Category: Nonfiction

Book Review: Mary Oliver and Poetry Month!

By , April 19, 2016

by Mary Oliver

Happy Poetry Month!

Wait. What? You didn’t know that April was poetry month? That’s ok. I didn’t either until I started working here. Poetry month is pretty busy at the library. We usually do a special poetry version of the Popmatic Podcast where everyone speaks in iambic pentameter.* Not being the biggest fan of poetry myself, it was never that big of a deal for me, but over the years, I’ve grown into a fan of certain wordsmiths.

My favorite definitely has to be Mary Oliver. I don’t remember how I found her exactly – I think it was in a workshop or something at church. But I have been in love with her vision and her words since then. Oliver has been pretty prolific over the course of her career, and 1984 she won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry with her work entitled, American Primitive. In 2015 she released Felicity – her latest collection of pieces.

Oliver’s work draws heavily on nature and nature-based themes, but what I think I like the most about her poetry is her honesty. Sometimes she’s able to get at the deep heart of a matter in as few words as possible. She also has a subtle sense of humor that can grab you unexpectedly.

Here is an example from her poem “Roses”:

Everyone now and again wonders about
Those questions that have no ready
answers: first cause, God’s existence,
what happens when the curtain goes
down and nothing stops it, not kissing,
not going to the mall, not the Super

“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.
“Do you have the answers? And if you do,
would you tell them to me?”

The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,”
they said. “But as you can see, we are
just now entirely busy being roses.”

I love it – there’s a good lesson for us all in that one. If poetry has never been “your thing” then I suggest starting with Mary Oliver. She’ll make the transformation to poetry lover almost painless.

Happy poetry-ing…
:) Amanda

*We have yet to actually master the iambic pentameter podcast. Sigh. But it’s on our To Do Lists – and at least we all know what iambic pentameter actually means, which I think is half the battle, right?

National Library Week: Libraries Transform – the Past

By , April 11, 2016

This week is National Library Week, and the American Library Association has selected “Libraries Transform” as its theme. While the Nashville Public Library has received widespread recognition in recent years, we have a long history of innovation and outreach to our community.




Books in Schools

As early as 1910 the Nashville Public Library was actively involved in getting books into the hands of children in schools. Mayor Hilary Howse praised the efforts of chief librarian Mary Hannah Johnson, and declared the library to be a “university of the people” for the educational opportunities it provided to all citizens, rich and poor, young and old.


Teenagers at the library in 1960s


Young Modern’s Den

Though it is a far cry from today’s technologically sophisticated Studio NPL and Teen Centers, the Young Modern’s Den of the early 1960s offered both educational resources as well as entertainment. Here, one couple learns to dance, while others take a look at the latest newspapers, enjoy a Coke, or look for sources for a school project.


Bookmobile in rural area



The bookmobile operated as a mini branch library on wheels, serving residents of Davidson County from the early 1940s until 2008. Though it’s hard to believe today, much of the county remained rural for most of the 20th century, and the bookmobile offered important services to those in outlying areas.


Stewardess at Airport Reading Room


Airport Reading Room

The first of its kind in the nation, the Airport Reading Room opened in 1962, though it lasted less than a decade. It provided a space for travelers and airline crews to unwind in between flights, like the stewardess shown here.


Books for checkout at a grocery store



Yet another innovation was the development of the “booketeria” concept – a small collection of books available for self-service checkout at local grocery stores. This 1953 scene is inside Logan’s Super Market in Belle Meade. Library Director Robert Alvarez guides a patron on how to check out a book.


Puppeteer Tom Tichenor


Tom Tichenor

Tom Tichenor is the father of the Nashville Public Library’s tradition of puppetry. In 1938, while a student at Hume-Fogg High School, Tichenor performed “Puss in Boots” for the Children’s Department of the Nashville Public Library. In addition to his long association with the library, lasting 50 years, Tichenor wrote plays and books, performed on television, and was part of the Broadway production of Carnival in New York City.

