Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Gobble gobble

Maybe because I'm writing this in the late afternoon, and it's cold and dark outside, but it's been a long time since I've opened a cookbook that's made me as hungry as The New Thanksgiving Table: an American celebration of family, friends and food by Diane Morgan. This is actually an update of a book we already have, but come November, you can't have too many turkey recipes. Not just turkey, either....soups, appetizers, stuffings, side dishes, and desserts appear in glorious color in page after page. Here's a possible menu:
Rogue River bleu cheese wafers with celery crudites, followed by roasted chestnut soup with pumpernickel croutons. Turkey roasted with lemon, garlic and sage butter accompanied by a rich giblet gravy, stuffed with New England bread stuffing with Bell's seasoning (I can picture the colorful turkey on the bright yellow box). A few side dishes of southern-style biscuits, framboise cranberry sauce, green beans with lemon-butter bread crumbs and butter-mashed Yukon Gold potatoes with Parmesan. Finish the meal off with an Indiana persimmon pudding, cranberry-cherry crisp, and a spiced pumpkin layer cake with cream cheese frosting.
The recipes are easy to follow, and Morgan even manages to make succotash sound good (but maybe I'm just hungry). An entire chapter on Leftover Favorites is really helpful, as are the "Do Ahead" and "Cook's Note" helpers at the end of each recipe.
Toothpick, anyone?

Saturday, November 21, 2009


A couple of years ago - before we got our new software - we told our patrons about a free online service called Library Elf. This system would send you emails to let you know ahead of time when something was due and notify you concerning your current overdue fines. Sadly, this system was not compatible with our new software.
We are now offering that same convenient notification system to all our patrons. We will email you a courtesy reminder 3 days before your library items are due, and we will email you overdue notices at 7, 10 and 14 days past the due date. These courtesy reminders will cut down on your overdue fines, and the email overdue notices will save paper and postage. All you need to do is give us your email address.
Wow! Convenient, good for the environment, and economically responsible. You can't do better than that.
Wait a minute....maybe you can. Some of our patrons have expressed a wish for email notification about author visits, slide shows, craft events, family nights and film screenings. If you would like to be included on this separate email list, please let us know.
We do not disclose your email address, or any part of your account information, to other people according to state law (Alaska State Statutes Sec. 40.25.140).

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Upcoming author visit

What Sir David Attenborough did for jungles, caves and forests, Jacques Cousteau did for the sea. He brought the strange and wonderful denizens of the deep into our living rooms via the television and his famous submersible Calypso.
But what of Cousteau the man? Brad Matsen (Titanic's last secrets : the further adventures of shadow divers John Chatterton and Richie Kohler) has written a fascinating biography of a man with salt water in his veins. He delves into Cousteau's childhood in France and New York, his work with the French Resistance in World War II, and his development of the regulator device essential to the operation of scuba gear. His company, which manufactured the Aqua-Lung, provided the financial wherewithal that allowed him to pursue his passion for diving and the exploration of the undersea environment.
It was Cousteau's collaboration with the camera, however, that brought him true fame. From his early days working with a then-unknown Louis Malle to his multi-million-dollar contracts with ABC and PBS, Cousteau used film and television to spread his message of ecological preservation and to fund his further expeditions.
All this interesting background and more can be yours for the asking - just check out Jacques Cousteau: the sea king by Brad Matsen. And better yet, come meet Brad at the public library on Nov. 24 at 6:30 pm, when he will talk about his book and his contacts with the friends and family of Monsieur Cousteau. Aye, Calypso.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Because I said so

