Library memories

9781452145402Having been a librarian for longer than I care to remember, the card catalogue holds a place dear to my heart. I remember as a library assistant filing new cards — one for the author, the title and the subject entries. A tedious job, but vital for the smooth running of the library. You can imagine the dismay when someone broke into a community library I worked in and dumped the whole lot on the floor! It took days to put in order.

These cards represented the hand writing of various cataloguers through the years. The advent of typewriting skills and twink was the next exciting venture, to be followed by a large and cumbersome computer system that saw the end of those beautiful cards and the glorious cataloguing drawers that are so fashionable today.

The Card Catalog: Books, Cards, and Literary Treasures is a chance to revel in the glory days — photographs of huge rooms filled with librarians filing cards at the mammoth Library of Congress, hundreds of images of original cards, and early edition book covers accompanied by engaging text and stories of the stacks! Not just for librarians, this will appeal to anyone who enjoys artifacts and stories from time past.

 

Regretting Motherhood

Cover of Regretting motherhoodHow would you answer these questions?

“If you could go back, with the knowledge and experience you have now, would you still become a mother?” 

“From your point of view, are there advantages to motherhood?”. 

The Particpants who were interviewed for the Regretting Motherhood: A Study by Orna Doanth responded with a resounding NO!  Not surprisingly most participants wanted to keep their identities private, and the author acknowledges that this sort of admission is not at all socially acceptable. Any mother can recount those times when the stress, worry and tiredness make the whole experience a waking nightmare, but to face up to major regret is, in my mind anyway, huge.

This is not a book about making life easier for mothers, it’s not about more access to childcare or the ability to have a career…

Thus even though there are conditions that can alleviate the hardships of motherhood, this does not necessarily mean that difficult conditions accompanying motherhood, or rigid social dictates determining how women must mother, can completely account for suffering or lack of satisfaction in motherhood

The women interviewed felt that they were good mothers and that their children would not be aware of their regret. They did a good job, but it gave them absolutely no satisfaction. Many felt that they were pushed into becoming mothers, it was expected, and they wished they made other choices.

This is an honest and at times confronting book.  There are a number of books that deal with the subject of not wanting children, but this is the first one that I am aware of that deals with regret after the fact. The interviewees are honest and compelling, the writing easy to read and the subject is incredibly thought provoking.

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Fiction news

Who isn’t writing crime and mystery novels these days? If Dickens, Jane Austen and Anthony Trollope were around now, they’d be making sure that murder and detection was the place to be.

Cover97805713266319781509815524CoverCoverCover

Interesting authors in this field doing the murder route include Jessica Fellowes, (niece of the man who gave the world Downton Abbey), with The Mitford murders,  John Gordon Sinclair (the actor from the much loved comedy Gregory’s girl), has a mystery coming up called Walk in silence and Lottie Moggach, daughter of Deborah, has Under the sun.

Aside from promising crime there is a new novel by Salman Rushdie, The golden house, which deals with Obama and Trump America.

A former Booker winner Roddy Doyle has a new novel called Smile.

And don’t forget the Film Festival coming up. One of the most interesting films is an adaptation of the Thomas Cullinan novel The beguiled. Originally made as a vehicle for Clint Eastwood, the novel now gets a feminist makeover by Sofia Coppola with Nicole Kidman leading the cast. We have the reprint of the novel on order.

Cool stuff from the Selectors: from the 1960s to pink cakes and beyond…

9780473382797Caves : exploring New Zealand’s subterranean wilderness by Marcus Thomas

The idea of venturing into a cave leaves me with clammy hands, thankfully I can now enjoy the beauty and danger of caving without having to get my feet wet.

This book takes readers on a journey into New Zealand’s longest and deepest caves, through one of the world’s most dangerous cave dives, and prospecting for a totally new kind of cave on a South Island glacier

I’m just here for the dessert9781743368824 by Caroline Khoo

If you love pink and love food then you will love this book!  Any food that is not naturally pink — i.e. chocolate — is bound to be decorated with a pink flower, at the very least.

Australian Caroline Khoo, of Nectar and Stone, has a large Instagram following. She recently posted a photo after coming home to a birthday cake made for her by her husband (only his 2nd cake ever) using this cookbook.

