Posts Tagged ‘historic details’

The Botany of Desire. A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

November 16, 2011

Author: Pollan, Michael

Title:  The Botany of Desire. A Plant’s-Eye View of the World.

Genre:  Nonfiction; Nature Writing; Science Writing; History Writing

Publication Date: 2001

Number of pages: 354 (Large Print)

Geographical Setting: United States; Holland; Ireland

Time period: Contemporary; Historic  Series:  N/A

Plot Summary: In this engaging and thought-provoking collection of essays, Michael Pollan follows the stories of four plans-apple, tulip, marijuana and potato-and discusses how these plants satisfy human desire for sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control, and use humans for their survival. To explain this fluid relationship, the author combines his knowledge of science, history, culture, philosophy, psychology and gardening into an informative, highly readable and intimate micro-history of plants and humans.  Each chapter uses a unique character or an event to emphasize the nature of the relationship. For example, in the chapter on apples, Pollan explores the story of Dionysus-like Johnny Appleseed, who by planting apple seeds contributed to the apple’s diversity and the popularity of apple cider. In the following chapters, Pollan uses an example of the 17th century Holland’s obsession for “perfect” tulip, describes inadvertent results of “the war on drugs” on marijuana, and tells the story of a potato from the perspective of the Irish famine and the present-day drive for a genetically engineered “perfect” potato. The author’s view on the human desire to control and manipulate biodiversity is fairly clear-he is mostly against it-but Pollan avoids sounding preachy by using humorous anecdotes, multiple perspectives and an engaging prose.  The Desire of Botany is a great example of a witty, accessible, yet well-researched, micro-history of codependency between humans and plants.

Subject Headings: Human–Plans Relationships; Plants—Development, Co-Evolution, Men and Nature, Gardening, Micro-history, Apple, Tulip, Marijuana, Potatoes.

Appeal: engaging, accessible, engrossing, witty, reflective, conversational, historic details, descriptive, entertaining, thought-provoking, well-researched, candid, investigative, intriguing, quirky, persuasive.

3 Appeal Terms that Best Describe this Book: engaging, accessible, thought-provoking.

3 Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors: 

1) Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver: This book chronicles the year that Barbara Kingsolver and her family moved to a farm in Virginia and tried to live on home or locally-grown food. Similarly to The Botany of Desire, the book is a light-hearted part-memoir about a relationship between humans and plants.

2) Weed: in Defense of Nature’s Most Unloved Plants by Richard Mabey. The author combines history, science and descriptions of his travels into a story of unholy weeds and how they gained their unflattering position in the world of plants.

3) The Earth Knows my Name: Food, Culture and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans by Patricia Klindienst.  A collection of stories of urban, suburban and rural gardens created by Native American and immigrants who wanted to preserve the connection with the land. The collection is a part microhistory, part  meditation on the relationship between food, land and culture.

3 Relevant Fiction Works and Authors:

1) Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel:  A love story about Tita de la Garza, a heart broken Mexican girl, who finds escape and meaning in her love of cooking. Both, The Botany of Desire and this book, describe the link between certain foods, feelings and desires and use bittersweet wit and engrossing tales to share a story of food and human emotions.

2) The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood:   A lyrical and darkly witty story of a young Toronto woman who finds herself unable to eat, and instead starts to identify with the foods and feel as if she was being consumed, instead. It’s a provocative and entertaining commentary on the consumer culture, gender, identity, and the role of food.

3) Old Herbaceous: A Novel of the Garden by Reginald Arkell. This is a classic British novel that tells a comic life story of Bert Pinnegar, a gardener and a lover of plants. It’s filled with beautiful descriptions of flowers, shrubs and trees but also with thoughtful and philosophical musings on human existence and the social history of England at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.

Megan R.

In War Times by Kathleen Ann Goonan

March 16, 2011

Find at Local Library

Author: Goonan, Kathleen Ann

Title: In War Times

Genre: Science Fiction

Publication Date: 2007

Number of Pages: 348 p.

Geographical Setting: United States and various European countries

Time Period: 1941-1980

Series: Not Applicable

Plot Summary: Soldier Sam Dance, who enlists during WWII, receives mysterious plans from his professor one night. The captivating nature of her disappearance and the plans she provides result in Sam’s attempt to build her secret device, right under the nose of the military. The effects of this produce intriguing and surprising results in this alternate-reality novel. The plot-centered story creates a sophisticated, richly-detailed setting combined with both historical references and a healthy dose of physics.

