy, his meteoric rise through the ranks of Starfleet, and his illustrious career at the helm of the Enterprise, this in-world memoir reveals Captain Kirk in a way Star Trek fans have never seen. Kirk’s singular voice rings throughout the text, giving insight into his convictions, his bravery, and his commitment to life—in all forms—throughout this Galaxy and beyond. Excerpts from his personal correspondence, captain’s logs, and more give Kirk’s personal narrative further depth.
Why I’m stoked: To this day every time I see William Shatner, dressed as Captain Kirk or not, I hear my friend Jenny’s mom telling our 8-year-old slumber party, “He’s so sexy.” Not only was the first time I’d ever heard the word “sexy,” but it was also my introduction to the world of Starfleet and that dreamy Captain. I can’t think of anything better than reading this obviously true autobiography of the greatest man who hasn’t yet lived (give it a couple of thousand years).

the one thingThe One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis
Summary: Ever since losing her sight six months ago, Maggie’s rebellious streak has taken on a life of its own, culminating with an elaborate school prank. Maggie called it genius. The judge called it illegal. Now Maggie has a probation officer. But she isn’t interested in rehabilitation, not when she’s still mourning the loss of her professional-soccer dreams, and furious at her so-called friends, who lost interest in her as soon as she could no longer lead the team to victory. Then suddenly somehow, incredibly, she can see again. But only one person: Ben, a precocious ten-year-old unlike anyone she’s ever met. Ben’s life isn’t easy, but he doesn’t see limits, only possibilities. After a while, Maggie starts to realize that losing her sight doesn’t have to mean losing everything she dreamed of. Even if what she’s currently dreaming of is Mason Milton, the infuriatingly attractive lead singer of Maggie’s new favorite band, who just happens to be Ben’s brother. But when she learns the real reason she can see Ben, Maggie must find the courage to face a once-unimaginable future… before she loses everything she has grown to love
Why I’m stoked: Terrible loss that is somehow reversed with a paranormal slant, and probably peppered with some romance that’ll give me all the feels? How could I pass this one up?

southern cookA Real Southern Cook: In her Savannah Kitchen by Dora Charles
Summary: In her first cookbook, a revered former cook at Savannah’s most renowned restaurant divulges her locally famous Savannah recipes—many of them never written down before—and those of her family and friends
Why I’m stoked: Ever since my husband and I pulled the plug on our cable TV two years ago, I have been mourning the loss of my access to The Food Network. I’ve been making up for my lack of visual cooking inspiration by devouring the cookbooks my boss buys for the library (um, not literally, weirdo!). In all my travels I can confidently say the best meals I’ve eaten were found in the South. I’m looking forward to trying my hand at recreating some of my favorite down-home meals in the comfort of my own home, where I can make a giant mess and Instagram the results.

sherlock holmes versus harry houdiniSherlock Holmes vs. Harry Houdini by Carlos Furuzono, et. al.
Summary: The world’s most famous detective meets the world’s most famous magician…and death ensues! Famed sleuth Sherlock Holmes and brash showman Harry Houdini must combine forces to defeat a mysterious mystic dedicated to destroying Houdini’s career and killing anyone who gets in his way.
Why I’m stoked: I’ve really gotten into comics and graphic novels in the last year or so, and I’ve always been a fan of both Sherlock Holmes and Harry Houdini. So really this just seems like a no-brainer, a natural progression of sorts. In fact, I’d go so far to say that it’s elementary, my dear Watson.

So that’s it for me this week. 5 books to add to my ever-growing TBR, my reading to-do list that will absolutely never end. What books are you excited for this week?

I Guess I’ll Grow Up: Adulting for Beginners

Adulting for Beginners

I was born middle-aged. I was always the kid that adults called an “old soul.” I was the responsible, dependable one, even though I was a middle child. Despite all that pressure (thanks, adults!), or maybe because of it, I’ve always prided myself on being hilariously spontaneous and incredibly forgetful when it comes to certain aspects of my life. The pressures and stresses of life have gotten to me recently, and because of that I’m making a pledge to take adulting more seriously.

Adulting, as described by Grammar Girl:

Adulting describes acting like an adult or engaging in activities usually associated with adulthood—often responsible or boring tasks. On Twitter, adulting often follows a sentence as a hashtag (#adulting) and can be used seriously or ironically.