Charm of goldfinches 9781785033889by Matt Sewell

A Lounge of Lizards, a Parliament of Owls, A Gaze of Raccoons…we may well have heard of these collective nouns before but Matt Sewell’s beautifully rendered drawings bring the animals and their nouns alive.  The author is an avid ornithologist and best-selling author so his words add a richness to the pictures. This is a book that would also work well with animal loving children.

Summer of Love: Art, Fashion and Rock and Roll 9780520294820by Jill D’Alessandro

The book that chronicles an exhibition at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco that in turn chronicles the 1960s counterculture. Summer of Love covers all aspects of this heady time in a beautifully exuberant book, full of colour, fashion, politics, music and psychedelia. Not just for children of the 60s, this will appeal to a wide range of ages and interests.

The Photo Ark: One man’s quest to document the world’s animals9781426217777 by Joel Sartore

Joel Sartore had worked for 25 years as a photographer for National Geographic, leaving home for months at a time and becoming increasingly aware of the plight of species around the world. When his wife became ill he knew he had to stay closer to home, yet his desire to photograph and somehow make a difference to these endangered animals compelled him to seek out animals in captivity, starting at his local zoo.

His goal is to document every one of the world’s 12,000 plus captive species.  All the animals have been photographed in front of a black or white background.  The images are beautiful, uncluttered and affecting. The story behind the project and the people involved is fascinating and I look forward to hearing more from this author.

Cool stuff from the selectors: Fashion, architecture and insects

9780714873343On Eating Insects

In theory I like the idea of eating insects, it makes sense in a world where food could become scarce – it would seem that we are unlikely to run out of insects or plagues of locusts, but what about putting this into practice? “Bee Lave Taco or Moth Mousse” anyone?

On Eating Insects is not just about exotic sounding recipes, it gives us a holistic view of the subject with thought-provoking essays and fascinating stories of field trips into the world of the people who have eaten insects for centuries.  The political, cultural and ecological aspect of eating insects is also examined, creating a book that will leave you thinking, and perhaps looking at that ant nest in your garden in a slightly different light.

9780847858521The Art of Dressing: Ageless, timeless, original style

Style icon Tziporah Salamon profiles the chicest and most celebrated older women of today, while imparting practical tips on how to put together beautiful outfits

With headings such as “Good shoes and a good handbag are a must”, “Consider the whole effect: you are creating a work of art, a painting”, and “Enlist the services of a good seamstress and tailor” you would be forgiven for thinking that this book is not for the average middle-aged woman – and you would probably be right. However if you love to pore over books that include colour, style and a touch of whimsy then this is definitely the one for you.

As an aside, what is it with older women and hats?

9781614282273The big book of the Hamptons

Another book to peruse, salivate over, and wonder how some people have all the luck. I have been obsessed with the Hamptons and their general surrounds since I started reading fiction set in this location. The Hamptons are always depicted as full of beautiful but comfortable homes nestled near the beach, eccentric but lovable families, arty types, romantics….wealthy but not pushy.  This book does not disappoint.  It’s big and it’s full of photos.

There’s a reason why artists and writers, movie stars and moguls, musicians and composers, fashion designers and decorators, architects and craftsmen, fisherman and farmers have flocked to the Hamptons for all these years.  They are drawn by the glorious landscape, the extraordinary light, and the promise of pleasure.

9780714873497Mobitecture: Architecture on the move

The Camper Kart – a pop top in a shopping cart, the QTvan, a camper for mobilty scooters or the A47 mobile library – all the buildings in this book are designed to move.  Some are practical and actually work, some are purely experimental, and others are art installations.  There is sure to be plenty of inspiration for anyone interested in the idea of small houses, camping ideas or houses of the future.

Cool stuff from the selectors. What more could you ask for? Food, Cats and Storytelling

CoverDavid Wiesner And The Art Of Wordless Storytelling
This is definitely a book for someone who has an interest in children’s illustration as it contains well-researched and far-reaching essays on the history and development of book illustration as an art form.

