There’s something in the air this President’s Day. Call it Millard Fillmania. You’ve probably all seen the recent car commercial offering a soap-on-a-rope effigy of the forgotten statesman touted to be the first to take a bath in the White House. (This oft-repeated “fact” was actually a sly hoax perpetrated by H.L. Mencken, by the way). Then there’s John Blumenthal’s oddball romance, Millard Filmore, Mon Amour, which tells of a deeply neurotic millionaire working on a massive biography of the man. In addition to being a close runner-up among eye-catching presidential titles to Lydia Millet’s George Bush: Dark Prince of Love, it surely has one of the most improbable subject headings in history: Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874 — Influence — Fiction. But the real tipping point for the Millard Fillmore revival has to be George Pendle’s delightfully daft The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President. Taking Mencken’s antic impulse and running with it, Pendle brings forth little-known aspects of our nation’s 13th president, such as his piratical origins, his minstrel show days, his curious disguise during the battle for the Alamo, and his invention of the T-Shirt, all culled from Fillmore’s recently rediscovered “napkin doodles.” Not since Forrest Gump has one man done so much for an ungrateful world. And surely it isn’t just my being a librarian that has me in stitches over the index, with its helpful entries for “Clothes – eating of, 7-8. -refusal to wear, 14. Commas 1-243. Conclusions – jumped to, 34. – leapt to, 189.” etc. No worries: the library still has plenty of real books about Millard for kids doing reports on him. And those presidential napkin doodles? We have those, too.
A quick update for President’s Day: Fillmore Fever continues to sweep the nation. Check out this cool Waiting-for-Guffmanesque Millard Fillmore Musical, The Accidental President, on Youtube, including such numbers as No One Will Remember Me, How Lonesome This World Is, Out There, and my personal favorite, It Has to Have a Window Seat!
Why is our book Home Cheese Making : Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses so popular? Perhaps because it’s authored by home cheesemaking superstar Ricki Carroll. In Seattle, local artisan cheese is readily available at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. A cheese festival takes place each year, even though we are far from Wisconsin. It’s highly likely that some Seattleites have chosen to take their adoration for cheese a step further and make it themselves, with milk from their own goats. If you haven’t already heard, last September the Seattle City Council voted unanimously to allow miniature goats to be kept as pets. They are an urban sustainabilist’s dream: they can mow a lawn or eat a blackberry bush and produce milk without use of fossil fuels. So yes, Seattleites can now make cheese with milk straight from their own backyards!
Where would you stay if you were able to visit ancient Rome, say in 200 AD? What would you have for dinner? Where would you go for entertainment? What tips would help you survive on those mean, mean, streets? Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day by Philip Matyszak purports to be a travel guide for back then, not for use in touring today’s Rome of ruins and broken monuments. Of course, it really does help us understand current Rome’s glorious past and fallen stones by providing context for this era’s readers. Full of travel advice for ancient tourists and loaded with chatty suggestions about local customs, this humorous guide is a fun way to learn about life in the ancient city, and should be an great read for history buffs and for fans of historical mysteries in the Steven Saylor or Lindsey Davis line. Fine illustrations, many in color, show views from that toga-clad world.
Working the same turf but in a much more straightforward and serious way is Rome by James H. S. McGregor. This guide looks at the many historical versions of Rome that are layered on top of each other Continue reading “The Romans are here: are you ready?”
Barbara Kingsolver’s latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life is account of her family’s commitment to growing and raising their own food and to purchase only local food. Those who love Kingsolver’s writing will also enjoy learning more about her localvore lifestyle. Her family’s passion for the subject is wonderfully brought forth in this deeply personal chronicle. As the book cycles through the seasons, Kingsolver conveys her appreciation for everything that grows in her garden and barn, from spring’s first asparagus stalk to Thanksgiving’s heirloom turkeys. She emphasizes how in-season foods taste the best and are nutritionally superior when harvested ripe. Daughter Camille and husband Steven make readers aware of political issues surrounding the local food movement and demonstrate how simple seasonal home cooking can be. This book will appeal to anyone concerned about where their food comes from. Even though the book addresses some political issues, readers will love this memoir for the passion Kingsolver brings to every bit of life on her farm.
I love nonfiction that keeps me interested in the topic long after I have finished the book. For me, the lasting effect of this book is a stronger commitment to eating locally. This past Thanksgiving, I made a pledge to eat local and I purchased only food grown in Washington State. I did most of my Thanksgiving grocery shopping at my Seattle neighborhood Farmer’s Market . Yum! Stay tuned for more on the local food movement.
Book groups may occasionally select a biography or a nonfiction title to discuss, but few — except the Nonfiction Book Group here at the Library — are devoted to exclusively reading and discussion nonfiction titles. New members are always welcome! The group meets on the third Tuesday of each month at noon on the 8th Level of the Central Library. We read and discuss non-fiction books with a strong focus on biography. Check out our upcoming selections:
March 18: His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph Ellis
April 15: My Invented Country by Isabelle Allende
May 20: Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
June 17: Truth and Beauty: A Friendship by Ann Patchett
July 15: Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
August 19: Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy.