Category: Nonfiction

The Fashions of Turn

By , July 24, 2014

AMC’s hit new series Turn has created a renewed interest in the colonial period including its fashions. Turn, based on Alexander Rose’s book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, tells the story of the Culper Ring and the part they played in aiding  the colonies’ liberation from England.  Turn’s Emmy award winning costume designer Donna Zakowska, makes the show’s colonial period fashions sophisticated in a contemporary way.

The library has many amazing books in its fashion history collection. If you would like to learn more about the clothing worn during the colonial period then you may want to take a look at the following titles:


The History of American Dress: the Colonial and Revolutionary Periods

By  Alexander Wyckoff

This oldie but goodie is packed with rich historical details depicting the clothing worn by men, women and children during the American Revolution. Drawings showcase every aspect of the clothing worn, from the men’s wigs, to the shape of the heel on children’s shoes. This book is a must read for fashion history fans.


  Everyday Dress of Rural America, 1783-1800: with Instructions and Patterns

By Merideth Wright

This slim volume is a “comprehensive study of late-18th-century clothing worn by the settlers of New England. Features full descriptions and line drawings with complete instructions for duplicating a wide range of garments from: shifts, petticoats, gowns, breeches, waistcoats and headgear.”


 Historical Fashion in Detail: The 17th and 18th Centuries

By Avril Hart and Susan North

This book is filled with large, beautiful, color photographs of fashions from the historical costume collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Each featured piece includes a detailed photo and description of the item and a drawing of the garment to better understand its overall construction. This book is amazing don’t miss it!


 What Clothes Reveal: the Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America: the Colonial Williamsburg Collection

by  Linda Baumgarten

“Drawing on the costumes and accessories in the Colonial Williamsburg collection, Linda Baumgarten examines how Americans of all classes dressed in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Topics range from the work clothes of slaves to the elegant, high-style attire of the gentry. What people wore during significant life passages and the social contexts of such apparel are fully and engagingly discussed.”  This book features tons of lovely photographs of American colonial fashions.








Book review: Life Itself

By , July 18, 2014

Life itself: a memoir
by Roger Ebert

In 2011 Roger Ebert, the everyman half of Siskel & Ebert penned the memoir, Life Itself.  The book gives readers behind the scenes access into the life of the man who shaped the way we  look at movies for 4o years.

From his childhood years in Urbana to the heady days of covering international film festivals, Ebert shares the nuances that made his life itself rich. Roger Ebert was raised a Catholic, but he later lapsed. He fought the temptations of drink, professional jealousy and the wiley ways of buxom, wonton women. Sure, there must have been editing in the telling, but what a masterfully crafted final product.

Ebert won a Pulitzer Prize (the first awarded for movie criticism) and notably co-wrote the screen play of Beyond Valley of the Dolls. He was the first film critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. His television movie review programs, beginning with Sneak Previews in 1975, hosting with Gene Siskel in various incarnations for 15 years and ending with Ebert & Roeper, changed the way we look at movies and movie going.

It was his talent for conveying the details, atmosphere and mutations in mood that gave his work a distinct voice no matter the medium.  Over the years he moved from print (linotype presses, no less) to television and finally electronic communications when he lost the physical ability to speak.

Filmmaker Steve James has produced a film version of the biography, loosely based on the book. Filming began after Ebert could no longer speak, but was still in relatively good enough health to be a vital part of the process.  Over the course of filming, Roger Ebert endured return visits to rehab and moments of restored health only to repeat the process over and over again with his (late in life) wife, Chaz at his side. Roger Ebert, the surgically devoured, papillary thyroid  and salivary glands  cancer patient died in April 2013, eleven years after his initial diagnosis. The film version, Life Itself was released earlier this month.  To rave reviews.

We don’t pretend to disagree.  Gene Siskel


Book review: The Great Dissent

By , July 2, 2014

The Great Dissent: How Oliver Wendell Holmes Changed His Mind– and Changed the History of Free Speech in America
by Thomas Healy

In the USA, we love free speech. The free speech we enjoy now wasn’t always so – especially in war time. Contemporary free speech protections are largely thanks to Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.’s dissent in Abrams vs. United States. The titular great dissent was issued in 1919. Holmes argued that leaflets dispersed by political, ah, dissenters which denounced American war efforts did not “hinder the prosecution” of American military goals in any real way and that the dissenters’ sentence was unnecessarily harsh because of ideological reasons. Though the minority opinion at the time, Holmes’ dissent became the far more influential legal argument. So remember, if the Supreme Court issues a ruling that turns your guts, hang in there. The dissenting opinion might prove to be the opinion that matters in the long run. (Little solace, I know, if you took a case to the Supreme Court and lost.)