01 - why grow upLet’s start with the philosophical. Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age by Susan Neiman really cuts through to the heart of what my generation is going through right now (the struggle is real, yo). While some people might react to the word philosophy like a curse, I’m always intrigued to think about human existence, thought, and behavior on a macro, rather than a micro level. Details can be great, but the bigger picture is usually more helpful to someone like me, especially when first getting to know a new topic. Even though the author of this book is a philosopher, she peppers her references with humor and understanding, making the reading material more accessible to little jokers like me.

02 - life changing magic of tidying up 03 - keep this toss thatI often have a difficult time finding something specific that I just know I have. Somewhere. Maybe. Hopefully? To the rescue comes The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: the Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. This has been one of the most-requested library books of the last year, and I can see why. I have friends who have read this book and swore that it changed their lives. I am holding out hope for myself: if I can train my brain, I can do it! And if that fails (or just takes longer than I want) there’s also the more hands-on book Keep This, Toss That: Unclutter Your Life to Save Time, Money, Space, and Sanity by Jamie Novak. Keep This has the same spirit of choice that’s reminiscent of the Eat This, Not That books. What really appeals to me most about this book is that you know, from the title alone, that you will be able to keep some things. Sure, I know I should probably ditch some junk I’ve been holding onto for who-knows-what reason, but I also don’t think I’m a compulsive hoarder. Some of these sections are no-brainers, like tossing clothes that don’t fit, are in bad repair, or are so out of fashion that I wouldn’t want to wear them anyway. When dealing with the basics of adulting, however, sometimes you gotta start with the obvious stuff and work your way up!

04 - how to archive family photosGoing through “clutter” (aka artifacts of a geeky life well-lived) will definitely bring me back around to the fact that I am the de-facto family archivist. How to Archive Family Photos by Denise S. May-Levenick is a fantastic toolbox of techniques and options for digitizing and organizing all your family photos. I have literally boxes and boxes of old photographs, slides, and memorabilia. Right now I need the most help with photo organization, and ways to give far-flung family members easy access to them. But this book takes it a step further and offers up specific projects for your historic gems, including a photo quilt. A. Photo. Quilt! How awesome would that be?

05 - little book of lunchLet’s not forget food. Eating and adulting really go hand-in-hand. I am guilty of often zapping a frozen meal and calling it my lunch. While I find it filling and fast, I do wonder if I end up depressing my colleagues in the lunch room, who all seem to find beautiful and delicious-looking options they create themselves, including one intrepid genius who makes beautiful mason jar salads. Luckily The Little Book of Lunch by Caroline Craig & Sophie Missing covers everything from salads to sandwiches, from quiches to cupcakes. There’s even a section on choosing the right food containers for the meal you’re cooking, and tips throughout designed to ensure your gorgeous feast doesn’t turn into a soggy mess. Dishes like these call to me: chorizo with couscous, roasted peppers & tomatoes, carrot & lentil soup, whole wheat pasta with broad beans & bacon (BACON!), parma ham & tomato pasta, orzo pasta salad…are you drooling yet? Quick: to the kitchen!

06 - real simple guide to lifeHave I not caught your interest yet? Think this is all child’s play? Looking for the nitty-gritty? Any other adulting topic is covered, at least briefly, in The Real Simple Guide to Real Life. Promising “adulthood made easy,” this book is published by my favorite magazine, Real Simple. It reads like the magazine, too, even including a snappy introduction by editor and adulting expert Kristin van Ogtrop. Everything is covered: health, money, keeping your casa spiffy, and even dealing with emotional dysfunctions that go along with being an adult out in the real world. Side note: if anyone finds passage to the “fake world,” please buy me a ticket.

07 - roadmapJust in case you aren’t happy with the path your life has gone, I offer one more resource. Roadmap: the Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do with Your Life by the folks at Roadtrip Nation. This book is an easy-to-understand guide to figuring it all out–even if, at this point, it might be more honest to say you’re figuring it all out for the second, third, or even fourth time. Along the way you’ll be met with challenges, worksheets, and encouraging graphics such as this one, which I may just hang up over my desk at the library:


Since I am still struggling through immaturity on the path to adulting, I have to leave you with this disclaimer: I have not yet read these books. They sit atop my TBR (to-be-read pile), and will soon be read. Promise. Promise! Reading these books will represent my vow of taking adulting seriously.

In the meantime, I want to know: what books can you recommend for making the leap from immature adolescent thirty-something to full-blown (yet still fun) adult? The most helpful responses (or most witty, depending on how much I’ve matured) will be featured in a future blog post here on A Reading Life.

Stranger Than, er… , Non-fiction!