The tradition of puppetry at the Library lives on through the work of Wishing Chair Productions.

Today’s Library

Today the Nashville Public Library has 21 locations and offers access to more than 2 million items, including e-books and downloadable music and movies. The Library continues to lead in innovative services and programs, garnering national recognition for its Civil Rights RoomLimitless Libraries partnerships with schools, Bringing Books to Life preschool literacy program, and other programs and services. In 2010, NPL received the National Medal for Museum and Library Science – the highest honor given to libraries in the nation.

Participate, Visit, and Learn!

Sign up for a library card.

Find a branch near you.

Check out our events calendar.

Explore a timeline of Nashville Public Library’s history.


Nashville Banner, Feb. 26, 1910.

Nashville Room Historic Photographs Collection, images P-2195; P-2205; P-1184; P-2252; P-2738; held by the Special Collections Division.

Book review: Meatless

By , April 4, 2016

MeatlessMeatless: More Than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes

From the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living


I am not generally a fan of Martha Stewart recipes—too fussy and expensive—but this cookbook is amazing.  It has full-page color photos, the recipes are simple and printed on one page (don’t you hate when cookbooks make you turn the page mid-recipe?), and everything I tried was delicious.  You may need to learn a few new techniques (pressing tofu, roasting cherry tomatoes), but it’s worth the very minimal effort.


Here are some favorites:

  • White bean patties with roasted tomatoes, page 44
  • Fried rice, page 86
  • The unusual black bean bowl on page 89
  • Two unbelievably good sandwiches: chipotle avocado (page 237) and tofu with peanut sauce (page 251)




Book Reviews: ILL Weather

By , March 22, 2016

It’s still March Weather Madness so it’s still time to talk about weather! Honestly, I’ve exhausted most of the library’s supply of books about Mother Nature and the Heavens. Good thing I run Interlibrary Loan, huh?

Don’t know what Interlibrary Loan is? Well, let me enlighten you. If Nashville Public Library does not own a book (print material only – sorry no DVDs or CDs!), I can try to borrow it for you from another library. Cool, right?

So ILL opened up a whole new weather book world for me. I recently borrowed two books I’d like to tell you about:

The first one was called Category 5: the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane by Thomas Knowles. Did you know about this? I’d never heard of it until I stumbled across this book. Apparently in 1935, a Category 5 hurricane took aim at the Florida Keys and devastated Matecumbe (which is the area between Key West and Key Largo). I can’t even try to imagine predicting a storm like this in 1935. In the thirties there was no radar, no satellites, and no hurricane planes to help provide information. Forecasters knew there was a storm coming, but they weren’t exactly sure where it was and they had no idea it would be as strong as it was.

This hurricane is the strongest hurricane to ever hit the US. (It’s was stronger, even than Camille.) It had winds of 185 mph – but they may have been higher because most of the recording equipment blew away at some point during the storm. And it also has the lowest pressure recorded in a landfalling hurricane at 26.35 inches – normal sea level pressure is about 30 inches.

My only complaint with Knowles’ book was that he kept switching back and forth from past tense verbs to present tense verbs and this got annoying. But this story itself was sound. And, if I ever get a chance to travel to the Keys, now I’ll go with a little more history. I’ll also try not to visit during hurricane season. Yikes!

The second book I borrowed was called Storm Watchers: The Turbulent History of Weather Prediction from Franklin’s Kite to El Nino by John D. Cox. I was a little concerned that this one might be a bit dry since it was more about the science of weather than an actual storm, but he organized it really well and it still moved. Cox picked the twenty-eight men (no women, dang it) that he felt really helped shape weather forecasting in the US specifically, but also abroad. I’d heard of about half the guys – people like James Espy, John Finley, Isaac Cline and Ted Fujita. But it was fun to meet the new guys.