Thanks to his dissent in Abrams, Holmes is often remembered as a champion of progressive causes. During his life though he was very much a conservative figure. His Abrams opinion was in a lot of ways a 180. So what gives, Justice Holmes? Healy traces a psychological arc that ends with the Abrams case. The Great Dissent is as much a portrait of the later Holmes and his milieu as it is a book of legal scholarship. As a legal layman, I was engaged and enlightened.

And I mean look at that ‘stache! How does he keep mustard out of that thing at picnics? Happy Fourth of July!


Book review: Nothing to Envy

By , June 24, 2014

Nothing to Envy
By Barbara Demick

Sometimes I wonder why I pick the books I do. Is it the cover? Or maybe a big name author? Sure, once in a while that explains it. But why then did I pick this nondescript book about North Korea as I was browsing through Overdrive? It’s certainly not the cover – although the photograph makes the country seem like Disneyland compared to actual life in the Communist state. And I’ve never heard of Barbara Demick. So what made me think reading about North Korea would be good?

As Americans, basically all we’ve been told is that North Korea is part of the “Axis of Evil” and they want to build nuclear bombs to blow us up. I had no idea of the famines and lack of basic resources that the general population has to try and survive. Just look at the photo below taken from space. North Korea is dark, not because the regime dictates it, but because they have no electricity outside the capital city. Think about all the things you can’t do without electricity…


I was also unaware of the brainwashing that has occurred. I can’t even imagine living under a regime that tells you all the things you can’t do, but then gives you no means to support your family. Not just support, but feed. And if my family was starving because of lack of promised government sustenance, you can bet that I’d be screaming it from the rooftop. But in North Korea, that is a death sentence. Even scoffing at the wrong person or not prostrating yourself in grief at the death of Kim Il-Sung was grounds for time spent in a labor camp.

But not everyone was willing to stay and suffer silently. Some got out. Some were able to share their story. That is why I picked this book. I’ve read books about living in the dumps in Mumbai and I’ve read about life in Iran, but never have I been more thankful that I was born in country where I can choose how to live. No one tells me I have to be a doctor or that I can’t grow my own food. If I’m hungry I can eat an apple…or Cheetos.

So why should you read this? I can’t say it was a light read. It was actually very frustrating in sections. But if I had trouble just reading it, imagine how bad it was for the folks who had to live it. Read it because it will open your eyes. Read it because you will be educated in a culture and world completely different from ours. Read it because you can.

And be thankful…





Forest feast simple: vegetarian recipes from my cabin in the woods / Erin Gleeson

By , June 20, 2014
by Erin Gleeson

Every generation has its defining cookbook. The new standard among which all cookbooks will now be measured, the new classic, is Forest feast: simple vegetarian recipes from my cabin in the woods by Erin Gleeson.

Open this book to any page and be inspired. Page left lists ingredients and simple instructions in a combination of watercolor hand lettering and old school typewriter/Courier type. Beautifully combined textures of fabric and ingredients sprinkle the page giving the chef visual encouragements. On the opposite, page right, the finished dish. Simply plated and set on a slab of wood. Delicious, delectable and doable.

“Consider it a handbook of techniques and templates and you will never run out of ways to enjoy this book. The recipies don’t demand pecision-just study the beautiful page layout, get a geral idea and then, go cook!” raves a recent reader.

This cookbook that can be shared by all members of the family. In fact, make a mid-summer pledge to make one recipe out of this book, once a week for the next year. Share the making and the results with family, friends, co-workers. While you decide what recipe to pick next, enjoy one of ten inspired cocktail recipes….Rosemary gin fizz, Bloody Mimosa, Cherry Tomato Michelada….

Take time to read the author introduction. Her journey from food photographer and teacher at Fashion Institue of Technology in NYC to a California cabin in the woods with her Rabbi husband is the stuff of dreams come true. It takes an interesting woman to create these most interesting of recipes.

“First we eat, then we do everything else.”  M.F.K. Fisher





Bake some pies: three new cookbooks

By , June 13, 2014

Every day is a good day to eat pie. So why not try baking your own?  We have three new “pie only” cookbooks written by some very talented and creative bakers.  So put on your apron, grab your rolling pin and pie plate, and get busy!

The Four & Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book
Sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen grew up watching their grandma and mom bake pies for the family-owned diner.  The girls grew up and went out into the world, but pie making was in their blood.   The Elsen sisters left behind the careers they went to college for and opened a pie shop in Brooklyn. It’s been so successful they opened a second location in the Brooklyn Public Library, and more importantly for us, published their first cookbook.  Favorite recipe I baked: the green chili chocolate pie on p. 204.


