Posts tagged: Nonfiction

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

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

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

Book Review: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

By , January 12, 2016

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook
By Gary Vaynerchuk

Happy New Year! I hope that you have sufficiently recovered from the holidays, so that you are ready to tackle those pesky New Year’s Resolutions. Maybe this year, one of those resolutions – after losing weight and redoing the house, of course – was to start a blog, or some kind of online presence. If that’s you (like it was me), then you HAVE to read this book.

I’m not the most media savvy person in the world. I did plan most of my wedding on Pinterest and I’ve been known to play a game or two on Facebook (yay Alpha Betty!), but I don’t use Instagram or that bird one. However, with this book, that’s ok. Vaynerchuk (what a great name, right? I feel like he should be a hockey player…) will walk you through the major social platforms available. His day job is working with major corporations to develop their online marketing footprint, so he’s really good at knowing what is a good idea and what…well…isn’t. He focuses on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblr.

One small caution, this book was written in 2013. For something about the ever-changing online space, I thought it was still very relevant. Vaynerchuk even addresses this issue several times throughout the book. I would guess, though, that for someone who uses any of these sites a lot, they may be able to point out a lot more changes than I saw because I’m not using them every day (yet). I don’t feel like that overshadows this book. Vaynerchuk’s ideas transcend the technology supporting them. Just take his suggestions and apply them to the new technology. As for me, I’ve got to learn how to crawl before I try to fly so what he said was very helpful to me.

If you are looking for some great information to explain why you might want to Pin the Tweet on the Facebook, check out this book and then I’ll see you in the blogosphere…if I can figure it out.

Happy blogging…tweeting…pinning…Facebooking…whatever you do on Instagraming…

:) Amanda

Big Magic Book Review

By , December 8, 2015

Big Magic
By Elizabeth Gilbert

I have to start out with a confession: I, my name, have never read Eat, Pray, Love. What? I know right. Everyone read it. 83% loved it. 14% hated it. But I think at the time I thought it was so over-hyped I wasn’t gonna go anywhere near it. But somewhere along the way, I came across Gilbert’s original TED talk, and I was impressed. This chick is smart. And funny. I’ve been meaning to go back and pick up her most-popular book, but for whatever reason, I just haven’t. Sigh. So many books, so little time.

When I saw that Gilbert had a new book out, and that it was one about creativity and fear I knew I had to (HAD TO!) read it. It seems like I’ve really been studying this topic of doing things afraid here lately, so it was nice of such a popular author to write a book just for me. (She claims she wrote it for her…but I think we all know better.) A lot of these books fall flat because as a reader you can tell that the author is telling you more to “Practice what I say, not what I’ve done.” With Gilbert, though, you know she’s been there. She’s been at that low point, wondering if anyone was every going to recognize her art. One time when she’d gotten one of many rejection letters, she talked herself out of quitting by saying something like, “No way [insert publishing company name here]. Just because you rejected me this time, that doesn’t mean I’ll quit. I’ll keep writing. There are people who aren’t even born yet that are going to reject me!” That was my favorite line because it was so encouraging.

In our culture, if you aren’t immediately successful, people expect that you’ll quit. But, a)It takes years to be an overnight success and b) Gilbert says the only person you let down when you quit is yourself. You need to change your expectations and your attitude and keep doing what your are supposed to be doing. That’s how you win.

This is one of those books that I’m sad because it’s over. I don’t want to give it back to the library – I want to read it again – but 111 other people want to read it too. Sigh. Ok, I’ll be a responsible library patron, and I hope that you all enjoy it as much as I did.

Gilbert made Salon @ 615 a stop on her latest book tour. I didn’t get to go, but hopefully our tech team will get the podcast put together so that we all can see what we missed. That will give me something to look forward to.

Happy creating…

Amanda :)

Book Review: La Bella Lingua

By , October 13, 2015

La Bella Lingua
By Dianne Hales

I am not Italian. Most of my family is German and/or English. But I am a musician (in Nashville? Really?). And because I am classically-trained, I feel like I have studied Italy for a large part of my life (most advanced music terms are Italian). The language itself is very beautiful (molto bella) and musical. A few years ago I got married – and now my mother-in-law is Italian. Like born-in-Italy and still has some trouble with English Italian. When we visit her house, we always end up watching either the Italian news or some game show and I try to pick out a few words I know. But they talk so fast, I think the most I’ve managed is 5 (or cinque – pronounced chink-quay).

When we travelled to Italy, I really wanted to learn more of the language because Italians don’t, as a rule, speak much English. If you stay in the bigger cities, you can get by, but in my mother-in-law’s hometown of Udine (OOO-din-ay), north of Venice, no one spoke or understood English. What no one tells you before hand is that Italian is hard to learn. When I came across this book, I was hoping that it would give me the added insight to get better at Italian.

