The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

Find in catalogMichelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow has completely changed my mind about how criminal justice has worked and is currently working in the United States, and has opened my eyes to the injustice of continued use of law to force secondary citizenship on individuals, to their suffering and the benefit of others. This book is so well written that the facts stated within speak very clearly for themselves and are undeniable present once observed. Is it possible to have a required reading list for politicians and other law people? If so, this book should be on it.

Feminist fight club : an office survival manual (for a sexist workplace) by Jessica Bennett

Find in catalogThis book is aptly named! It is all about making work (and life) and little more female friendly by standing up and fighting and joining together to stick up for one another. I loved the balance of facts provided by the numerous studies cited as well as the humor that it brought to crazy situations that occur every day. It’s a great book and absolutely a delight to read and I walked aware more knowledgeable than before!

Two cleaning books: Simply Clean by Becky Rapinchuk and How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind by Dana White

Find in catalogI flipped through Simply Clean, which was very pretty and well laid out, but immediately discarded it when I saw that doing the dishes wasn’t on the daily task list. I can’t get behind any cleaning book that pretends that dishes aren’t part of cleaning! And I really can’t get behind any cleaning book that makes believe you can keep your house clean in 10 minutes a day, unless you have a tiny house, which this author definitely doesn’t because she talks about how to clean your bathrooms (plural). Which by the way, she says is to spray cleanser in one bathroom and then go to the other bathroom to spray cleanser and then go back to the first bathroom to wipe the cleanser. There’s your 10 minutes right there. This is also the kind of cleaning book that says in order to declutter a closet, you have to take everything out, wipe down the closet walls, vacuum, try everything on, and then put things back on identical hangers. Who’s got time for that (besides Marie Kondo)?

Find in catalogThat’s why I will hold up Dana White’s How to Manage Your Home without Losing Your Mind as the gold standard for realistic cleaning. Her book is really basic, but really useful, and I’ve seen changes in my house following her methods. Some of what she says is kind of obvious, but yet I wasn’t doing it regularly. Like, doing the dishes every day (but then being totally bummed out about the state of my kitchen). Other useful practices: following the “visibility rule” (clean and tidy what’s most obvious and bugging you before you do a project like decluttering the attic) and following the “container concept” (limit your belongings to what fits in a certain space; weed out the items you like least when you want to make room for new items you like more). It’s also really helpful to me to have a laundry day. She devotes two chapters to this, which could seem like overkill, but wasn’t.

Both these books have a 28 day checklist for cleaning your house, and the difference is night and day. Simply Clean has 28 cleaning projects that you do on top of your regular chores. (Again, who’s got time for that?) How to Manage Your Home says wash your dishes every day. Then if you have energy, go around your house and pick up items out of place. If you still have energy, sweep your kitchen floor. And then do it again tomorrow. And tomorrow. And just doing that will help keep your house under control so you can start tackling some larger tasks after you’ve had 28 days forming new cleaning habits. As a tired and overworked person, I appreciate that.

Junk Beautiful by Sue Whitney

Find in catalogOK. So you’re not reading this decorating book for its erudite vocabulary. (“Nifty-noodle,” “shootie doots!,” “poopdee-dooped.”) Nor for its cutting edge scientific observations. (“Research tells us we spend a third of our life sleeping.”) But you might want to browse through it for ideas and photos if you like decorating, buy a lot of stuff at yard sales, or better yet, have a lot of junk (their word) you’d like to repurpose in your outdoor spaces. Though some ideas had me shaking my head (Why would you serve sushi on an old roller skate?), others were kind of cool (using a big classroom abacus as a towel rack, posing a mannequin in old swimming togs near your pool). The book showcases 24 different outdoor spaces, from tea garden to sun room to picnic, with lots of examples for accessorizing with unusual items like enamel refrigerator drawers, naval belt buckles, vintage faucets, and even a “wee little urinal.”

Dean and Me – A Love Story by Jerry Lewis and James Kaplan

Find in catalogThe unlikely pair of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis teamed up in 1946. The world had never seen the likes of this handsome crooner and hyperactive comic, and they soon became mega stars in night clubs, radio, TV, and movies. They spent 10 years working together, then broke up as the pressures of stardom eroded their partnership. Both men went on to have very successful solo careers but there was always sadness at the loss of their friendship. This is a fascinating look at the world of entertainment in post war America.

The Latter Days by Judith Freeman

Find in catalogThis is an autobiography of the early part of the author’s life, growing up in a large Mormon family in Ogden, Utah. She was born in 1946, so it is a book about an era as well as a place and culture… and of course, about the writer’s experience in and then after leaving the church. I was interested in the subject and kept expecting more. She is a good writer, but I found myself hoping for information about her feelings, not just a description of her situation. I stayed on through the end, thinking maybe there would be more reflection at the end. There was some, but I felt a little unsatisfied.