Teeny’s Tour of Pie
Teeny’ s love of pie inspired her to embark on a journey across the country, interning at the best pie shops in the U.S. before opening her very own in Washington DC. Her easy-going, don’t worry if you screw up, words of encouragement sure helped to ease my pie-crust making nerves.  Teeny is a big fan of single-serving teeny pies, and most recipes include variations on how to make them “teeny.“  Favorite recipe I baked: the strawberry rhubarb pie on p. 167.


First Prize Pies
Allison Kave founded First Prize Pies after she won 1st place at the Brooklyn Pie cookoff with her Bourbon Ginger Pecan Pie (p. 170).  Her recipes include some of the most creative culinary ideas I’ve ever encountered.  Plus Allison explains her techniques so well, you’re sure to have success on your first attempt!   I decided to put the avocado cream pie (p. 82) to the co-worker taste test. Admittedly an avocado pie  sounds unusual, so I’m including actual quotes from a few of my taste testers.  Greg said…”Most excellent.  Like a creamier, earthier keylime pie.  Have you ever had one of the avocado popsicles from Las Paletas?  Reminds me of those!”  Teresa proclaimed… “DELICIOUS! Who knew?”  And Bryan said…”This is delicious! This the best creme cheese pie I have ever had but it is green so I can count it as a vegetable right? I want you to make brussels sprouts pie next!”  Well, I don’t know about a brussels sprouts pie, but they sure are tasty roasted with olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.

“Candy might be sweet, but it’s a traveling carnival blowing through town. Pie is home. People always come home.” ~ quote from Pushing Daisies, one of the best TV series of the last decade…

Book review: An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers

By , June 12, 2014


 An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers

By Danny Gregory

This book makes me aspire to be a better artist. Author Danny Gregory began keeping an illustrated journal as a way to “deepen how he saw the world.” His inspiration for compiling An Illustrated Life was to have a book that featured “sketchbooks and illustrated journals from all sorts of people who loved nothing better than to hunch over a little book and fill its pages with lines and colors” and having never found such a book he decided to create it himself, and luckily for us, he did just that.

The artists featured in the book let us into their private worlds. Through their sketchbooks we can gain a better understanding of them as artists, see their creative processes and become inspired ourselves to try something new.

Each artist’s chapter includes biographical information, a statement about what inspires them to create and of course beautiful illustrations from their sketchbooks and journals.

There is something that can be learned from each artist featured in An Illustrated Life…. the possibilities are endless!







Event : The Art of Fermentation

By , June 6, 2014

Are you ready for some live culture at your library? On Saturday, June 21st fermentation writer and revivalist Sandor Ellix Katz will be here at the downtown library to explain how easy it is to get started making your own sauerkraut, kim chi, sourdough, and more (Wine, Beer, Mead, Cider, Tea, Pickles, Kimchi, Salami, Miso, Tempeh, Soy Sauce, Vinegar, Yogurt, Kefir, Kombucha.)  In addition to demonstrating the processes involved, he’ll be offering samples to make your taste buds come alive!

From easy recipes to the health benefits and rich history, there’s a lot
you may not be aware of regarding live-culture fermented foods.

We’re all about free things at the library.  And now, more than ever, it’s not just books. If you haven’t done so already, you can stop by the Bellevue, Bordeaux, Edmondson Pike, and Inglewood branches and pick up your free seeds from the Nashville Public Library Seed Exchange.  If you’re already starting to harvest more fruits and veggies than you know what to do with, let Mr. Katz be your guide in preserving and transforming your crop into healthy, fermented delicacies.

If you can’t make it to the workshop, or if you want to learn a little beforehand, catch up with some of Sandor Katz’s books and vids at the library:


The Art of Fermentation : An in-depth exploration of essential concepts and processes from around the world.  Winner of a 2013 James Beard Foundation Book Award, also available on CD Audio.


Wild Fermentation : the flavor, nutrition, and craft of live-culture foods.  Known as the bible of fermentation, this one’s chock-full of recipes at all skill levels! Also the name of Katz’s website


Fermentation Workshop [DVD] : Probably the most representative of what you’ll see if you come to the workshop.  But Hey, you can’t ask a DVD questions, now can you!?


The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved : Inside America’s underground food movements. Including a great chapter on Seed Saving as a Political Act! ¡Viva la Revolución!

Orange is the New Black

By , May 31, 2014
The second season of Orange is the New Black will be released on Netflix this Friday, and I’ll be binge-watching along with rest of us on the outside.  If you missed the first season, it was as fun and engaging as television can be, and you can catch up by placing your holds on the DVD’s here.

