Category Archives: Reviews

History Nuggets – Chicken

Three bite-size non-fiction reviews tied together with a delicious topical dipping sauce!

The theme: chicken. Underappreciated, delicious, and nutritious. But the ubiquity of chicken on our plates and eggs in our frying pan only became possible due to advances in chicken nutrition itself. Meet the Red Junglefowl.

Red Jungle Fowl rooster and two hens.

By Lip Kee Yap [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Red Junglefowl is to the domestic chicken as wolves are to dogs. They live in the tropical forests of Southeast Asia. Since they’re a tropical bird, they can lay eggs year round, and they some breeds of domestic chicken lay an egg every day. Up until the last several decades, though, chicken was very expensive to eat. If you sheltered your chickens in a shed, and fed them corn, trying to farm them in large groups, then they’d get rickets. It wasn’t until the discovery and addition of Vitamin D to chicken feed that it was possible to farm chickens in large numbers, driving down the cost, and transforming the bird from a Sunday treat to cheap chicken nuggets. Advances in understanding nutrition didn’t just put an end to several deficiency diseases, it changed the availability of the food we eat. If you’re looking for an upshot to how all life on Earth really is (in the literal sense) one big family, this is it. You’re close enough to a chicken that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Roast duck with sauce.

By cyclonebill from Copenhagen, Denmark (Andebryst) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Like this, but vitamins. Also, this is duck.

Want to take a closer look at nutrition and poultry keeping?

Vitamania cover.

Surprisingly gripping reading about the interplay of marketing and the nutrition revolution of the early 20th century.

Before the discovery of vitamins and essential nutrients, people’s relationship with food was mostly based around how filling and energy-packed it was. Even before germ theory really took off and the adoption of first-generation antibiotics, vitamins were the first “miracle cure” for several fearsome and debilitating diseases. Vitamins completely changed our relationship with food, and opened up whole new horizons of marketing for food manufacturers and medicine.

Tastes Like Chicken cover.

Read this to explore in greater depth the rise of chicken as a cheap source of protein.

Tastes Like Chicken details the monumental changes in the way Americans have raised chicken over the course of the 20th Century. From a cost-effective sideline for farmers, to the focus of a massive industry in its own right, chicken has had a strange journey to the factory farms of today. As conventional farming practices for chickens face more criticism, it pays to have a good grounding in how the animals we eat came to be kept the way they are.

Chicken Whisperer's Guide cover.

Which brings us to this book, whether you want to raise your own chickens or just know more about them, this comprehensive treatment is a good starting place.

Keeping chickens at home is making a roaring comeback, as objections to conventional intensive farming rise, and prices for free range chickens and eggs remain high. The lure of endless eggs is a powerful draw. Chickens and vitamins are a reminder that everything is connected, sometimes in weird and unexpected ways.

Reviews by Katherine, Highlands-Shelby Park Branch

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders

Possibly one of the most intriguing books I’ve ever read.  I’m going to warn you straight out, it’s weird.  The flow is different from any other book I’ve read.  You’re confused at first by the syntax and tide.  Then all of the sudden a few chapters in….you get it.  It clicks.  From then on it’s a remarkable supernatural and thought-provoking ride.

 

Lincoln in the Bardo describes the death of President Lincoln’s beloved 11 year old son Willie.  When he dies he becomes stuck, so to say, in a sort of purgatory set in the graveyard where he was buried.  Over a single night the book is told by an incredible chorus of ghost voices.  These ghosts understand that Willie cannot linger in this limbo with them.  Children cannot remain where they exist.  So they set out to help him move on to the next destination, with the help of his bereaved father.

An extraordinarily powerful and moving story that left me speechless by the end.

Review by Heather, St. Matthews

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

I’ve almost always been pretty reluctant to read any books that are deemed as classics. It has something to do with going to school and having a teacher telling you what book you should read. I never really wanted to read those books. Anytime a teacher said that this is the book that we are going to read for an assignment, I always pulled away from it and never really read the book like I would if I was reading it for pleasure.

I made a promise to myself that I would go back and re-read the books that I was “forced” to read in high school and see if I could enjoy them without the threat of an incomplete grade hanging over my head. One of the books that I selected was Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston. I started with Their Eyes Were Watching God because it was also given to my son as an assignment for a college paper. I tried to act really tough by telling him that it was a great book and that he would love it, but on the inside I had to tell myself, “you don’t even remember reading this book.” I felt pure shame with my motherly fib.

I took one for the team and started to read. The book tells the life story of a woman named Janie. Janie is a very beautiful woman who hasn’t been that lucky in love. When she meets Tea Cake, her world changes. He’s unlike any man that she has met before and Janie is swept off her feet in a whirlwind romance that is both beautiful and sad.

