Book – The Holocaust was one of the most repugnantly dehumanizing historical happenings of the twentieth century. Nazi Germany’s ethnic cleansing systematically killed an estimated six million Jews, as well as persecuted the physically and mentally handicapped, homosexuals, people of color, Slavs and Poles, numerous religious sects, and anyone else not of Aryan descent or who strayed from the political ideologies of the Nazi regime. Germany’s crime was not only on the scale of history, but on the scale of evolution.
The Zookeeper’s Wife recounts how dangerously humans bridle unruly instincts, not always playing by nature’s rules. Author Diane Ackerman uses the diary of the zookeeper’s wife, Antonina, as well as other historical artifacts to transport readers back to a time of Polish revolution in WWII Warsaw. In efforts to protect passerby Jews seeking asylum, Antonina and her husband successfully save the lives of 300 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, by hiding them in animal cages and teaching them how to appear Aryan in the public eye. The Zookeeper’s Wife is a compelling, tragic story that asserts the serious outcomes of combining eugenics with hateful intentions. Additionally, this book was adapted into a movie back in 2017 and is available on the shelves as well.
Book – It’s rough living in this world with a body. It seems like there’s always someone to tell you that you’re doing it wrong – your body is too big, too small, too brown, too different, too much. And a lot of advice for dealing with this becomes yet another burden to carry: you must love your body, or you’re letting down the side. You must be beautiful in your own mind, or you are giving in. Sonja Renee Taylor offers a refreshingly different set of strategies, a series of questions and suggestions to put all those demands in context. Who is asking this of you? What do they gain by asking you to do this work? And how can you love yourself – not just your body, but your whole self – in spite of it all?
I’m very picky about self-help books. I’m not interested in anything that suggests there is one simple solution to a large and complex problem (which is, of course, what most self-help books are trying to sell). Taylor does offer just one solution, but it’s far from a simple one – learn how to love yourself in defiance of everything in the world that tells you that you are unlovable. She offers a range of tools for beginning that work, but never suggests that she has the only answers, only that she has answers that have worked for her and for others in the past. There’s a lot to digest in this short book – less than 120 pages – but it’s all very, very worthwhile.
Book – The millennial generation is the largest living cohort in recent history. They are high in debt, low on jobs, and full of so-called ‘entitlement’. It’s no wonder millennials are so uncomfortable talking about money or the lack of it. Because my personal goal for this year is to set up and successfully fund an investing account, I have been reading a great deal of personal finance books. Erin Lowry’s book Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together is by far the best I’ve read so far.
Erin Lowry’s book does a good job of helping readers identify and work around their money hang-ups and take control of their personal finance. Erin lays out her chapters in a DIY guide format that gives you the option to read only the sections that are applicable without making you feel like you skimmed half the book. The majority of the issues she presents will be pertinent to the millennial generation. She dedicates an entire chapter on how to cope with student loan debt— an inevitability today—without going mad. She presents solid money saving and budgeting techniques and doles out advice on how to enact a plan to rid yourself of debt. A strong point for this book is the easy to understand language. You definitely won’t feel like you are being talk down to and you’ll appreciate Erin’s humor as she shares her own financial woes.
This book will definitely resonate well with the 20-30 year old crowd who are confused about money and aren’t quite ready to admit they’re not doing so well in the finance department. It will also benefit those who are doing just fine (those with an existing budget and savings account) and are ready to do more with their hard-earned cash.
Book – 30 Before 30: How I Made a Mess of my 20s, and You Can Too by Marina Shifrin is a fantastic read. Marina details her journey attempting to and succeeding in achieving 30 goals before turning 30 years old. Some goals were bigger: “Getting a Dog”, “Visit Russia”, and “Live in a Different Country”, while others were easier to accomplish: “Eating a Meal Alone” and “Take a City Bus Tour.” For any millennial working through their mid 20s, or for any age seeking to create their own bucket list, this book is a fun beacon of light in all the stresses adulthood can bring.
