Eat Your Veggies! Cookbooks and a Class.

A pile of bell peppers from the Farmers Market, in greens, yellows, and purples.
Produce from weekly farmers market at HCLS Miller Branch.

By Holly L.

Low-Fat. Mediterranean. Atkins. Whole 30. Keto. Paleo. Vegan. Pegan. Pegan? (That’s paleo meets vegan.) While there is little consensus as to which diet is the best, there is near universal agreement that a healthy diet includes abundant produce – fruits and, especially, vegetables. But most of us still aren’t getting enough. According to the USDA’s most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 90 percent of the US population does not get its daily recommendation of vegetables.

Whether you are already getting your five servings a day, we have a cornucopia of titles in our cookbook collection to help you incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet.

Meera Sodha’s East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing is an inspired collection of vibrant recipes, many originally published in her Guardian food column,”The New Vegan.” In her introduction, Sodha recalls when she first agreed to write the column that not only was she not vegan, she was in the middle of a major life change, having recently given birth to her first child. Excited by the writing challenge when she was seeing the world anew through her daughter’s eyes, she embarked on a journey to discover vegan recipes that would satisfy not just vegans but meat-eaters like herself. With a culinary background (and two prior cookbooks) rooted in her Indian heritage, Sodha broadens her horizons in East, with vegetarian and vegan recipes inspired by her travels in East and South Asia. The book is divided into chapters such as Snacks & Small Things, Curries, Flour and Eggs, Legumes, and Sweets. A few pages of “alternative contents” are also helpful, with categories such as Quick Dinners and From the Pantry, in addition to seasonal categories for those who like to cook by the calendar. This fall, I am tempted by Autumn Pilau with squash, lacinato kale, and smoked garlic, perhaps followed by some Pineapple Love Cake or Salted miso brownies.

The title Mostly Plants echoes a line from author-journalist Michael Pollan’s 2008 book In Defense of Food: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” While recognizing the nutritional and cultural value of meat, he champions a diet of moderation composed mostly of whole foods, with meat being demoted from star to supporting player. In Mostly Plants: 101 Delicious Flexitarian Recipes from the Pollan Family, Michael Pollan’s mother, Corky, and sisters Tracy, Dana, and Lori have created a cookbook full of healthy, flavorful recipes designed to be on the table in 35 minutes or less. Each Pollan has her own dietary preference, some eating meat and others not. Their goal with the book is not to promote one particular diet but rather to shift “the ratio from animals to plants.” Each recipe features easy-to-read icons indicating if it is vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, and/or fast, as well as helpful hints for adaptations (to make a vegetarian recipe vegan, for example). Beautiful photos fill the pages, highlighting such recipes as Mesclun greens with persimmons and Manchego cheese and Udon Noodle Soup with miso-glazed vegetables and chicken. The book finishes with a chapter devoted to sweets, the Apple Galette Rustique with apricot glaze sounding to me like a perfect fall dessert.

Fans of chef-activist Bryant Terry may know him as the author of the celebrated 2014 cookbook Afro-Vegan: Farm-fresh African, Caribbean and Southern Flavors Remixed. In his more recent book Vegetable Kingdom: The Abundant World of Vegan Recipes, Terry explores the realm of vegetables in all their glorious parts, from seeds to roots. In his introduction, subtitled “Fennel for Zenzi,” Terry credits his two daughters as his inspiration. “I wrote this book to make a diversity of foods from the plant kingdom irresistible to them, to inspire their curiosity.” Even the structure of the book, with recipes sorted into chapters based on which part of the plant is used (flower, bulb, etc.) came from his older daughter Mila’s gardening class assignment. The recipes exhibit a further geographical reach than his previous books, with influences from East and Southeast Asia, reflective of his wife’s heritage. The book offers a feast for the senses, not just for the eyes and the palate, but for the ears, too. Terry includes a song pairing for each recipe. Before I prepare Dirty Cauliflower with tempeh, mushrooms, scallions, and parsley, I will be sure to queue up the suggested track, “Flat of the Blade” by Massive Attack. Terry does not include a chapter on sweets, but I imagine that he would approve of my default easy dessert—a few squares of dark chocolate which is, of course, vegan.

