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Author Archives:Alli Palmgren

More than little green men and faeries

I am a very eclectic reader. There is hardly a genre that won’t grace my to-read pile. For that reason, I really enjoy the Reader’s Bingo competition that the library holds periodically (OK, so everyone else thinks that it is a game, but I can make anything into a blood sport).

Reader’s Bingo requires participants to fill in a bingo sheet with books titles they have read during the game period that fit the description of one of the squares. For example, if the square reads, “A coming of age story,” I might fill in “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho or “A Separate Peace” by John Knowles. My coworker, Liz, plans the squares so that they will challenge readers to explore genres that take them out of their comfort zones. My secret is that I have no literary comfort zone. I like it all. This makes filling bingo sheets a breeze.

Because of my preferences, when I first started doing readers’ advisory, I was surprised to find that people have visceral reactions to certain genres. When I ask patrons what they like to read, if I so much as mention science fiction or fantasy, most patrons look at me like I have suggested reading the phonebook while walking on hot coals.

I don’t want patrons to miss out on some of the best fiction on our shelves simply because they think that sci-fi is just little green men and that fantasy always has faeries flitting around a forest. There is so much more to these genres. Sci-fi and fantasy aficionados, skip to the end- I am about to suggest books you have already read.

If you are willing to dip your toe into the sci-fi pool, there is no better place to start than with Frank Herbert’s “Dune.” It is the quintessential beginner’s science fiction. It is classic sci-fi in that it takes place in another world and there are advanced technologies that are central to the plot, but it is also a very human story about a boy navigating his way into adulthood amidst extreme hardship, resource scarcity, and more than a few people intending to do him harm. Already read “Dune”? Try “Red Rising” by Pierce Brown.

If worlds unlike our own are not your thing, Margaret Atwood might be a good author to try. “The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood is a wonderful alternative to space and technology themed science fiction. This book describes a highly patriarchal society where women are no longer allowed to read or access education and are only valued for their ability to produce children. The story follows one woman as she navigates this new world and how she resists. Considered required reading in high school and college courses around the world, this book is a true page turner.

As for fantasy, I just have to recommend “The Rook” by Daniel O’Malley. This book is fantasy-lite and perfect for people who claim to hate fantasy. This novel is set in modern-day London and is about a young woman who unwittingly finds herself in the body of an operative for a secret government department in charge of all things magical, supernatural, or just plain odd. While there is suspense and action, the writing style is light and funny.

I would certainly not do the genre justice if I did not mention Neil Gaiman. He has a fantasy book for nearly every age and taste. If you think you would enjoy a classic fantasy with lighter themes, then “Stardust” is a good pick. If you are prepared for a darker and stranger selection, “American Gods” is a must-read. I have never finished a Gaiman book without wishing there were more pages to read.

If you want to have any shot at winning Reader’s Bingo this summer, you’ll eventually have to pick up a science fiction or fantasy book. Why not read something you’ll actually enjoy? While you can try one of the titles listed above, our reference librarians are happy to tailor a list to your tastes.

Allison Palmgren is the technology librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Allison’s column in the April 13th issue of the Norwood Transcript & Bulletin.

Sastavickas Scholarship for former and current library employees and volunteers

The Sastavickas Scholarship Committee is accepting applications for the $500 scholarship to be awarded in June 2017. Applications for the Viola Sastavickas Scholarship will be accepted through May 15, 2017. The recipient of the scholarship shall be a current or former paid employee or an unpaid volunteer of the Library.

The educational purpose may be for undergraduate or graduate school, a formal course of study, or an enrichment opportunity (continuing education). Interested employees or volunteers should submit a letter of application (found here), a brief essay describing educational goals and how the funds will be used, and one letter of recommendation. Decisions will be based on the quality of the request, financial need, and the individual’s contribution to the library.

A recommendation will be made by a three-person Selection Committee made up of the Chairperson of the Library’s Board of Trustees, the Director of the Library, and the President of the Library’s Staff Association. This recommendation will be brought to the Board of Trustees for their approval.

Note: Deadline for applications to be received at the Director’s Office is May 15, 2017. Decisions will be made and recipient notified by June 30, 2017. Funds will be distributed in August, 2017.

 

When life gives you lemons…if only I could have lemonade

I love food so much. I love the social aspect of gathering around a meal or heading out to try new restaurants. Preparing meals for others is one way that I express affection. Food is fuel, but it is so much more to me. As such, I was pretty glum when I learned that I would need to restrict my diet for health reasons. All my favorites are quite literally off the table- no tomatoes, no chocolate, no caffeine, no tea, no coffee, no alcohol, nothing spicy, and nothing acidic. Upon hearing this, I briefly, but seriously, considered dealing with supremely unpleasant symptoms just to continue eating tomatoes and all those acidic fruits I love so much.

