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A Really Good Day

posted by: February 21, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for A Really Good DayOne pill makes you larger. And one pill makes you small. And the ones that mother gives you don’t do anything at all. — Grace Slick.

 

Except in this case, the mother is author Ayelet Waldman, and she is giving herself not a pill but two drops of LSD, under the tongue. And while she’s not 10 feet tall or seeing white rabbits, she does get to be happier, as she writes in A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage and My Life.

 

Hallucinogenic drug use conjures up images of swirly colors and dancing at Grateful Dead concerts, whereas Waldman describes herself as a straight-laced lawyer, author, wife and mom of four, who rarely drinks and has never been a recreational drug user. Recreational is the key word, though, because Waldman’s suffered from a mood disorder and insomnia throughout her life. Add in a painful middle-aged frozen shoulder, and she’s been prescribed and taken myriad pharmaceuticals from SSRIs to opioids, while pursuing calm promised by anything from meditation classes to mindfulness apps. In her 50’s, Waldman became increasingly desperate for a solution, feeling that her inability to control her emotions and behavior might irreparably damage her family and, most disturbing to her, alienate her beloved husband, author Michael Chabon. When Waldman came across James Fadiman’s book The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic and Sacred Journeys, which espouses the therapeutic use of hallucinogenic drugs taken in order to induce a more relaxed frame of mind, she was ready to try it.

 

For 30 days, Waldman journaled her experience as she followed Fadiman’s microdosing protocol, taking a miniscule amount of liquid LSD once every three days. Her dose was far too small to trigger a groovy trip, but she did find it stimulated creativity and enhanced her composure — in short, giving her many really good days, albeit with occasional side effects. She also explores the consequences of the “war on drugs," which she argues shut down promising research on medical use of psychedelic drugs, illogically demonizes many less harmful substances while pushing dangerous and addictive medications and continues to influence a judiciary which proffers draconian punishments meted out disproportionately to people of color. Waldman is frank that her microdosing would have continued beyond a month if she’d had a reliable source where she could purchase it, but her fear of criminal prosecution stopped her from pursuing one. Thought-provoking and rather funny thanks to Waldman’s snarky asides, A Really Good Day is a fascinating look at an unconventional therapy.  

 


 
 

The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook

posted by: February 16, 2017 - 7:00am

The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday CookbookMaybe you’re trying to eat healthier in 2017. Maybe you just love delicious food. If so, check out The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook: Entertaining for Absolutely Every Occasion by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

 

This is Moskowitz’s 10th cookbook, and each chapter is devoted to one of 17 different holidays. On New Year’s, eat your black eyed peas and cabbage for good luck. On Christmas, you will find the classic chocolate chip cookies to leave out for Santa. There are no set menus, and each chapter contains one or two dozen recipes that fit the holiday theme so you can mix and match whatever suits your taste.

 

When faced with so many tasty possibilities, you may find yourself celebrating holidays you’ve never considered before. Now that you have four different recipes for latkes, why not spin a dreidel and learn a little something about Hanukkah? And who cares if you’re not Irish on St. Patrick’s Day if you’re serving corned beet and cabbage and shamrockin’ shakes?

 

Moskowitz also offers tips on hosting, menu planning and table setting. Of course, this cookbook doesn’t have to only be pulled out on holidays. But if you’re looking for food that is simpler and doesn’t have to be special-occasion-worthy, check out Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week for meals that can be on the table in about 30 minutes.


 
 

I’ll Be Damned

posted by: February 14, 2017 - 7:00am

I'll Be DamnedYou don’t have to be a fan of The Young and the Restless to appreciate this honest memoir from one of that show’s biggest stars, Eric Braeden. In I’ll Be Damned: How My Young and Restless Life Led Me to America’s #1 Daytime Drama, Braeden shares his life story, including his almost four decades on the number one daytime television show as the charismatic Victor Newman.

 

Braeden was born in 1941 in a dark, airless hospital basement in Kiel, Germany. Allied bombs sounded in the air and the ground shook with repeated explosions. Days after his birth, the hospital was destroyed in yet another Allied attack. But Braeden’s childhood was a happy and privileged one. His parents were loving, he had brothers to play with and developed a love for sports, especially track and field. His father’s sudden death when he was 12 changed his life forever. The family was forced to sell their beautiful home and possessions and move into a house with no central heating, no hot running water and no showers or toilets that worked.

