Thursday, May 17, 2012

Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence

The shortlist for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction and Nonfiction were just announced. The awards were established in 2012 to recognize the best fiction and nonfiction books for adult readers published in the U.S. the previous year. The winners will be announced at ALA's annual convention in June. The finalists are:

 In Fiction:

Lost Memory of Skin by Russell Banks
An intelligent and fearlessly sympathetic portrait of a group of society’s outsiders—sex offenders—that illuminates the moral complexities at the heart of our justice system.

The Forgotten Waltz by Anne Enright
The vicissitudes of extramarital love and the obstructions to its smooth flow—including spouses, children, and the necessary secrecy surrounding an affair—are charted in sharp yet supple prose.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
This dazzlingly inventive first novel introduces 12-year-old gator-wrestling Ava Bigtree and her eccentric family, whose lives (and the Florida theme park they run) straddle the boundaries between the real and the surreal.
For Nonfiction:

 The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick
A comprehensive study describing the melodious interplay between science and literature documents the transmission of human knowledge from talking drums to the Internet.

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
This definitive work on the life of the Malcolm X corrects previous misconceptions and offers new information about the charismatic leader’s life and death during the turbulent years of the civil rights era.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert Massie
A compulsively readable biography of the fascinating woman who, through a combination of luck, personality, and a fine mind, rose from her birth as a minor German princess to become the Empress of all the Russias.
Who is your pick?  (I'm pulling for Russell Banks, although I haven't read the Enright book, which is probably phenomenal.)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Downton Abbey Fever

Like so many others, I caught the Downton Abbey fever. I ploughed through seasons 1 and 2 and now I'm left waiting until 2013 for season 3. What to do? Fortunately, so many readers have come up with read-alike suggestions for books to tide us over while we wait. I found two great reads that hit the spot.

While not set during the exact same time period as Downton, Daisy Goodwin's novel The American Heiress takes place few years before. Think a young Cora Crawley as she is just married to Earl Grantham. At the turn of the 20th century, wealthy American heiress Cora Cash is seeking a husband that will give her a title. While visiting England, she meets the Duke of Wareham, one of the most eligible bachelors in the country. The Duke needs an infusion of money to maintain his estate and lifestyle, so Cora's money makes her an appealing choice. The two quickly become engaged and marry. Despite it being a very advantageous marriage for both parties, Cora and the Duke seem to love each other as well. But the Duke's frequent lapses into silent and distant moods and the whispers and rumors that Cora picks up, leave her wondering about her husband's love life before their marriage. The story captures the fascinating details of the lives of English royalty as well as those who lived below stairs.

Did you know that there are still countesses and duchesses living in castles in England? There are. Lady Fiona Carnarvon is the Countess of Carnarvon and currently lives in Highclere Castle, which readers will recognize as Downton Abbey. Highclere is the setting for Downton and much of its own history is incorporated into the series. In Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle, Carnarvon details the real life of the former Countess of Carnarvon, who like Cora Crawley, brought an infusion of wealth to Highclere Castle and did much for her country during World War I. Almina was also a wealthy heiress, and used much of her wealth to update the Castle, including installing electricity. She threw lavish weekend parties, with royal guests, including the Prince of Wales. When her husband suffered an accident and struggled with ongoing illnesses, Almina discovered a talent and passion for nursing. When war broke out, she turned Highclere Castle into a hospital for wounded soldiers, and later as demand grew, moved the hospital to London, funding the venture with her own money. The story is filled with fascinating details of the time period, the lifestyles of the aristocracy, and the way a house like Highclere is run.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Chickens in Deerfield?

There was an article in the Deerfield Review last week about the Village discussing the possibility of allowing residents to keep chickens. I was so excited to read this! I would love to have chickens, so if the village of Deerfield decides to allow it, maybe my suburb will get on board. Keeping chickens in urban areas is becoming popular, although many people still aren't too keen on the idea. People worry about noise, cleanliness, destruction of gardens, etc. The Library just got a new book that's perfect for people who are thinking about keeping chickens, or if you just want to know a little more about keeping chickens in an urban setting. Free-Range Chicken Gardens by Jessi Bloom shows how you can keep chickens in your yard while still having a nice garden. She illustrates how to design your garden and coop and provides suggestions for plants that are chicken-friendly. She also provides descriptions of different breeds of chickens. Did you know that there are some breeds of chickens that are smaller and quieter, making them better suited to urban living? I would encourage Deerfield residents who are on the fence with the chicken issue to stop by and check out this book.

If you're interested in reading more about urban farming, check out our ebook, The Backyard Homestead Guide to Raising Farm Animals by Gail Damerow. It's a great resource for keeping animals such as chickens, bees and goats.