Staff Picks: Books

Staff-recommended reading from the KPL catalog.

You Are Probably Too Busy to Read This Book

In today's world, when work and home life seem to intertwine and many of us are tethered to technology that keeps us constantly available, time is our most precious commodity.  In Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has theTime, Brigid Schulte takes a look at the U.S.'s perpetual time crunch and what makes us all in such a hurry.  Schulte offers extensive research regarding time, work, and play in the U.S. and the results are fascinating: it turns out time is gendered in our society.  Schulte argues that the myth of the "ideal worker" (an employee who puts in hours upon hours of face time in at work and will drop everything at a moment's notice for their employer) is detrimental to the health and happiness of individuals and does nothing at all to support families.  Women, particularly mothers, assumed to be the care givers in families, are the ones who suffer the most; they make less money, are less likely to rise to management levels within companies, and feel relentless pressure to be the perfect parent.  Schulte offers lots of data to back up her argument, and she suggests changes (including paid maternity/paternity leave, paid vacation, flexible work hours, more egalitarian household duties, etc.) that she thinks would offer better support to families and in turn generate happy, healthy, and productive workers.

I found this book extremely interesting to read despite a topic that, handled differently, could have easily been boring; it made me look at structures in our society that are taken for granted and realize that, yes, we can have more time, better gender equality, and still be a productive society.  I do wish more attention was paid to how low income families and people of color are impacted by "the overwhelm" as the author describes it-although Schulte occasionally addresses both income and race, there's plenty more that could have been discussed along those lines.  Despite that flaw, I came away from this book with the feeling that the topic of time--both work and leisure--is incredibly important to discuss and that a cultural shift in how we think about time could have a huge, positive impact on our society. 

Book

Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time
9780374228446

 

CaitlinH

Isa Does It Again

Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a familiar name to many vegans; she’s written a number of vegan cookbooks, including the classic Veganomican, an essential recipe collection and culinary guide for those who avoid cooking with animal products, and she has a popular website focusing on vegan baking and cooking, Post Punk Kitchen. Her latest cookbook endeavor is Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildy Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week, and let’s just say I’m in love. Isa Does It is chock full of over 200 delicious and easy-to-make recipes, highlighted by beautiful photos and charming illustrations. As with all her recipes that I’ve made, I’ve found them to be fairly quick (between a half-an-hour to an hour to make) and layered with complex flavors. This is a great cookbook for people who aren’t vegan, too; as a vegetarian, I find I’m occasionally disappointed by vegan cookbooks because they use a lot of uncommon ingredients or dairy replacements that I wouldn’t want to buy. Isa Does It relies on fairly common ingredients, making it a great choice for not only vegans, but also for vegetarians and for omnivores looking for ideas for “Meatless Mondays.”

Book

Isa Does It

9780316221900
CaitlinH

Men We Reaped

Jesmyn Ward won the 2011 National Book Award for fiction with her book Salvage the Bones, a novel that follows a poor Mississippi family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina and uses their story to confront issues of poverty and racism.  Ward’s new book Men We Reaped continues the discussion of poverty and race, but this time the stakes seem even higher: Men We Reaped is a memoir centering on the death of five men, in as many years,  in her small DeLisle, Mississippi community.  All five men touched her life in some manner, but the heart of the book lies with the death of her beloved brother Joshua.  Though the circumstance of each death varies, they are inevitably linked by unyielding poverty and deeply systemic racism.

Interspersed between the stories of their deaths, Ward tells stories of her childhood; the nonlinear storyline of the book unwinds like a puzzle—as more pieces of her childhood and details of her community are revealed, the issues that tie the deaths together become more apparent, and her feelings that the black men in her community are being stolen away are understandable.  Ward knows the hopelessness, the fear, and sadness left behind when a community loses its men; this is her attempt to tell their stories and let the world know that their lives mattered.

Book

Men We Reaped
9781608195213
CaitlinH

Eleanor and Park

One of my favorite things about reading a novel is when I come across one with characters so believable, so engaging, that I think about them for days after I’ve finished the book.  Eleanor and Parkwas just one of those books for me, and I nearly decided not to read it because it was labeled as young adult fiction.  Based on the recommendation of someone whose opinion I trusted, I put my teen lit prejudices aside and found I couldn’t put the book down once I had picked it up.  Eleanor and Park are sixteen in 1986, social outcasts, and falling in love over comic books and New Wave.  I’m certain I would have been friends with them in high school.

Tension in the novel arises from Eleanor’s home life—she lives in poverty with an abusive stepfather.  Her situation is a tough one, and it’s heartbreaking, but author Rainbow Rowell manages present her story in a realistic way without turning it into a schmaltzy after-school special.  I consider the absence of schmaltz a major feat since this is basically a story about two socially awkward teenagers falling in love for the first time, and it’s ripe with opportunities for sentimentality.  This book is good for anyone, teen or adult, who likes great character development.

Book

Eleanor and Park
9781250012579
CaitlinH

This Is Not a Diet Book!

While reading two books, The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Two Whole Cakes, I came across references to a movement called “Health at Every Size (HAES).”  Unfamiliar with the phrase, I did a little research and found a book called Health at Every Size: the Surprising Truth about Your Weight by Linda Bacon.  In her book, Bacon discusses obesity and dieting and concludes that humans have evolved to store fat well, but not to lose it.  She uses scientific studies (she herself is a scientist) to back up her argument that diets don’t work and that a number on scale does not determine a person’s health or wellbeing.  Bacon urges people not to look at food (any food) as good or bad, but to listen to their bodies and eat food that makes them feel their best—energized and  strong.  She also encourages readers to incorporate more activity into their daily lives, but to focus on activity that is enjoyable and not a chore. 

This is not a diet book; in fact it’s the opposite: Bacon advises people to pay attention the way their bodies feel in relation to food and movement to improve health, not to lose weight.  I really, really liked this book; it was incredibly refreshing to read a book talking about health that urges you to listen to your body, to trust it to tell you what you need—I’d rather trust myself with my health than a diet industry that makes a huge profit selling people one particular body ideal.

Book

health at every size: the surprising truth about your weight
9781935618256
CaitlinH
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