Linda's Staff Picks
If it's Wednesday, I must be at The Bookloft - not the greenhouse, not leading a field trip, not at Naumkeag and not doing trail work on the AT! So many interests, like so many books, and so little time! That's why non-fiction books are usually my picks, because I try to keep up with my favorite subjects. As I heard once, "Act your shoe size!" We all need to slow down and see what there is to see. We need to reread some books, like Silent Spring. Sometimes it's children who help us grown-ups marvel at the wonders of the natural world, right in our own backyards. Stop and smell the flowers!
Find more of my Staff Picks here!
Title: Pigs Can't Swim
I laughed out loud; said "OMG"; got angry and cried. What more could you want from a novel??!!
Helen (the only name of the 9 children) is telling of her growing up in a rural setting in Maine in 1970s-80s. You may think of Ma&Pa KEttle and their brood but this is modern times with many issues.
This youngest sister talks about her siblings not by name but by personality. 'sister-who-holds-a-grufge-longer-than-god', 'pretty-hair-twirling-sister', and a -bliustery-and-favored-brother'.
This sis a memoir of a young girl faced with the reality of being naive and yet wordly, bullying, child abuse, molestation, teen sex, and survival.
This story is so well woven in the emotions- quite a bit of humor (are babies just newborn adults?; cleave of pale buttocks)and understanding. There are successes and failures as parents AND as children.
Thank you Helen for sharing youre stories!
Title: Race Underground
Take the "A" train or the "T"; NYC or Boston; going underground (oh, horrors!) or up on the "El"?
Travel in the growing cities of Bsoton and NY was difficult. Too many horses & carriages, congested streets, no rules, lots of manure and many accidents. European cities like London had their underground. But would Boston accept that? NYC?
Starting in mid 1800s thoughts were strong- do it!
Doug Most takes you on the 'subway rush'- building in Boston & NYC. FANTASTIC, exacting ride of history, personalities (the 2 Whitney brothers), politics, business and innovation. All the drama and trauma to build it, and the automobile was arriving on the scene in 1904.
But after 100 years we still have those marvelous systems moving us.
It was interesting to compare Bostonians to New Yorkers and their attitudes- going underground! Wonderful author-!
Title: Dream Plants for the Natural Garden
With the latest in garden trends as to plants and designs AND a bit of lightheartedness in their descriptions, Oudolf and Gerritsen open your mind- to nature in her "natural" form.
See the table of contents as to topics and you'll get an overview of their passions. This is an inspirational book as well as reference to some trusted plants for a natural garden.
I like Oudalf's philosophy: there is natural beauty in all- look at the plant when young, leaves, flowers, and in its death. The garden can't be a color wheel because nature always scatters colors. The natural garden should have plenty for all- bugs and bees, slug and other thugs. We can only continue nature's plan, in our own way trying to maintain- forever!
Title: Frog Trouble
WOW! Great for young and old- if you want catchy tunes AND if you need to move to a rhythm.
With a variety of music- country sound, lullaby and dance magic- you can twirl your little one (or pick a bigger partner) and work up a sweat.
When the weather says, "you'd better stay inside!" you can say "OK, I'll have fun anyway!"
Wtchout dog, truck frog, and alligator- because we can stroll ~ ~ ~ ~ and jiggle!
Title: Cuckoo's Calling
I love a mystery! And this PI investigation has lots of suspects. The atmosphere of the story has an old fashioned or noir feel: quirky ex-military PI with an artificial leg who was dumped by his long term girlfriend. This means he shacks up in his back office with cot, sleeping bag, and showers at the gym. His temporary secretary (loves mysteries) understands him or deduces situations and becomes an addition of immense value to this 1 man team! There is thorough questioning, background checks, resreach and putting 2 and 2 together to catch the culprit.
I didn't even tell you what happened or who died (suicide or murder??). That's the part for you to find out- and think who done it. I hope this PI and now his permanent secretary continue their team work in more books!
Title: The Drunken Botanist
Hey Amy, great combo: booze and botany, plants and port, vines and wine.
Curiosity about drinks and what's in there, how they're made- BUT the most interesting is the plant biography.
We eat plants and use them in practical ways (cloth and medicine) and we have to remember man's ability to "blend" flavors for fun!
Beer and yeast (and bread too) is explained by her as the entire chemical process.
It is fun to understand how things work and recipes for some interesting "drinks" can help you appreciate your efforts with a little refreshment.
If you're a gardener, you may consider your plants- herbs, berries; the coca or sarsaparilla.
What wonders man has created- liquids to keep you happy!! Very readable and a good party conversation! Read a little at a time- there is no limit!
Title: Through the Evil Days
Claire, Russ, and the Millers Kill crew have finally returned!
