Between the Lines Book Club: Announcing July!

between the lines book club logoAnnouncing our July Book Club selection: The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough! We will be meeting in person at Arden Dimick Library in Sacramento, CA, at 10:30AM on July 30, 2016 to discuss the book in person, and we’ll also discuss it right here every Friday in July.

The Wright Brothers is a non-fiction book that describes how the Wright Brothers and their sister, Katherine, built the first heavier than air, manned, flying machine. David McCullough is something of a celebrity in the world of biographies: he won the Pulitzer Prize for Truman and another of John Adams. He’s also the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He’s written eleven books and narrated many films and documentaries.

If you live in the Sacramento area, you can get a copy of The Wright Brothers at Arden Dimick Library’s circulation desk – just tell them it’s for book club!

cover of The Wright Brothers

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Further Reading

between the lines book club logoThis month’s book club selection is All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. We will be meeting at Arden Dimick Library tomorrow (6/25/16) to discuss the book, not to mention to admire the new look of the refurbished library.

All the Light We Cannot See is centered around WWII – and I say “centered around” because the story starts before the war and ends in 2014. If, like me, you are an avid google, the book has topics to chase down. Here are links to a few that might be of interest:

St-Malo Then and now

“The Burning of St. Malo” by Philip Beck

St-Malo: an Indépendent Travel Guide

“St-Malo”, Lonely Planet

Saintmalo

National Museum of Natural History

“Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle”, Lonely Planet

“A Giant Cabinet of Curiosities in Paris” by Messy Nessy

Hall of Evolution

Famous Diamonds

“51 Famous and Historic Diamonds” , abazias diamonds

“Carats and Curses: Five of the Most Famous Diamonds in the World”, The Telegraph

Between The Lines Book Club: Blindness in All the Light We Cannot See

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines Book Club, which meets in this space every Friday and will be meeting in person at Arden Dimick Library on June 25, 2016 at 10:30AM. This month’s book is All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr.

One of the main characters in All the Light is a blind girl named Marie. Marie is fiercely protected by every other major character with the exception of the arch-villain of the story. Her father bathes her and dresses her and helps her put on her shoes well into her teens. Marie usually seems much younger than her actual age – at the start of the book she is six, but although later she is a teenager seems more like a girl between the ages of ten and twelve. She is presented as without flaws, other than a kind of passivity. However, she does show resourcefulness and increasing independence.

Most reviewers have praised the book, but some have pointed out that Marie represents an unrealistic version of life as a blind people. Blind people learn to navigate without ropes and model houses, and they can most certainly dress themselves. In this passionate essay by Sheri Wells-Jensen, Wells-Jensen (who is blind) analyzes the portrayal of Marie as a character “without agency”.

Not everyone agrees – here’s a dissenting essay by blind author Beth Finke. She felt that Marie was a well-rounded character, and she especially admires the way the writing stays within Marie’s point of view, so we don’t see anything she doesn’t see.

What do you think? Is Marie realistically written? Is she more, less, or equally passive than Werner, who drifts along with the army and makes very few choices on his own behalf?

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Between the Lines Book Club: All The Light We Cannot See

between the lines book club logoArden Dimick Library is open again and it is BEAUTIFUL. If you don’t have a copy of All The Light We Cannot See, our book club selection for June, just request one at the circulation desk.We will be meeting on June 25, 2016 at 10:30AM!

All The Light We Cannot See tells two stories (set in WWII) that seem inextricably connected even though the characters only meet briefly. Marie is a blind French girl who lives in Paris and, later, in the besieged town of St. Malo. Werner is a young German soldier who specializes in radio equipment and in locating radio signals. The novel is notable less for it’s plot and more for its use of lovely language to describe difficult times and the characters’ internal states:

What mazes there are in this world. The branches of trees, the filigree of roots, the matrix of crystals, the streets her father recreated in his models… None more complicated than the human brain, Etienne would say, what may be the most complex object in existence; one wet kilogram within which spin universes.

The book was a bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. One of the things I noticed, though, is that every review has a different, “The book was great but…” Did you like the book? Did you have a “The book was great, but…” reaction?

Review Links:

The Guardian

NPR

New York Times

Washington Post

Between the Lines Book Club: The Book Club Cookbook

between the lines book club logoHello book clubbers! I hope everyone has found a romance to read this month, as discussed in my last Between the Lines post. Can’t wait to see everyone in person in Sacramento on June 25, 2016, at the newly refurbished Arden Dimick Library!

