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Jan's Column 2017

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Past Columns

May 11, 2017 - May History

May 11th (today) is rather a boring day when it comes to national holidays. There are only two. National Foam Rolling Day – I think you are supposed to be rolling on basically a large foam Cheeto that is about three feet long and six inches in diameter. It’s supposed to give you a bit of a massage. And National Twilight Zone Day. The first episode aired on October 1st, 1959 so why this day? Nobody knows. That’s it for the day. But it is May and spring is here in all its glory. Since I have nothing more interesting to tell you about this day, let me give you a few bits of May history and weather lore. The May full moon for some Native American tribes is The Flower Moon, The Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon. The Anglo-Saxon name for this month was Tri-Milchi or three milks because the grass was so lush you could milk the cows three times a day. “A cold May is kindly and fills the barn finely.” “A wet May brings a big load of hay.” “Mist in May and heat in June makes harvest come right soon.” The May we’ve had so far, based on the above lore, looks like it will be ushering in huge crops. There are many books by popular authors being published now, some as part of the spring lists, and some anticipating the summer beach books. Below is a sampling of some of the new titles that have been arriving. When one of those cold, misty May days arrives and you don’t really want to be outside, then grab one of these fascinating titles. The time is almost always right to curl up with a good book. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction

  • “Deviate: The Science of Seeing Differently” by Beau Lotto. The world-renowned neuroscientist, entrepreneur and two-time TED speaker explores how understandings about how the world is perceived can expand humanity's ability to create and innovate.
  • “DNA Is Not Destiny: The Remarkable, Completely Misunderstood Relationship Between You and Your Genes” by Steven Heine. A leading cultural psychologist challenges current understandings about the role of DNA in health, drawing on his own genome sequencing results to explain what genes can actually tell us and why psychological biases can render people vulnerable to media hype.
  • “Flavor: The Science of Our Most Neglected Sense” by Bob Holmes. A journey into the surprising science of the sense of flavor by a veteran New Scientist correspondent outlines narrative principles in neurobiology and modern food production to reveal the broad range of factors that can affect one's appreciation of what we consume.
  • “Head Strong: The Bulletproof Plan to Activate Untapped Brain Energy to Work Smarter and Think Faster – In Just Two Weeks” by Dave Asprey. The Silicon Valley professional biohacker and best-selling author of The Bulletproof Diet outlines a revolutionary plan for improving brain resilience, sharing strategic practices in nutrition, inflammation reduction and promoting neuron growth. 100,000 first printing.

New Fiction

  • “Borne” by Jeff VanderMeer. In a ruined, nameless city of the future, a scavenger named Rachel finds a creature named Borne, a leftover from a biotech firm called The Company, and she takes it back to her underground lair, where she must shield it from her drug-dealer boyfriend, Wick. By the author of the “Southern Reach” trilogy.
  • “Beartown” by Fredrik Backman. In a forgotten town fractured by scandal, an amateur hockey team might just be able to change everything. By the New York Times best-selling author of “A Man Called Ove”.
  • “The Forever Summer” by Jamie Brenner. When a single careless mistake costs her the job she so carefully built, straitlaced Marin joins a stranger claiming to be her half-sister in Cape Cod, where she meets family members she never knew she had during a fateful summer of revelations and self-discovery.
  • “Music of the Ghosts” by Vaddey Ratner. Returning to the Cambodian homeland she fled as a child refugee decades earlier, Teera finds herself in a country of survivors and perpetrators of the Khmer Rouge holocaust before bonding with a mysterious musician who claims to have known her late father. By the best-selling author of “In the Shadow of the Banyan”.
  • “The Drowning King, No.2 (Fall of Egypt)” by Emily Holleman. A dramatic follow-up to Cleopatra's Shadows is set four years after the execution of Bernice and finds Arsinoe and her sister Cleopatra facing a terrible choice between allowing the Roman army to steal power from their ailing father or taking the throne into their own hands.
  • “War Cry, No. 14 (Courtney Family)” by Wilbur Smith. A sequel to Assegai is set in Africa between World Wars I and II and finds widower Leon Courtney navigating murky political waters while his headstrong daughter, Saffron, travels to culturally contrasting London to attend Oxford.
  • “The Witchfinder’s Sister” by Beth Underdown. A tale inspired by the witch hunts of mid-17th-century England follows the experiences of Witchfinder General Matthew Hopkins's disgraced sister—who, upon returning, pregnant and unmarried, to her brother's home—discovers how he is targeting the marginalized women of their community.

