nonfiction

Non-Fiction Friday: I Work at a Public Library… by Gina Sheridan

I have had a serious dry spell in good non-fiction! I read and read but haven’t loved anything enough to recommend it. Then, I picked up I Work at a Public Library, A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks, by Gina Sheridan. I initially chose the slim book because I needed one that could be read in a day for one of my reading challenges. Then I enjoyed it so much I wished it was longer! Imagine my joy when I discovered that it began as a blog and she continues to add entries. You can find the blog here.

iworkI was also interested in reading the stories because my first, third, fourth and fifth jobs were all at libraries. I worked as a page (that person who re-shelves your books), a reference assistant and later a legal reference librarian (worst.job.ever – no books!). I loved being a page because I spent my days looking at the books and seeing what people loved checking out and returning. And, in case you haven’t visited one lately, the public library is amazing people watching. Amazing. There are very few things in life I enjoy more than people watching.

Gina Sheridan embraced the people watching without making me feel like she was mocking the patrons of the library. From innocent questions about internet porn to the crazy antics of the usual customers, it was clear that these people were important to the author. And, I was incredible impressed with her diplomatic answers to some truly rude and probing questions.

For a small taste: One entry on her blog from December 2017 reads,

“Today a patron brought in his own (large) TV and game console and set them up in a study room. He played for hours with no explanation or disruption.”

This is what I love about the public library. It’s public but for many people it is their home away from home. And they treat it just like it belongs to them – for better or worse.

I really enjoyed this funny quick read but the last chapter, the one that focuses on the patrons that return to thank their librarians, made me happy-cry. Librarians are heroes and Gina’s humurous book and blog embrace the beautiful and sometimes weird things our librarians do for all of us.


Tell me, please!

Do you love your public library? 


nonfiction

Awkward, The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome by Ty Tashiro

I am awkward. I don’t mean to be and I certainly don’t want to be, but I am. One of the worst things I do is talk to much. If I’m in a situation where I don’t want to be or I’m nervous I…blather. I will also talk too much when I am excited about a subject matter. And I have a lot of things that excite me. Then, I get home and I re-imagine the whole thing and I physically cringe. For days. I have developed mechanisms and mantras to try and control it but, sometimes, I just cannot. It is one of my many, but most certainly my most obvious awkward feature.

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So, when I saw Awkward, The Science of Why We’re Socially Awkward and Why That’s Awesome by Ty Tashiro I had to read it. In the book the author covers many of his own awkward tendencies and the awkward mannerisms of some his friends. And he explains, for some people, why these awkward tendencies happen. And, more importantly, why some people are just more awkward than others.

I think the thing I have most in common with the author is my intense self-reflection. I have had a running commentary happening in my mind my whole life. I wonder about all kinds of things about myself and other people all of the time. And, many times, without asking for guidance I have tried to be less socially awkward only to fail miserably. Truthfully, as the book explains, while I was wondering about things I was probably missing the social information people were giving me. For those that don’t know what awkward feel like, the author’s was able to recall and willing to share his own personal awkward shameful moments to help the reader understand.

And, as the author points out several times throughout the book, being awkward has its rewards. Many (but not all!) awkward people are gifted individuals driven in their field. For me, my awkwardness and lack of social success has given me loads of time to read and study and take on a ridiculous number of hobbies. While I don’t consider myself an introvert, I would probably always rather stay home and work on something that interests me than meet up with friend. And, when I do meet up with friends I know I need to take a minute before I walk into a social situation to try and stay calm to avoid talking too much.

That is where the book really shines. Unlike many books about subsections of our society, the author clearly states that while being awkward can be seen in a positive light, awkwardness is not an excuse for anti-social or abnormal behavior. You can embrace the awesomeness of your awkward personality up to the point that it inhibits your ability to be part of society.

If you are awkward or you know someone who is awkward or you work with awkward children, this book is a revelation.


 

FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017 · nonfiction · Uncategorized

Frighteningly Good Read #17

It is October 29th and the gimme-some-candy moment of Trick or Treat is almost upon us. I have been reading so very many books. Sadly, there have been none which I feel confident recommending at this time. Fortunately, I stumbled across this delightful book which we might all need either for a last minute labor intensive costume making session.

costumeThe Costume Making GuideCreating Armor & Props for Cosplay by Svetlana Quindt is a mind-blowing introduction to how people make cosplay accessories and armor. I have been to one or two events which involved Cosplay but I have never understood how people really put together their outfits. I mean, they sell pieces at the conventions but a single item can set you back $100 so I couldn’t imagine building a whole costume!

