Reader's Link - April 2010 Staff Picks Archive


Natural genius

Planting the natural garden

Title: Planting the natural garden
By: Piet Oudolf

Piet Oudolf is the genius behind extraordinary gardens at Chicago’s Millenium Park & New York’s Battery and just-opened (2009) High Line parks. His characteristic swathes of grasses and indigenous perennials are a perfect fit for “natural” landscape designs, including so-called green roofs. This is the rare gardening/landscape design book that is valuable as much for its text as for its (excellent) photographs.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction
Posted by curious on April 29, 2010 at 4:22 p.m.
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I can't wait to visit a salt mine!

Salt: A World History.

Title: Salt: A World History.
By: Mark Kurlansky

Thanks to Mark Kurlansky, who always makes history come alive - I learned that simple salt has not always been simple, in fact, man's need for salt and its manufacturing process helped shape civilization. He writes about how salt influenced trade routes, dynasties, and empires, from ancient Egypt, to China, to Portuguese explorers, and includes the Eastern Seaboard states and the whaling industry. He explores the important need for salt in our bodies and also in the bodies of domesticated animals (horses used in the military, for example) and the evolution of use of salt in our food. The illustrations are terrific; old mining cars and long wooden chutes that trucked workers down to underground lakes, where they made salt carvings below of entire connecting rooms, with furniture and even chandeliers! There are lots of opportunities to visit a salt mine or salt cave in America; links to the many websites which offer school trips to salt evaporation ponds and a host of science-related tours. But I especially enjoyed reading about my family's favorite hot sauce and its origin and manufacture in Avery Island, Louisiana. "Salt" goes well with Mr. Kurlansky's other fascinating book "Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World," also found here at the library.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,history
Posted by pollockl on April 22, 2010 at 7:57 a.m.
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Revenge technology

Why things bite back: technology and the revenge of unintended consequences

Title: Why things bite back: technology and the revenge of unintended consequences
By: Edward Tenner

If the words “we’re upgrading our phone system” make you go “uh-oh,” you’re ready for this book. Tenner is no technophobe. But his scientific bent leads him to wonder whether the claims made for various time- and labor-saving gizmos are accurate. Do devices free us, or complicate our lives? Do they save money, or cost us in new ways? Unsurprisingly, there’s no simple answer. But the vagaries of the human/technology interface make for a fascinating book.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction
Posted by curious on April 15, 2010 at 11:12 a.m.
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In the Land of Snow and Ice

Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name

Title: Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name
By: Vendela Vida

Clarissa Iverton is twenty-eight when her devoted father dies unexpectedly. Uncovering her birth certificate from her father's belongings, Clarissa learns that her biological father is registered as a Sami priest that her mother married in Lapland in a previous life. As Clarissa’s mother disappeared 14-years before, abandoning her and a developmentally-disabled sibling, there is no family Clarissa can turn to for answers to the burning questions she has regarding her ancestry.

Clarissa travels to Lapland in search of answers. In her travels, she meets with a cast of native Laplanders, including the Sami priest she believes to be her father, an elderly Sami woman-healer who, though unable to communicate through language, is able to nurture her body and soul when she falls ill. Clarissa also meets a tender-hearted young reindeer herder who accompanies her to a hotel made of ice. It is on Clarissa’s journey to the ice motel that she learns the bitter truth of her mother's abandonment.

This is a beautifully-rendered tale of a young woman grieving and longing for family and emotional sustenance. The setting is vivid and evocative. Lapland is the land of dreams, past and future.

View similarly tagged posts: fiction
Posted by Wildruby on April 8, 2010 at 10:10 a.m.
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"Trust me, this is an interesting place"

In a Sunburned Country

Title: In a Sunburned Country
By: Bill Bryson

Australia has more things that will kill you than anywhere else. This fact has stuck with me ever since I read In a Sunburned Country several years ago. "Of the world’s ten most poisonous snakes, all are Australian. Five of its creatures – the funnel web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish – are the most lethal of their type in the world…. It’s a tough place."

Bill Bryson's journey around Australia begins with a trip to the library to research the country in back issues of the New York Times only to find that Australia is rarely featured in the American press. He obviously found more about the country elsewhere because he has loads of facts and stories to share as he travels all over the continent.

Bryson's easy, conversational tone and way of describing his actions may have you laughing out loud. He peppers his narrative with facts and statistics about the area he's in or going to and then illustrates them with a tale or story that makes you wonder why we've never heard about this before.

This is not a tourist guide that you would use when visiting a new place. It's a travelogue. You can sit comfortably at home and read about someone else's adventures and misadventures in another country and when you are at the end of the book you can feel like you know a lot more about the country than you did when you started.

Australia is a vast country, teeming with wildlife and cheerful people. Among other things, Bryson observes, "This is a country that is at once staggeringly empty and yet packed with stuff. Interesting stuff, ancient stuff, stuff not readily explained. Stuff yet to be found. Trust me, this is an interesting place."

Trust me, this is an interesting book.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,travel
Posted by deejas on April 1, 2010 at 11:18 a.m.
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