Subject Headings: Science fiction; Alternative histories (Fiction); Time travel, Fiction; World War II; The Forties (20th century); Saxophonists; Time travel (Future); Technology; Jazz music; Jazz musicians; Soldiers; Brothers — death; Technology and civilization; Futurism; Women physicists; Men/women relations.

Appeal: Bleak, chilling, complex, contemplative, deliberate, densely written, detailed, detailed setting, elaborate, engaging, historic details, intriguing, investigative, issue-oriented, layered, measured, political, resolved ending, sophisticated, thought-provoking, unhurried, well-developed.

3 Terms that Best Describe this Book: Plot-centered, complex, unusual.

Similar Fiction Authors and Works:

John Birmingham, After America, follows Iraq after an energy wave disrupts North America. Dystopian with military aspects as well, but more contemporary.

Dexter Palmer, The Dream of Perpetual Motion, provides a steampunk, alternate reality novel involving aircrafts and physics.

Neal Stephenson, Quicksilver, is set in the time of Isaac Newton and promises as much adventure as science and math.

Relevant Non-Fiction Works and Authors

Sam Kean, The Disappearing Spoon, provides a collection of tales revolving around the periodic table and scientific discoveries. The humorous tone of the book entices non-scientists as well.

Rebecca Skloot, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, follows the engrossing history of the HeLa gene, DNA that was stolen from her at death for the benefits of science.

Oliver Sacks, Uncle Tungsten, examines the youth of Oliver Sacks and provides an unusual perspective of his “chemical” upbringing.                                                                                                                                                                                                           Carlen

Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends

November 11, 2009

Author: David Wilton
Title: Word Myths: Debunking Linguistic Urban Legends
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Number of Pages: 240
Geographical Setting: NA
Time Period: NA
Series: no
Plot Summary:
This book will come in handy as a conversation starter. The author does a great job of exposing some of the most popular “word myths”, such as; Ring Around the Rosie refers to the Black Death, that Eskimos have 10,000 words for snow, or that Posh is an acronym for “Port Out, Starboard Home.” Each chapter is a brief history of the linguistic urban legend, and when possible tells the true tale of how a word or phrase came to be. In this book you will discover the true story behind popular words and expressions such as “rule of thumb,” “the whole nine yards,” “hot dog,” “raining cats and dogs,” “chew the fat,” “AWOL,” “under the weather,” “in like Flynn,” “Dixie,” “son of a gun,” “tinker’s damn,” to name a few. I also learned that SOS was not originally an acronym for “Save Our Ship” or “Save Our Souls,” but was chosen because the Morse code signal (3 dots, 3 dashes, 3 dots) was easy to send and recognize. Also, “let the cat out of the bag” does not refer to the whip (the “cat”) used to punish sailors aboard ship. The term “upset” (to defeat unexpectedly) does not date from the horse race when the heavily favored Man O’ War was beaten by a nag named Upset (Upset was the only horse ever to defeat Man O’ War, but the word predates the race by half a century). And Thomas Crapper did not invent the flush toilet, nor do the words “crap” or “crapper” derive from his name. It is fun to set the record straight when these urban word myths pop up at parties or over the holiday dinners…

Subject Headings: Linguistics, Urban legends, Language, True History, Trivia, and Etymology.
Appeal: accessible, detailed, historic details, fact, engaging, engrossing, humorous, quirky, intriguing, witty, language, nonfiction, academic, authoritative, fast paced.
3 terms that best describes this book: Etymology, Myth, History
Similar Authors and Works
• Spoken Here: Travels Among Threatened Languages by Mark Abley-A travel guide through some of the regions where language is literally disappearing.
• Word Histories and Mysteries: From Abracadabra to Zeus byAmerican Heritage Dictionaries- Uncovers the origins of five hundred everyday English words.
• Word Origins And How We Know Them: Etymology for Everyone by Anatoly Lieberman- insights into how our language has evolved, mutated and otherwise morphed over thousands of years
• Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn- the English language is being eroded one letter at a time, will it stop, how will we communicate?
• The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker by Eric Liu-The struggle that comes with losing your language, heritage, and culture.
• The Bald Soprano by Eugene Ionesco-the story of a breakdown in communication between a married couple.
Name: Laura Bartnik

Adrenaline Annotation – Adventure

June 1, 2009

Title: Snow Treasure

Author: McSwigan

Publication Date: 1942

Number of Pages: 196

Genre: Adventure

Geographic Setting: Norway

Time Period: 1940

Series: NA

Plot Summary:  Norwegians are used to winter especially since winter dominates their lives most of the year. But in the year 1940, snow continued to fall in unprecedented amounts even in April. People used their skis to travel long past the time when the thaw should have occurred. Children continued to sled. It was all anyone talked about, until something so terrifying loomed on the horizon, and then the topic of conversation changed. Some people insisted that the Arctic Circle was too high for the Germans to invade. Others argued that they must prepare and build air raid shelters. Most, along with the Lundstrom family who lived in a tiny village, were afraid that if the Germans did come, they would certainly steal the gold from the Bank of Norway. As predicted, the Nazis invaded. They parachuted into the village. Depending heavily on the children of the village and their sleds, the people of Norway devised a plan to hide their gold from the Nazis. This is a suspenseful story of courage, wits, and adventure that changed many lives.  And the question of whether this story is true or not has never been fully answered.