As I search for non-fiction books to read, I come across many titles that, while not of interest to me, are unusual, surprising or outlandish. Welcome to the world of: Stranger than, er…, non-fiction!

HairSome titles are certain to raise an eyebrow, pique the interest, even if the topic is not compelling enough to warrant reading the book. Such is the case for Plucked: A History of Hair Removal by Rebecca M. Herzig. Firstly, it never occurred to me that there is a history of hair removal! Reviews tell of clamshell razors (that would mean an actual clamshell, not something shaped like a clamshell) and lye depilatories, leaving me to speculate what other horrific devices and potions have been applied to bodies in pursuitity of less hirsuitity. Also examined are the changes in American culture, moving from the perception of hair removal as savagery, to the perception of female body hair as signs of political extremism, sexual deviance or even mental illness. Heck, I just might be interested enough to pluck this book off the shelf.

WhittlingThe Art of Whittling: Classic Woodworking Projects for Beginners and Hobbyists by Walter L. Faurot
One thing we simply don’t hear enough about these days is whittling. This book, originally published in 1930, contains projects (and here I might note that I never would have conceived that there are whittling projects) such as continuous wooden chains and ships inside bottles. Hey, there are also instructions for making working wooden scissors and entwined hearts! Beards are back, maybe whittling could become the next hipster hobby!

BeanieThe Great Beanie Baby Bubble: Mass Delusion and the Dark Side of Cute by Zac Bissonette
I must confess, I never could understand the soaring values of Beanie Babies. The creator of these plush animals became a billionaire, not so much through anything he did as through the feeding frenzy of collectors who saw the toys as their ticket to Easy Street. Stories of people buying tens of thousands of Beanie Babies, and even killing for them, fill this tale of what’s been called the “strangest speculative mania of all time.”

VietNamEating Viet Nam: Dispatches from a Blue Plastic Table by Graham Holliday
When I lived in Malaysia, hawker stalls (food carts sitting along the roadside) became my favorite places to eat. Most foreigners avoided such places, fearing disease or bad food, but I discovered a world of cheap tasty delicacies that define many of my Malaysian memories. In Eating Viet Nam I find a kindred spirit in Graham Holliday, a Brit who moved to Vietnam to teach English but ended up searching for the best street food. The writing is humorous, and I was sold by the line, “As the pig’s uterus landed on the blue plastic table in front of me, I knew I’d made a mistake.”

CowedCowed: The Hidden Impact of 93 Million Cows on America’s Health, Economy, Politics, Culture, and Environment by Dennis Hayes and Gail Boyer Hayes
This book takes the interesting concept of examining whether cows, which are an extremely important currency in the U.S., actually make sense economically. We get cow history, usage, treatment and sustainability. I was hoping for a discussion of methane, but apparently this will have to wait.

In retrospect, I might enjoy reading some or all of these books. I ran across them by perusing the on-order non-fiction titles on the library’s website, and I must say I was amazed at the variety of topics people find worthy of book status. If you’re not a non-fiction reader, challenge yourself to find one title that looks interesting. Oh, and read it. Perhaps you’ll soon find yourself whittling a tool for hair removal that will sell by the billions until you’re rich and can travel to Viet Nam. With your cow. Stranger things have happened.

Did You Know? (Pasta Edition)

That the difference between noodles and macaroni is eggs?

pastatheitalianwayNoodles are made with egg solids and a finely ground semolina flour called durum. Macaroni is made from only normal semolina and water. This information is from the entry on ‘Pasta’ in the 2015 World Book Encyclopedia.

Macaroni is just one type of pasta. There are hundreds of different shapes for pasta and thousands of names for those shapes. Each region of Italy has its own name for certain types of pasta. Sauces & Shapes: Pasta the Italian Way by Oretta Zanini De Vita and Maureen B. Fant has a nice section on pasta types and directions for making them as well as the best recipes for the types of dough you will need.

silverspoonAccording to The Silver Spoon for Children: Favorite Italian Recipes by Amanda Grant there are two main types of pasta: fresh and dried. Fresh is made with flour/egg and dried is flour/water. This book has wonderful recipes and easy directions for the future chef in your house. I think kids will really enjoy making the dishes in this book.

Pasta Modern by Francine Segan has some wonderful recipes for some nontraditional pasta uses. Examples include making mock pasta “pretzel” sticks or little pasta bird nests. They seem like fairly easy recipes that you can make with either your own homemade pasta, or start with store-bought.

meltWe cannot talk about pasta without mentioning macaroni and cheese! Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese by Stephanie Stiavetti and Garrett McCord has dozens of recipes for this comfort food and variations of it you probably would never have dreamed of!