May 4, 2017 - NLW Bingo Winners

You may or may not recall that this year we celebrated National Library Week for an extra week. We did the extended play version for a very good reason. A very good reason aside from the fact that, I mean, really, is it possible to celebrate public libraries too much? Public libraries are, after all, preservers of history and culture, bastions of life-long learning, foundational to the idea of democracy itself, and a very cool and hip place to hang out. But getting back on the train of thought I just derailed myself from, we extended our National Library Week celebration to allow those of you who were playing our Library Bingo game time enough to get a bingo, or for those of you with pluck and determination, a blackout card. Thanks to the Friends of the DeForest Area Public Library we were able to offer the fabulous prize of a fifty and a hundred dollar Amazon card for winners chosen randomly from the entries in the bingo or blackout categories. I am happy to say that 137 people finished a bingo or blacked out a card and made it to the drawings. The winner in the bingo category was Kaylee Rausch and in the blackout category, Cory Ann Butcher won. I have been told by participants and staff alike that the bingo game was a blast and they learned things about the library they hadn’t known. (And yes. It’s true. Blow me down, but you can learn Pirate (and dozens of other more traditional languages) on Mango, an online resource we subscribe to.).

Below you will find some of the new books that arrived during the past week at your library. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction

  • “The Gift of Anger: And Other Lessons from my Grandfather Mahatma Gandhi” by Arun Gandhi. The grandson of Mahatma Gandhi shares 10 vital and extraordinary life lessons imparted by the iconic philosopher and peace advocate, sharing Gandhi's particular insights into how emotions like anger can be guiltless motivational tools if properly used for good purposes.
  • “Lessons from the Prairie: The Surprising Secrets to Happiness, success, and (Sometimes Just) Survival I Learned on America’s Favorite Show” by Melissa Francis. A self-help primer for fans of the beloved show Little House on the Prairie , written by the former child star best known as Cassandra, shares behind-the-scenes stories from the set and the lessons the author learned from her work with Michael Landon. By the best-selling author of “Diary of a Stage Mother's Daughter”.
  • “Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy” by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant. From the Facebook COO and #1 New York Times best-selling author of “Lean In”, and the #1 New York Times best-selling author of “Originals” comes a book about finding resilience and moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks.
  • “The Secrets of My Life: A History” by Caitlyn Jenner. The author chronicles the first part of her life as Bruce Jenner and rise to fame as a gold-medal-winning Olympic decathlete; her marriages and her relationships with her children; her transition; and her experience as the world's most famous transgender woman.
  • “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back” by Elisabeth Rosenthal. An award-winning New York Times reporter reveals expensive dysfunctions in America's healthcare system, outlining practical guidelines for recognizing misleading information and obtaining the care and pharmaceuticals needed to safeguard family health interests.
  • “A Fine Mess: A Global Quest for a Simpler, Fairer, and More Efficient Tax System” by T.R. Reid. The Washington Post correspondent and best-selling author of The Healing of America presents an international investigation into America's failing tax code to share plainspoken assessments of current problems and what the author believes can be learned from other democratic nations.