While some may criticize the accuracy of how it portrays life in prison, one cannot deny that it starts a conversation about the conditions and power dynamics in our nation’s prisons that, to most of us, remain invisible. The library helps bring the conversation to the community by providing the materials needed to help round out the picture.  Netflix may have perfected binge watching, but libraries have long been enablers of binge reading (are those 100 book check-out limits just a rumor?)  If you’re looking to delve a little deeper, here are some places to start:

If you weren’t aware, Orange is the New Black (the show) takes its title from the best-selling memoir by Piper Kerman, and loosely follows her experiences in women’s prison. In addition to paperback copies, the audio book is now available for download instantly from Hoopla (where you can also check out the soundtrack).  For book clubs, you can get everything you need in one bag with our Book Club in a Bag (10 copies, plus discussion questions and an author bio).


A World Apart : Women, Prison, and Life Behind Bars : While Kerman writes about her experience at a women’s minimum security prison, this exposé sheds light on one of the longest running women’s prisons in the country and serves to humanize its inmates


Assata : An Autobiography by Assata Shakur : A rare modern classic that is also a page turner.  Full of gripping descriptions and biting criticism, by a controversial figure and the grandmother of Tupac Shakur, dealing with issues of race, gender, and incarceration.


Herman’s House :  Herman Wallace made news last year when he was released after 41 years of solitary confinement and died just three days later, a free man.  This documentary deals with the practice of long term solitary confinement (called Solitary Housing Units, or “the SHU,” on Orange is the New Black) and the transformative power of art.  Available on DVD and streaming on Hoopla.

It’s Nia Time!

By , May 27, 2014

What has Nia Vardalos done lately?

I know you’re wondering, “Amanda, why do I need to care about a Big Fat movie that was popular 10 years ago? That Greek chick in it hasn’t done anything else. She’s a one-hit wonder.” I know you’re wondering this a) because I have a Magic Eight ball that told me and b) I was thinking it too until I had a delightful surprise in Overdrive one day.

Nia Vardalos wrote a book! (Taa daa…cymbals crash in the background.)

Called Instant Mom, on the surface, it’s about her struggles to adopt a child, but we also get some background on how My Big Fat Greek Wedding came to be. She talks about how her acting/writing career fit into to her new life as a mom. I didn’t realize that she had written as many films as she had. The only one I knew about was Connie and Carla – which I LOVE! It’s got drag queens and showtunes – the best combination since peanut butter and jelly. Vardalos uses her trademark sarcastic and self-deprecating voice in her writing to describe her problems, which manages to add comic relief without cheapening the situation. Her voice makes my hair curly.

I love Nia Vardalos. In an alternate universe, we’re Hollywood besties. Come along with  me now as we take a voyage through the seemingly underexplored oeuvre of that Big Fat Greek Girl…in no particular order…

My Life in Ruins

Filmed on location in Greece in 2009, Nia did not write this one, but she is the leading lady. It’s a cute little romcom, that’s more about group friendship than romantic love. It’s not better than my favorites, but it’s not a bad way to kill 90 minutes. Also, her husband makes a cameo as a grumpy desk clerk. Creepy…but funny.

Larry Crowne

I wasn’t really interested in this one when it came out, so I didn’t know that it was written by Vardalos. So I watched it and was pleasantly surprised. It’s funny though – I kept seeing Nia as the lead instead of Julia Roberts and I never realized how similar these two were. Larry Crowne, or Lance Corona, was a cute movie that I may have to watch again at some point. Husband alert again – he pops up as the dinner owner where Larry gets a job as a cook.

We also have an interview with Vardalos as part of The Dialogue and a playaway from Second City that includes Vardalos. The playaway is funny, although sometimes it can be hard to pick out Vardalos. But Steve Carell pops up every now and again, as does Ed Asner. The interview was a little slow in places and the Mike de Luca, the interviewer, kinda bugged me with all his interruptions, but Nia is charming and incredibly humble about her success. Her husband was not in the interview.


I hope you have enjoyed this trip through the World of Nia Vardalos. So who is this mysterious husband who keeps popping up? Vardalos has been married to Ian Gomez since 1993. When I looked up his picture – turns out he’s Ian’s (John Corbett) best friend/man in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.  Wait? That guy? I know right – it does explain why they are so silly together in the book, though. Something must have worked for them in the last 20 years because we keep seeing him in her movies.

Happy Greeking out…

:) Amanda

PS I just realized that Ian is Stanley the club owner in Connie and Carla!!! Man, how did I miss that?


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