Recently I read The Book Club Cookbook, by Judy Gelman and Vicki Levy Krupp. I fell in love with this cookbook for the following reasons:

  • It gives descriptions of book clubs all over America, each of which has a different focus and a different chemistry. It was so fun to compare these different groups.
  • It talks about how food fits thematically into various specific books – how the inclusion of food affects the reader’s perception of the story and the characters.
  • It explores how different clubs use food to enhance their experience.
  • All the food sounds delicious.

I’m not much of a cook, personally, but I liked the approach of one group of non-cooks who had some small food item at each meeting that related to the book, and members had to guess how. For instance, the leader brought little honey candies to a discussion of A Secret Life of Bees. Some members were more ambitious, but keeping it simple seems to have been part of the challenge. What do you think, book clubbers? Shall we take our snacks up a notch?

You can find my full-length review of The Book Club Cookbook at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

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Between the Lines Book Club: Romance Month

between the lines book club logoWelcome back, Book Clubbers! In Between the Lines Book Club, we meet here and in person at Arden Dimick Library to discuss literary fiction and nonfiction. While Arden Dimick is closed for renovations, I’m challenging my book clubbers to try some different genres, just for fun.

 

Last month we talked about mysteries. I had some suggestions, and book clubbers wrote in  with suggestions of their own. This month, we’re going to talk about romance. That right, I want you to crack open a Romance Novel. I’m even suggesting one with Fabio on the cover. Why? Because, and I know this will be hard to believe, it’s a very good book.

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A book so good I own two copies. You’ll just have to trust me – nothing about the actual book screams “Fabio offers a person flowers.”

 

No genre is more stigmatized than romance, and yet no genre is as varied (or as lucrative – the industry is massive). For a book to be a “Romance Novel” as opposed to a “Novel with romance in it”, it only has to meet two criteria:

  1. The reader must care about the romance more than anything else in the story.
  2. There must be a happy ending which involves the two (or, in more daring romance, especially erotic, more than two) protagonists finding romantic happiness together.

Based on these criteria, Pride and Prejudice is a romance novel, as is Jane Eyre. Those books can be read in many other ways as well, but that’s true of many romance novels – they cross genre lines. In contrast, Wuthering Heights is not a romance novel, because it ends sadly, although it is a novel that contains romance. The comedies of Shakespeare are plays, not novels, but in every other respect they fit the bill (Romeo and Juliet is a tragic romance, not a Romance Novel, because the happy ending is the key component of a romance novel).

Romance novels are often criticsized as being formulaic, but they are no more formulaic than literary fiction (characters will reveal truths about society) or mysteries (there will be a crime and the crime will be solved). Other than the happy ending, everything is open to variations. There are contemporary romance novels, science fiction ones, mysteries, historical, and westerns. Some have sex scenes that are barely implied and others are explicit. Some novels are written with beautiful language and impeccable structure, some barely made it through spellcheck. It’s a varied world out there.

At this link is a post I wrote introducing a variety of romance novels (yes, including the Fabio cover one). You might also check out the other site I write for, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books. You can search the site by grade – when I first started reading romance I went down the list of A grade books until I got s feel for the genre. Try one this month, and let us know what you thought! There are a host of terrible, terrible romance novels out there, but some brilliant ones as well. Enjoy! We’ll be meeting in person at the end of June when the library has been beautiful refurbished.

 

Between the Lines Book Club: It’s a Mystery Edition!

between the lines book club logoDear Book Clubbers, we are on a hiatus while Arden Dimick Library gets a makeover – our next in person meeting will be on June 25, 2016. In the meantime, some of my book clubbers were chatting after our last meeting and asking for book recommendations for the break. While many of my regular readers are into genre fiction (science fiction, comics, and romance) many of my book clubbers are more well-versed in literary fiction and nonfiction. So once a month between now and June, I’m going to reprint one of my Gateway Drug columns from the genres of mystery, fantasy, science fiction, romance, and humor. This is a great chance to try something new!

 

This month I’m recommending some mysteries. I find that I’m usually not terribly interested in whodunnit, but I enjoy mysteries because they often allow the reader to peek into hidden parts of society. Mysteries can be set in any time and location, and in the course of events the detective will encounter all sorts of people. Thanks to mysteries I’ve read about the African-American neighborhoods of Los Angeles in the 1940s, modern day Saudi Arabia, Victorian England, and more. Click on the link to find a list of recommendations that range all over the world. Don’t forget the classics, dear Watson!

https://geekgirlinlove.com/category/gateway-drugs/

tauchnitz-4790-the-case-book-of-sherlock-holmes

 

 

 

Between the Lines Book Club: Orange is the New Black

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club is thrilled to be meeting on January 23rd at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM. We also meet here in the comments, so even if you don’t live in or near Sacramento, California, you can participate. This month’s selection is Orange is the New Black.