Like I mentioned, the book was divided into short(ish) segments that focused on each meteorologist, and there was a little overlap between the sections that helped the overall flow of the book. My biggest complaint is that there was quite a bit of science that I didn’t always completely understand. But I’m working on it…

So those are two good ILL picks if you need to get a weather fix beyond what NPL has provided. Also, if you find other really cool ILL weather books, or really any fun ILL books, I always love to discover good books about interesting topics. Everybody wins!

Happy March Weather Madness and Happy reading (don’t get blown away)…

:) Amanda

DVD Review: Great Courses Meteorology

By , March 8, 2016

Meteorology: An Introduction to the Wonders of the Weather
From Great Courses

March marks the beginning of spring, so it’s only natural that a young girl’s thoughts turn to…yup, you guessed it…severe weather. Tennessee’s official Severe Weather Awareness week happened from February 28 to March 5, but if you missed it, don’t fret. Nashville Public Library has lots of severe weather materials to get you informed before Mother Nature gets cranky.

My favorite weather items to read are books about tornados. While these are entertaining after the fact, they won’t do much to educate about what exactly causes the windy spirals and why forecasters can’t always predict their occurrence. But recently the library ordered a new Great Courses series called Meteorology: An Introduction to the Wonders of the Weather. This is a four disc set, plus a digital course workbook that includes 24, half-hour lessons on weather. Topics range from basic discussions about the atmosphere to wind to lightning to the actual ability of forecasters to predict future weather.

The class is taught by Robert G. Fovell, who initially looks like snobby, know-it-all professor who flunks everyone just because he can. But as the series goes on, I really started to like him. He’s funny and he not only knows his subject matter, but he attempts to make it comprehensible for those of us who don’t have advanced degrees in mathematics or fluid dynamics. At one point I considered being a meteorologist, but then I found out that they had to know all that hard stuff, like calculus, and I’ve never been the biggest fan of math. I CAN do it, I simply CHOOSE not to.

I’m still working through the set, and I thought this might be something that would not have the biggest demand so I’d be able to renew it. But shock upon shock, there is currently a holds list for this item. Way to go Weather Nerds! I promise to be responsible and share this as soon as my time is up (but I might have to put myself back in line for it and go again!)

If you don’t want to wait for your turn with this set, you can check out all my other weather-related recommendations on the Popmatic Podcast. I christened this whole month “March Weather Madness” and there is something for everyone – hurricanes, tornadoes, and Al Roker (be not afraid…). Be sure to tune in to tomorrow’s episode (March 9) when I make all the guys celebrate weather with me (and no one mentions a comic book!)

Happy weather watching…

:) Amanda

Having Belcourt withdrawal?

By , March 7, 2016

Reeling Through LifeReeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies
by Tara Ison

In this memoir/film class, Ms. Ison reveals how movies shaped her attitudes about life.  Chapters include How to Go Crazy, How to Be Lolita, How to Be a Drunk, and How to Die in Style.  In each essay, the author talks about several films that she saw during her formative years and the life lessons that she gleaned from them.  For instance, How to Die in Style discusses Love Story, Harold and Maude, In Cold Blood, and Thelma & Louise, among others.  Her preteen perspectives on the heavy themes of sex, death, and addiction are especially interesting.  Plus, it will give you a huge list of old movies to revisit while the Belcourt’s closed!




Book Review: The Story of Ruth

By , February 23, 2016

The Story of Ruth: Twelve Moments in Every Woman’s Life
By Joan Chittister, Artwork by John August Swanson

I have always liked the Book of Ruth. It is one of my favorite books of the Bible. In fact, when we got married, my husband and I asked our minister to use the Book of Ruth as source material for his homily. I also enjoy artwork that tells a story, so when I saw this book sitting on the new shelf at the Main Library, it was in my hands before my brain even registered what was happening.

Initially, the book began life because artist John August Swanson had decided to do some very Byzantinesque panels depicting the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz. Then as they were going through the printing process, he asked Joan Chittister to add some commentary about the meaning of Ruth’s story.

