Recently I joined a members-only website, and in the profile section you're asked to list "5 things you can't live without". The goal here is not to be too literal (none of us can live without water, or air, thanks), but to be clever and stand out a little, while being truthful. I put 'library card' for one of my essentials. Our local library is a seven minute walk away. I've had my card number memorized for years (and have no idea where the actual card is). This knowledge came in handy last year at the Minnesota State Fair. The day I visited, you got a discounted admission ticket if you showed your library card. The young man working the booth let me recite mine instead; I think I may have astonished him.
I thought I'd highlight several titles I've enjoyed (for free!) from the library lately. But first, here's my brother at the main branch of the Seattle Public Library. It's an astonishing building, both architecturally and literarily. Rem Koolhaas was one of the principal designers. It has lots of glass and steel. There are exterior shots here; this site also shows off the four-story "continuous staircase". Parts of each level have slightly sloped floors, and as you follow the slope up or down it takes you all through the four levels non-fiction. There's also a giant conveyor system for returning materials, which my brother thought was "awesome".
1. The Joy of Pickling by Linda Ziedrich (2009 edition). This is an exhaustive compendium that covers how-to's, safety, and a plethora of recipes for anything you could ever want to pickle. (I'll soon be featuring a pickled beets recipe I adapted from here.) The recipes range from basic to fancy, which I appreciate as I'm new to pickling. None seemed particularly hard, once you have the technique down. (Admittedly, I've yet to try fermented pickles. I don't know if I've ever even eaten one. Does anyone have experience with this?) There are refrigerator pickles, crock pickles, canned pickles, recipes for using your pickled products, and uses for leftover brine. In short, a complete pickling book. This may go on my birthday list.
2. Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde. I struggled to describe this book, because it's so WEIRD. Jasper Fforde has also written the Thursday Next series (the first is The Eyre Affair), about a detective who investigates in book-worlds by jumping into the pages of books and entering the worlds contained within. Shades of Grey (which, by the way, is the superior way to spell that color) follows Eddie Russett, a Red in a world where color and color perception is everything. Eddie is young, has a physician (or "swatchman") for a father, and gets a rare chance to travel outside his home village to see others. When he does so, his world starts to crack as the truth behind a large governmental scandal that's affected EVERYONE'S lives becomes made known to him. Fforde does an excellent job of describing whatever fantastical world he's conjured up, so don't let my muddled explanation scare you away. If you enjoy smart fiction, read something by Fford. (He also wrote a series about nursery-rhyme crimes, if you're more into detective novels.)
3. Magazines. My local library has about 20 different titles, and I've noticed they often receive the latest issues about a week before I do. (If you're curious, I subscribe to Country Living, Wired, and Bon Appetit.) The latest edition is always "in-library use only" so you can read it in a timely manner for free! The larger regional library up the road has probably 300 magazine titles on the shelves.
4. Homemade by Judith Choate. My primary love language is gifts. This book, subtitled Delicious Foods to Make and Give, contains recipes and ideas for culinary treasure ranging from baked goods to snacks and appetizers, drinks to relishes and chutneys. I know someone who's famously known for giving out fudge at Christmas. I think I'll go the caramelized almonds route myself, but this book pulls me in many different directions. Would you rather get Framboise Syrup or Chocolate Malt Cake the next time I show up at your place? Invite me over, and just maybe I'll bring both.
5. Thrifty Chic: Interior Design on a Shoestring by Liz Bauwens and Alexandra Campbell. If you loved the magazine Domino, if you scour thrift stores and Craigslist for pieces to remake, if you're short on cash and inspiration, or if you just love beautiful photos of beautiful real interiors, then this may be a book for you. It's a British publication, so it's got that whole Euro-chic thing going on too.
That's it for this edition of "Library Round-Up". Next time I'll tell you about the services the library offers, and recommend more titles. Let me know if you read any of the above books!