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Jan's Column 2018

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Past Columns

February 1, 2018 - Groundhog's Day Eve

You all know what today is, right? Yes. It is the first day of the second month of the year or February 1st, but, more importantly, it is also the eve of Ground Hog’s Day. Punxsutawney, PA has Phil. Sun Prairie has Jimmy. The DeForest Library has a different prognosticator – Booky the Badger. Booky has only been making predictions since 2015 and has been batting a thousand or is two for two (which is the same thing, I believe). Booky will be making a prediction on FaceBook some time tomorrow, February 2nd, after sunrise. Now, it is totally up to you which prediction you choose to believe, if indeed to choose to believe any. We are all looking for a glimmer of hope as the days of winter drag on and on. Sure, we got a wonderful taste of spring at the end of last week when the sun was shining the birds were chirping and it seemed absolutely balmy. But, alas, in January we recognize this as what it is; teasing. A prediction at the beginning of February saying the winter will be ending soon lifts the spirits and a forecast saying it will be winter for at least six more weeks just really confirms what we already know in our hearts to be true. Hope is what Wisconsinites need this time of year. So, believe Phil or Jimmy if you want – they do have more years of prognosticating under their belts (the mind reels imagining a groundhog wearing a belt, but I digress.)—but remember in nature, where badgers and groundhogs both live, badgers literally eat groundhogs for lunch. (Of course Booky is well fed and would never, ever, eat the competition. Booky is the most benevolent of creatures – and extremely well read too.) While waiting for this breaking news, there are many new books that will help you forget about however many days remain in this winter. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction

  • “The Longevity Code: The New Science of Aging” by Kris Verburgh. Thoroughly explains why and how we age—and the four most crucial areas we have control over, to slow down, and even reverse, the aging process—in a book that discusses new types of vaccines, and the use of mitochondrial DNA, CRISPR proteins, stem cells and more. Includes recipes.
  • “Rebel: My Life Outside the Lines” by Nick Nolte. The Academy Award-nominated actor famed for such films as Rich Man, Poor Man and 48 Hrs. traces the story of his life and career, touching on subjects ranging from his relationships and addiction struggles to his method-acting approaches and his experiences as a father.
  • “Modern Loss: Candid Conversations About Grief, Beginners Welcome” by Rebecca Soffer & Gabrielle Birkner. The founders of Modern Loss draw on personal experience and the insights of their numerous followers to share irreverent counsel on how to navigate grief and establish resilience in the age of social media, sharing candid essays and wry infographics on how to cry, remember and empathize in healthier and more beneficial ways.
  • “The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World” by Charles Mann. The award-winning author of 1491 and 1493 presents an incisive portrait of lesser-known, 20th-century scientists Norman Borlaugh and William Vogt, whose diametrically opposed views shaped modern understandings about the environment and related public policies.
  • “How Democracies Die” by Steve Levitsky & Daniel Ziblatt. A cautionary assessment of the demise of history's liberal democracies identifies such factors as the steady weakening of critical institutions, from the judiciary to the press, while sharing optimistic recommendations for how America's democratic system can be saved.
  • “Advice Not Given: A Guide to Getting Over Yourself” by Mark Epstein. The Harvard-trained psychologist and author of The Trauma of Everyday Life explores how the traditions of Buddhism and Western psychotherapy can complement each other to promote a healthier ego and maximize the human potential for living a better life.

New Fiction

  • “The Days When Birds Came Back” by Deborah Reed. A woman struggling with her divorce, sobriety and a stalled career returns to the Oregon coast of her childhood to renovate and sell her late grandparents' memory-laden home and shies away from a relationship with a contractor who is reeling from his own losses. By the author of “Things We Set on Fire”.
  • “Eternal Life: A Novel” by Dara Horn. Ever since she made a deal to save her son's life in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, Rachel has been doomed to live eternally—having hundreds of children and being stalked by an obsessed man—but as her descendants develop new technologies for immortality, she realizes that, for them to live fully, she must die. By the author of “The World to Come”.
  • “Our Lady of the Prairie” by Thisbe Nissen. Setting aside the complications of her extramarital affair to oversee her unstable daughter's wedding on the Iowa prairie, a newly single theater professor navigates such challenges as a wedding-day tornado, a fascist mother-in-law and her once-docile ex's tragicomic revenge fantasies.
  • “The Pearl Sister, No. 4 (The Seven Sisters) by Lucinda Riley. Outcast adopted daughter CeCe investigates the mystery of her family origin, shaped a century earlier by a pioneering clergyman's daughter who became a wealthy woman's companion before finding love and adventure among the Aboriginal people of Australia's dusty Red Centre plains. By the New York Times best-selling author of the “The Shadow Sister “
  • “The Mitford Murders, No. 1”by Jessica Fellowes. A Golden Age-style mystery based on a real unsolved murder and written by the best-selling author of the official companion novels to the Downton Abbey series follows the experiences of a lady's maid to the youngest of three wealthy sisters in an Oxfordshire countryside manor, whose dark secrets implicate them in a murder.
  • “Fall From Grace” by Danielle Steel. When her wealthy and devoted husband dies suddenly in an accident, Sydney is devastated to learn that he left his estate to his vindictive daughters, a situation that forces her to take a job where she is wrongly set up to take the fall for a corrupt employer's illegal activities. By the best-selling author.
  • “Promise Not to Tell, No. 2 (Cutter, Sutter & Salinas)” by Jayne Ann Krentz. Having spent years battling demons stemming from her childhood in a cult and a fire that ended her mother's life, a Seattle gallery owner is devastated when one of her artists commits suicide after sending her a mysterious picture that compels her to team up with a fellow cult survivor, a private investigator who uncovers the work of a determined killer.