If you are interesting in healthy plant-based cooking, consider joining HCLS Elkridge Branch for Plant-Based Nutrition: Everything You Want to Know and More! on Thursday, October 7 at 6:30 pm. University of Maryland Extension teaches participants about plant-based nutrition, the benefits of a plant-based diet, and how to shop and plan meals using plant-based foods.

Holly L. is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys knitting and appreciates an audiobook with a good narrator.

Brat: An ’80s story

Black and white photo of Andrew McCarthy in a tweed jacket, loosening a skinny tie.

by Eric B.

I’d completely agree with the author Jay McInerney’s (Bright Lights, Big City) assessment on the back jacket cover of Brat: An ’80s Story

“My only quibble with this absorbing, thoughtful, and sometimes painfully honest memoir is with the title; McCarthy is anything but a brat. He is certainly an unlikely movie star, and the story of how this diffident and insecure young man found himself at the center of the culture in the 1980s—and then decided to walk away from it all—makes for a fascinating read.”

Perhaps you’ve seen Andrew McCarthy on the talk show circuit, or just remember him from his 80s films. I am a fan of his work in Less than ZeroPretty in Pink, and St Elmo’s Fire. Moreover, and you may scoff, but I do realize the genius that is found in Weekend at Bernie’s. I’m a fan of McCarthy’s acting, and perhaps his general on-screen demeanor in these “period pieces.” He played thoughtful, “emo” characters before it was nearly a trope in myriad indie films (to be sure, I still love the sensitive emo characters). For example, I’d contend that Timothy Chalamet is successful in a way I’m not sure was possible in the recent past with more rigid gender roles.

Several years ago, I read some of McCarthy’s travel writing and liked his style. The piece was about Los Angeles and was personal for him, and he spiced it up with personal anecdotes about his memories. For fans of 80’s films and McCarthy, Brat is like a greatest hits collection.  

The book opens with him abruptly leaving the Pretty in Pink Hollywood premiere to slam drinks at the bar across the street. McCarthy briefly gets into his middle-class upbringing, childhood, his time at NYU studying acting, before landing his first role and dropping out to pursue Hollywood acting full time. The remainder of the book is about the roles and the experience of his meteoric rise in Hollywood during the decade. McCarthy lived in New York for the duration of his Hollywood fame, which I found surprising, but makes sense now. He laments the fact that he didn’t pursue the theater, instead of accepting some of the roles he was offered. 

He includes some interesting stories about his experiences in Hollywood and some of the characters he encountered. I would not describe this as a tell-all book, but rather a memoir of a person experiencing and observing the strange world of American film and celebrity but never really feeling terribly comfortable in it. John Hughes described him as a “wimp,” which seems like a nasty thing to say. His experience at a Paramount anniversary party with Hollywood legends and young up and comers, where he realizes he could not and had no desire to be Tom Cruise, is hilarious because we all know how their respective careers progressed. McCarthy includes many pictures, and this one of the entire group at the Paramount party is telling. 

Artists who have a tough time with the nature of celebrity interest me generally. I appreciate what it’s like to want to be noticed, appreciated, and recognized, but then not wanting all that attention. I’m terrified of someone trying to take my picture as I try to live my daily life. McCarthy has accepted his status as an 80s star and a member of the “brat pack,” even though this was a media term. He’s not seen some of these people since the respective films were completed.  

If you’re a fan of so-called “brat pack” films, or 80s movies, John Hughes films, or just looking for a book not concerning current affairs, it’s a pretty good read. I acknowledge my bias on this subject, but I enjoy McCarthy’s writing style and his reflective and analytical nature. Perhaps this comes through in his acting?  Andrew McCarthy does seem like someone I’d know, or someone I’d like, but perhaps this is how celebrity works. Briefly reflecting on his days at NYU, McCarthy said that after class he’d hang out in the “post-bohemian cross culture” of Washington Square Park, observe all the interesting people, buy two joints off a Rastafarian for a buck apiece, then go home and watch the Rockford Files. This sounds like a nice afternoon to me, or perhaps a celebrity dream date.  

Also available as an eBook and eAudiobook via OverDrive/Libby.

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the Elkridge branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.

Crying in H Mart

Against a red background, two sets of chopsticks hold noodles in long swoop that looks like an H.

by Ben H.