David Wiesner is of course the focus, and I enjoyed revisiting his wonderful illustrations. I remember sharing these books with my children, all of us having varying viewpoints about what was happening, delving deeper into each illustration with each reading. This is a beautifully produced book.

CoverFrom the sublime to the ridiculous! Crafting with Cat Hair is the sort of book you just have to have a look at because it is so unlikely. Taking itself completely seriously, this book gives you in-depth instructions on how to use your moggie’s fluff for felting crafting pleasure.  Perhaps if you are so inclined, it could be a way to immortalise your feline friend.

CoverFood Fights and Culture Wars
Chomping away on my couple of pieces of dark chocolate, it was interesting to read about the violent past of chocolate. The chocolate we eat today is barely recognisable as the cacao that was produced by the early Mayan people.

Cadbury (whose Dunedin factory is set to close next year) was founded by Quakers. Their desire to fend off slavery underpinned the chocolate trade. Filled with beautifully reproduced pictures from the British Library, this is a fascinating romp through history and food.

Cool stuff from the selectors: How the other half lives

9780865653313Located near Palm Springs, Sunnylands was the palatial home of philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg. Created out of barren desert, Sunnylands is now a huge, palatial masterpiece of over the top opulence. No detail was too small – carpets, furniture, and china were all specially made, luscious gardens formed, and a golf course created.

Luckily for us all, aspects of the house and grounds are beautifully represented in this sumptuous book. But along with the fabulousness of the place was also the fabulousness of the people who visited. Guests were carefully chosen for each weekend. Once they arrived and were housed in the various rooms in the guest wing, where they would be provided with a written potted history of the other guests’ achievements and interests. Seating arrangements for the lavish dinners were carefully chosen so that conversation would flow smoothly. Activities for the weekend were outlined and a jolly time was had by all.

A magnificent book if you like to delve into life as you will never know it, beautifully photographed and enough written material and social history to make you feel a little less voyeuristic.

9781848221840Edward Bawden was an English painter, illustrator and graphic artist, known for his prints, book covers, posters, and garden metalwork furniture.

Scrapbooks – by the delightfully named Peyton Skipwith –  is a compendium of ephemera that Bawden has collected for more than 55 years.  There seems little rhyme or reason to most of it, drawings of stage design are interspersed with Christmas cards, newpaper cuttings, invitations and cigarette cards. The colour reproductions are quite beautiful, especially the drawings and graphic works of Bawden, and most pages have interesting notes about where the particular pieces may have originated and some background information to try and make sense of the seeming randomness of it all.  The is a lovely book to dip into and gives you a great insight into the life and times of a prolific and talented artist.

Cool stuff from the Selectors: Thinking about trends

When selecting stock for the library it is always important to think about trends and what might be the next ‘big thing’, and one area that always garners interest is health and wellbeing – that elusive food/exercise/natural remedy/mindset that will provide the magic elixir of anti aging/weight loss/fitness and a long life.
9781906417611978024129652397814892146219781849497749

Is Algae the new Kale?  Turmeric latte anyone? I was unfortunate enough to read that some are suggesting beetroot, charcoal or mushroom becoming your coffee substitute! Forget nose to tail eating, now it’s about root to stem.

If you have been struggling with Mindfulness then you can now rest easy with Mindset – the belief that basic abilities can be developed through hard work, a love and learning, and dare I say it – ‘resilience’. Breathing is also big – not surprising given we all need to do it, but are we doing in the right way? And last but not least, Neuroslimming, giving  you a “mind plan, not a meal plan”.

Tiny houses are still wildly popular, at least the pictures of them in the books are, but I do wonder how many people actually bite the bullet and live in the small but perfectly formed shed in the back yard? Travel stories are still very popular and I have it on good authority that Iceland is the next big thing (and I just happen to be going there in the middle of the year!)

I expect we will see a few more books on Donald Trump this year along with his good mate Putin.  There may be a few books on Fidel Castro and Cuba could become a more popular travel destination?

9783037682029978157687780797817437929959781610397391

The craft area is dominated by a love of anything Nordic and the knitting, quilting and embroidery books are still as popular as ever.  Cooking is still raw, which is ironic considering it’s cooking.

Need some cheering up, then these two titles might help the optimism quotent.