Until 1861, Italy was made up of a bunch of city states that each had their own language/ dialect. A common language was just one of the hurdles a unified Italy had to face in order to build a strong nation. Thankfully, a young man in Florence writing about heaven and hell saved the day several centuries before he even knew he had to. In writing his Comedia Divina (Divine Comedy), Dante really solidified Italian as a language and he elevated it to be equal to Latin as a means of communication.

Dianne Hales takes us through her own personal journey: how she fell in love with the language, what aspects of it she studied (and she has studied it, A LOT!), and she also talks about how the culture of Italy has a major influence on its language and its people. I enjoyed it and it made me want to try Italian again. I know that I’ll probably never get all the verbs tenses right or really grasp all the regional dialects that still exist, but every new word or conjugation I learn is a step in the right direction. With part of my husband’s family still there, I’m sure we’ll get more chances to show off our Italian prowess.

Now we just have to get some – which is pretty much how the Italians do things, so I think we’re right on track!

Buona lettura…

Amanda :)

Makerspaces for Kids

By , August 27, 2015

August is National Inventor’s Month. Celebrate by creating a “tinkering” space for your young children. Or bring your teens to one of the library’s great makerspaces, called Studio NPL.

Rachelle Doorley, of Tinkerlab (one of my favorite preschool tinkering sites), describes tinkering as “hands-on experiences, learning from failures, and unstructured time to explore and invent.”

As they tinker, kids work through a trial and error process in which they think about questions, test theories, brainstorm, research, and design. Don’t do it for them. Even if you know how it works, let the kids experiment and figure it out. Later, you can talk with them about what they learned.


Young Inventors Need Space

Setting up a Tinkering Space

If you are going to explore hands-on experiences, you need stuff to explore and tinker with.

For toddlers, take a look at this tinkering space from the blog A Mom with a Lesson Plan, inspired by the book Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by Dave Roberts.

For preschoolers, give them access to a wide range of materials. The blog Let the Children Play offers some good suggestions. Check out this tool space at Scholastic, with a worktable, shelves, and lots of jars for hardware. This project gets a little extreme–even mounting a computer on the side. Great idea, but it’s a little too Silicon Valley for my budget.

For those of us with slightly more limited means, a corner in a carport or basement works well, or even a re-purposed kids closet. Keep it simple with measuring tools, cutting tools, drawing tools, woodworking tools, and cans of hardware components along with fasteners, tape and glue.

Invite your family and friends to donate old tools and hardware from their junk drawers to your mini makerspace. Save coffee cans and tin cans for storage (make sure to tape over rough edges). You can also take apart small machines that are no longer working and save the parts for future explorations.


Young Inventors Need Ideas

 Do you need inspiration for things to build?

Check out these art and project websites for kids:


Inspiration for younger children at your library:


For inspiration for teens and youth at your library:


A Young Inventor’s Story

Caine’s Arcade

This clip shows how one boy’s tinkering inspired a community. His concept, Cain’s Arcade, was adopted by the Imagination Foundation, who now sponsors the annual Cardboard Challenge.




Savor Summer: Nashville Food Trucks

By , July 28, 2015

Nashville Food Trucks: Stories and Recipes from the Road
By Julie Festa

We’ve had a lot of fun this month Savoring Summer, but now I’m actually going to take our library culinary tour on the road.

Working downtown like I do it’s hard…no, nigh unto impossible to ignore the existence of the food truck phenomenon. A few of them even park directly in front of the library on 6th Avenue. I considered hiring a bunch of food trucks for my wedding reception instead of catering (which in hindsight might have been a better idea).

And yet…I’ve never officially eaten at one. I’ve seen The Grilled Cheeserie on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives, but I’ve never had one of their fabulous grilled masterpieces.

I know it’s horrible. I’ve tried. In the summer, Thursdays on Deadrick usually become Food Truck Row, but the times I’ve tried they ended up not setting up until the evening for the downtown concerts. So this summer I am making it my goal to eat at at least one food truck. In order to pick the best option I need to do my homework, and what better way than with this book. Author Julie Festa started Nashville’s first food truck blog at in 2012 and she keeps tabs on all her favorite trucks.

Festa’s book starts off with some basic food truck knowledge and advice. Then she jumps in with stories about the individual trucks – complete with recipes! Yummy!

Here is my Top 5 List for the Food Trucks I’d Like to Visit First:

The Grilled Cheeserie (because everybody does)
Biscuit Love
Bradley’s Curbside Creamery (for the White Trash Experience specifically)
Hoss’ Loaded Burger
Tie: Crepe A Diem & The Waffle Boss

I don’t really eat out much, but after reading about all these great taste sensations, I’m glad I’ve been saving my pennies so I can go explore Food Nirvana. And if you don’t work downtown, don’t worry. Nashville Food Trucks are mobile and they do A LOT of traveling to the different parts of Middle Tennessee, so check out their websites and make a date to try one.

The library has Festa’s book in both book book and ebook forms, so check one out today and begin your culinary adventure.

Happy Trails to Food…see you at the trucks (fingers crossed)!

:) Amanda

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