There is action from the very beginning- and it just goes on. There is the hostage site, FBI, meth making, Clair's dilemnas, Russ adjusting to married life and prospects of fatherhood; the team at MKPD have their individual demons- AND THEN the worst storm.
And you know Clair and Russ have their military background which helps in thier "worst case scenarios".
Emotions run high because of child hostage and shoot outs BUT also the questions of loyalty, duty, and love.
You are left, at the end, with some closure but other ends are unwinding- what will happen?? Julia Spencer-Fleming waited a long time to write this fantastic episode and I hope she's working on the next book because... inquiring minds...
Title: The Tilted World
Tilting by the incredible flood of the Mississippi in 1927 or by the prohibition times or the work of the revenuers?
This story blends historical issues with a very human element- humanity of life in the south during this trying era. Bootleggers, racial issues and great migration after the flood- to the south.
You can read the southern drawl and maybe hear it too. The pace and life style is harsh and sometimes slow.
But through all the dangers and trauma is action and a love story. A story of struggle, surviving, and love.
Title: Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life
Peter Rabbit's and his cronies have entertained young and old for many years with their adventures. Beatrix Potter is that remarkable author and illustrator BUT she was much more. She was a talented artist who illustrates for the natural museum in England- with mushrooms!
But this was a challenged woman- her time, family, society- who only strengthened her independence by paying for her little books to be published.
At an early age, she was captivated by the natural beauty and animals of the countryside she visited with her family. As an independent woman- with her own many- she became part of her stories. She bought land, farmed, gardened, and helped form the basis of historic preservation: (National Trust) and conservation in England and especially the Lakes District.
The author, Martin McDowell, has done a wonderful job piecing together this extraordinary life of Beatrix Potter. illustrations and vintage photos add to the reality of Ms. Potter.
P.S. Read Linda Lears' book of Beatrix Potter, too!
Title: Thoreau at Devil's Perch
There is Thoreau mucking about Walden Pond and thinking thoughts of nature. So what happens when a body is found ("thought" to be an accident!) in his realm??
Thoreau is well acquainted with observing his surroundings and because of these talents, becomes part of the trio (young doctor, young woman, artist) who deduce that this death (of who??) is suspicious.
There is a good combination of intriguing mystery, little romance, but a remarkable blend of historic Mass and New England. There was an underworld of crime (nothing new for humans); abolitionists, Emerson, Alcott, trade, women's roles, daily life medical (and practical) incidents.
An enjoyable read as mystery and I love the historical elements.
Title: One Summer
If you know Bill, he packs a lot in a book!
Our history education may include a sentence or 2 of a person or event. BUT this one year/summer you'll (hopefully) learn much more.
You'll ask yourself- who knew??
From anarchists to Babe ruth to Coolidge to Lindbaugh to Sacco and Vanzetti and everyone in between has made 1927 a memorable year.
But it doesn't end there. Mt. Rushmore (strange and colossal project), Henry Ford and the new era of more inventions and travel.
Again Bryson brings history to life- readable and enjoyable!
Title: Death of a Robber Baron
If you enjoy historical mysteries, put this one to the test!
Our local Gilded Age era in the Berkshires was an extravagant time for some from NYC and harder time for those who worked the "cottages".
How the wealthy made their money is part of this story- who benefited and who got hurt.
In particular, think of Lenox, MA, and here is where most of the wealthiest summered. Map included!
But it also addresses the issues of class, NYC population in tenements, Tammeny Hall politics, and the after effects of the Civil War.
Enjoyable read with woman detective!
Title: Fortunately, The Milk
Where there's milk there is HOPE!
Of course it's all true. How could it not be! It was all explained by the father. Afterall, anything can happen when you go to the store for milk (or bread or??).
Although it sounds fantastical- believe it. Space ship, pirates with discharging pistols (!), Steg and Floaty-Ball-Person-Carrier, from hundreds of years in the past to millions (!) to the jungle people and talking volcano and the wiempins too.
Read on if you dare (color the pictures too).
Do you think our planet is badly designed??
Think about that-
Super read out loud book!
Title: Three Can Keep a Secret
Which 3 can keep a secret- and which secret would that be?? Joe and the team are pulled in a "few" different directions- storm Irene, coffin holding stones (??) and of course a few dead, ie murder, victims.
Willy investigates in his particular way and is Jamie beginning to sound like Willy??
Gail, as governer, is dealing with storm issues but old politics present themselves as a helpful solution- or is it?
Seems like a lot of questions that need answers. Joe and the team go at it full force.
Great job Archer Mayor!!
Title: The Pout-Pout Fish
Nobody should have a pout-pout face :( It's just too sad.