I’d be remiss to write about Michelle Zauner’s Crying in H Mart without mentioning Psychpomp, the 2016 Japanese Breakfast album that served as a preview for the memoir that debuted at No. 2 on The New York Times‘ best sellers List. Passages describing the creation of the album are brief, but lyrics are scattered throughout the memoir like Easter eggs.  

Zauner recorded the album in Eugene in the months after her mother died. Zauner’s mother is on the album cover, reaching toward the camera. It’s a rad shoegaze album full of great lyrics, and it’s my 2-year-old daughter’s favorite album. Kiki’s been listening to it since she was born. She points to this album cover when she wants to bop: 

Two Asian woman look down into the camera, one reaching out. They are under a blue sky and wind is blowing their hair.

Zauner, who was born in Seoul; raised in Eugene, Oregon; went to school in Philadelphia; and now lives in Brooklyn has a real Maryland vibe (whatever that means). Maybe it’s just me, but I felt close to Zauner after reading her book. It’s honest and intimate (I know that’s a book cover cliché and I still can’t help myself). 

The memoir is incredible. Her mom was only 56 when she died, and Zauner had a complicated relationship with her. She illustrates their relationship by detailing a series of events from childhood conversations to her mom’s final word. The book is only around 250 pages, but Zauner uses anecdotes and conversations like a pointillist uses points to create a full portrait. Her mother is down-to-earth, glamorous, pragmatic, whimsical, frustrating, mysterious, and lovely.  

Zauner writes about eating food, making food, storing food, watching videos of other people make food (Maangchi gets her own chapter), and it’s all great. The passage where she makes her first real batch of kimchi is one of my favorites. Food is the constant in her relationship with her parents: “What they lacked in high culture, they made up for by spending their hard-earned money on the finest of delicacies. My childhood was rich with flavor – blood sausage, fish intestines, caviar. They loved good food, to make it, to seek it, to share it, and I was an honorary guest at their table.” 

After her mother’s cancer diagnosis, her mental fantasies to cure her mom are heartbreaking. We’ve all tried to barter with the universe or with God to get something, and in that vein, Zauner writes, “I spent an hour on the treadmill. In my head I played a game with the numbers. I thought to myself, if I run at eight for another minute, the chemo will work. If I hit five miles in half an hour she’ll be cured.”  

The details of Zauner’s childhood in Eugene and her visits with family in Seoul are highlights, but I found myself returning to the intimate moments between Zauner and her mother. Crying in H Mart is officially going to be a movie; I can’t wait for the screen adaptation, but I think it’s going to be a tearjerker. 

You can place the book on hold, as many other folks want to read it right now, but it’s worth the wait. Also available as an eBook and eAudiobook.

Ben Hamilton works at Project Literacy, Howard County Library’s adult basic education initiative, based at HCLS Central Branch. He loves reading, writing, walking, and talking (all the basics).

Cool off in Patapsco Valley State Park

The writer's dog stands in thick grass near a trail marker in Pataspco Valley State Park.

by Eric L.

You may be hot and it may be humid, but this doesn’t mean you should stay indoors. To the contrary, you should get outside. If you’re reading this, it’s probable that you live close to Patapsco Valley State Park. The Park was founded prior to the National Park Service and encompasses approximately 16,000 acres. It offers some very fine East Coast nature, in my opinion. 

I’m from Baltimore, I have spent a lot of hours hanging around it, the recreation areas and even camping right off Route 40. My significant other finds this hilarious. I’m assuming because of the proximity to suburbia and the bustling thoroughfare right next to the camping area.

I’ve ridden my bike in it and hiked so many miles. I’d be curious to know the total – maybe thousands! I moved to Ellicott City to be in the Patapsco Valley. My neighborhood is on it, and I consider myself very lucky. There are not as many cicadas back there now, and it’s cooler than the blacktop world. Some of the views are just spectacular (perform an internet search for some of the scenery). 

All three of the dogs I’ve owned as an adult have logged thousands of miles with me. To be sure, I’m not a dog training expert, but I’ve been lucky, patient, diligent and have walked my dogs all over it, sometimes even off-leash. It’s a great place to take your kids to play, outside! My kids have also enjoyed many great afternoons in the Patapsco Valley. 

If you feel as though you need some motivation, borrow some of the great materials we have.  