January 25, 2018 - Longer Days

This is the fourth Thursday of January, and there are still six more days left in the month. This has been an interesting month. It shall have had five Mondays, five Tuesdays, and five Wednesdays which, in and of itself is a little unusual. We have also had a couple of January thaws – not that I’m objecting, mind you. But, there is still a fair amount of winter yet to come. We started gaining daylight in the morning on January 8th (we have been gaining daylight on the sunset end of the day since December 11th but those minutes have been adding up and gaining momentum recently). Sunset went past 5 p.m. today when it sets at 5:01. The days have gotten noticeably longer—which in January is often not good news. The weather-lore says “As the days lengthen, the cold strengthens” which it did a bit at the beginning of this month. So we’ll have to wait and see. A week from tomorrow is Ground Hog’s Day and then we will get the “official” forecast about the remaining length of winter. In the meantime, when there isn’t a whole lot to do outside (what with the snow cover disappearing and rain and freezing rain in the forecasts), there are plenty of new books to read. Below you will find a sampling of the books that arrived recently. Enjoy!

New Non-Fiction

  • “The Meaning of Birds” by Simon Barnes. An illustrated examination of the lives of birds looks at how birds achieve the miracle of flight; why birds sing; what they tell us about the seasons of the year; the uses of feathers; what the migration of birds can tell us about climate change; and much more.
  • “How Healing Works: Get Well and Stay Well Using Your Hidden Power to Heal” by Wayne Jonas. A revolutionary approach to injury, illness and wellness draws on four decades of research and patient care to explain how 80 percent of healing occurs organically, outlining how readers can take charge of their health and pursue appropriate care while implementing practices to activate the body's natural healing processes.
  • “The Spice Diet: Use Powerhouse Flavor to Fight Cravins and Win the Weight-loss Battle” by Judson Allen. The executive chef of Healthy Infused Cuisine, LLC and contributor to Next Food Network Star outlines the culinary practices that helped him lose weight, sharing meal plans and dozens of flavor-enhanced recipes designed to help dieters to stay motivated on their health goals.
  • “The Super Metabolism Diet: The 14-day Plan to Ignite Your Fat-Burning furnace and Stay Lean for Life” by David Zinczenko. The best-selling co-author of “Eat This, Not That!” draws on the latest scientific research and his 500-person test panel to outline a diet that improves the body's fat-burning systems and promotes muscle building without deprivation, in a guide that is complemented by a selection of customized workout plans.
  • “The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook” by Niall Ferguson. A reevaluation of history's turning points as collisions between old power hierarchies and new social networks explains how networks have always existed and have been responsible for key innovations and revolutionary ideas, from clustering and degrees of separation to contagions and phase transitions. By an award-winning author.
  • “The Stowaway: A Young Man’s Extraordinary Adventure to Antarctica” by Laurie Shapiro. Documents the true story of a scrappy teen from New York's Lower East Side who stowed away on a daring expedition to Antarctica in 1928, tracing the sensational heyday of the time and how high schooler Billy Gawronski jumped into the Hudson and snuck aboard the expedition's flagship, eventually becoming an international celebrity.