This book is told as if Janie is telling the story of her life to a friend named Pheoby. Janie is what Southern blacks considered different. She had very fair skin and could pass for white. As a small child, her grandmother worked for a white family and she was practically raised like one of their children. She even wore their expensive hand me downs.

As Janie matured, she was deemed beautiful and exotic by men and women didn’t really like her because she was so different from them. They took to gossiping about her behind her back and sometimes within earshot so that she would know how they really felt about her. Janie wasn’t the type of woman that tried to fit in. In fact, she marched by the beat of her own drum and this drove the women in her small town crazy with jealousy and envy. She really only had one true friend and her name was Pheoby Watson.

At the beginning of the book, Ms. Hurston writes about how there was this woman, who had just come back from burying the dead. Not just any dead, however. The “sodden and the bloated; the sudden dead, their eyes flung wide open in judgment.” It’s one of those openings that piques your interest. Why was she with dead people? What brought her to this fate.

This is one of those books that you read without prior knowledge of past events and then it takes you on a journey into the past when black people didn’t have all of the rights that white people did. It shows how they tried to come together as a community and have something that was a little bit better than what they previously had. It is also a love story. One that is so raw with emotions that I often found myself putting the book down so that I could let certain events seep into my brain. There were several instances when I had to read certain passages over and over to allow the message within to sink in.

This is one of those books that you want to read. It shouldn’t be one that people feel that they are forced to read. When the true beauty of Ms. Hurston’s words come to fruition, you feel the pleasure just from having picked it up.

If you’ve never read Their Eyes Were Watching God, you need to head to your nearest library branch and check out a copy. You will not be disappointed. Happy reading.

– Reviewed by Damera, Okolona Branch

Native Son by Richard Wright

I usually do not like recommending books to the average stranger, because my tastes, though wide, are more precise as I age. But I’m telling you, EVERYONE should read these two books NOW!  Native Son (1940) is a work of fiction that astounds me.

For years I have wanted to read Wright but never got around to it. In my twenties, I read a handful of Black authors and liked them but became a little burned out on the subject, much like telling a talker, “OK, I get it.”

Well, as I aged, I learned a lot about how things work and how people are, and about how I am. I am a white male. And as I became older and wiser, I discovered I had racist issues as is expected, since society is full of racism. My racism wasn’t hatred or feelings of inequality, but such that I bought into a lot of stereotypes that society threw at me.

Recently, I’ve gotten into a writer, Nelson Algren, who was a close friend with  Wright. They met at the Federal Writer’s Project in Chicago, and this gave Wright the time and money to produce Native Son.  Both were “Communists” in the 30’s and 40’s. Both experienced life from the bottom of society. Native Son, as well as Algren’s early novels, delves deeper into the intricate ways that the top and middle of American society preys upon its poor and black people than any work of fiction that I have read.

It is an exceptional novel that begins with high drama and is able to sustain the climax for the entire novel. The protagonist is Bigger Thomas, a 20 year old African-American male, who at his mother’s urging gets a real job. He is a young “thug” surviving by stealing and using his wits. Wright intentionally makes him a stereotypical thug for effect. If Bigger is an acceptable young man, who fit into society, it would be easy for everyone to let him pursuit the “American Dream.” But Bigger is trapped in 1930’s society in Chicago slums. The Jim Crow effects reach northward in more subtle ways, but they are not subtle if you are black. Bigger was not allowed to be an AMERICAN. He was only a “Negro Nationalist” living in America. Bigger was unwanted by his OWN PEOPLE and “his” country of birth.

Bigger knows how to survive in a tough black reality. He is exceptionally smart and can figure out the con in every game. But all he knows of the white world is to avoid it. It is ok to rob a black liquor store, but not a white one. He knows the Cops will come down on you hard if you mess with white folks.

So the real action begins when Bigger gets a job as a chauffeur for a rich, white family.  One night out with the beautiful daughter (Mary) of this rich man, and her Communist boyfriend (Jan) forces Bigger to cross many boundaries he doesn’t want to. He soon learns that one small action can change  the lives of many. We are all interconnected in a very simple, yet complex way although we seem all separate from one another.

If I had to give one book to Middle School to College aged people to read, Native Son is the one. The language is so simple and Wright makes the complex ways of interconnectedness so clear than everyone can see.  This modern world is made to make us a cold money making machine. And we roll along with this machine as it grinds out human lives beneath it.

To some, who are not willing to open their minds, it may feel that white people are on trial here but it is more that society is on trial. Individuals only make up a tiny part of it. But individuals and their actions can shape the world at large. In groups, we go easily along with what is inhumane in society.

The great baseball player Curt Flood, speaking about The St. Louis Cardinals owner August Busch, who was astonished to learn that black players could not stay at white hotels during spring training, said: “It shows you how you can segregate yourself into the back seat of a limousine and not know what’s going on.”  In the novel, the wealthy Mr. Dalton is one that rolls along with it. He is a great philanthropist and supporter of black people but he also had made his wealth in real estate at black people’s expense.