But, in The Costume Making Guide, Svetlana aka Kamui Cosplaygives steller tips on how to make cosplay excessories and weapons that look so incredibly real out of regular materials (think saran wrap and duct tape) that I feel anyone could make some armor given the time and the know how provided in this book. And, by this time in October you either have your costume, you are not wearing one this year, or you are regretting not putting one together. Honestly, I found myself just last night on Pinterest looking at, “last minute costumes, stuff around house.”

But with this book I am going to try and make some Wonder Woman arm shields and pair it with regular clothing for an under-the-cover WW. Actually, Kamui Cosplay’s website has a number of other amazing ideas and books but I am pretty tickled with the idea of the arm shields so I am going to try it!

With only two days left in Frighteningly Good Reads I need to put down the stacks and stacks of books (both good and bad) and take a minute to make some kind of costume and I am really thankful to have found this book in time!


Tell me, please!

Do you celebrate Halloween? Are you dressing up?


 

FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017 · nonfiction

Frighteningly Good Reads #5

I purchased a copy of The Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells by Judika Illes on a whim a couple of years ago and I use it all of the time. I am really fascinating by different religions and beliefs systems and I was curious about the spells. Alright, honestly, I was extremely frustrated with a situation in my life and there is a whole chapter on The Evil Eye. Sold.

excyclopediaThis Encyclopedia not only offers the spells but also gives fascinating reference information and background knowledge. As a self described, “inclusive encyclopedia and reference book,” The Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells feels comprehensive to me but honestly, I have no basis for that opinion. I only know that when I wish there was a spell for something this book has five options.

For example, I know I have mentioned before that I struggle with insomnia. Sometimes, I try to be a good little Catholic and pray on it but, as far as I can tell, there is not a Patron Saint of Sleep. So, I like to try some of the Insomnia Spells – there are at least 10. My favorite is the Insomnia Bath.

  1. Gently warm goats’ or ideally, sheep’s milk (as in counting sheep),
  2. Blend true almond extract and several drops of essential oil of lavender into the warm milk so that the fragrance pleases you.
  3. Add to a tub filled with warm water before bedtime.

After one of these baths (I can never find sheep’s milk and sometimes I use almond milk) I feel better, I’m more tired and I am usually able to sleep. Not to mention, I smell good and my skin looks nourished.

I’m also a frequent user of a domination spell (stay with me! It’s not what you think!) which is called the “Kick a Stone Spell”. Basically, you find a small stone and name it after the person who is making you insane. Imagine the most annoying person at school or work and go from there. After naming it you drop it, kick it around (not to hurt it, just to envision that you are in control) and talk to the rock about what you want it to do. This is probably effective for me since it is like a dry run of being assertive. I also find it very enjoyable. Its cathartic. And hilarious for any onlookers.

The Encyclopedia’s bibliography is pages and pages of references. I cannot imagine the work that went into creating this tome. I feel almost rude in the fun way I use this wonderful book but I cannot help it. The spells and information fascinate me.

If you are at all interested in spells I highly recommend The Encyclopedia of 5,000 Spells the Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts by Judika Illes as a Frighteningly Good Read. I keep mine right next to my Bible.


Tell me, please!

Would you ever try casting a spell?


 

FrighteninglyGoodRead · Halloween2017 · nonfiction

Frighteningly Good Reads #2

I think it is clear that I love books. I also love themes. And, when the weather turns cold I really enjoying cooking again. So, when I picked up The Wizard’s Cookbook by Aurelia Beaupommier, it might as well have said, “Property of Molly Mack,” on the inside.


wizardscookbookThis FrighteninlyGoodRead has magically recipes inspired by such favorites as; Harry PotterThe Wizard of Oz, the delightful Nanny McFeeThe Lord of the Rings and so many more. The first thing I am going to make is The Elven Waybread or Lembas bread. I’m going to try and make some green napkins that look like leaves to wrap them in for my lunch.