I was so inspired by Marina’s list that I decided to create my own! I will admit I stole some of her goals, specifically “Getting a Dog”, “Eating a Meal Alone”, but some of my other goals include: “Baking an Obscene amount of French Macarons” (Because why not?) and “Taking a Roadtrip Through the 6 States Most Abundant in Cacti” (and of course buying a ton of new houseplants along the way). Because of the format of the book, it was easy to browse for chapters that were most relatable to me, but I still found myself reading through each section. Marina’s humor is a great addition to this memoir, and I really enjoyed her writing style. Her parents emigrated from Russia and it was interesting to see how that heritage has influenced Marina in her life and partaking of the 30 before 30 project, especially in her goal to travel to Russia. An easy but fun read for anyone!
Books – As someone who’s recently become cactus-obsessed, our library’s collection of related gardening books has been a life-saver. I logically anticipated a plant massacre, due to my lack of green thumb. My first 3 cacti (who survived a rocky road trip from California to Illinois) have flourished, and I currently have 17 cacti and succulents. I’m a bit of an addict. The following books helped me learn how to properly care for these often finicky plants, and I recommend them to any cacti newbies.
Happy Cactus : Cacti, Succulents, and More by John Pilbeam
This is my favorite book of the bunch. The title is adorable; don’t we all want our cacti to be happy? I love love, LOVE this book. The photos, pictures, and huge variety of plants included in its pages is spectacular. Each plant has its own spread detailing physical characteristics, watering, soil, temperament, and vital statistics galore! It’s a great read to showcase a lot of the great varieties of cacti and succulents out there, and gave me inspiration for future purchases.
How to Train Your Cactus : A Guide to Raising Well-behaved Succulents by Tonwen Jones
A very cute book with beautiful illustrations. I also love this title because I feel like I do have to train my plants in a sense. I have to train them to accept the light they are provided, and be friendly with all of their many plant friends in my collection. This book details each plant with brief description and then delves into “training notes.”
How to Window Box : Small-space Plants to Grow Indoors or Out by Chantal Aida Gordon
This book is great for those who don’t have a lot of space or light to properly care for plants. Window boxing is a fun and crafty way to still have the garden you’ve always wanted! If nothing else, the photos alone are Instagram worthy and great inspiration!
Book – Before the modern era, before the Industrial Revolution, before mass production and manufacturing, most everything humans did was a matter of craft (or, to use the archaic spelling, Craeft) – a combination of skill, thriftiness, ingenuity, and necessity. In this book, Alexander Langlands explores some of the components of craeft from historic England, reflecting on the skills and resources involved and the way all the various components of the landscape interact with one another.
Langlands had my dream job: he was an experimental archaeologist, using the tools and techniques of history to better understand the way the past worked. He was clearly in this job by temperament as much as anything, because throughout this book he displays a remarkable curiosity about not just the individual components of historic life but the whole system of the thing: the way one skill led into another, one craft creating byproducts that in turn become the core structural elements of another. He calls this kind of systemic, interdependent thinking “craeftiness,” a mode of relating to the world that abhors waste the way nature abhors a vacuum, finding a clever, economical use for every scrap, and making every expenditure of energy do at least two jobs.
This isn’t your ordinary history book; in fact, I’m hard-pressed to find anything to compare it to. It’s deeply personal, each chapter (focusing on a different craft, from haymaking to basket-weaving to wall and barrow building) exploring Langlands’ own experience with the skill as well as his archaeological knowledge of its history. It’s profoundly location-based, as suits a book about the way pre-industrial people lived. And, crucially, it’s not nostalgic or romanticizing of the past: Langlands is well aware of how hard all this work is, having done much of it himself, albeit without life-or-death consequences. What he’s explaining is not just these individual skills that have been lost in the wake of cheap petroleum-based energy, but a way of thinking that was lost along with them, one which might become necessary in the near future, as petroleum-based energy becomes not so cheap.
Books – Tattoos can be intimidating, choosing a design that’s going to be ingrained on your skin for years and years to come; it’s more than a little scary, considering the involvement of stabbing needles. Welcome to the world of DIY temporary tattooing! No pain involved, easy to remove, but still a way to showcase your creativity in body art. Temporary tattoos remind me of childhood, picking out a fun design, perhaps a pirate, or festive holiday image. Now, there are so many more options in temporary tattooing for all ages, many conveniently found in the following books!