There is an innocent intelligence to the main character Bigger Thomas. He knows what is going on, but not quite. His survival in his black world is much different than his trying to stay alive in the white world. The rules are much different.  He learns as he goes. Experience is his teacher. In the end, what Bigger (and the reader) has to learn goes SOUL DEEP. It speeds by all the rules of civilization. The REDS, the WHITES, and the BLACKS are all weighing on Bigger’s mind wanting something from him that he cannot give. He is truly an outsider who must face a reality he could never have imagined.

Another book that I highly suggest is The Fire Next Time (1962), a work of non-fiction by James Baldwin, an adversary of Richard Wright. It is very enlightening, collecting two Letters, written during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.  Each Letter looks frankly at the state of American race relations from the black perspective, as well as Baldwin’s personal history.

It was a suggestion offered by a Facebook friend, who said it should be taught in school. It did not disappoint me. In fact, it inflamed me even though it is 55 years old.

We have both books in three different formats. I used all three with both books. I read both the Hardcover versions, the eBook (when around a computer), and listened to the Audiobook as well.  I usually have a hard time following along with an audio version but both books were a joy to listen to. The Native Son CD is beyond excellent.

Reviewed by Tom, Main Library

Available Light: Louisville Through the Lens of Bud Dorsey

The Louisville Story Program recently released a fourth book, Available Light: Louisville Through the Lens of Bud Dorsey.  This time the book is set in the West End of Louisville, including the Shawnee and Chickasaw neighborhoods.

Bud Dorsey, lifelong photographer, has compiled a small collection of photos that focus on West Louisville, as well as the people that make up the community.  With an Introduction by Dorsey about his journey through multiple cameras, you feel that you are walking alongside him while capturing photos. They range from his childhood in Beecher Terrace, his service to our country in the naval forces, and on to photo shoots for Jet Magazine.

When America heard of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death on April 4, 1968, Louisville had rioting in the street.  Survival was not guaranteed on 28th & Greenwood Streets, Dorsey says, because it was the police who started the riots.  If you have lived in Louisville but haven’t been to the West End, you will see what Dorsey witnessed in this collection of his photographs.

Mr. Dorsey also includes photos of folks from around the country in the music industry, such as  James Brown and Michael Jackson, and political activists like Anne Braden and Dick Gregory.

A tour de force for local history and visual art, this book shows the compassion of West Louisville from its past to the present, with hope for the future.

[Editor’s Note:  An exhibit of Mr. Dorsey’s photographs from Available Light are on display at the the Muhammad Ali Center until January 5, 2018]

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”

While The Shadow of the Wind is not the first book to have found its way into my heart, the story and its characters most certainly sculpted a palace in my memory, a labyrinthine palace populated by a wide assemblage of characters.

The Shadow of the Wind takes place in Barcelona, Spain, in the years after the Spanish Civil War, which, as with many civil wars, was especially bloody and brutal.  The protagonist, a young boy named Daniel Sempere, assists his father in the family-owned bookstore.

When Daniel is ten years old, his father takes him to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a secret and magical library where books consigned to oblivion are kept waiting for the day when a reader discovers them.  On this occasion, since this is Daniel’s first visit, he is allowed to choose a book.

And it is his particular selection and the mystery surrounding its author, Julian Carax, that begins a quest for Daniel in which he journeys into the shadows of Barcelona in search of answers, a journey in which he meets both friend and foe and learns a great deal about life along the way.

This is a captivating story peppered with mystery and suspense, love and hate, humor and terror with these elements combining to form a true tour de force.

“Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens.” 

And I would say that The Shadow of the Wind has tremendous spirit and strength.

– Reviewed by Rob, Crescent Hill

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One is a fun and thoroughly enjoyable romp across the world both real and virtual in the year 2044.  For those of us that grew up during the 1980’s, it is also a very nostalgic romp full of references to things such as Rubik’s Cubes, Pac Man games and 80’s movies. In addition, if you are a fan of the Canadian rock band Rush as I am, you are in for a treat!!!

Ready Player One is set in the not so distant future. It’s the year 2044 and the world isn’t a good place. Reality is so bad for most people that they experience their lives mostly through their avatars in an online virtual world called OASIS. A unique opportunity arises when James Halliday — the 1980’s obsessed computer guru that created OASIS — dies and lets the world know that he has left a series of puzzles that lead to an Easter Egg in OASIS. Whoever solves the puzzles and finds the Easter Egg first wins the ultimate prize…Halliday’s massive fortune and control of his corporation.

In Halliday’s video will that was released upon his death, he left a clue:

“Three hidden keys open three secret gates

Wherein the errant will be tested for worthy traits

And those with the skill to survive these straits

Will reach The End where the prize awaits.”