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Orange is the New Black is a memoir by Piper Kerman. In 1993, Piper helped her girlfriend launder drug money. In 1998, she was indicted for money laundering and drug trafficking, and beginning in 2004 she spent thirteen months as an inmate at Danbury Prison, a minimum-security prison for women. Orange is the New Black tells of her experiences during her stay in prison. It became the basis for the Netflix show of the same name which to date has won a total of seven Emmy Awards.

 

Today, Piper serves on the Board of the Women’s Prison Association and is an advocate for prison reform. She has been married to her current husband, Larry, since 2006.

 

I was delighted to see that my favorite online study guide, schmoop.com, has an entry for Orange is the New Black. Study guides have a bad reputation because some people use the guide to avoid reading the book. Don’t do that! But as a supplement to your reading, study guides are great; so don’t be afraid to take a look.

 

Next week I’ll post a few links and clips from the TV show of the same name. It’s a show I’ve never watched, although it’s critically acclaimed and very popular. If you watch the show, how does it compare to the book? Why do you like or dislike about it? Let us know!

 

Between the Lines Book Club: What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton

between the lines book club logoBetween the Lines Book Club is reading Among Others by Jo Walton this month. If you are in the Sacramento, California area meet us at 10:30AM at Arden Dimick Library on Saturday, October 23, 2015 for an in-person chat! Otherwise, leave comments here. Among Others is a coming of age story about a young woman who finds her place in the world through reading. It may or may not also be a fantasy involving faeries, depending on how you look at it.

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If you enjoy Walton’s writing, or if you have an interest in the genre of literary criticism, I urge you to check out another book by Walton. It’s a collection of essays called What Makes This Book So Great. In this collection, Walton talks about a huge range of speculative fiction books, as well as some mainstream fiction. In fact, one of her best essays addresses the difference between SFF and mainstream fiction. When she says, “I tend to read everything as SF” I realized that this is true of me, as well, although I’d say “speculative fiction.”

Walton also talks about the pleasures of re-reading and about the rewards and pitfalls of this practice. I loved her invention of “The Suck Fairy”:

If you read a book for the first time, and it sucks, that’s noting to do with her. It just sucks. Some books do. The Suck Fairy comes in when you come back to a book that you liked when you read it before, and on re-reading, well, it sucks. You can say that you have changed, you can hit your forehead dramatically and ask yourself how you could possibly have missed the sukiness the first time-or you can say that The Suck Fairy has been through it while the book was sitting on the shelf and inserted the suck…The advantage of this is exactly the advantage of thinking of one’s once-beloved ex as having been eaten by a zombie, who is now shambling around using the name and body of the former person. It lets one keep one’s original love clear of later betrayals.

I recommend this book primarily for fans of SFF but anyone interested in literary criticism should pick it up and read a few of the essays at least. It’s gorgeous writing and Walton always seems like that cool but tough professor who would red ink all your essays but also teach class in a coffee shop and buy everyone snacks.

Between The Lines Book Club: The Sustainable Food Movement

between the lines book club logoHey Sacramento followers – Between the Lines Book Club meets tomorrow (9/26/15) at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM! Not in the Sacramento area? Leave your comments about The Third Plate here!

In The Third Plate, chef Dan Barber talks about the importance of making sustainable agriculture part of elite cooking. Barber wants to make it fashionable to use all the parts of an animal or vegetable, rotation crops like barley and rye, and humanely and sustainably raised livestock.

Every culture has in some way grappled with the concept of sustainable agriculture, a term which basically means how to use land without using the land up to the point where it is no longer productive.. An early example from the Americas is that of the “The Three Sisters.” Several Native American Tribes had a practice of planting “The Three Sisters,” maize, beans, and squash, together. Each plant has components that keep the soil healthy, ensuring good farming in future years. The crops also proved a balanced diet when eaten together.

Sustainable agriculture is described today as agricultural practices that maximize human nutrition and quality of life while also maximizing the health of the environment and its ability to continue to provide food. This means that a farm cannot exhaust the nutrients in soil through over-farming, nor use chemical fertilizer that damages local water sources. My California readers will be most familiar with the concept in terms of water usage. While water is a renewable resource, California farms pull water out of the aquifer much faster than the aquifer can be refilled. The term “sustainable agriculture” became popular in the 1980’s. Other issues to consider are how much land is being used and how much energy a farm uses.

Discussions about sustainable farming can take a low-level approach (using different fertilizers and crop rotation, or a more radical approach (urban farming, vertical farming, and changes in the economy as a whole.

