If the history of punctuation seems like a dry subject, try reading Shady Characters. It turns out that familiar symbols like the ampersand, asterisk, dash, and quotations marks have fascinating backstories. Why aren’t we using interrobangs or manicules more often? Did you know that the ampersand was once considered a letter of the alphabet? And how in the world did the octothorpe (otherwise known as a pound sign, flash, pig-pen, tic-tac-toe, or hashtag) get that name?
Author Keith Houston’s first book goes back to the libraries of Alexandria, through ancient graffiti and Bibles, right up to modern-day intrigue and Madison Avenue. He parses the differences between hyphens, dashes, and minus signs, and we learn that there have been several largely-unsuccessful attempts to introduce a symbol to indicate irony. For readers who enjoyed Eats, Shoots & Leaves a few years ago, Shady Characters is a fascinating read. Exclamation point!
Greetings and welcome to the mise-en-place edition of You Are What You Read! This time next week Thanksgiving will be a mere fond memory and a whole lot of foil in the fridge. I know that I am spending part of this weekend organizing myself in the kitchen for the Big Day. My Sons, The Traveling Companion and I are taking to the highway and cruising up state with our assigned dishes to what has become a tradition with us that we call Cousin Thanksgiving. It is the one time of year I see my three cousins and their families. Sadly, this year we will be missing 2 of our Merry Band. My cousin Matt and his family have been sent across the country to a new naval base in the Pacific Northwest, and my other cousin Diana will be visiting her husband’s family in Mexico which leaves one cousin to have the Cousin Thanksgiving with. As some of you may remember, The Traveling Companion was nervous about the deep fried turkey last year. Well, this year he has a whole new set of nerves to work; because the one cousin standing, who happens to be the Hostess, is a practicing vegan. Liz is going to be making a Traditional Feast for us all (a round of applause for what a good sport she is!) and she will be having some sort of Traditional Tofu something for herself. Last year I was so worried about her not being able to eat the majority of the feast that I made 2 different Brussels Sprout recipes: one vegan friendly and one not. I am sharing these with you because the un-vegan one was so good that Liz declared that she was Breaking Vegan for it. They both begin the same way. Take Brussels sprouts that you have trimmed and quartered and toss them in plenty of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast them in a 425 oven until they are, well, roasted. You know what you are looking for. Now while that is going down, you can ponder the choice of 2 sauces to toss them in. The first is the vegan friendly one which is Dijon mustard to which you have added a touch of maple syrup to. The second concoction is a sauce made of harissa, lime zest, lime juice, and honey. Toss the roasted sprouts in this and then to gild the lily, take some beautiful pomegranate seeds and strewn them over the top. A Sprout so good you are willing to cast aside your Dietary Beliefs! Have a lovely Thanksgiving! This week we have Scotland, elephants, and some culture.
Playlist? Of course! We can’t have you doing all that prep and handling knives without some music. Pffff. That’s not cool.
Let us begin!
Abby, actually, liked being in her car last week. “My commute was much improved last week thanks to being joined by Mr. Alan Cumming, Scotsman, actor, and audiobook reader. I listened to his emotionally charged memoir Not My Father’s Son. The opening chapter is a study in torment; as children, Alan and his older brother were subjected to their father’s physical and mental abuse. His home life was so dark, it wasn’t until he was a grown man that he could truly appreciate the beautiful forest area in which he grew up. The story is set with his participation in the British TV show Who Do You Think You Are, where genealogists and historians research a celebrity’s family history and share the details on screen with the audience. When he was invited to participate, Alan’s personal quest was to learn more about his maternal grandfather Tommy Darling, a man he never met and around whom there was great mystery. But as the research began to unfold, Alan was faced with a number of personal crises including making peace, with his abusive father, and gaining strength from an ancestor he never knew. The title of the book takes on increasing significance as the story goes on. Cumming is a great actor, but after listening to his story, I believe he is an even better man.”
Sweet Ann has just finished Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult. “I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Jenna, a thirteen year old, searching for her mother who disappeared when she was three years old. There was a tragic accident/murder at the elephant sanctuary which Jenna's parents owned and operated. At the time of the incident, Jenna's mother disappeared. Jenna is able to get a psychic and retired police detective to help her in her search. Leaving Time also contains information on the habits of elephants that was wonderful to read about and will make you think twice about them. This book is told in alternating chapters so the reader will learn the histories and points of view of the characters. While there is some ‘magical thinking’ in this novel but it is well worth the journey with Jenna.”
Barbara M for those who watch this space loves herself some other cultures. Here is what her latest read on them is all about. “I’ve read many books about cultural differences but what makes The Culture Map by Erin Meyer different is that it puts various qualities on continuums so you can see what one culture expects in relation to another culture. For example, on a communications scale, the United States is considered ‘low-context’ meaning communications are generally straight forward without many nuances. Japan is on the other end of the scale and has a ‘high-context’ communications style where things are not said but implied. Although the UK tends toward ‘low-context’, misunderstandings may occur because the British use more irony and sarcasm which may not always be understood by Americans. In this ever shrinking world of intercultural exchanges, I think this book is a worthy read.”
And finally we have DJ Jazzy Patty McC from The State Up North (8 days until The Game. Let’s go Buckeyes!). What’s good Pats? “ This year is a Midwestern Thanksgiving. I haven’t celebrated this holiday here in a couple decades and I am grateful to be spending it with my family. The feast will be much like our clan gatherings in Boston in years past. The Midwestern cousins are hosting and we are all contributing.They asked me what I would like to bring and after hearing the planned menu it struck me that there was a serious shortage of vegetables. Sure there would be mashed potatoes and a green bean casserole but little else in the way of our root-bearing friends. I told them that I would bring roasted Brussels sprouts. They shared a look. I knew that look. It was the same look my kids give each other when I put a new food in front of them to try. It was the look of “No way are we going to eat that.” Then the cousins outright said, “No way are we going to eat that.” I hesitated. Then I added that I could also bring roasted baby carrots. They jumped on that and told me to just bring the carrots. I stood my ground. I said I’d bring both and then blurted out that I’d also bring some roasted butternut squash. Again that shared look and their reply, “That’s a lot of vegetables.” I smiled. They have no idea that this is just the beginning of their vegetable education. This week I invite you to try something new and in the process educate yourself and those around you. Now go eat your vegetables.”
Today Alan met with the Meet Us On Main Street Group to talk about a stories from the past: of Japanese/Chinese cultural tensions pre WWII; of revenge from the coasts of Portugal; the pursuit of the American Dream from Woodside, Queens; oarsmen who dared to defy more than just Hitler; and short stories about the aftermath of the Vietnam War. And for the factually minded: a true history of today's innovators who ushered in the digital age; a book on how we can make choices for better lives, health and wealth; as well as, a true account of one hundred years of The Darien Library. Check out the books below:
Here are the new titles available from OverDrive.
The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites by Libby H. O’Connell
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
The Heart Has Its Reasons by Maria Duenas
The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus by Richard Preston
Is That All There Is? The Strange Life of Peggy Lee by James Gavin
Revival by Stephen King
Stop the Coming Civil War: My Savage Truth by Michael Savage
Here are the new titles available from 3M.
Here is what you can find on the shelves that is new next week. Come in and visit us, or put your items on hold from home! We will let you know when they are ready for you to pick up!
Over the river and through the woods in your future? Why not take an audio book from Hoopla with you?