All his friends try to convince him to smile- joy, hope, fun. Frown is unattractive so turn it upside down! Nothing works until a silver shimmer gives him a kiss - and he's aghast!! Frown became a smile (it's just upside down).
Nice sing-song words and fun way to cheer a sad child (or adult!). The kisses and hugs help "spread the cheery-cheers all over the place"!
Title: How the Light Gets In
Is the light getting in? Or are people still in the dark? And you'll wonder what is going on- Gamache's life and police headquarters.
3 Pines is certainly involved in the latest crime AND soon to be crime. All in 3 Pines become part of an enormous plan to assist Gamache in foiling a national calamity.
Full of actions and questions about- who to trust???
Penny weaves her magic in this surprising story, bringing in the nystery AND philosphy- of life-
what's to come??
Title: The Girls of Atomic City
The "Gadget"; stuff coming in, nothing going out; people-girls, guys, the scientists, mechanic cleaners, plumbers- all working around the clock in Oak Ridge City, a city unto itself.
The project? No one knew. Everyone had a specific job, no talking about your work but these 75,000 people came to make money AND try to end the war.
A great historical read about WWII and the making of the bomb. Time goes by quickly as you become part of the life in Oak Ridge. Day to Day - lines for shopping, eating, recreation, dances, and activities; family life with children and of course a little romantic pursuits! Kiesnan brings the little known part of the "bomb"- to the reality of making the "Gadget".
Life in Oak Ridge- the mud and the job.
Title: The Black Country
Nothing is as it seems - a simple investigation - but Black Country lives up to its name: black in color, black in history, and black in families.
Disappearing people, blood, an eyeball, secrets from the young and old put some bizarre twists in the investigation. The old coal country is literally unstable and the tunnels become part of the mystery. Conflicting stories, missing bodies, and the dead pig (!) are all important, but how?
Can forensics help? Will anyone tell the truth? This was definitely a mystery to savor!
Title: Together Tea
What a wonderful book! Why? I laughed, cried, thought about history, family, traditions, life, and TEA! A family who escapes Iran and becomes "americanized" in NYC but the parents still hold true to finding a husband for their daughter! Mother researches and does spreadsheets of information on likely men - to no avail to this modern, educated daughter.
But then the meetings, mishaps, return trip to Iran, chance meetings and old friends keep this book so interesting and close to the heart; so human and personal. I hope Kamali writes more!
Title: Here Is Where
Pick it up, anywhere you are or any chapter, you will be engaged in some little remembered bit of history or science. Sample: J.A. Archibald, who climbed Pike's Peak in 1858, was a woman!
How many times was the Pledge of Allegience changed?
Minority groups and political issues - with Jehovah's Witnesses. Andrew Carroll traveled across the US North, South, East, and West looking for places (which may or may not still be there) with a long-forgotten story.
You can read this book like a collection of short stories - anytime, anywhere - and be mesmerized with history! Perhaps you'll think about your town, city, state, and wonder why and where!
I have to talk to Mary about this cover - ugh - but I forgive her because this is an absolutely fascinating journey. I'm glad it's by book.
From the nose all the way through what goes on down there. Could Jonah survive being in a whale? Do you have to chew your food 100 times? Do you need your nose to eat? What about crunchy food - what's the gimmick with sales? How strong is hydrochloric acid, and why did humans develop stomachs with HCl when cows didn't? Do you suffer from intestinal paranoia? On line for fecal transplants!
Title: The Stonecutter
Dark and engrossing in more than one way - a page turner! And there is a stoncutter in the beginning. Life, love, marriage, and family become twisted (not intertwined) in the next generation.
You'll wonder if there are any caring people at all. But the detective, Patrik, delves into the personal histories to uncover the cruel past. His own personal life is on the line.
Great mystery, my first Swedish read, and I'm ready for more.
Title: 80 Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland
Or, less than 80 days - two young women journalists who have proven themselves already in the news world, The World and Cosmopolitan, are now competing against time and each other to circle the world - in less tha 80 days.
In 1889, a woman traveling alone was unheard of and dangerous, but on they went! Starting in different directions they went - by ship, by rail, pony carts, etc. Their personal journeys were extraordinary. But even more was the history - of travel, of the railroads, of the ships, of the countries of America (in the changing times).
How did these journeys change these young women? Who finished first? I'm not saying!
Title: Patron Saint of Lost Dogs
Pet lovers - get a copy! What a wonderful, emotional ride - love, anger, remorse, joy, and lots of humor. You may have read Trout books about veterinary medicine, but this is his first novel, and what a treat!
Basically, a son returns to his small hometown to take over his father's vet practice. Do people recognize him? Will he still be angry at his father? Does he forgive? Will he understand?