TheThirdPlate_JKF

Between the Lines Book Club: 3 Chefs Who Changed the Game

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines! If you are in the Sacramento area, please join us at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM on Saturday Sept. 26th. This month we are reading The Third Plate, by Chef Dan Barber. Barber belies that chefs have an opportunity to change the way people think about food. Here are 3 other chefs who did just that!

Alexis Soyer (1810 – 1958)

Soyer was a French chef who moved to England during the French Revolution. He worked for a number of celebrated restaurants, but his most significant achievements were as an inventor and a humanitarian. Sober invented a portable stove for use in the home and later invented the first camp stove for military use. Sober was a tireless advocate during the Crimean War for nutrition and safe food for the troops. He also sold cookbooks for charity and advocated on behalf of the Irish who were suffering through the potato famine. Soyer institute changes in how the government thinks about feeding troops and changes in how kitchens are stocked and organized that are still significant today.

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Chef Ettore Boiardi, also known as Chef Boyardee (1897 – 1895)

Boiardi is the chef who brought us raviolis in a can. He came to America from Italy when he was sixteen years old and worked his way up to become head chef for the Plaza Hotel and a chef for President Woodrow Wilson.  When he opened his own restaurant in New York, customers begged to take home his sauces, so he started packaging them in clean used milk bottles. In 1927 he began a business of selling canned pasta products and sauces. He was commended for helping provide rations to troops in WWI.

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Alice Waters (1944 – present day)

Waters is the owner and founder of Californian restaurant Chez Panisse. Waters has been a hugely successful promoter of organic food and local food. Most recently, she’s been working to make school lunches more healthy and to encourage schools to incorporate gardening into their curriculum. Since the early 2000’s, she’s been active in the Slow Food movement as well. Modern chefs and food writers cite her as having a huge influence on the way people today think about food. She moved the phrase ‘organic’ into the mainstream.

Alice Waters - 08 Mar 2002

Between the Lines Book Club: Dan Barber talks about Sustainable Eating

Tbetween the lines book club logohis month in Book Club we are talking about The Third Plate by Dan Barber. Barber is an upscale chef in New York, and he believes that the trends set in more fashionable cuisine trickle down to set the food trends in grocery stores and on people’s tables. Barber is fascinated with the idea that sustainable food is also often tastier and healthier.

Barber is the chef and owner of the Michelin Star Rated restaurant Blue Hill. There are actually two Blue Hills, both owned by Barber – one in Manhattan and one at Stone Farms. People wanting a more casual experience can stop by Stone Hill’s ‘Cafe and Grain Bar’. This blogger feels that we have reached peak hipster-ism with the phrases “Cafe and Grain Bar” and “Farm fresh lattes.” But it can’t be denied that the jam looks fantastic. He was appointed by President Obama to work on the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition. He’s received multiple awards from the James Beard Foundation, including Top Chef in America in 2009.

Two of Barber’s passion projects are his book, The Third Plate, which took him ten years to write, and his pop-up restaurant, which took over Blue Hill in Spring 2015. The pop-up was called WastED, and it served food that would normally be thrown out in a high-end restaurant for reasons of style and appearance (not food that was rotten). In this mini-restaurant, Barber wanted to make a point the chefs and home cooks have always used things like bruised fruits and broken clams, but they might not tell you so. Barber wants to make reducing food waste (and resource waste as he is interested in sustainable gardening and animal husbandry) as stylish as anything else in a restaurant. Dishes included fried skate ray cartilage with a dipping sauce infused with whitefish heads and charred pineapple core with lime ice cream. Want to see the menu?

Barber has done tons of interviews. Here’s one where he talks about WastED, writing the book, and that time he got fired because he couldn’t make decent bread, from eater.com

Here’s his TED talk about how to raise sustainable seafood:

And here his is talking about the possibility of cruelty-free foie gras:

Between the Lines Book Club: The Third Plate

between the lines book club logoIn keeping with Sacramento Public Library’s One Book 2015 program, Between the Lines Book Club will be reading The Third Plate, by Dan Barber, in September. If you can, join us in Sacramento, CA for an in person book club at Arden Dimick Library (891 Watt Avenue, Sacramento, CA 95864) at 10:30AM on Sept 26, 2015.

You are also welcome to leave comments here!

The Sacramento Public Library will be holding events all through October related to The Third Plate – this means a lot of food, people!  Here’s a link to the full program including event dates.

Between the Lines Book Club: Truly Weird Adaptations of Crime and Punishment

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In Sacramento, CA? Join us for an in-person discussion of Crime and Punishment tomorrow (Aug 22, 2015) at 10:30 AM at Arden Dimick Library!