Improbable places and improbable food

9781781315323Atlas of Improbable Places: A Journey to the World’s Most Unusual Corners hides interesting gems of information behind a unprepossessing cover and layout.  I was somewhat disappointed that the photos were in black and white, but as I explored the book I realised that this just adds to the general sense of abandonment and improbability.

Each place is devoted a couple of pages and includes a map and photos. I was fascinated by Slab City located in California.  It is described as “the last free place in America” and occupies 640 acres of concrete and debris-littered land.  People live rent free in makeshift homes that over the years have attracted the dispossessed, the lost, plus plenty of libertarians and eccentrics.  After the 2008 financial crash some people ended up there out of total necessity as their homes were foreclosed.

Another Californian oddity is Colma, with a small population of only 1,400, the dead on the other hand – close to 2 million – occupy seventeen cemeteries.  Gives a whole new meaning to the “dead centre of town”.

An abandoned tourist resort in Cyprus also piqued my interest.  Once a mecca for the wealthy and famous, it was abandoned after Turkish troops occupied the part of the island where it was located, and tourists and residents alike fled.  For forty years Turkish soldiers were the only ones to benefit from the resorts high-end hotels but it has now been left to Mother Nature.  It remains out-of-bounds but word has it that the ghost resort is still full of once fashionable cars and, more excitingly, 1970s clothes!

Aquafaba: Sweet and Savory Vegan Recipes Made Egg-Free With the Magic of Bean Water
Really … have you ever heard of anything more unappetising!? Apparently the name comes from a combination of the Latin root words for water and bean.  Aquafaba mimics the properties of eggs and can even be whipped up into a tasty pavlova, although I have my doubts.

There is a good news story around it however, with the online vegan community getting right behind the idea. A host of people are trying out recipes and ideas to get the ideal Aquafaba experience, and this is replicated in this book.  Certainly the pictures look quite appetising and range from the savoury to sweet, including a rather lovely looking lemon meringue pie.

Someone else give it a go and let me know the verdict!

Something for the coffee table

CoverBitten by Witch Fever: Wallpaper and Arsenic in the Victorian House by Lucinda Hawksley

This is the sort of book that you can just meander through, looking at the pretty pictures and picking up a bit of information here and there –  exactly my sort of non-fiction!

Arsenic is of course a poison, prevalent in whodunnits. What I didn’t realise was that it is also a wonderful enhancer of colour, and was used extensively in wallpaper.  Not only were these papers poisonous to those unfortunate enough to work in the factories that produced them, but a gas was produced when they became damp. This was not an unusual situation when many houses had little heating and cold damp conditions.

A lovely – if slightly chilling – book to flick through with fascinating anecdotes, luscious illustrations of the wallpapers and stories that flesh out the history of arsenic and its victims.

CoverGreat Houses Modern Aristocrats by James Reginato

This is another wonderful book to dip into. The author is a writer-at-large for Vanity Fair, and I really enjoyed the way he brings the homes – and the people in them – to life.

We are introduced to Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma who sits in the chair with a steady, suspicious and steely gaze, while her sister (standing) describes her older sister as “the personification of the stiff upper lip”.  Patricia apparently has more titles than any woman in England and Queen Elizabeth reportedly gets a bit flustered in her company:

She was Colonel-in-Chief of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry for thirty-three years, until she retired in 2004.  “When I turned eighty, I said, ‘for goodness sake, I can’t drive a tank any longer'” she explains.

Many of these homes are impossibly expensive to keep up. Some have been turned into variations of a Disney theme park, but many of the occupants have developed clever and surprisingly interesting ways of making a bob or two.

The Honourable Garech Browne of Luggala in Ireland has been a champion of Irish music, forming Claddagh Records and sponsoring the Chieftains.  The Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava specialises in prize cows and artisanal yoghurt. When asked what supermarket she would prefer stocked the yoghurt she replied that she “hadn’t a clue” because she had never been to a supermarket!

Even the cover intrigues me, a young aristocratic couple and their son – mother and son perched on top of an ornate ladder (as you do) and the young father leaning nonchalantly, dressed in what looks like his grandfather’s military jacket, surrounded by old books and paintings.  All very otherwordly.