Halliday also left a clue in a book he wrote that contained a puzzle to help people know where to begin hunting for the first clue.

“The Copper Key awaits explorers

In a tomb filled with horrors

But you have much to learn

If you hope to earn

A place among the high scorers.”

Our hero — Wade Watts, AKA Parzival — is a student and like countless others, has been obsessed for years with trying to solve the puzzle that Halliday left. The ‘gunters’ (shortened version of egg hunters) teach themselves about 1980’s movies, pop culture and video games to better equip themselves for solving the puzzles. It has been years since Halliday’s death and still no one has solved the first part of the puzzle. Parzival suddenly makes a connection and figures out the location of where to begin the quest. As he solves the first puzzle and gets the first key, he appears on the Scoreboard which attracts the attention of the whole world. He embarks upon a deadly, epic quest to solve the puzzles along with many others who are close at his heels.

Will he get there in time? Read and find out!!!

— Review by Marci, Fairdale

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss

Phenomenal book! Full of brilliant brave, strong women! It’s Charlie’s Angels as if written by Mary Shelley! I can’t use enough exclamation points!

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter includes all of the gothic horror of Moreau, Hyde/Jekyll, Holmes and Watson, Dracula and Van Helsing. I didn’t think it was possible to put all of my favorite things in one story but Goss did it.

The story begins with Mary Jekyll, who has just buried her mother and is orphaned and broke and desperate for a way to make money. She’s also very interested in the secrets of her father’s shadowy past…one clue leads her to believe that if she could locate her father’s former friend, Edward Hyde, there is a reward for his capture and this could solve some of her urgent money troubles.

But her hunt leads her to Hyde’s daughter, Diana, a wild, untamed and hilarious young girl suddenly shoved into Mary’s care. With the help of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Mary becomes involved in a spectacular adventure and mystery and befriends more remarkable women, all of whom have been created through frightening experiments.
The women uncover a secret society of wicked scientists and they band together to fight the forces of evil and take back their identities.

It’s such a fun read, I highly recommend reading it as I did with the windows open and rain falling outside, crisp fall air and a large ginger cat at your feet. Or another colored cat, doesn’t have to be a ginger. Or a dog. Whatever your preference. But it’s the perfect book to curl up with during the autumn season.

Review by Heather, St. Matthews

Women and the Square Circle

Women’s wrestling appears to be garnering interest with the public again due, I surmise, in part to the rise in popularity of the Netflix show GLOW (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling).  Stepping into the square this year are two books which throw a spot light on the world of women in the ring.

The first is Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women’s Wrestling by Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy. It offers short biographies of several athletes from around the globe and their journey into the world of female wrestlers. Two of the women are from Kentucky whose paths led them from an attraction at a freak show in a circus to a tag team matched up again male wrestling tag teams.  While some will see wrestling as a charade, which by in large it is, the performers/wrestlers display athletic prowess and drive to do whatever it takes to get ahead even if it results in broken bones or missing teeth, as displayed in the book.

Pat Laprade and Dan Murphy present a good mix of information, past and present, up to the latter half of 2016, as well as images of each female wrestler. There is still enough mystery in the field of women’s wrestling to keep the reader wondering what the future may hold for this rough and tumble sport.  If shows like GLOW are of interest or if wrestling draws your attention check out this latest non-fiction title.

My other selection is entitled Crazy is my Superpower: How I Triumphed by Breaking Bones, Breaking Hearts, and Breaking the Rules by AJ Mendez Brooks

As in many autobiographies/memoirs, there is a mixture of good, bad and ugly. Brooks’ book is no different. Memories of her early years show the hardships – being bullied as a child and being raised by her older siblings – while her parents worked just to keep food on the table.  As a child, Brooks was drawn to the world of wrestling as she watched the excitement in the ring and the fancy ring attire.  She also struggled with anorexia and depression but she always knew she wanted to be in the ring, at the center of attention.  

At one point in the book she talks of traveling to a plethora of different venues around the States and Mexico.  Each chapter builds Brooks’ story and brings the reader along on her journey to the ring. There are lists at the end of the chapters in which Brooks’ rates her experiences.

Formats Available:  Book

Reviewed by MicahShawnee Branch

Are You A Fan?

Random Fandom is returning on

Saturday, September 23, 2017, 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Let your geek flag fly!

This day-long convention of all things fandom returns to the Southwest Regional Library.

Join us for a day of child, adult, and family programming, vendors, gaming, food trucks, and contests.

Register at the door, or go to www.lfpl.org/RandomFandom to sign up online.

Location: 

Southwest Regional Library

9725 Dixie Highway
LouisvilleKY USA 40272
Phone: 502-933-0029
Website: Click to Visit