They both include templates in the back that you can scan to a computer and use to to create your own tattoos via special transfer paper. It’s just like the tattoos I used when I was younger! They recommend websites and different types of tattoo transfer paper to buy, and have a lot of good recommendations for the application and care of your temporary works of art.
With so many different types of mediums and application, there’s something for everyone. Some are only meant for a night, a fun party costume that isn’t going to keep its composure for an extended period. Then there are longer lasting art techniques like Henna, and the transfer printed tattoos. I’ve experimented with henna before, both on the skin and as a natural hair dye. It’s tricky to pipe out the intricate designs, but after allowing the henna to dry on your skin and washing it off, it’s amazing to enjoy the art as it lasts.
Book – As a lover of all things sweet, Year of No Sugar by Eve Schaub sounded like the worst thing imaginable. A whole year? No sugar!? How awful! Once I got over my initial shock, however, I immediately grabbed the book and started reading.
Eve was inspired to start her Year of No sugar project after reading books by obesity and sugar experts, including Dr. Robert Lustig. Though Eve and her family led a relatively healthy lifestyle, she soon discovered sugar was in nearly everything they ate. And so the project began. The first few chapters introduce the planning of the project, as Eve consulted with her husband and two daughters on how the year would run out. I loved the idea of doing this project as a family, having that support system to get through it together. I can imagine the kids dismay, learning how their lives would be affected, and dealing with social pressures outside of the home with all things sugary and sweet. Instead of going completely cold turkey, Eve and her husband finally decided on the 1 Dessert a Month rule. Also, the two daughters could make their own decisions when it came to offerings of sweets at school, sleepovers, and other functions, as long as they were open to their parents when they did choose to indulge.
Eve is an honest, funny, and wonderful writer. She managed to mix science with her own experiences without making my brain explode. I appreciated her point of view, with the added input of her husband and children as they embarked on a journey not for the faint of heart. Check out Eve Schaub’s newest memoir, Year of No Clutter. One book at a time, Eve is conquering my biggest vices.
Book – Every once in a while a movie comes along that’s so bad, so unbelievable, so outrageous, that it goes straight past unwatchable and becomes compelling. In 2003, that movie was The Room, written, directed, produced by, and starring Tommy Wiseau. The Room is so uniquely, outrageously bad – and not just bad but also deeply, deeply weird – that you can’t help but wonder about the guy who made it. Fortunately, Wiseau’s co-star, co-producer, and best friend Greg Sestero has written a memoir about his friendship with Tommy and the filming of The Room, and while it doesn’t exactly shed any light on who Tommy Wiseau is or why he felt compelled to make this weirdly compelling, illogical relationship drama of a movie, it’s a delightful trainwreck of a story.
You can now experience The Disaster Artist in a variety of formats – there’s the original book, the audiobook as read by Greg Sestero, and the film starring James Franco as Tommy Wiseau. While Franco’s Tommy Wiseau impression is impressive, if you really want to experience the full range of weirdness, I recommend the audiobook. Even if you’ve never seen The Room – and I can’t in good conscience recommend that you do – this is a wild ride through one of the most implausible Hollywood productions of our time.
Book – Helen Russell is a magazine journalist, living in London with her husband. Their days are filled with commuting and long hours at work. Their evenings are packed with social engagements and alcohol. They have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for a couple of years. Helen dreams of retirement at the age of 33. Then, Helen’s husband gets an unexpected offer to work for Lego in Jutland.
Helen begins to research the country of five and a half million people, and discovers that they pay high taxes, get free healthcare, free education and subsidized daycare. Danes average a 34 hour workweek. And, according to the UN World Happiness Report, Denmark is the happiest country on earth. Helen and her husband decide to move to Denmark and this book documents their first year of living in their adopted country.
Helen’s chatty writing style and witty observations entertained me. She shares her experiences with food, relationships, religious traditions and the many unwritten “rules” she encounters. The Year of Living Danishly was an enjoyable exploration of a different culture and a lifestyle change. If you like this book, you may also want to read Happy as a Dane or the Little Book of Hygge.