New Fiction

  • “A State of Freedom” by Neel Mukherjee. Five characters in very different circumstances—from a domestic cook in Mumbai to a vagrant and his dancing bear—find the meanings of dislocation and the desire to get more out of life. By a Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author.
  • “Woman at 1,000 Degrees” by Hallgrimur Helgason. A octogenarian living out her final days in a garage with a laptop and a hand grenade reflects on her life as the daughter of a prominent political family in idyllic western Iceland, who in the aftermath of her father's fateful alliance with the Nazis is forced to rely on her wits to survive in the United States, Argentina and a native Iceland vastly changed by technology and economic crashes.
  • “The Black Painting” by Neil Olson. Four adult cousins from a family that has been estranged for decades amid suspicions regarding the theft of a cursed Goya painting gather at the mansion of their grandfather, who is found murdered. By the author of “The Icon”.
  • “Scones and Scoundrels, No.2 (Highland Bookshop Mysteries)” by Molly MacRae. The latest mystery from the author of Plaid and Plagiarism brings together a body outside a pub, a visiting author determined to find the killer and a murderously good batch of scones.
  • “The Bomb Maker” by Thomas Perry. A lethally clever designer of explosives tests the skills and collective strength of the highly experienced LAPD Bomb Squad. By the award-winning author of the Jane Whitefield series.
  • “City of Endless Night, No. 17 (Pendergast)” by Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. Heading an investigation into the murder of a wealthy tech billionaire's daughter, Lieutenant CDS Vincent D'Agosta teams up with FBI Special Agent A.X.L. Pendergast, only to uncover the work of a serial killer whose agenda threatens an entire city. By a pair of #1 Wall Street Journal and #1 New York Times best-selling authors.
  • “Robicheaux, NO. 21 (Dave Robicheaux)” by James Lee Burke. Struggling with PTSD, alcoholism and wrenching loss, Dave Robicheaux discovers that he may have committed the homicide he is investigating and endeavors to clear his name and make sense of the killing. By the Edgar Award-winning author of “Creole Belle”.

January 18, 2018 - Reading Program

This is already the third Thursday of the first month of 2018. My how time flies! If you made a New Year’s Resolution to participate in the Library Winter Reading Program and you procrastinate even though you resolved not to; it’s not too late! This winter our reading program, celebrating the Year of the Dog , continues on its merry way (I suppose you could say “dog-trotting”) until March 16th and ends with a big finale on March 17th. Yes, we did manage to book a dog act to perform for us and it will be on St. Patrick’s Day ( I asked if the dogs would be wearing green and if they could possibly do a jig. I didn’t get much of an answer, but we’ll see.) Until then, join the reading program (online or we can help you in person). Read books. Read books about dogs. Take online challenges. Read books. Attend programs about dogs and dog care. Earn Dragon Dollars. Buy prizes with your dragon dollars in the store. Read more books. Donate dragon dollars if you wish to one of three charities or donate dog “stuff” to the Dane County Humane Society at our library (A list of items they are always looking for is available at the library). Read books. Read more books. If you’re looking for something to read. There is a list of new books below. Enjoy!

January 11, 2018 - Crazy for Cranes

This past Saturday, the morning with the coldest recorded low my thermometer has seen this year, I set out with a friend of mine for a quick trip, down and back, to the Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife Area in Indiana to see if we could locate any sandhill cranes that might still be hanging around in the lower Midwest. Those of you who are long-time readers of this column, know that I am crazy for (sandhill) cranes and also that I try to see them every month of the year. I have been doing this pursuit for the past couple of decades and used to have to go to Indiana in December to get that month’s cranes and then further south to get January’s. But times have changed and the cranes are hanging around Wisconsin into December, and, I am happy to report, are still to be found in Indiana (yet again this year) in January. We drove 231 miles mostly south and a little east and found cranes. They are in a very small area – near the power plant and surrounding fields—but there were lots of them. A couple of clouds of cranes were up and landing on cornfields they had taken the snow off of. In places they were thick on the ground and in other places in family groups. The sun was shining brightly and it was actually hot in the car and 16 degrees and the cranes were dancing and yakking away with the reedy, piping voices of this year’s young joining in. These cranes looked well-adapted to the cold. They looked brawny. Mostly when I think of cranes I think of tall, rather skinny, rather elegant, birds. Birds with a ballet dancers build. The cranes that were hanging out around the power plant were built more like dancers in a musical – say “Newsies” or the gangs in “West Side Story”. They looked stocky, well-fed, and ready to rumble. Even though there was snow on the ground and the temperatures were cold (but warming) to see cranes loafing on cornfields reminds me that spring is not that far away and that if you really need spring (usually) you can drive south to it. Below you will find some of the new books that have arrived this past week which should help you pass the time until spring arrives and

January 4, 2018 - Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Here we are, already on day four of this brand-spanking new year of 2018. If the weather prognosticators are correct, today we may have crawled out of the single-digit deep freeze and be heading towards more normal winter temperatures. If, they are correct. As of today, we have also gained a noticeable amount of daylight on the evening end. You may (or may not) recall that back in the middle of December I marked the passing of the 8th, 9th, and 10th of December as the days with the earliest sunsets at 4:22 p.m. We have been gaining daylight at sunset since then and as of today with a sunset at 4:36, we have gained 14 minutes and are pretty much gaining a minute a day from here on out. While 14 minutes doesn’t sound like all that much, it is noticeable and it does mean we are heading in the right direction if you have already started yearning for spring. Which I for one, have. While we are waiting for spring and longer days and warmer weather, there is a plethora of new titles listed below for you to check out and read and while away the time. I hope this New Year has all sorts of good things in store for you! Enjoy!