And, the same town in Vermont certainly has it's characters. Plus - how does Cyrus handle a mystery??
Title: Backyard Parables
Margaret takes the unsaid words gardeners are thinking and bring them to the light! In her new book she bridges her seasons to nature's own agenda. Because we know gardening is at the mercy of the weather and other "critters."
She takes us through her reflections on chores, and on nature's way of managing what we plant, as if nature is saying "so what!"
Plants are special - silent partners, bringing new life where none existed before (i.e. self seeding) and plants are able to move with nature. So, as the snow melts on my sedums, I see them still green and cozy. I don't wait to "talk" to them and see how their winter was.
At the same time, I'll wonder what other ideas my plants have in store for the new season, with Mother Nature's guidance of course!
Thank you, Margaret.
Title: An Irish Country Wedding
All I want to say is "They're all back!"
The doctors, Kitty, Kinky, and the 'diverse villagers' are involved with adventure, mishap, romance (or not) and a potential changing village scene. If you've read the previous book by Taylor, you'll know the village, the personalities, and the sometimes stressful situations.
Well, there is a wedding (not saying who), but the time leading up to the big day is not an easy path - so, get back to Ballybuckleboo and join in the adventures!
Title: Naturally Curious
If you are curious, you may have a multitude of field guides and other related books, as I do. But you may want to add this compact, illustrated book as your first source.
Mary Holland may answer many of your questions - as you turn to the month, fast facts, or the closer looks section.
This is a reference book but certainly one to browse through as the different seasons approach.
Included inside is a bibliography and scientific name list. Nature is always changing and we should be watching more closely.
Title: Call the Midwife
It's not just for women or just about women, but a history of a town after WWII and the national health program. We are brought to a 1950's in the tenement areas where bombed out buildings are still being used for housing.
This autobiography by Jen Worth tells of her adventures with the nuns and the folk who live in the district. Men worked the docks, homes had no plumbing, limited cold water inside, and a new free service for pregnant women: health care.
If you've seen the PBS series, you've only experienced a fraction of life on London's East End. The real life drama of birth and death and everyday life is an emotional rollercoaster - and told so well by Jennifer Worth.
Title: The Christmas Kid
Pete Hamill isthe New York City writer of history and life in the city. You can enjoy these wonderful stories anytime as they are about living in Brooklyn - real life families with problems, with post WWII adjustments with the whole change in neighborheed as people come and go.
To some of us it may be sentimental... to others, an eye-opener. Either way, Hamill is an extraordinary story teller. Enjoy!
Title: Mrs. Queen Takes the Train
Where is the "Queen"? Oh my god!
She stepped out, by herself, to think: she was feeling a bit low. And that's how her adventure began, with six other people trying to find her and keep up!
A wonderful blend of the history of protocol with the realization that the "Queen" is a woman, mother, and wife who has lived through troubling times, and now shows people through her adventures that she is a real person of emotions, fortitude, quick thinking, and very sensitive to others. Great adventures - Enjoyable!
Title: When America Met China
Young America, after the revolution of 1776, began to explore for trade; and so The Empress of China, a unique ship, began international commerce with China.
All was not smooth sailing, as competition from European countries was strong. The Chinese considered their country special, the Middle Kingdom between Heaven and Earth, so all others were barbarians. It could be seen that way, as greed and ego were the guiding forces of exploration. After the War of 1812 was the rush to go anywhere the ships could, searching for fur seals, otters, and hardwood trees.
Tea, opium, porcelain, and silk brought other trade issues. Then the Chinese were in America, exploited as "other resources."
To say the least, this is a complicated story, but so intriguing and educational that it's worth the time - with a cuppa tea! Very readable.
Title: Richest Woman in America
Where is Hetty Green now? She bailed out New York City many times through its recessions and we are still seeing history repeat itself. An ordinary looking woman who actually had extraordinary business sense - and used her shills wisely in the late 1800's-1900's.
Women were not even considered to have any business sense until Hetty proved Wall Street wrong! She learned from following her father through all of his whaling transactions in New Bedford.
Her personal history - growing up and living in New York City; her marriage and family; her plans and foresight in business; and her generosity - make this a timely historical read even if the years are different. Check the back of the book for some of her wisdom!
Title: Live by Night
Life got tougher for Joe Coughlin. Prohibition in Boston, gangs, a bloody little incident in Pittsfield (!), and then that whole thing down in Florida and Cuba...
Joe and crime go together, but how bad is he? Through Lehane's intense story of violence, family, lotalty, and love, Joe gets ahead in the Prohibition era. But at what price?
You will get caught up in the story - feeling pain and anxiety and sadness, but also hope for the future. Keep reading as he heads south. Lehane blends the history of the time with his characters so thoroughly that you feel yourself right there!