Some of the food, treats and drinks in this cookbook look nothing like the way I imagined them. They look better. The full page photographs and small blurbs explaining their origin help really excite my interest in the recipe as well as invigorating my desire to re-read so many books! I enjoy the way the author gives a simple list of ingredients and directions and then adds in extra modern technology. For example, in the recipe for Gandalf’s Pick-me-up beverage the fruits are to be crushed in a mortar (or food processor). Similarly, if you want to make Hippogriff en Papillote you can substitute ostrich meat for the hard to find Hippogriff. Even ostrich meat sounds disgusting to me but I guess a black magician has to eat too.

Obviously, my favorite part is the beverages. I may not have time to whip up Harry’s favorite little steak and kidney pies. But, I think sipping one of Snape’s nice Memory Potions with my PB&J or adding genuine Butterbeer to my evening ice cream just sounds so heavenly. The deserts are also just up my alley too and I cannot wait to finally make and taste one of the White Witch’s Turkish delights.

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The Wizard’s Cookbook is a great addition to any cookbook collection with the added benefit of both the beautiful cover and the delicious looking, thematically fun recipes. I am going to display it in my kitchen for all of October and torture my friends and family with the receipes throughout the year. So, get out your Cauldrons, grab a copy and make something delicious!


Tell me, please!

Do you love thematic cooking?

Is there a treat from a book you’ve always wanted to taste?


 

nonfiction

Non-Fiction Friday #5: Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

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menexplainWhenever I come across an author or a concept that I haven’t heard before I like to read a book about it. Recently, a group of people were talking about “mansplaining” – which I thought was a very funny way of describing what all women have experienced at least once.  Mansplaining is a person (usually a man) explaining things to another (usually a woman) in a condescending or patronizing manner. This is the classic, “I had a kidney stone so I know exactly what it is like to be pregnant,” comment. I know, I know. I am way behind (years) on this but I blame my refusal to use Twitter until this year.

Mansplaining lead me to Rebecca Solnit‘s Men Explaining Things to Me. While she is credited with creating the idea of mansplaining she explains in the book that she did not come up with the word. Also, she has doubt about the term and doesn’t use it much herself.

I must back up for a moment and say I never sought out any feminist writing or took a woman’s study class in college. It never occurred to me that people would view me differently simply because I was a woman. I also rarely kept up with national or international news or I would have known that I my experience and mindset was not typical.

Which leads me back to Men Explain Things to Me. I am so glad that I read it now and not when I was under my youthful disillusionment of gender equality or during the misguided years where I thought I had no more or less to fear from the world than my brother. I know that 17 year old me would not have taken this book as seriously as I do now that I have spent time in a world that does not see me as a person but rather as a women.

This short book starts with a very funny anecdote but throughout its 159 pages it marches through deep waters of inequality between men and women. The second of the seven essays, The Longest War, was very difficult for me to read as it centers around the rape crisis in our world. But, things which are difficult to read but are written with a purpose always spurn me into action.

There were two things I really appreciated about this book. First, the author eloquently uses her depth of knowledge on the subject of gender inequality to explain how seeing women as inferior (or men as superior) has created a plethora of problems for our world. I had several mind-blown, eyes-wide-open, aha! moments reading these essays. Second, she frequently acknowledges that not all men and women fit neatly into one category or another. This, I felt, gave her writing as much credibility as her knowledge bank.

I am of the opinion that everyone should read this book. If you find yourself scoffing and dismissing the things presented by the author then I can only wonder – are you part of the problem or just not yet part of the world?


Tell me, please!

Have you read this book or others by Rebecca Solnit?

Do you agree or disagree with her opinions?

nonfiction

Non-Fiction Friday #3

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asyouwishHappy Friday! Today’s recommendation is a book I was afraid to read. Terrified, really. As You Wish, Inconceivable Tales From the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes was billed as a behind-the-scenes look at the making of one of most favorite books and films of all time. I love (love) The Princess Bride. What if there was drama on the set? Did Buttercup start a love triangle? Was Rob Reiner a terrible task master? I have heard…things about Mandy Patinkin. Will this ruin Inigo?!?  When I finally read it I was stunned at the beautiful memories Cary Elwes shared and deeply impressed by his affection for the project. There is not a single tawdry detail or negative bit of drama expressed in this book. If Cary is suppressing some things then good for him.