Also, a great nonfiction read A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson (also as a book on CD, as well as an eBook and eAudiobook from Libby/OverDrive)Bryson tells the humorous account of his discovery, and attempts to hike the Appalachian trail. To be sure, this is not the story of an experienced hiker doing the entire trail from Maine to Georgia in record time, but rather the story of an average middle-aged person and his old friend hiking and discovering together. He interweaves interesting history and social commentary. Or try the film, starring Robert Redford.

There are so many different terrains one can hike, from flat, paved trails to some rocky terrain. That said, you need not be exceptionally fit, after all, it’s just a walk. You will need some comfortable shoes, running, or trail running. Hiking boots, or shoes, are certainly nice for some of the more rocky, advanced terrain. Please keep in mind that Maryland has a large deer population, and thus deer ticks. That said, dress accordingly, and use bug spray as needed. Do some research (Consumer Reports) about the most effective ones, it is very important! 

At any rate, don’t miss out. Get back there! It’s thought by many a lay person, psychologist, scientist that a walk in nature will make you feel better. View the Park’s website to find the right trail and place for you. Stop by the Elkridge Branch + DIY Center, where you can borrow trekking poles, a compass, binoculars in case you spy something you’d like to view up-close, and metal detectors for treasure hunting.  

Eric is a DIY Instructor and Research Specialist at the Elkridge branch. He enjoys reading, films, music, doing nearly anything outside, and people.

Talk Therapy

By Holly L.

When faced with a personal problem, some people will talk about it. Find a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear to fill. Others of us have a tendency to downplay it, to deny it, to avoid talking about it. This isn’t the healthiest coping method, bottling it all up inside and burying that bottle in the backyard behind the garden that really needs watering and….what was that? A problem? There’s no problem. It’s all….just…. FINE. 

(smiles sheepishly) 

Even though I sometimes — okay, often — have trouble talking about my problems, when I do let down my guard and confide to someone, I almost always feel miraculously better. The truth is that talking helps, and I find the same sort of comfort reading about the personal struggles of others and learning about how they’ve navigated their own difficult moments. Two recent nonfiction books recall this power of a good talk to bring peace to a troubled mind.

The cover shows a square, yellow tissue box with a white tissue coming out of the top of it, against a turquoise background with the title overlaid in black lettering.


Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed is a fascinating and highly readable memoir by psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb. In this 2019 book, she shares her experience as a therapist going to therapy following a devastating personal crisis. We are introduced to the character of Wendell, her quirky therapist with a shabby office and a straightforward but compassionate demeanor. During the author’s sessions with Wendell, we are allowed glimpses of the kinds of thoughts that run through a therapist’s mind when she herself is in therapy: Does he think my problems are trivial? Will he ever replace this old couch? Does he like me? Weaving the story of her own journey with those of her patients, Gottlieb offers up a humor-laced but empathetic glimpse into her own and her patients’ sessions, giving the reader a behind-the-scenes look at therapy from both sides of the therapist’s couch. As I followed Gottlieb and her patients’ struggles and successes, I saw parts of myself reflected in the characters and was prompted to examine my own relationship to therapy and the benefits of talking through problems. Also available as an eBook.

The book cover shows a pink rose with a thorny green stem, winding through the black lettering of the title against a cream-colored background. The author's name, Anna Sale, and "Host of the Podcast Death, Sex & Money" are written in cornflower blue.

I have been a fan of Anna Sale’s podcast Death, Sex, and Money for a few years and had been eagerly anticipating the release of Let’s Talk About Hard Things when it landed on our library shelves in May (also available as an eBook). This moving book continues the kinds of discussions that make her podcast so compelling, focusing on, “the things we think about a lot and need to talk about more.” Subjects ranging from, yes, death, sex, and money, but also family and identity. Sale opens the book by sharing some hard things from her own past, specifically the unraveling of her first marriage. Feeling utterly lost after her divorce, she began to find strength and clarity by talking to others about their own dark times and hearing how they found, or didn’t find, peace. Realizing how therapeutic these hard conversations can be, she was inspired to launch her podcast in 2014 on WNYC, New York City’s public radio station. Let’s Talk About Hard Things serves as a companion piece to Death, Sex, and Money, and it contains some of the most crucial conversations and valuable lessons from Sale’s life. Fans of the podcast will be reassured to know that, although the book may include a few references to the podcast, the majority of the material comes from fresh interviews conducted for this project. Sale’s written tone is as warm and personal as the voice she brings to her podcast (for this reason, I highly recommend the eAudiobook). After finishing this book, I was left with a feeling of comfort, as if I had just had a conversation with a close friend. The kind of conversation that doesn’t always find answers but that deepens connections and speaks to the power of just talking. And being heard. 

