The Romans are here: are you ready?

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?”

Localvore Love

avm.gifBarbara 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.

The War in fiction, part 1: Europe

beardless.jpgA War is not one story, but many.

Here is the first of three lists of fiction that views the war through many eyes, reflecting the diverse experiences of civilians and soldiers around the world whose lives were drawn into the Second World War.

  • Articles of War by Nick Arvin. Sent to Normandy in 1944, Iowa farm boy George ‘Heck’ Tilson’s all-too-human response to the war’s perilous chaos – to run away – will lead him through the fire towards an unforeseen and terrible duty.
  • Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris. Now sixty and a widow, Framboise Dartigen returns to her childhood village in France, to uncover painful secrets in her family’s past, and her mother’s curious relationship with the town’s German occupiers.
  • The Stalin Front by Gert Ledig. Eastern front veteran Ledig fully conveys the nightmarish enormity of total war in this gut-wrenching novel of the hell unleashed on earth when Hitler Continue reading “The War in fiction, part 1: Europe”

Nonfiction book discussions

ellis.jpgBook 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 18His 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.