Besides being a delicious food, macaroni was historically used as a definition for a young British man who had travelled abroad in the18th century and exaggeratedly imitated continental fashions. Everyone called them dandy’s. This leads us to Yankee Doodle sticking a feather in his hat and calling himself “macaroni”.

crankeedoodleWe have several books with the poem “Yankee Doodle”. The original poem was written in the mid 1750’s and can be found in the book American Poetry: The Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries but the version we have all heard and know so well is actually a parody. Crankee Doodle by Tom Angleberger is a very fun story version of the poem that parents will probably enjoy more than the kids!

macandcheeseLastly, Mac and Cheese are two characters in a series of kid’s books written by Sarah Weeks. Mac is fun and lovable while Cheese is grumpy. These are perfect beginner reader books.

Mexico: The Cookbook

Mexico the cookbookEvery once in a while a book comes along that you just fall in love with. Right now I have stars in my eyes, and they only shine for Mexico: The Cookbook by chef Margarita Carrillo Arronte. Here is a book that speaks to almost all of my interests. At the very base level, it’s a beautiful volume. The hot pink dust jacket is decorated in traditional Mexican papel picado style, with intricate cutouts of sugar skulls and cross-stitch-like patterns. The covers of the book are a vibrant, glossy, neon orange – peeking through the cut-away artwork. The book has heft; a silky blue ribbon book mark drapes from the middle of 700+ pages of good quality paper stock.

All book nerd rhapsodizing aside about the loveliness of this bible of Mexican cuisine, the contents inside are equally delightful. Arronte, a well-respected advocate of traditional Mexican cooking, has compiled a cookbook that is a delightful blend of ethnography, culinary history, recipes, photography, and dictionary. The first section of the book is devoted to talking about traditional ingredients found in Mexican cooking, their significance, and the different regional variations. From there the book is broken down into sections dealing with different kinds of dishes: street food, salads and snacks, eggs (yes, there does need to be a whole section on eggs), soups, seafood, meat, vegetables, sauces, baked goods, drinks and desserts, and recipes from guest chefs.

Each recipe is listed first by its Spanish name, and then an English translation. Before getting into the process of cooking the dish, cooks are provided with the region that the dish is from, the ingredients list, the prep time, the cooking time, and how many servings the recipe prepares (all that’s lacking is a calorie estimate, but nobody is perfect). Sprinkled in among the many pages of recipes are a collection of gorgeous full color photos of selected dishes; there are also some wonderful shots of street scenes, ingredients, and people throughout the book. The instructional writing is very easy to follow. Aside from the challenge of sourcing some of the more obscure ingredients listed for some of the dishes, this book doesn’t require the user to be a very adventurous cook. That being said, this cook book probably isn’t a good fit for someone looking for quick meal ideas – many traditional Mexican recipes involve a lot of simmering, marinading, and letting flavors develop.

Mexico: The Cookbook concludes with a couple sections that will be dear to the hearts of librarians, foodies, and seekers of knowledge out there. There is a bibliography that allows the reader to dig deeper into the sources that the author used to craft her volume. There is a fantastic glossary to help cooks learn more about ingredients that are unfamiliar to them. Finally, there is a large index to help you find yummy goodness more easily.

Needless to say it was hard for me to part with this book once I got my hands on it, but I had to set it free with the arrival of the assertive FIRST NOTICE email from the library. It may be that I’ll have to source my own copy to join my little niche of church-published Polish recipe books my grandma passed along to me. It seems like an appropriate mixing of traditions.

Pizza Evolution

pizzaMy early memories of making pizza consisted of splitting an English muffin in two, slathering it with ketchup sauce, sprinkling cheese and if we had any, adding sliced bologna.

Since those days my culinary skills have developed and my palette has become more discriminating.

Some of you may recall one of my posts: Confessions of a Cookbook Enthusiast. If so, you can empathize with my phobia of making pizza dough. Over the years I avoided making pizza dough from scratch by substituting a pizza in a box or purchasing premade dough. The mere thought of working with yeast made me anxious.

A couple of years later I was encouraged by my girlfriends who had successfully mastered the task and I got my courage up and gave it a shot. Here is what I have learned along the way:

Face your fear.

Dough is forgiving.

Use a seasoned pizza stone otherwise dough sticks… this happened one time!

Measurements need not be exact; honey can be substituted for sugar.

It’s messy; flour is untamable.