If you need someone to talk to, please visit this HCLS page for local mental health resources.

Holly L. is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys knitting and appreciates an audiobook with a good narrator.

Take a trip with National Geographic

An underwater shot of a raft of penguins with the National Geographic text and yellow frame setting off the image.

by Holly L.

As local Covid rates drop and vaccination numbers rise, some of you are embarking on long-anticipated journeys. Whether day-tripping down to the shore or jet-setting to a distant locale, the act of travel brings a sense of relief to many who are longing to break out of their quarantine bubbles and go – somewhere, anywhere!

For others of you the time for travel hasn’t yet arrived. Finances, health, or other constraints may limit your current trip planning to a run to the grocery store or a drive across town to check on a friend. Tropical oases may beckon, but for now you just need to let that call go to voicemail.

Wanderlust – a desire to travel or roam – is something we all feel, these post(?)-pandemic days more keenly than ever. Whether you are an actual or an armchair traveler this summer, let us broaden your horizons with a terrific eResource. National Geographic has partnered with Gale to deliver a virtual steamer trunk full of high-quality digital content that brings the world to your door. Your library card is your all-access pass to the National Geographic Virtual Library (search under Magazines & Newspapers), an extensive database that includes the National Geographic Magazine digital archive from 1888 to the present (new issues are added after a minimum 45-day embargo period), National Geographic: People, Animals, and the World, and National Geographic Kids

Since its launch in October 1888, National Geographic Magazine has been regarded for its in-depth reporting, innovative storytelling, and splendid photography. Complete digital issues of National Geographic, National Geographic Traveler, and National Geographic History are available for browsing, with audio options and search functions available. Citation tools are built in, making this database a great resource for historical, social, and scientific research.

National Geographic: People, Animals, and the World connects you with even more content, including full-text books on travel, science & technology, history, the environment, animals, photography, and peoples & cultures. Also included are cross-searchable videos, full-color maps, charts, graphs, and a wealth of National Geographic’s iconic photographs and digital images.

There is plenty to engage young students with National Geographic Kids. This database includes the complete archive of National Geographic Kids Magazine from 2009 to the present, as well as books, videos, and images galore. With an intuitive, visual interface, National Geographic Kids offers age-appropriate content that supports Common Core standards. Subject indexing and easy search features empower young explorers to embark on exciting learning adventures.

Expired passport? No problem. We can help with that, too, at the East Columbia Branch. Or, use your HCLS library card to book a virtual trip this summer via the National Geographic Virtual Library.

Holly is an Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys knitting and appreciates an audiobook with a good narrator.

The Cold Vanish

The book cover is an aerial photograph of a mountainous area covered in conifers, with a cloudy gray-white mist settled over the dark green of the treetops.

“Searching for a missing person, after that first week, is a believer’s game” (219).

The Cold Vanish: Seeking the Missing in North America’s Wildlands is a gem of a book, written by Jon Billman, a fiction and journalism professor at Northern Michigan University. He also writes for Outside magazine, where I found the article that was the germ of the idea for The Cold Vanish. Billman tells the stories of a myriad of the disappeared, people who seemingly stepped off a trail at Mesa Verde or Yellowstone or Olympic and were never seen again. He intertwines their (shorter) stories with the book-length account of Randy Gray, father of Jacob Gray, a young man who parked his bike on the side of the road in Olympic and vanished into the woods of northern Washington. Although the disappearance is Jacob’s, the story really belongs to Randy, as we see the lengths he goes to in order to keep hope alive and continue the search for his son. Randy is a character – a Christian hippie surfer and building contractor, full of boundless energy and humor, enthusiastic, and generous. He is also willing to explore (if not exactly embrace with open arms) any theory that might locate Jacob and give him and his family some closure. My favorite anecdote about Randy: “Randy Gray cannot tell a lie, and so declares the two avocados rolling around somewhere in the back of the Arctic Fox when the customs agent asks if we have any produce. The agent pretends she doesn’t hear him, hands our passports back, and welcomes us to Canada” (274).