I've seen a lot of parenting manuals go across my desk here at the library, and it's nice to finally find one that fits my parenting style. The Well-Behaved Child: discipline that really works is by psychologist John Rosemond, whose column frequently appears in the Anchorage Daily News, amongst other newspapers.
Rosemond is an advocate of old-school parenting - 'because I said so' parenting. You don't reason with your 3-year old, you don't justify yourself to your 9-year old, and you maintain a firm 'my house, my rules' attitude with your 16-year old. (To the parents who felt that their 4th grader had a point when she defended her pigsty room by saying "it's my room", Rosemond responded "When she's 16, will you let her have wild parties in there, just because it's her room?').
The first couple of chapters cover the basics: why children misbehave & the 7 fundamentals of effective discipline. I like Rosemond's explanation of why children misbehave ("they are factories of antisocial tendencies", although I'm sure many parents would hotly contest his belief in the innate "badness" of kids. Perhaps the word 'selfishness' might be a better term.) You might be tempted to skip over these introductory chapters and head straight for the third chapter (7 essential tools). Don't skip these, though, because Rosemond points out that following the 7 fundamentals will dramatically reduce your need to use the 7 tools.
So if other parenting methods and manuals just don't seem to be working out for you, read this new book. Even if you don't choose to follow the 'because I said so' philosophy, it will definitely be different from all the other advice you've read.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Reduction of library hours

Due to proposed budget cuts in the 2010 City budget, the Ketchikan Public Library will be closed on Sundays beginning January 3rd. We sincerely regret the closure.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bits o' history

Some of the new books on our shelves reflect interesting little snippets from history:
The First Fall Classic: the Red Sox, the Giants, and the cast of players, pugs and politicos who reinvented the World Series in 1912 by Mike Vaccaro. Back when Ty Cobb was spiking infielders, organized crime had a hand in the game, and tempers between baseball rivals ran high (even when they played on the same team), two legendary teams battled it out over an eight-game series. Lots of great backstories and famous sports names in a book sure to interest sports fans.
Famous Players: the mysterious death of William Desmond Taylor by Rick Geary. This is the story, told in graphic-novel format, of the unsolved murder of actor and director Taylor. A well-known player in the hedonistic atmosphere of Hollywood in the 1920's, Taylor had a shadowy past that involved the abandonment of his wife & daughter, and multiple affairs with young starlets. His shooting death in 1922 led to a frenzy of journalistic speculation and sensational claims.
Troubled Water: race, mutiny, and bravery on the USS Kitty Hawk by Gregory Freeman. Five thousand men, deployed for the longest naval tour of the Vietnam War, begin to divide along racial lines until tensions finally erupt on October 12, 1972. The disturbance that resulted was long played down by the U.S. Navy as a riot, but Freeman makes the case that the incident was in fact the first mutiny in American naval history.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Picture books for grown-ups

You're never too old to sit down and enjoy books full of big, colorful pictures. And - thanks to the library - you don't have to find permanent shelf space for these big coffee-table books, either. Take them home, enjoy, and let us worry about storage.
The National Parks: America's best idea, by Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns. This is the accompanying book to Burns' latest documentary series, and it is a wonderful story of America and the impact of our glorious geology and wildlife on our collective psyche. Our National Parks are an enshrinement of the idea of equality for all, and Duncan & Burns track the development of the park system over 125 years, from Yellowstone (WY) in 1872 to Congaree (SC) in 2003. Lots of photographs enliven the narrative.
Over the Coasts: an aerial view of geology is by writer and photographer Michael Collier. If you think this a book full of dull pictures of shale beds, cliff striations and igneous rock, think again. Collier's beautiful aerial photos really drive home the relationship between water and land, and how the waves and tides have inexorably shaped our coastline. I do think it a little odd that he doesn't have any photos of the coast between Astoria, OR and Eureka, CA - a truly rugged section of coastline (but I may be biased, having previously lived in Oregon).
Woodstock: three days that rocked the world is edited by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsbury. This book is a collection of photos and memories from people who were there - artists, organizers, attendees, support crew - and even those who weren't (like Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell). It's a book full of the rosy glow of good memories (well, pretty hazy drug-fogged memories, actually). If you want a book with a little more piercing view of the time period, try Daughters of Aquarius : women of the sixties counterculture by Gretchen Lemke-Santangelo.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Reader discretion advised!