New Fiction

  • “Cold Welcome, No. 1 (Vatta’s Peace)” by Elizabeth Moon. Decorated military hero Kylara Vatta survives a disastrous shuttle crash in a distant future, spacefaring culture where she finds herself stranded on an arctic land mass that proves more mysterious than she ever suspected.
  • “Anything is Possible” by Elizabeth Strout. Two sisters, one who trades self-respect for a wealthy husband and one who discovers a kindred spirit in the pages of a book, struggle with intimate human dramas at the sides of their community members and a returned Lucy Barton. By the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “Olive Kitteridge”.
  • “The Delight of Being Ordinary: A Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama” by Roland Merullo. Meeting during a highly publicized official visit at the Vatican, the Pope and the Dalai Lama embark on an unsanctioned, undercover vacation through the Italian countryside to rediscover the everyday joys of life. By the award-winning author of “Breakfast with Buddha”.
  • “My Cat Yugoslavia” by Pajtim Statovci. A love story set in two countries in two radically different times follows the experiences of a Yugoslavian bride and her gay outcast son in present-day Finland, where a pet boa constrictor and a loquacious cat compel a journey of healing and cultural understanding.
  • “No One Is Coming to Save Us” by Stephanie Watts. A tale inspired by The Great Gatsby is set in the contemporary South and follows the difficulties endured by an extended black family with colliding visions of the American dream. A first novel.
  • “Fallout, No. 19 (V.I. Warshawski)” by Sara Paretsky. Savvy investigator Vic leaves her comfort zone in Chicago to investigate the disappearances of a young film student and a faded Hollywood star in Kansas, where a university town, the remnants of the Cold War and long-simmering racial tensions are stirred into violence by mysteries and murders.

April 27, 2017 - Spring

Ah Spring! I believe it is finally here at last. For the past few weeks we have been doing the two-steps-forward-and-one-step backward flirtation. But this past weekend, even with a little frost on the rooftops Saturday morning, some pretty strong indicators of spring’s arrival were blatantly out there for the whole world to see. The dandelions are in bloom, and aren’t they a brilliant yellow this time of year on the lush green of new grass. And then there is the grass. Many yards were being mowed. Motorcycles were being ridden and the drop-top cars were also driving around. The willow trees are all yellow and chartreuse and the other trees are catching quickly with the early-bird willows and throwing pollen into the air as quickly as they can as they unfurl their leaves. The ornamental trees are all covered in pink or white flowers and the lilacs are this close (imagine a space between my finger and thumb of about half an inch) to blooming. The tulips and daffodils and crocus have been up for a while now and more perennials are popping up almost daily to join in the spring bouquet. As you may or may not recall, back on February 2nd , Booky, the library’s prognosticating badger, predicted an early spring (unlike the groundhogs Jimmy (Sun Prairie) and Phil (Punxsutawney, PA who both saw their shadows and predicted a longer winter) and I think Booky was right again this year. You can also tell that spring has arrived by the paucity of cars in parking lots around town over the weekend. Everyone is out enjoying the weather! Even the nicest weeks of spring weather often include a rainy day and what better thing is there to do on such a day than to curl of with a good book. Some new book titles are listed below for your consideration. Enjoy!

April 20, 2017 - Earth Day

National Library Week has been and gone, but the Library Bingo game begun last week continues on throughout this week. Remember! Complete a bingo and you can enter that card in a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card; if you black out your card you can enter that card in a drawing for a $100 Amazon gift card. You can enter more than once! Thanks to the Friends of the DeForest Area Public Library for supplying the prizes for these drawings. The bingo contest ends on April 22nd at 5 p.m. So you still have time to get your card blacked out or to get a few more bingos and get those cards entered in the drawings. Mathematically, the more entries you have, the better your odds of winning.

Speaking of April 22nd, this is the day that Earth Day is celebrated. As many Wisconsinites know, the idea for Earth Day was that of Gaylord Nelson, the United States Senator from Wisconsin who tapped into the energy of the war protests of the 1960s to find common cause among myriad groups. These groups that were protesting everything from oil spills to pollution to toxic waste to the extinction of wildlife and loss of wilderness united on Earth Day that first Earth Day – April 20th, 1970 -- to talk about how to protect the environment.  By the end of that year, the first Earth Day led to the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts. Celebrate Earth Day by walking or bicycling to the library to hand in your bingo card(s), check out a book, magazine, dvd, cd, etc. Libraries have been reusing and recycling long before it was trendy. Here are some new book titles that you can borrow. Who knew you would be doing such a green thing? Enjoy!