As detailed and colorful as Swanson’s artwork is, it was not what pulled me into the story. I have never been a big fan of Byzantine artwork. It just leaves me flat (get it…). Instead,it was Chittister’s words that made this book so powerful for me. Chittister is a bit more of a feminist than I am, and her words obviously slant that way, but with a story about two, isolated but determined women succeeding in a male dominated society, that’s ok. Her words are insightful and, to a certain extent, prophetic. I found myself nodding as I was reading along. I’m always looking for great Biblical commentaries and this one definitely fit the bill.

Chittister and Swanson divide their book up into twelve short sections. You can read a different section each day and get different insights about the lives of Naomi and Ruth. If you are looking for something moving to read during this Lenten season, I highly recommend The Story of Ruth.

Happy reading…

:) Amanda

Modern (love and) Romance

By , February 12, 2016

The world is full of books offering relationship, romance and dating do’s and don’ts. The Nashville Public Library owns over 500 titles on the subject of “Man-woman relationships” alone. Where does a lonely heart begin ?!?!?! Last year comedian Aziz Ansari authored Modern Romance, a guide to navigating love in the age of technology. Aziz teamed up with Eric Klinenberg, an NYU sociologist, to conduct research on the behaviors of those seeking romance. The results of their study are fascinating, but not always surprising.   See chapter 6:  Old Issues, New Forms: Sexting, Cheating, Snooping and Breaking up.

In an attempt to ensure that you are properly convinced to read this book, co-workers are sharing their takes on this funny yet serious-as-all-get-out book. Enjoy!

Cheyenne,  33 year old married lady

My husband and I started dating in 2007, right before texting and social media REALLY took over everyone’s lives.  As I read Aziz’s wise words, I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with gratitude that we didn’t have all of this mess to deal with back in the mid-aughts.  How does anyone keep track of all of these ambiguous forms of communication?  This book touches a deeper nerve than just romance, though, and I really related to the general anxiety of modern LIFE that Aziz so perfectly and hilariously captures.  This book made me laugh hysterically, and it also made me a little worried.  I loved it!  PS: Best book cover of 2015.

Rose, 41, married since 1998; didn’t even have email while dating

I resisted this for MONTHS because I thought that it was going to be light and sort of dumb. It is not. The research is fascinating (especially if you started dating before 1995), and I laughed out loud about a hundred times.

Jessie, 39, Long-term relationship

I met my main squeeze the old-fashioned way, about two hours before internet dating became a thing when my roommate started meeting friends-of-friends-of-friends for drinks through Friendster. Text messaging existed, but it wasn’t something you really did unless it was an emergency. I picked up Modern Romance because I wanted to learn more about these things—swiping right, flirty text message conversations—that everyone else my age seems to have done at one time or another. Thank goodness I did! Since it was co-written with a sociologist, I now have something smart to say when a friend asks me to decipher a flirty-but-vague text message and I won’t embarrass myself by asking my brother about how his Tinder date went. Modern Romance is about more than dating. It’s really a book about the nature of love and human connection. That’s something to which we all can relate, regardless of our relationship status. It’s also going to help me immensely as I develop my new dating app, Tender (for people who just want a really great hug).

Elsie, 57-year-old divorcee returning to the dating scene

I am so glad Aziz was nearby to walk me through the minefield of sexting!  It is all very exciting and I can’t wait to find my algorithm mate.  Now if I could just figure out how to post this glamour shot to Our Time.

Ruby, 24, single, user of Bumble, Hinge, Tinder

Ansari is an uber-relatable millennial who has granted 20-somethings everywhere permission to keep swiping on Tinder.  Or was that just me?  He encourages singles to get rid of their FOMO (fear of missing out) and embrace the choices we are given via numerous dating apps.  His take on the current dating climate–here and abroad–shed light on the many flaws of online dating, while analyzing why so many older people are getting divorced. So we’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t, but Ansari pretty much gave a PSA on how to craft a thoughtful message, a much needed reminder in the world of online dating.  Hint: “R U Awake?” at 1:15 a.m. doesn’t cut it.  According to him, it all boils down to the amount of choices we have available in the current dating climate and the not-so-quality ubiquitous matches.  He attempted to normalize online dating in a strategic thought process I definitely bought.  If everyone else is doing it, shouldn’t I?