Confidence intact I now make pizza for others and that is my pizza evolution story!

delanceyDelancey: a Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by local author Molly Wizenberg is inspiring. The couple’s endeavor to create the perfect pie involved long road trips, jetting across the country and critiquing renowned artisans’ pizzas. This research and long hours developing their own signature recipe resulted in a perfect pie. Ms. Wizenberg also writes with honesty about the struggles of opening Delancey, a successful restaurant in Ballard.

There is an established community of restaurateurs who take making pizza pie to a whole new level. However, as I’ve discovered it is really not that difficult to make delicious pizza.  If you are an experienced baker or just getting started, Everett Public Library has several wonderful books on the art of making pizza.


The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani

Revolutionary Pizza by Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau

Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg

Pizza on the Grill: 100+ Feisty Fire-Roasted Recipes by Elizabeth Karmel

Transplant in a WA Winter Wonderland

Cross Country Ski Tours coverSomehow we’ve managed to stumble into December and the full-blown beginning of winter. As I write this, there’s a rare crust of snow covering the skylight in the Northwest History Room, and I’ve got the space heater going at my desk. This time of year turns my thoughts to home; not my relatively new home out here in the PacNW, but the home and family I left behind in Chicago. This year will be the first year I don’t return for any of the holidays, so my efforts have been aimed at bringing a little bit of home to myself.

What comes first? Well of course the answer is food. Despite my best efforts, I’ve yet to find a source for Polish food out here. I’ve had tasty Russian and Hungarian food, but nothing that tastes like Grandma’s kitchen. On the days when I’m not feeling lazy, I’ve begun trying to make some of my favorites at home. I’ve perfected my fresh Polish sausage recipe and several versions of gołąbki, but have yet to tackle the pierogi. I’m thinking with all this leftover turkey, mushrooms, assorted berries, potatoes, and stuffing, I might have some great fillings to give it a try this week. To help me along the way, I’ve grabbed two great Polish cookbooks from the stacks:

From a Polish Country House Kitchen coverFrom a Polish Country House Kitchen by Anne Applebaum & Danielle Crittenden is a very posh take on Polish cooking. There is a lot of emphasis on fresh, high-quality, farm-raised ingredients. This book is full of lush photographs of caviar canapes, fruit soups, and rich desserts, perfect for helping you select a menu for a dinner party. There are several pierogi recipes to play with and dozens of other dishes to try.

Polish Classic Recipes coverPolish Classic Recipes, by Laura & Peter Zeranski is a humble little book that looks more like something you’d find in grandma’s kitchen. The photos are no less enticing but the presentation is more down-to-earth. It’s comforting to see foods I love being served in the same kinds of Polish crockery that I inherited from my Mom.

I’m looking forward to taking both home to do some heavy winter meal planning.

Another great way of bringing a bit of home out here is getting outside and playing in the cold. Right now I can do that in my own backyard but once the temperatures rise a bit and the snow goes away, I’ll be heading up into the mountains to enjoy the winter wonderland. At home my winter activity of choice was always pond hockey; with the relative lack of safe and reliable natural ice here, I’ve had to pick up some new hobbies. This year there will be a lot of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. The EPL has a great variety of books on these sports and where to enjoy them locally. Here are some of my favorites from Mountaineer Books:

CrossCountry Skiing coverCross-Country Skiing, by Steve Hindman. As a book buyer for the EPL, I’ve come to recognize that there are certain publishers that reliably release high-quality books. Mountaineers Books is a great example. This title is a well-respected guide for beginner and more experienced Cross-Country or Nordic skiers. Readers learn about the different kinds of equipment available, as well as different techniques that will come in handy on the trail. The author includes step-by-step photos to help illustrate the different topics being discussed.

Cross-Country Ski Tours: Washington’s North Cascades. This one is an oldie but a goodie. If you’re looking for good recommendations on local trails, this is an excellent resource.

Backcountry Ski and Snowboard coverBackcountry Ski & Snowboard Routes by Martin Volken. While this book probably won’t be in my bag at the end of the day, I thought I’d offer up something for the more-seasoned local readers out there. The routes in this book were vetted and compiled by a seasoned team of backcountry ski and snowboard guides. Routes vary in difficulty from beginner to expert skiers and snowboarders, so be cautious and honest about your skill level if you decide to try some out. Readers are treated to information about elevation, permits needed, directions to the trails, and detailed trail descriptions.

So that’s the plan for this winter – eating great food and getting outside to explore the winter wonderlands of Washington State. A PacNW spin on home away from home.