Everything that Remains by Joshua Fields Millburn

Find in catalogA memoir of how a guy changed from being a high-rolling business man who owned 75 Brooks Brothers shirts to a blogger who owns the bare minimum. His best friend/co-minimalist adds not very illuminative end notes. I did get some good new ideas to ponder, chiefly that collecting and organizing are acceptable forms of hoarding, and that most things you keep “just in case” can be replaced for $20 in 20 minutes, so there’s no need to hang on to them. But I also found something about the tone preachy and superior, and didn’t finish the book. He talks about how on his path to becoming a minimalist he read blogs by Josh Becker, Courtney Carver, and Leo Babauta, and I would recommend these blogs, as well as his own blog The Minimalists, or his book “Essential” (review to come!) over his memoir.

Drop the Ball by Tiffany Dufu

Find in catalogI didn’t expect this book (shelved in the business center) to be so memoir-y, but I liked it anyway. Tiffany Dufu tells the path she took to successfully and equitably co-parent and co-manage her household with her husband–even when she was living in NYC and he was living in Dubai! Some of her success was specific to her circumstances (having a friend who moved in to help with childcare), some of it to her surroundings (living in a city with dry cleaning delivery), and some was adaptable to many circumstances (let things slide, know how and when to enlist your partner, take advantage of online shopping). There are many great philosophies for busy, overworked women to consider. For example, she learned to identify her top goals: love her husband, raise her children to be global citizens, support women and girls, and support sub-Saharan Africa. She changed her focus to those goals, rather than the housework. “What you do is less important than the difference you make. I didn’t want my epitaph to read ‘She got a lot of stuff done’.” She also suggests focusing your attention on where you bring the most value, rather than just doing what you’re good at, especially if you can outsource those tasks. She gives tips about how to “Delegate with Joy” and enlist your partner in helping you achieve your potential. An enjoyable and practical read!

The Joy of Swimming by Lisa Congdon

Find in catalogWith summer weather just around the corner, and last week’s announcement of Amazon Pool’s opening, it seems an opportune time to dive into “The Joy of Swimming: a Celebration of Our Love For Getting In the Water,” by Portland author and artist, Lisa Congdon.

The book is handsome, pleasing to the touch with a smooth, cool surface. The gorgeous watercolor illustrations enliven every page. Congdon – a lifelong swimmer herself – has assembled a collage of quotations, timelines, and old photographs that document our fascination with the water. There are pool rules and bathing costumes, including a history of the bikini. There are fascinating comparisons with how other cultures – Iceland, France – approach swimming.

Perhaps the heart of the book is a diverse collection of brief vignettes on the role of swimming in people’s lives. These range from nine-year-old fraternal twins, Caleb and Zion, to the eighty-eight year old woman who credits regular lap swimming with keeping her young at heart. After all, “the water doesn’t know how old you are” according to twelve-time Olympic medalist Dara Torres.

In the end, “The Joy of Swimming” focuses not just on interesting facts and history, but also on the metaphorical aspect of the experience. To quote Emerson, as Congdon does in one stunning two-page spread: “Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.”

Immerse yourself! – Connie Bennett, Library Director

On Trails by Robert Moor

At ten, Robert Moor began dreaming of hiking the Appalachian Trail. By the time he was eighteen, he howled with indignation while reading Bill Bryson’s “A Walk in the Woods” – not about Bryson’s writing, but the “cheating” by skipping portions of the trail.  A few years ago, he reviewed Bryson, Cheryl Strayed, and Paulo Coelho in a delightful New Yorker piece, “Why the Most Popular Hiking Memoirs Don’t Go the Distance,” exploring how someone can utterly fail as a hiker, while still succeed as a writer.

Some years later, with careful preparation, five-months set aside, and a purist’s attitude, Moor completed his Appalachian Trail thru-hike. And, he’s now written his own book: “On Trails: An Exploration.”  Fortunately, Moor is both an eclectic thinker and a gifted writer, and his meandering rumination on all things trail are absolutely fascinating.

It’s not just the challenge of the thru-hike – his Appalachian Trail adventures become almost a reoccurring footnote to these interconnected essays. Moor reflects on what ants and sheep show us about the origins of trails.  How trails require trust, or at least, a suspension of disbelief.  He dissects the desire lines, those short-cuts off the main path where people’s feet mark dissenting choices.  He traces connections as varied as the fossilized trail of animal life, our interstate highway system, and the origins of the Internet.

Moor argues the case that – far from being passé – we need the wisdom of trails to help us navigate our ever more complex world. And it’s done with grace and charm and elegant sentences like: “To deftly navigate this world, we will need to understand how we make trails, and how trails make us.” – Connie Bennett, Library Director