 

While struggling through these hard times, his family never gave up, and Eric continued his education and his track and field prowess. He jumped at the opportunity to go to America when he received a partial track and field scholarship to Montana State University (now University of Montana). While there, he and his friends participated in the filming of a documentary film, which led him to Los Angeles and his destiny as a television star. This rags-to-riches immigrant story is an uplifting tale that takes us from Nazi Germany to modern Hollywood. It is the story of one man shaped by war and deprivation who dedicated his life to his art, his family and humanitarian work.


 
 

Norse Mythology

posted by: February 13, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for Norse MythologyWith his fantastic capacity for storytelling, Neil Gaiman brings us the stories of the Norse gods in his new book Norse Mythology. Mr. Gaiman often draws inspiration from the Norse myths for his other books, and his love and interest in these myths is evident.

 

The book starts with some of the major “players” of Norse myths: Odin, Thor and Loki. Though these are not the only important gods, you can find them in most if not all of the stories. The beginning of the world and creation is next discussed, and we find ourselves learning how the world, the gods and humans all came about, according to the Norse. Yggdrasil, an ash tree also called the world tree, is very important to the Norse myths and connects the nine worlds. Gaiman then goes on to portray the mischief of Loki, the wisdom of Odin and the strength of Thor in his own retelling of some of his favorite myths. He tells the story of how the gods came into their treasures, and he tells the story of Loki’s children: Hel, who will be the leader of the underworld; Jormungundr, the Midgard Serpent; and Fenrir, the Fenris Wolf. My favorite of the myths in this book is when Thor, Loki and Thialfi journey to the land of the giants, and the giant Utgardaloki challenges each of their strengths. These are just of few of the amazing myths that are retold in this book.

 

From the story of Odin trading his eye for wisdom to the gods attaining their treasures to the last days of the gods at Ragnarok, Neil Gaiman will captivate you with his retelling of these myths. This quick and enchanting read will leave you with wonderful stories to tell and pass on to anyone interested in the Norse gods.


 
 

A Plague on All Our Houses

posted by: January 19, 2017 - 7:00am

A Plague on All Our HousesIn the spring of 1981, four young gay male patients were referred to Dr. Michael Gottlieb, a young assistant professor at UCLA specializing in immunology, with a series of opportunistic infections. Author Bruce J. Hillman, MD charts the course that Dr. Gottlieb took that would lead to the discovery of AIDS and the dissolution of his academic career in A Plague on All Our Houses.

 

After contacting the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), an action that had to be suggested by the editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) owning to Gottlieb’s professional naivety, he confirmed an additional case via autopsy. Gottlieb and his colleagues collected their data and he drafted what is now considered one of the most notable medical publications of the century. As the lead author of the NEJM article which described a new disease, Gottlieb was pulled in many directions: academic researcher, clinician, spokesperson, grant writer and fundraiser. As the doctor who discovered a new undetectable infectious disease, Gottlieb attracted many patients, most of whom were gay. At the same time, UCLA was trying to brand itself as a transplant center. A mixture of fear and homophobia began to build in earnest. Jealousy joined the mix when Gottlieb drew additional attention as the specialist who cared for Rock Hudson. When Elizabeth Taylor decided to dedicate herself to finding a cure after the death of her friend and a relative, she turned to Gottlieb for counsel, and the mixture neared the boiling point.

 

If you enjoyed Rebecca Skloot’s work examining the health and societal impact of the HeLa cells juxtaposed against the lives of her children deprived of their mother in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this medical story is for you.


 
 

My Life, My Love, My Legacy

posted by: January 16, 2017 - 1:35pm

Cover art for My Life, My Love, My LegacyAt the end of her life, Coretta Scott King shared her story with close friend, Barbara Reynolds, an ordained minister and journalist who was on USA Today’s founding editorial team. In her introduction to My Life, My Love, My Legacy, King notes that “There is a Mrs. King. There is also Coretta. Now I think it is time you knew Coretta.” Based on a series of interviews between Reynolds and King dating back to 1975, this is a detailed tribute to an elegant woman who played an important role in American history.  