If you are a fan of The Princess Bride movie you will enjoy this book. Cary walks us through how he won the part of Westley, his training and thought processes during the filming. He also interviews all the major actors and we get to see their perspective and memories of filming. There are wonderful stories of how they got some shots – I especially loved reading about the stunt required for the dive into the sand in The Fire Swamp. Little details that are shared by the cast just added to my love for the movie.

If you have read the delightful book The Princess Bride by William Goldman then Cary’s book will have added delight.


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If you haven’t yet enjoyed the book – stop reading. Go purchase the book.

Its perfection.


Bill Goldman was on set for some of the filming. The book is excellent and I think one of the innumerable reasons the movie is such a hit was the filmmakers really stuck to the story that Goldman wrote and involved him in the making of the movie. Perhaps this is why it doesn’t matter whether you read the book first or watch the movie first. They share one story-soul and compliment each other beautifully.

The Princess Bride is a magical movie and making it was, apparently, a once in a lifetime experience for the cast. If you are a fan, don’t be afraid to read Cary’s book. It ended up being the sit down chat I always wanted to have with the people who made one of my favorite movies.


Tell me, please!

Are you a fan of The Princess Bride book, movie or both? 

 

nonfiction

Non-Fiction Friday #2!

A couple of years ago I was having coffee at a friend’s house when a bunch of boxes arrived. I was surprised to find that she had ordered 5 different winter boots to try on and then ship back the ones she didn’t like. Frankly, I was a little appalled. I asked her, “Why would you pay shipping to try on boots when you could just go to the store?” Then, she clued me in to Zappos’ policy of free shipping on delivery and returns. I remember thinking that this company was either amazing or doomed because this did not sound like a smart business – it was too nice!

Since Amazon acquired Zappos in a deal valued at over $1.2 billion, obviously they fell into the amazing category. And now we all know that I do not have a sound mind for business. But, what you don’t know today is just something you can learn about tomorrow!


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Which is why I am featuring Delivering Happiness, A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. After a couple of years of being a happy Zappos customer and reading about Amazon’s acquisition, I wanted to learn more. There are a lot of books that feature Zappos as examples of new business models but I wanted an inside look at the company. The author, Tony Hsieh, is the CEO of Zappos.com, Inc. and wrote this book about how his life path lead him to Zappos and the way Zappos is trying to change the way we do business. Broken into three parts, Delivering Happiness, is written (for the most part) in a clear, direct and often funny manner.

The first part, entitled Profits, is focused on Tony’s early life. It includes some stories of him growing up, his college experience, his first unsuccessful businesses (worm farm) and his other more successful businesses (LinkExchange). I really enjoyed reading about Tony’s formative years and how he came to Zappos. Tony seems to be a very introspective, humble person who cares deeply about the people around him. Throughout the book he talks about mistakes he made and how he learned from them. While he makes casual references, it is clear that Tony is constantly in pursuit of knowledge for personal growth.

The second section, “Profits and Passion,” is more business oriented. If you are interested in starting your own business or improving the business you already work for, this section is right up your alley. “Profits and Passion,” was a little hard for me because I am not interested in running a business. Still, it was full of insightful pieces of information about how Zappos became so monetarily successful while simultaneously being recognized as a “Best Companies to Work For.” From a consumer perspective, I shop at Zappos for their outstanding customer service. But, I also like to frequent businesses that go above and beyond for their workers and vendors. After reading this book and seeing how the company treats everyone they interact with so mindfully, I am probably never buying shoes anywhere else.

The third section is, “Profits, Passion and Purpose,” and Tony outlines how they take things to the next level at Zappos and how this mentality can be used for everyday life and happiness. I especially enjoyed this third section where we see Tony again evaluating, self-reflecting and seeking more information in order to create a life full of happiness for himself, his family and friends and everyone at Zappos.

Delivering Happiness was an informative and enjoyable look at the formation of a new successful business. If you are trying to start your own business or you want to work for a great company I highly recommend this book. If you, like me, are just wondering how people go from an idea to a billion dollar company, this is a fun book to read.

 

nonfiction

Non-Fiction Friday # 1!