Subject Headings: World War II, 1939-1945 – Fiction; Norwegian Fiction

Appeal: Fast paced, suspenseful, action, adventure, dangerous, intense, military mission, unlikely character centered, interesting secondary characters, issue orientated, historic details, detailed setting.

Three terms that describe this book: Adventurous, unlikely heroes, fast paced.

Similar Authors and Works (fiction): Shub, Elizabeth – Cutlass in the Snow, a story of a ten year old boy and his grandfather, exploring Fire Island. They find a cutlass stuck in the snow and sand marking the hidden treasure with pirates lurking nearby.  This is also possibly based on a true story.

Paulson, Gary – Hatchet, a survival story of a 13 year old boy, stranded in the Canadian wilderness with only a hatchet.

Fleischman, Sid – By the Great Horn Spoon, a story of two unlikely partners, Praiseworthy, a butler, and Jack, a  twelve year old boy. After the family’s money is lost, they head to California to search for gold, fighting off villains and struggling to survive.

Similar Authors and Works (nonfiction): Kopka, Deborah L. – Norway, a book depicting the geography, lifestyle, people and a brief history.

Rinderle, Walter and Bernard Norling – The Nazi impact on a German Village – Although the village Oberscopfheim is located in Germany, not Norway, it was not happy to change to Nazi standards.

Bower, Tom – Nazi gold: the full story of the fifty-year Swiss-Nazi conspiracy to steal billions from Europe’s Jews and Holocaust survivors. Although this situation is different than what happened in Norway, this book explains banks and banking, and how the Nazis exploited the situation to obtain gold.

Name: Donna Mihovilovich

Arab in America

March 21, 2009

Author: Toufic El Rassi

Title: Arab in America

Genre: Graphic Novel, auto-biography

Publication date: 2007

Number of Pages: 117

Geographical Setting: Urban America

Time period: From 1980’s to 2007

Plot Summary: Toufic El Rassi moved to the United States when he was only one and has been battling with his identity as an Arab-American since. During high school and college he distanced himself away from his Arab heritage and hung with the cool kids, drank, smoked weed and even got arrested, yet never really seemed to fit in with them because of his past. He felt that his only purpose was to serve as the “token” Arab kid. After September 11th things really changed and he began to deny his heritage and say he was of another race completely. Yet as time passed he began to feel that he had nothing to be ashamed of and started to embrace his Arab past and search out what made him deny this heritage for so many years.

Subject Headings: Arab Americans life; Racism; Tales of Citizenship; Bigotry; War protesting; Arab Americans –September 11th; Muslim Americans; Arab Americana– stereo types; autobiography.

Appeal: Unhurried pace, engaging , realistic characters, flashbacks, issue oriented, strong language, thought provoking, accurate, historic details, political, urban, details of growing up Arab in America, detail of racism, details of stereotypes, details of being out of place in society, details of battling identity, candid, edgy, humorous, chatty , frank , simple, thoughtful, witty.

Red Flags: Offensive language, drug use, alcohol abuse

Fiction read-a-likes:

American born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Details of stereotypes, realistic characters, humorous.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Thought provoking, candid, realistic characters, details of growing up Native American in America.

La perdida “The lost only” by Jessica Abel. Engaging, details of battling with identity, lifelike characters, urban setting.

Non Fiction read-a-likes:

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi- This graphic novel is a portrait of the author’s daily life growing up in Iran before moving to America. Reading this book will give you a better understanding of some of the beliefs and customs of Middle Eastern people.

Pitch Black by Youme Landowne and Anthony Horton. This is the true story of Anthony Horotn, a homeless man who lives in the subway tunnels of New York City. In this graphic novel he tries to show that he doesn’t fit into society and creates beautiful pieces of art with thing most people regard as trash.

Our cancer year by Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner ; art by Frank Stack. This award winning book is the true account of a year of a cancer patient and his wife’s life. This novel uses art to show how the fear of cancer can make a person act and at times feel isolated in a community, but also shows how the love of the community and friends can ease these fears.

John B