All posts tagged "non-fiction"

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Herbalicious Summer

Now, I don’t possess the greenest thumb in the garden, but nature has a way of boosting one’s self-esteem in horticultural matters if you just throw some herbs in a modest patch of soil or containers filled with good soil. The backyard planter box that my wife and I tend to and cultivate has given us endless supplies of chives, cilantro, parsley, thyme, and an absolute abundance of Ocimum Basilicum, otherwise known to regular Joes like you and me as sweet basil. The luscious and verdantly green leaves of our basil varieties have made for some righteously adequate pesto alla Genovese, pistou Provençal, and basil infused concoctions such as chicken with Thai Holy Basil to vodka and basil gimlets. So you can keep your ubiquitously oversized zucchini squash and, yes, I will accept the occasional tomatoes and eggplants, but an herb garden will almost surely bring you much culinary contentment and fragrant interludes in the kitchen and elsewhere. Check out some of these great books on herb gardening if you need further, and more scientific, inspiration:


cover image of Grow Cook Eatcover image of The Cook's Herb Gardencover image of Herb Gardening from the Ground Up


While we’re at it, let’s honor the efforts of the Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County and all of the great and informative programs they provide to the libraries of SJPL and in the community in general. Just check the "Home & Garden Events" links (right of the page) to see some of their timely and educational offerings now and throughout the year.

Books on the Art of the Poster

cover image of "All of Us or None"cover image of "Revolucion!"cover image of "Art for Obama"

We are surrounded by a cultural windfall of so many venues for viewing fine arts in the Bay Area. Last summer I had the serendipitous pleasure of stumbling upon a great exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California entitled All of Us or None: Social Justice Posters of the San Francisco Bay Area. This collection of unique local history provides an archival trove of beautiful poster art, some of them recognizable images of various eras, for which we have an accompanying catalog for that show in the California Room of the King Library. This show coincided at about the same time the New York Times was writing this piece about the revolutionary & radical roots of Oakland from the Black Panthers to the recent Occupy movement to remind us of a period and a place which is known for its fervent willingness to express social outrage, whether you support those expressions and ideas or not. Now, unfortunately, we have but the one solitary copy of the All of Us or None catalog in a location that is for library use only, but this being the internet/social media era and all (whooo!) I can share this link which will get you to the entire archive of the poster collection for your viewing pleasure.


Now, it would seem that nothing brings out the creative art of the poster quite like global politics and individual propaganda (well, maybe music?), so here are a couple of additional great-looking titles to share that might be worth a look as well: ¡Revolución!: Cuban Poster Art and Art for Obama: Designing Manifest Hope and the Campaign for Change. In the end though, nothing quite trumps opposition and political outrage as a vehicle for a determined creativity. I’m guessing that Ernesto "Che" Guevara will forever outsell our 44th President in long-standing sales of pop culture imagery and for that reason I’m thinking that poor Che continues to roll in his dusty grave. ¡Viva el capitalismo!

Science and Tattoo Obsessed

cover image of Science Ink

 To be perfectly honest, I’ve grown tired of looking at other people’s tattoos … and yet I can’t avert my gaze completely. Because in spite of my claim of disinterest, I can still recall that waitress in Portland with the dramatic Steel Bridge across her shapely arm and, of course, a lot depends on the canvas, but that’s another story.


So it wasn’t without some mild interest that I picked up this book Science Ink by Carl Zimmer to see just what separates “Tattoos of the Science Obsessed” from the rest of us, whether we have some ink on our bodies or not. It’s a somewhat predictable, yet educational visual and verbal attempt to share what individuals who occupy places in the world of Science, academia or otherwise, want to have inked on their skin. The book is broken up into chapters of scientific fields, so we gather the following: Paleontologists like dinosaurs and fossils as much as Chemistry people can appreciate molecular diagrams of, say, Diazepam. So yes, the book is predictable on that level, but it’s also a clever vehicle to ask just what is an Uffington Horse, or Buckyballs, and who would tattoo Siphonophores on their ankle for that matter?


These individuals are dedicated to their obvious interests and the concept of this book works if you appreciate skin art, the sciences, or some odd combination of both that lead to finding yourself gazing at pages of tattooed science geeks. Fun reading, now if only they’d publish more books about other self-obsessed people who want to tell you their life story via their epidermal canvas. Wait, that didn’t come out right. Anyway, I say check it out!

For the Record: Vinyl Rules

cover image of book The Record: Contemporary Art and VinylSometimes a book deserves recognition because, like any object, it resonates beauty, visual admiration, an overall aesthetic charm shall we say. 


This particular book The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl manages to correlate a gem of a book with the appeal of album cover art . . . a clever and appropriate match. In addition to some fine displays of vinyl records as symbols of art and culture we have some great essays from notable writers like Jeff Chang, Luc Sante, and others extolling the virtues of vinyl records in a world that has traded convenience (digital files, mp3) for the true soul of musical representation in vinyl. Well, that's my feeling anyway, let me know if you object or care to dispute the sentiment. So, yeah, I chose to blog this title primarily because it's a great looking piece of book cover art, but it's really much more than that, especially if you have an enduring love affair with vinyl records and remember what it's like to drop that needle to the groove of your preferred auditory vices.


I got my copy through the Link+ catalog (thank you UNLV!) because our one copy was on loan at the moment, so don't forget about the benefits of this great DIY interlibrary loan service.

Dust Off Those Hiking Boots

cover image of 101 Great HikesPeriodically we have to remind ourselves, as denizens of this part of the world, that we live in a region brimming with natural beauty. What better way is there to appreciate the natural world than to take a stroll through the majesty of our parks and open space preserves here in Northern California and, in fact, the Greater Bay Area in general.


For my money, springtime in the Bay Area is the best time of the year for hiking the variety of beautiful trails, regions, and biospheres that we're lucky to have access to on a regular basis 'round these here parts. The hills are verdant and green, the waterfalls and creeks are as full as they're gonna get, and wildflowers rule the grassy regions unlike any other time of the year. That being said, get yourself ready for those planned outings on your "must-do" list or the spontaneous opportunities that exist with a book like 101 Great Hikes of the San Francisco Bay Area. There are plenty of other books to guide you if you need help, but the important part is to just get out there and breathe the cool air of hiking freedom.


A couple of my favorite local hikes: Sunol Loop in the Sunol Regional Wilderness & the Old Landing Cove Trail at Wilder Ranch State Park in Santa Cruz.

A Short History of Nearly Everything

Cover of A Short History of Nearly Everything


Review by volunteer Robert D.


Bill Bryson is quickly becoming well known for his humor and wit while tackling subjects that are often delivered in dry, dense books.  Those who have checked out his new book, At Home: A Short History of Private Life, are familiar with the way Bryson wanders from subject to subject.  In A Short History of Nearly Everything, he starts at the very beginning with the Big Bang and the sarcastic roots of that name.  Bryson's humor is well paired with topics such as the knock-down, drag-out personal battles between scientists over things such as fossils or the subject of continental drift.  Bryson has managed to do the impossible, to make science and history fun for the average person to read and explain its context in a way that's understandable to the average person.


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