Unlike some other classics, there’s no single iconic adaptation of Crime and Punishment, although there are a few movies and once might sound Law and Order as an adaptation that’s very long-running. While there may be no adaptation that is iconic, there are several that are just plain weird. Here’s some of the bizarre things people have done with the novel:

Proving that everything is better with Batman: Crime and Punishment Batman comic!

This spoof, from the collection Masterpiece Comics, tells the story of Crime and Punishment with Batman as the main character. In this version, Batman decides to take the law into his own hands – murder and angst ensue.

Teen Angst: Crime and Punishment in Suburbia (Film, 2000)

This movie has a 21% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It tells the tale of a teen girl who is attacked by her stepfather and plots to kill him with the help of the school quarterback. When she’s accused of the murder, the weird outcast high school kid with a crush is the only one she can turn to. This seems to be a love it or hate it movie.

Because Les Miserables wasn’t depressing enough:

Crime and Punishment is being made into a musical. I’m just going to drop this here and back slowly away.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/oct/01/crime-and-punishment-musical-moscow-stage

http://russia-news.us/news/culture/dostoyevsky/

Between the Lines Book Club: Four Fun Facts About Fyodor Dostoyevsky

between the lines book club logoWelcome once again to Between the Lines Book Club! This month we are reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. You can join us in person on August 22, 2015 at Arden Dimick Library, Sacramento, CA at 10:30AM.

There is a huge amount of detailed information about Dostoyevsky online, but here are four facts about his life:

1. He had epilepsy

According to Charge.org, a health website for people with epilepsy, Dostoyevsky had a rare form of temporal lobe epilepsy called “static epilepsy”. He documented 102 seizures during the course of his life. Many of his fictional characters have the same condition. In The Idiot, Prince Myshkin describes a seizure:

‘He was thinking, incidentally, that there was a moment or two in his epileptic condition almost before the fit itself (if it occurred in waking hours) when suddenly amid the sadness, spiritual darkness and depression, his brain seemed to catch fire at brief moments….His sensation of being alive and his awareness increased tenfold at those moments which flashed by like lightning.  His mind and heart were flooded by a dazzling light.  All his agitation, doubts and worries, seemed composed in a twinkling, culminating in a great calm, full of understanding…but these moments, these glimmerings were still but a premonition of that final second (never more than a second) with which the seizure itself began.  That second was, of course, unbearable.’

Fyodor as a young man in 1847

2. He was arrested, scheduled to be executed, and exiled to Siberia for reading and circulating banned essays.

Dostoyevsky spent four months in prison waiting to be sentenced and was condemned to death. According to Wikipedia:

They sentenced the members of the circle to death by firing squad, and the prisoners were taken to Semyonov Place in St Petersburg on 23 December 1849 where they were split into three-man groups. Dostoyevsky was the third in the second row; next to him stood Pleshcheyev and Durov. The execution was stayed when a cart delivered a letter from the Tsar commuting the sentence.

Dostoyevsky spent the next eight years in a Siberian prison camp where we was shackled constantly and forbidden to read anything except the bible. Sometimes he was sent to the hospital where he was able to read Dickens and newspapers. His novel, The House of the Dead, written after his release, was the first published Russian novel about prison.

The New Testament that Dostoyevsky took to prison

3. He was unlucky in love until he met Anna Grigoryevna Dostoyevskaya, who became his second wife.

His first wife was Maria Dmitrievna. The marriage was unhappy. She died in 1864. In 1863 he met Polina Suslova, with whom he had a mad affair. After Maria died, Dostoyevsky proposed to Polina but she turned him down. He finally met Anna, who was a fan of his work, seems to have been a fairly stable emotional person, and was smart enough to take over the family finances so that he could not continue to game away all the money he possessed.

Dostoyseky was infirm, neurotic, poor, and a gambling addict, so he wasn’t much of a catch, but he sure knew how to sneak in a proposal. Again, from Wikipedia:

As described in the Memoirs, Dostoyevsky shared with Anna the plot of an imaginary new novel, as if he needed her advice on female psychology.[5] In his story an old painter made a proposal to young girl whose name was Anya. Dostoyevsky asked if it was possible for a girl so young and different in personality to fall in love with the painter. Anna answered that it was quite possible. Then he told Anna: “Put yourself in her place for a moment. Imagine I am the painter, I confessed to you and asked you to be my wife. What would you answer?” Anna said: “I would answer that I love you and I will love you forever”.

Anna Grigoryevna Dostoyevskaya

4. He was famous during his lifetime.

His funeral was huge – anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 mourners attended.