Once I came to my senses, I started examining what this diet really looked like. Sure, I couldn’t have preservatives or most ingredients I couldn’t pronounce, but should I really be eating those things anyway? Probably not. I could still have garlic, herbs, cheese, most veggies, and almost any starch or grain, so I thought, “OK, you can work with this.”

What it came down to is that I needed to begin making everything from scratch. I was already a bread baker, so I’m not afraid of homemade baked goods, but my family will tell you, I would rather bake than cook. Not being able to rely on packaged foods, like boxed pasta or packaged tortillas was severely hindering my ability to put together a flavorful and satisfying meal. The first week was rough and there were more misses than hits (it turns out, there is a certain trick to making tortillas that my Canadian ancestors somehow did not pass down through the generations). Each morning, I would come into work whining about the disaster that was the previous night’s dinner.

Feeling defeated and more than a little hungry, I couldn’t even bring myself to adapt recipes that I used to love. Luckily, my coworkers stepped in to help find things I could eat and cookbooks that were filled with recipes largely free of problem ingredients. There are three books in particular that helped me rediscover my love of cooking and eating.

By far, the most helpful was “Scratch” by Maria Rodale. This book is filled with simple recipes, using ingredients without the mystery additives that I can’t eat. The name says it all; everything is made from scratch. I brought the book home and just decided to make whatever was on the page I opened up to, which is how we ended up eating a brunch classic, quiche, for dinner. It was heavenly. With very few adaptations and using only ingredients that were already in my pantry, I pulled together the first good meal I had eaten in many days.

My adventures with my new bestie, Maria (ok, she doesn’t know we’re besties…yet), didn’t stop there and I am still making delicious meals using her straightforward recipes. I even bought the book for my own collection, which as a committed borrower of books, is a true rarity.

The next book that helped guide me through the dietary minefield that is now my life was “Mastering Pasta: The Art and Practice of Handmade Pasta, Gnocchi, and Risotto” by Marc Vetri. Because most pastas are fortified (yet another thing I’m not supposed to consume in large quantities), I had begun making my own pasta. Jamie Oliver’s YouTube channel got me started and after an ill-fated experiment with the Kitchenaid mixer pasta attachment that left my mixer smoking and my kitchen spattered with dough the consistency of hardened cement, I bought a hand crank pasta maker. Since then, I have been pasta obsessed. “Mastering Pasta” if full of pasta and sauce recipes that don’t necessarily involve tomatoes- a huge plus for acid-free me!

The last book that I can credit with helping me to cope with the loss of some of my favorite foods and activities was “In Memory of Bread,” by Paul Graham. This memoir details how the author learned to deal with a severe wheat allergy that he developed later in life. Mercifully, I can eat wheat, but his story felt painfully familiar. One line perfectly summarized how I was feeling: “It was as if a sinkhole had opened beneath an important part of my life and irretrievably consumed it. I had been an avid home cook and amateur beer brewer; these were leisure activities that helped me define my place in the world, the things that I enjoyed the most with my wife and close friends.”

While it may sound dramatic, because it is just food after all, I felt like this book validated my feelings of grief and the loss of a part of my identity. It was heartening to read how the author was able to find new ways to fill his plate and his life, but still acknowledge the feelings of unfairness and sadness the loss of favorite pastimes and foods can cause.

While I will always miss tomatoes and hope that I will eventually be able to incorporate foods back into my diet, I am beginning to enjoy finding and adapting recipes. I may not be able to have my beloved marinara sauce, but I’ve found that things like brown butter sauce over heart shaped homemade sweet potato ravioli (the heart shapes definitely make it taste better) have begun to fill the void in my stomach and in my heart.

Allison Palmgren is the Technology Librarian at the Morrill Memorial Library. Read Alli’s article in the November 24th issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.

 

Dracula

Dracula by Bram Stokerdracula cover art

“Dracula is one of my all-time favorite creepy novels.  It’s great to read while the leaves are changing and the weather is cooling.  A classic!” -S. Simas

 

perdido_street_station

Perdido Street Station

Perdido Street Station by China Miévilleperdido_street_station

“Wild imagery and fresh ideas infuse this urban fantasy-horror hybrid, as a rogue alchemist and a crippled warrior must evade a sinister government and stop a monstrous threat to their city.” – J. Hartman

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