April 6, 2017 - Sort of Blah

There is nothing special that happened today. Battles were waged and lost and won. Things were invented – like Teflon in 1938 (which is why today is National Teflon Day) and Twinkies in 1930. Sports records were set and overturned. Award shows happened and awards were won. Lots of things happened in the course of recorded history but nothing that interesting or fun. Today is National Caramel Popcorn Day and Student Athlete Day and Tartan Day and Sorry Charlie Day (a day named after that cartoon tuna named Charlie who was rejected by Starkist) – it’s purportedly a day to reflect on the times in your life when you’ve been rejected and think about the lessons you have learned. See what I mean? April 6th is sort of blah. However, April 6th this year is only two days before the annual Midwest Crane Count on April 8th which is always pretty exciting: the being up before dawn cracks; the fresh air; the solitude; the dawn chorus; and the virtuous feeling of being out and about and gathering data in a good cause. April 6th is also only three days from the start of this year’s National Library Week – things can’t get much more exciting than this at your local public library. Stop by and see what fabulous things we have planned to celebrate public libraries. This celebration might include cake and the chance to win a cool prize. Come to the library early during the week (if you want cake) and often to improve your chances to win the cool prize. Or, you might just want to check out one of the new books that arrived this week at the library. Enjoy!

March 16, 2017 - Crane Migration

I am writing this from an undisclosed place in Kearney, Nebraska on what shall be last weekend. As many of you know, I make an annual pilgrimage to see the Sandhill crane migration through the North American central flyway. Usually, I go in February. This year an ice storm canceled that trip and pushed the trip forward into March. This is a good thing since there are many, many more cranes in March than in February; and a not so good thing because there are many, many more people (with cameras, spotting scopes, and tripods parked along the sides of the roads and, oftentimes in them). The Crane Trust does an aerial flyover to estimate the crane population. The latest number was 406,000 on March 8th but large numbers fly in every day. To give you an idea of how many cranes we’re talking about, I spotted a large roost of cranes on cornfields along a gravel country road. I checked the odometer and the congregating crane roost was a mile long. Now if, on average, the roost is fifty cranes deep and you divide your count into ten foot wide bands that gives you 528 bands in a mile times 50 cranes each for a total of 26,400 cranes in that roost alone. The numbers and the noise are truly astonishing. There really are cranes to the left of you; cranes to the right of you; cranes in front of you and behind you; and then of course you have the cranes above you as well. Usually, there are cranes in Wisconsin when I return from this pilgrimage. This year there were cranes in our neck of the woods by the third week of February. They are already starting to settle on their nesting grounds. If you need an excuse to get out in nature and watch a sunrise and do some citizen science, the Midwest Crane Count is coming up the 8th of April. And speaking of getting out into nature, our first book title this week addresses the benefits that nature can provide. There is also a whole parcel of other books listed below for your reading pleasure as well. Enjoy!

March 9, 2017 - Spring

Okay. Okay. I know it was a little risky, declaring spring had already arrived. I realize the weather makers – whoever they may be—might have considered this declaration a taunt or a challenge. But one small blast of mixed precipitation and colder temperatures does not a winter make (or prolong) any more than one robin makes a spring. Speaking of robins and spring, there is a loose flock of robins hanging around DeForest and the middle of last week saw the red-winged black birds return. Now I’m not sure if they stuck around once the ice pellets started bouncing around, but with warmer weather already here and looking like it will stay a while (although it will be more seasonable in its warmth) spring still looks to be arriving in a timely fashion. Speaking of spring and arrivals, below you will find some of the new spring arrivals from the publishing houses that arrived recently at your local public library. Enjoy!

February 16, 2017 - President's Day

I’m writing this on a very windy March-coming-in-like-a-lion February 12th, which is, as you know Lincoln’s birthday. We won’t be celebrating President’s Day until the third Monday of the month which this year is February 20th. I was bashing around the internet trying to find some fascinating facts about President’s day to beguile you with before you move on the “books section” of this literary miscellany. Come to find out that Presidents’ Day is subtitles “Washington’s Birthday” – who knew? Certainly not me! Also come to find out that although Lincoln’s birthday, February 12, was never a federal holiday, nearly half of the state governments have officially renamed their Washington's Birthday observances as "Presidents' Day", "Washington and Lincoln Day", or other such designations. Come to also find out that Washington was born on February 11th, 1731 but because Britain and its colonies, of which we were one, still used the Julian calendar until 1752 when they joined the rest of the world and started using the Gregorian calendar. The Gregorian calendar added 11 days and the British civil year began on March 25th not January 1st , all of which meant that suddenly when George Washington was 21 or 22 depending on which calendar you’re using he was born on February 22nd, 1732. Now that you have way too much information about a holiday that is still upcoming, I will refer to all the new book titles available at your library. You will note that coincidentally the first non-fiction selection this week just happens to be about George Washington. Enjoy!