 

Coretta was born in the segregated town of Heiberger, Alabama, in 1927, where she and her family were regularly victims of racial harassment, including the burning of their house when she was 15. She found her escape from the South when she was one of the first black scholarship students at Antioch College in Ohio. She later followed her musical passion to the New England Conservatory in Boston. It was in Boston where she met the minister from Atlanta, whom she first thought to be “too short.” Coretta wanted to be a concert singer and definitely wanted to live in the more accepting North, but Martin Luther King Jr. wanted her to marry him and battle the segregated South on the front lines with him.

 

They did marry, and she was committed to his mission, all while raising their four children. Coretta is candid when talking about difficult topics, such as her husband’s rumored infidelity and her frustrations with the sexist leadership at the helm of the movement. Following Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, we see that Coretta’s political activism and spiritual commitment only grew. This is the story of a loving wife, a devoted mother and a brave leader in America’s civil rights movement.

 

Are you doing BCPL’s Reading Challenge? This would be a great one for January’s challenge. Don’t forget to take a picture of yourself with the book and submit your entry by visiting Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and post or tweet the photo with the hashtag #bwellread. Camera-shy participants may post a photograph of the book they’ve chosen.


 
 

Overcoming Distractions

posted by: January 11, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for Overcoming DistractionsAttention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is often discussed as it pertains to children, such as how to deal with your ADHD child or how to help an ADHD student. David A. Greenwood discusses the learning disability with respect to adults in Overcoming Distractions: Thriving with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder. As someone who has the disorder himself, Greenwood talks about his start in life and all of the difficulties associated with ADHD. He was able to find a way to make his ADHD work for him and became a successful, self-employed businessman.

 

As Greenwood states, ADHD is often seen in terms of its negative aspects — those who live with it are often easily distracted, procrastinate, have a lack of organization and the tendency to be late and forget things. However, he also discusses the many positives that can be beneficial to those with ADHD, such as being creative and having the ability to “hyperfocus.” He also gives plenty of advice and tips on how to deal with the more negative aspects as well. Greenwood mentions that having a solid foundation and getting proper amounts of sleep and exercise are suggested as ways to deal with the struggles encountered with ADHD.

 

Overcoming Distractions is a well-researched, organized and easy-to-read book that offers a lot of information and advice for adults who struggle with varying types of ADHD, and even those who don’t. Though Greenwood begins with his own experiences, he also brings together information and experiences from a wide range of people who experience adult ADHD, and frequently mentions other resources that he uses himself. Adults with ADHD, may find the tips and suggestions in this book helpful.

 


 
 

Hidden Figures

posted by: January 4, 2017 - 7:00am

Hidden FiguresIn 1943, Virginia’s Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory had a problem: It needed computers to help engineer better airplanes to guarantee American success over the aerial battlefields of World War II. The computers required were not the electronic devices we use today; instead, they were women with comprehensive mathematics backgrounds. Women who have largely been forgotten by history despite their role in shaping it.

 

And a core group of these "hidden figures" were black.

 

Using research and interviews, Margot Lee Shetterly highlights the lives of three “human computers” in particular — Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson — who worked at Langley during the war and, once it was established, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In doing so, she returns these women and their fellow “computers” to their proper place in the tale of one of mankind’s greatest achievements: space travel. The intertwined stories of each woman provide a deeper insight into the ingenuity, hard work and determination from all involved — male or female, black or white — that took us from airplanes to space shuttles.

 

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race isn’t just about a group of mathematicians and engineers whose efforts helped break the sound barrier and put a man on the moon. Shetterly also delves into how the environment these women worked in was impacted by the racial and sexual politics and tensions of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s and what it meant for each woman to gain the position she did. She celebrates these women and what they achieved despite the discrimination they faced due to their skin color and gender.

 

When you’re finished with the book, you can check out the movie, starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer and Janelle Monáe, in theatres January 5, 2017. Also, readers wanting more information on the contributions of African Americans and women to the space race should check out We Could Not Fail by Steven Moss and Rocket Girls by Nathalia Holt.


 
 

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