One of the stories really struck a chord with me. I’ve been to Mesa Verde, and walked the trail Billman mentions from the interpretive center to Spruce Tree House – “more of a sidewalk – it’s wheelchair accessible for less than a quarter mile, where visitors can view the [Anasazi cliff] dwellings from the shade of the overhanging cliff” (119-120). Yet 51-year-old Mitchell Dale Stehling disappeared while walking that trail and was not found until last year (his remains were located after the book was published, in August 2020). No other park visitor has stayed missing from Mesa Verde since the park was founded, and the area encompasses just over 50,000 acres. How could someone disappear off of a trail adjacent to the park’s gift shop?

The accounts of the disappeared have many explanations, some plausible, some completely off-the-charts crazy. I love a book like this that takes a journalistic viewpoint and presents the theories without passing comment; a book about conspiracy theories *not* written by a conspiracy theorist. In that respect, The Cold Vanish resembles another of my favorites in this genre, Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide by Robert Michael Pyle. In that book, acclaimed naturalist Pyle explains why the flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest would be conducive to the existence of the Sasquatch – should such a creature exist. Like Pyle’s book, Billman’s presentation is open-minded and even-handed, and he makes valid observations and connections about why someone like Randy Gray might entertain the wild ideas of psychics and Bigfoot hunters. “Randy is the ultimate optimist. He’s wildly curious. The seeker from the Who song. ‘What else do I got?’ he says. ‘What else can I do?'”(217). Billman makes the reader understand Randy’s quiet desperation for any tenuous thread to follow.

He also explores other stories and disappearances: people who choose to go missing, the hunt for the Utah survivalist “Mountain Man” Knapp (who evaded authorities for seven years by breaking into remote cabins and stealing food and guns), and the serial killers in the Great Basin and in the Yosemite area who sought victims in remote wilderness areas. One of the best anecdotes is about Alan Duffy, a bloodhound trainer and handler who teaches his dogs, Mindy Amber and R.C., to search for the missing with a single verbal cue – either “Gizmo!” for cadavers, or “Find!” for a living person.

The book will leave you full of wonder at the majesty and hidden depths in what might seem like a benign, unspoiled setting, but which really harbors dangers that amateurs and enthusiasts ignore to their peril. You will also ponder the number of missing persons cases still unsolved: where are the (still) disappeared in our national parks and wild places, and will they ever be found?

The Cold Vanish is also available from HCLS as an eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive.

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch. She loves gardening, birds, books, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.

The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative

The book cover depicts the profile of a human covered in maple leaves, with some of the leaves trailing off into the air as if windblown. The colors range from shades of green to yellow. orange, and red.

By Nina L.

Finding ways to increase our well-being during the pandemic has taken on greater significance than ever. Spending time outdoors, one of the few pastimes still available to us, may actually have greater benefits than we realize, according to The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative. Author Florence Wiliams, a contributing editor to Outside magazine and transplant to Washington, DC from Boulder, CO, felt depressed, irritable, and unable to focus after the move. Realizing that she missed the mountains and easy access to nature, Williams began asking, “…how much nature do we need to fix ourselves?” and, “What is it about nature that people seem to need?” Williams embarked on a two-year research project to learn the answers from scientists around the world.

Williams buoys up the factual and data-heavy text with sprinkles of humor evident in chapters titled, “How Many Neuro-Specialists Does It Take to Find the Stinking Milk Vetch?” and, “Squat Down and Touch the Plant.”  She subjected herself to wearing an EEG device strapped around her head while viewing the San Juan River, went on a kayaking trip with veterans suffering from PTSD, and visited countries including Japan, South Korea, Scotland, and Finland to understand what we can learn from other nations.

Many countries make access to and immersion in nature a national priority. In Japan, the practice of forest-bathing, or shinrin yoku, has been found to have quantifiable effects on health. The practice involves slowing down in order to open up to the sights, scents, textures, sounds, and even tastes of nature. Williams’ initiation into forest-bathing started with a warm cup of “mountain-grown, wasabi-root and bark flavored tea.” Later in the day she inhaled the scent of sugi pines, stretched out on a mossy boulder, and listened to the quacking of ducks. Afterwards, not surprisingly, her blood pressure measured several points lower.