February 9, 2017 - Booky

For those of you who don’t follow the library on FaceBook (And if you don’t, why don’t you?) you missed Booky the library badger’s Ground Hog Day prediction. Booky to all the weather-lore available to badgers and whispered a prediction in Brian’s ear. It went something like this: “There is no shadow to be cast, an early spring is my forecast.” Of course the accuracy of prediction is only as good as the accuracy of the translation. We will have to wait and see if this was a good translation. The birds are starting to behave as if spring is just around the corner. Cardinals have started singing in the dawns early light. The chickadees are singing their “phoebe” song which is a change from their usual, “chick a dee, dee, dee”. Blue jays and crows are chasing each other as the time to start reconnecting with one’s mate and finding a nesting site draws nearer. There is a pair of great horned owls (I am identifying the birds based solely their calls) in my neighborhood who are talking a lot to each other during the early evening and early morning hours. This hardy couple should be sitting on eggs any day now. Great horned owls begin breeding from January on. By the time the rest of the birds in the neighborhood return, owlets will be ready to test their wings. All of which is a reminder that even in the darkest, coldest days of winter, life is going on. Another reminder is the narcissus plants – hidden away in a paper bag in my basement—was putting out sprouts when I checked them on Groundhog Day. They’ve grown about 3 inches since I planted them that day. And if you need one more sign that spring is on its way, books from the publisher’s Spring Lists have started to arrive. Enjoy!

February 2, 2017 - Groundhog Day

The publication date of this is February 2nd, which, is Groundhog Day, and as all weather wonks believe, what happens this day is the best prognosticator (Wink. Wink. Nudge. Nudge.) as to how much longer we shall have to wait until spring appears on the scene. We all know about Punxsutawney Phil and his weather predicting abilities. Phil and his descendants have been making predictions in Pennsylvania for well over a century and their familial track record is none to good. According to Stormfax (a website that collects weather lore and other things to do with weather), and I quote. ”As of 2016, Punxsutawney Phil has made 129 predictions, with an early spring (no shadow) predicted 18 times (15.0%). As of 2016 the predictions have proven correct 39% of the time”. There are a ton of prognosticating rodents out and about on February 2nd. Twenty-two are listed in Wikipedia’s article on groundhogs. A Canadian study of 13 cities over thirty to forty years found a 37% accuracy rate. Not too good a track record unless you just go with the opposite of the prediction. The library’s prognosticating animal, Booky the Badger, is not a rodent. In fact, Taxidea taxus, the American Badger, is an omnivore that lives in open grasslands and literally eats groundhogs as well as mice, squirrels, and other delicacies. Booky’s first prediction was in 2015 and so far, Booky has been batting a thousand (Sure it’s only been two predictions but 100% accuracy is still 100% accuracy.). The unfortunate thing about Groundhog Day this year is that it falls after the newspaper is published; too late for Booky to make a prediction in print. But you can check out our website where that prediction will be posted for all to see. More winter or less winter, it’s still a great time to read. Below are some of the new books that arrived at the library recently. Enjoy!