This is a whole new feature here on SilverButtonBooks! I have been making a more concerted effort to read (and enjoy) more good non-fiction books. With that in mind, I want to shine a light on the non-fiction loves of my reading life with everyone. So, each Friday I plan to feature a scrumptious non-fiction book that caught my fancy. Some will be deep, some will be silly but hopefully all the selections will be informative and enjoyable.

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For my first feature I have to recommend The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum. This I my go-to non-fiction recommendation for so many reasons. First, the book may be non-fiction, but it reads like a procedural crime novel. Second, it’s poison right? Who doesn’t want to know more about poisons!? Third, it is so good, PBS even made a documentary film of the book available online! (It used to be on the PBS website but now I can only find it on youtube.) Finally, even if you don’t end up loving the book as much as I do, it is a super fun prop for leaving on your desk then quickly hiding from your colleagues. Mwahaha.

poisonhandbook

When taken as a whole, The Poisoner’s Handbook focuses on the birth of what we now call “forensic science.” In the early 1900’s, America was grossly behind our European counterparts in crime solving science.  After a scathing review of New York City’s coroners was published, Charles Norris was named the city’s first Chief Medical Examiner. Together, Norris and his pathology sidekick, Alexander Gettler, developed standards and practices that were eventually adopted and further developed across America.

Individually, each chapter highlights the deadly effects of poisons from carbon monoxide (that stuff coming out the back of them new horse-less carriages), to wood alcohol (damn you Prohibition!), and the classic arsenic (no Old Lace). Like any television show from Bones to my beloved Monk, the chapters introduce us to a victim or victims and then highlights the attempts to solve the mysterious circumstances of their death. Since this book is also set during the early 1900s, there is a wonderful dose of history mixed throughout.

Speaking of history, I must add one caveat. If you are opposed to animal testing, there is a whole lot of it in this book. Just remember, at this time there was no Bob Barker. No one spayed and neutered their dogs. They were everywhere. Remember Sandy from Annie? It was like that. While it did not bother me at all, a friend of mine is adamantly against animal testing and could not read around this facet of the book.

Deborah Blum has a long history with science. Combined with her experience as a professional journalist it is no wonder she so capably takes what could be very boring and makes it fascinating. This book is not as heavy into the science of the poisons as, A is for Arsenic: Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup, and for that I was thankful. Instead, this book is the perfect mixture of history, science and murder.


Tell me, please!

Do you love non-fiction?

If you hate it / avoid it at all costs, tell me why?

And, do you have any recommendations for future features?

nonfiction

Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives by Tim Harford

Mindfulness. Sharper Focus. Single-minded attention to task. Brain-training. Tidying-up! You can find a book about all of these things by just glancing through the bargain section at your local bookstore. But what about chaos and craziness and the unplanned events that make life interesting? That was what Tim Harford spend five years researching and writing for his book Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives.

I was, admittedly, reluctant to read this book. I had gone deep into the issue of tidiness when rmessyeviewing some cleaning books so, “messy” in the title had me assuming this book was in the same category. The book flap let me know that Tim Harford is an economist. I didn’t know how these things would fit together at all. I did know that economic studies are vitally important to understanding culture and historic events. And also, mind numbingly boring.

Still, I gave it the prescribed three chapters. This took me through some truly fascinating ideas.  First, Harford addresses why creativity is important and how famous people have used distractions to help solve problems.  This chapter introduced me to Brian Eno and his revolutionary way of inspiring music artists to produce their best work. Chapter two focused on collaboration. I despise teamwork and the idea that different teams, especially messy teams, get more done made me so happy. By chapter three I was hungrily reading about how distractions at work can make us more creative and productive. I was hooked.

If you are still unsure whether this book would interest you Tim Harford did a podcast on intelligencesquared.com and the video is a great debate on the ideas from his book.  He is obviously loves this topic and his presentation and writing reflect that enthusiasm.

This book is one of those nonfiction books that not only reads well, it is gripping in its facts and fascinating in its details. I was probably very annoying to my friends and family because I all but read whole sections of the book to them. This is not a non-fiction book for the note card system – this is a veritable reference on how too much of a good thing (tidiness, pre-planning, orderly robotic conversations) can keep us from really experiencing life to the fullest with all the messy nuances.