“Modern love, walks beside me       Modern love, walks on by”     David Bowie

Book Review: Barbarian Days

By , February 9, 2016

Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life
By William Finnegan

I’m not a surfer. Nor am I a surf-writer. But I’ve decided that I am a surf-reader-abouter. For some reason I love reading books (and watching movies) about surfing. It’s such a beautiful, elegant sport that could totally kill you if you’re not smart and careful. Good surf books, though, can be hard to come by. They tend to hide from me and then jump out when I’m least expecting them. Recently a new surf book landed on my desk. I’ve never heard of William Finnegan as a surfer, but his book Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life seemed like something I had to check out.

With his father working on TV shows and movies, Finnegan and family bounced back and forth between Hawaii and California, depending on his dad’s shooting schedule. Between moves, Finnegan learned how to surf on some great waves. In the sixties, when he was a kid, surfing was just starting to find a new surge in popularity. It wasn’t the overly-sponsored corporate clog that it has become. There were still waves to find that were pristine and rideable. As a teenager, the author lived near some of the best breaks in the world, including Rincon and Honolua Bay.

During college, Finnegan and a buddy set out on a round the world surf trip – a la Endless Summer – that would last several years. Some of the unknown waves they surfed in the 70s and 80s are must-surfs for today’s elite. My favorite aspect of Finnegan’s trip was that he wasn’t just out looking for a monster wave to ride and conquer, like some of the books I’ve read. He was simply exploring great waves sites and letting Mother Nature do her thing.

This book was really dense and even though I’m a fast reader, it took me a couple of weeks to plow through. It wasn’t quite a double wave hold down, but there were times I definitely had to come up for air. Finnegan totally immerses you in the world he grew up in and chose to chase for the better part of his adult life. I found that I missed his voice in my head when I wasn’t reading – I wanted more surf stories. If I had the money and time (and was better at “roughing it”), it would be fun to travel and see some of his waves. Not surf them, mind you, because I have zero skill at that. But I think that waves are beautiful and these sound like something that would be very worth seeing. And like the author, I didn’t want it to end.

Happy surfing (or surf-reading-about)…

:) Amanda

Book review: Kisses from Katie

By , January 26, 2016

Kisses from Katie
By Katie Davis

I have causes that I support. I think we all probably have those things that tug at our heartstrings and to which we want to give our time and money and love.

And this one got me.

Which means it must be pretty powerful because I am not known for being a sappy person. I don’t like movies that make me cry and I’d ALWAYS rather watch a comedy over a drama. But with Kisses from Katie, it was like the universe wouldn’t let me ignore it. Plus, it’s always nice when a local girl does good.

Katie Davis was born and raised in Brentwood, TN. Instead of going immediately to college after graduating high school, she decided to spend a year in Uganda, Africa working in an orphanage. She had originally planned to come home and go to college after that one year, but Africa grabbed her wouldn’t let go.

While working as a teacher, Katie ended up adopting fourteen (then thirteen) girls whose families had either abandoned them or had passed away. All of this loved ended up becoming Amazima Ministries that helps children in Uganda get the education they need to avoid a life of destitution and poverty.

Katie’s story is amazing. She felt called to serve in Africa and instead of coming up with a million excuses why not, she went. While being honest that parts of her journey were very difficult, Katie still made it seem almost effortless because she knew she had a solid support system – which included a very powerful faith in God. I found myself tearing up on every other page because it was just so moving.

I was sad when the book ended. I wanted to know all the details from 2011 when the book was published to today. Luckily, Katie still writes her blog and Amazima is going strong. You check her out here for the rest of the story. I hope that I can be as driven and as elegant with my talents and gifts as Katie was and is with hers.

Happy reading (but you might want to grab a Kleenex…just saying)…

:) Amanda

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