January 26, 2017 - Chickadees

This morning I opened the porch door to let the cats out. The porch is totally snow-free and the little tree that has its topmost branches waving in the breeze at about 4 feet above the porch rail was filled with chickadees. The chickadees were hopping around energetically. It was 42 degrees and the birds didn’t need to spend all their calories keeping warm. It seemed as if, even in the cloudy, foggy gloom, that these little birds were feeling their oats; starting to think about spring; starting to think about staking out some territory; starting to think about finding a mate. They were singing their chick-a-dee songs and buzzing at each other as if it were high spring – which we all know it is not. We all know this January thaw is only an illusion that draws us in and gives us hope that the days will be brighter, longer, and warmer again. We all know that temperatures will drop and snow will fall from the sky once more. Sometimes I think knowing this limits our capacity to enjoy what is; to be in the moment and let the moment be enough. Those handful of chickadees certainly do know how to live in the moment and enjoy the warmth and energy a drab day in January has given them. So do the geese taking wing and making a ruckus and the little flocks of migratory song birds that have ventured this far north to scope things out. Reading is one of those activities that can center you in what you’re reading and puts you in the moment of what you’re reading about. Now, I’m not sure if any of the books listed below will perform that function for you, but if these don’t we have thousands more. Enjoy!

January 19, 2017 - Coldest Week of the Year

We are dead-bang, smack dab in the middle of the coldest week of the year—based on statistical averages—in the Madison, Wisconsin area. I believe this is true based on personal observation as well. I attend a conference in Milwaukee yearly during the third week of January and I remember many mornings looking at the big, digital display thermometer on one of the buildings in downtown Milwaukee and seeing temperatures below zero. Of course, the thing with averages is that they are just that. So for all the many years I recall below zero temperatures during this week, there are other years – such as this current one—when the temperatures are downright balmy and rain is being predicted, not snow. The old weather lore is that as the days lengthen, the cold strengthens. Since the beginning of the year we have gained 19 minutes of daylight in the afternoon and 5 minutes in the morning. So the days are definitely lengthening. It won’t be long until it’s time to start thinking about planting seeds and getting your hands in the dirt. To attend Garden Expo which I believe is coming up in February (10-12th) and get inspired for the planting season. In the meantime, there are plenty of new books – both fiction and non-fiction—to get you through these coldest days of winter. We also have many gardening books to help you count down to spring. Enjoy!

January 12, 2017 - National Days

Today is the 12th day of the year. How are your resolutions holding up? Probably as well as the temperatures. There’s an old, weather-lore, saying that as the days lengthen the cold strengthens; that has held true this past week. Yesterday, January 11th, was National Step in a Puddle and Splash Your Friends Day. I know, I know. It’s hard to believe all the national days and celebrations there are out there. Given the weather we generally experience in January, it would be darn near impossible to splash a puddle until well into the next month (or more). Today is National Marzipan Day as well as National Curried Chicken Day (not sure if you are supposed to eat curried chicken or feed your chicken curry today). The next few days hold many wonders not only is tomorrow, Friday the 13th, it is also National Blame Someone Else Day (which always falls on the first Friday the 13th in the year. It is also National Rubber Ducky Day. National Dress Up Your Pet Day is January 14th and – I know we’re all looking forward to this day – January 16th is National Nothing Day as well as National Fig Newton Day. As you can see, even with the cold weather that accompanies January and the start of a new year, there are lots of things to celebrate. Let’s toast to those celebratory days with a good book! Below you will find a sampling of some of the new books that have arrived at the library this week. Enjoy!

January 5, 2017 - New Year

Here we are in the New Year. I hope you had a jolly celebration and wish you and your kith and kin joy, peace, and prosperity in 2017. I don’t know if you have noticed, but I certainly have, the days are getting longer. Since December 28th, we’ve pretty much been gaining an hour of daylight at sunset and have not lost any more time at sunrise. The sun has been rising at 7:29 since the 28th and will do so until the 9th when we gain a minute of daylight on the sunrise end as well as at sunset. In the darkest throes of winter, i.e. early December, sunset was at 4:22. Today’s sunset is at 4:37 which is a gain of 15 minutes, and for me at least, it is noticeable. Being a creature of habit and working fairly regular hours, I got acclimated to going home when it was dark. The dark is coming later, so I’m leaving later, which means I’m still going home in the dark (you’ll notice wherever I was going with that analogy just totally got sidetracked or derailed by factual details). The point I was trying to make is that the days are getting longer which is a very nice thing and lets us start the year with the hope and optimism that more light generates. One thing you can count on in the books released in January by the publishers is that there will be a lot of diet books and self-improvement books. Today’s offerings include only a couple of that ilk, but be warned, more will be coming to help you with all those resolutions you made at the turn of the year. Enjoy!