There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. ~Walter Wellesley "Red" Smith
Many writers agree with Red Smith, a sports journalist esteemed for his incisive and humorous commentary. Writing is hard. Fortunately there are books that can help. If you find yourself staring at the page with dread, there are books that can help, like Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, with readings and exercises to un-block the creative flow.
Bird by Bird is another great book on writing by Anne Lamott and named for a homework assignment her brother was given, a long report about birds. When he didn’t know where to begin, his father told him to write about one bird, then another and another; to tackle it bird by bird. Good advice for writers, too.
If you live in the South Bay Area of California, check out the South Bay Chapter of the California Writers Club.
Like to eat, cook, and discuss food? How about watching food shows and listening to podcasts about cooking? Is Jacques Pepin one of your gurus? A recent memoir Blood, Bones, & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef is available in ebooks, audio, and print. The audio version, read by the author, makes for great listening.
Happy Vernal Equinox! Soon it will be planting season. It's time to come by and check out our excellent collection on organic planting and herb gardens. Also, mark your calendars for our Carnivorous Plant Show, Saturday April 2nd from 12-4 p.m. at Santa Teresa Branch Library.
The baseball season is upon us, what with the MLB season starting on Thursday, March 31st. It's sometimes difficult to explain the grip that baseball has on the casual fan, of which I am one, because in many ways it's a seriously neurotic way of observing the passing days of Spring, Summer, and if your team is lucky (or good), Fall. The season is too long, the games too many, but somehow every year I look forward to congregating in Oakland (sorry Giants fans) with my brothers, my nephews, my own son and the occasional female member of our troupe just to reconnect with the first stadium and, indeed, team that I ever felt compelled to support as mine.
Check out the book Baseball: An Illustrated History to get an overview and, if nothing else, a reason to remind yourself of the enormity and importance that baseball history provides in our country's identity. Another title worth giving major props is From Asahi to Zebras: Japanese American Baseball in San Jose, California by the library's own Ralph Pearce.
So whether your team is from Maracaibo, Chicago(Cubs or Sox), Hokkaido or Oakland(!), it's time to root root root for the home team and praise the glory of neurotic affiliation and loyalty to your baseball colors!
Partners in Reading recommends Life Is So Good by George Dawson and Richard Glaubman, which tells the story of a man who began to learn to read at the age of 98. Dawson was the grandson of slaves and worked very hard all of his life. He worked so hard that he didn't have time or the opportunity to go to school. Finally, when he retired, he went to school and was an inspiration to all the other students in his class. Read this book and also contact Partners in Reading to find out more about adults who want to improve their reading skills and about how you can help them.
In 1962, in a program known as Operation Pedro Pan, 14,000 Cuban children left their homeland and came to the United States, alone, as refugees. The United States government helped settle these children with family members, friends and in foster homes in Miami and other areas of the country. Carlos Eire, now a professor of history at Yale, was one of these children. He first wrote about his story in the memoir Waiting for Snow in Havana, which vividly recalled his life as a son of privilege in Cuba and the hard life that followed in the United States. His latest memoir, Learning to Die in Miami, focuses squarely on Eire's experience from the moment he and his brother arrive in Miami until his mother joins them in the United States years later. Eire struggles with the Cuban part of himself, trying to kill it off so he can be fully American, but also doesn't want to completely lose that part of himself. This is a good companion book to Waiting for Snow in Havana but may also be enjoyed on its own.
If this sparks your interest, you may want to learn more about Operation Pedro Pan and its background. You can start with these library materials.
What is the significance of spring season? Why do we all become so exited at this time of the year? Is it the weather, the nature, or the psychology of change? You guessed it right; it’s all the above, it’s the end winter and the preparation for another summer. It is the beauty of nature, the flowers, the blossoms, and the new life. This is when nature awakens, time changes, and the blooming starts. Throughout the history of mankind, there were always exciting moments in spring. From the ancient times to modern days, there are holidays, festivities, and celebrations during this season. People have important attachments to this beautiful time of the year. From religion festivals, to holiday celebrations, to gardening, spring has been an integral part of our human bond. What is your favorite part of spring?
President Barack Obama, author of a couple of autobiographical adult-level books (The Audacity of Hope and Dreams From My Father) turned his hand to a children's book with Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters. Mr. Obama gives a brief poetic nod to thirteen Americans ranging in time from George Washington to Maya Lin. The eight men and five women specifically mentioned here are held forth as exemplars of bravery, intelligence, strength and other virtues. In the basic body of the book, the descriptions are so short and poetic, I can imagine even a young child asking a parent, "Is there more?" Fortunately, at the end of the book, there is a one-page long "detail" page, where more solid facts about the person and his/her accomplishments are set forth.
It's Obama whose name "sells" the book, of course. But an equal or, frankly, even more important contributor to the book is Loren Long, the illustrator. His bold, colorful pictures both intrigue and stand out. I especially liked his illustration of Sitting Bull, which is one of those what-do-you-see-first, the-big-picture-or-the-little-details optical illusion sort of paintings.
Of Thee I Sing can be read in about two or three minutes. But the cumulative effect packs a punch, and gets one semi-weepy in a rah, rah, it's good to be an American sort of way. Hurrah!
We have often been advised that chicken soup is the best aid when we have a cold. The advice is once more confirmed in the new book, Ah-choo!: The Uncommon Life of Your Common Cold. Author, Jennifer Ackerman, participated in a research project and knowingly got infected by a common cold virus. She looked into the medicine and business of the common cold and made her findings interesting and accessible in this book. Here are excerpts from several reviews of this book:
“In the hands of gifted science writer Ackerman, the cold is addressed with dry wit while she covers every detail from soup (chicken, of course) to nuts (folk remedies)” – Booklist review
“In addition to detailing exactly how the virus works, Ackerman delights in busting the many myths, and confirming a few truths, that have been around for millenia.” – Mclean’s review
“It wasn't a hard-hitting science book, but Ackerman made the common cold a bit more accessible to everybody whether you know a lot about science or not. “ – Goodreads community reviews
There are several other health books that are recommended by reviewers as timely, informative and good to read:
Slow Death by Rubber Duck: The Secret Danger of Everyday Things by Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie
“Pollution is no longer just about belching smokestacks and ugly sewer pipes—now, it’s personal. The most dangerous pollution, it turns out, comes from commonplace items in our homes and workplaces.” -- Product description.
“This is one scary book. Using a variety of test methods, the authors determined individual ‘body burdens,’ or the toxic chemical load we carry. The innocuous rubber duck, for example, offers a poison soup of phthalates that ‘permeate the environment and humans.’" – Booklist review
The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee
“This is a brilliant, riveting history of the disease that Siddhartha Mukherjee, a cancer researcher and physician, calls "the defining plague of our generation." – Entertainment Weekly review
“The eminently readable result is a weighty tale of an enigma that has remained outside the grasp of both the people who endeavored to know it and those who would prefer never to have become acquainted with it.” – Booklist review
“In this book, renowned geriatrician Mark Lachs takes readers on a grand tour of adult medicine, showing how we can navigate a complex and confusing system to make the best choices for ourselves and our loved ones.” – Production description.
“Here one can find invaluable guidance on how to pick a good primary care doctor, choose the best nursing home, avoid hospital system 'cracks you didn’t even know you could fall through,' and even stave off age-related illnesses.” – Booklist review