I love cheese: bleu, Brie, feta, romano, 6-yr old Vermont cheddar. Yum! But I look at cheese the way I look at sausage - I just want to eat it, I don't want to think about how it's made. And I certainly don't want to see page after page of close-up photos of furry mold and read descriptions like this: "Over the fine ash coating, a fine, velvetlike white Penicillium candidum mold is overlaid by splotches of blue-gray Penicillium glaucum". Hmm...carve me off a slice of that, please!
But if you are a cheese fanatic, someone who gets "Cheese of the Month" club for Christmas, someone who drives around California sampling artisinal cheesemakers rather than vinyards, then you want to read this new book; World Cheese Book, edited by Juliet Harbutt, is a celebration of salted, curdled milk. Cypriot Halloumi, Swiss Emmentaler, British Stinking Bishop, Catalan Tupi and Montery Jack are all lavishly laid out, complete with tasting notes, age and producer. You can see how different cheeses are made, learn about their historical connotations, and get inspired to host a cheese-tasting party of your own. Just don't tell your guests they're ingesting "fine gray, brown, and white molds...like an intricately woven spider web".

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Booklovers' books

If the smell of an old library makes you inhale deeply, treasuring the aroma of old leather bindings and yellowing paper, than we have some new books for you.
The Library: an illustrated history by Stuart A.P. Murray is a fascinating tour through centuries of libraries. From collections of tablets stored by Babylonian kings, baskets of scrolls housed in the ancient libraries of Alexandria and Rome, and medieval codexes protected in monasteries, to the first public lending libraries, the incorporation of computer technology into cataloging and the importance of school libraries, Murray covers everything. Lots of illustrations and interesting information makes this an enjoyable read for anyone who loves a good library.
There is a limit, however, and Allison Hoover Bartlett's new book The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: the true story of a thief, a detective, and a world of literary obsession is a true-crime novel without sex or gore. She digs into the crimes and personality of John Charles Gilkey, whose mania for stealing rare books landed him in prison again and again. His apartment full of books, however, was a testimony to how often he escaped punishment. An interesting look into the world of book collectors, dealers and bibliophiles, and what drives people to collect.
The Book of William: how Shakespeare's first folio conquered the world, by Paul Collins, is not a biography of the Bard, and it is not an analysis of his works. It's a book about how things got published in the 1620's, the financial support required, the censorship issues. It's a book about marketing, scams, auctions and booksellers. It's about the passage of time and the events that cause a book to become worth fifty-five times it's weight in gold. If you had a time machine, you could scoot back to 1623 and snap up a First Folio edition of Shakespeare's works for a few shillings. And then you could put it up for auction four centuries later and sell it for over $4 million dollars. Not a bad return on an investment.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bread: the staff of life

Bread is one of the most basic of foodstuffs and has been baked for millennia. And yet, for the modern home baker, it seems to be a type of Holy Grail: how to produce a light, airy bread with a firm, chewy crust and a deep, almost nutty, flavor. Baking stones, bread machines, special flours, exotic ingredients and wood-fired ovens have all been peddled to everyday bakers hoping for the perfect bread. (I actually have a bread machine, and I hate the texture of the bread that comes out of it).
But Baker (he gets a capital-B because he's so good) Jim Lahey has a new idea. With a cast-iron pot, 5 minutes of mixing, and a little patience, you can produce amazingly light bread with a fabulous crust without getting tendinitis in your elbows from kneading. My Bread: the revolutionary no-work, no-knead method is all about the slow-rise. You mix water, flour, yeast and salt in a bowl and let it sit for 12-18 hours. Fold it into a nice shape, let it rise for a couple more hours and then bake it.
There's a little more to it than that - Lahey does a really nice job of explaining how bread bakes, what pan to use for cooking the bread, and how important cooling is for the finished product - but overall the technique is so simple you have to wonder why everyone doesn't already bake bread this way. But when you get rave reviews from Anthony Bourdain, Mark Bittman, Mario Batali and Martha Stewart, you know you're on to something special.
Once you have the basic technique down, you can expand into olive-studded loaves, ryes, beer breads, pizzas, sweet breads and more. Lahey also includes recipes for spreads, sandwiches and salads using your amazing home-cooked bread. What a perfect way to spend a fall weekend.