Subsequent chapters fully explore the individual senses of smell, hearing, and sight. The hinoki cypress forests found in South Korea are full of beneficial phytoncides, a chemical released by plants. Beyond just smelling good, phytoncides boost the immune system, reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol, and improve concentration. The Korean Forest Agency offers guided trips through the forests to help cancer patients, children with allergies, and prenatal women, among others.

Similarly, just listening to a trickling stream can have a positive impact on our brain. Even as we tune them out, industrial sounds affect us negatively — traffic, planes, electric saws, and leaf blowers can all raise stress levels and deter alpha waves, while the opposite holds true of the sounds of nature. Enjoying beautiful scenery also activates “happy molecules.” Visual artist and physicist, Richard Taylor, studies fractal patterns found in nature such as in clouds, coastlines, and plant leaves. Exposure to fractal patterns activates brain regions that regulate emotions and reduces stress up to 60 percent by increasing alpha waves.

The Finns have found that a mere five hours a month spent in nature improves physical and emotional health. Recommendations for time outdoors can be compared to the food pyramid: short walks during the week, a weekend away once a month, and every year or two aspiring to spend a few weeks in a natural setting. Beyond benefits on an individual level, the increasing scientific evidence of how nature improves health can shape public policy decisions, such as how educators approach school recess, city planners provide urban green space, and architects design hospitals.

The wealth of evidence in The Nature Fix supports what many of us already know, that nature is good for us. Yet taking a deep dive into understanding the scientific research helped me override the temptation to stay on the couch and choose instead to find time in my day, even if just a little, to enjoy the rich and renewing effects of nature.

The Nature Fix is also available from HCLS as an ebook and an eaudiobook via Libby/OverDrive.

Nina L. is a Customer Service Specialist at the Miller Branch of HCLS. She loves art, yoga, dogs, cats, and reading horizontally.

Celebrate Women’s History Month with #ELKReads

By HCLS Elkridge Branch staff

Every March, we celebrate Women’s History Month in the United States. March 8 has been honored as International Women’s Day since 1911, with nations around the world celebrating the movement toward women’s rights. This annual celebration gives us the opportunity to honor women past and present who have paved the way for continued progress for all. This includes trailblazers in politics, arts, sports, science, and more. Look back at those who have come before and be inspired to soar to new heights with these reads for all ages about amazing women. 

For Little Ones: 

The collage has the descriptors "Women's History Month" and "Picks for Little Kids." The book cover for Mae Among the Stars" depicts the title character in a space helmet with a starry background sky. The book cover of "The Girl Who Thought in Pictures" is a cartoon drawing of Dr. Temple Grandin, with thought bubbles depicting her thoughts about animals, rockets, and scientific concepts. The book cover for "Think Big, Little One" depicts three women role models: architect Zaha Hadid, artist Frida Kahlo, and musician Sister Rosetta Tharpe. The book cover of "Like a Girl" depicts the faces of three girls, and famous women participating in a collage of activities beneath them. The book cover of "Dreamers" depicts a mother and baby in a colorful natural environment, with teal and pink flowers and a bright orange monarch butterfly. The book cover of "Good Job, Athena" depicts the goddess Athena as a young child, with her hair in pigtails and an orange bow around the waist of her blue outfit.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple Grandin by Julie Finley Mosca – also available as an ebook through Libby/OverDrive

Little ones will love the delightful pictures and rhyming verse in this true American shero story. Diagnosed with autism as a girl, Temple Grandin embraced her unique way of thinking to help her invent revolutionary new ways to take better care of farm animals. A special note from Temple Grandin to readers is also included, along with a timeline and fun facts. 

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington 

Join your little one in reading this picture book inspired by the real-life story of Dr. Mae Jemison. Mae starts off with a dream to see the earth and later becomes the first African American woman in space. Burrington’s illustrations bring this story to life and will inspire your little one to reach for the stars! 

Like a Girl by Lori Degman, illustrated by Mara Penny

In this beautifully illustrated tribute to girl power, readers are introduced to 24 women who blazed trails in their respective fields. The author highlights all the wonderful things you can do “like a girl” and invites her audience to think about the ways they can change the world. More details about each subject are included in the back of the book.

For Big Kids: 

The collage has the descriptors, "Women's History Month" and "Picks for Big Kids." The book cover of Coraline depicts the title character against a dark Gothic background, with ghostly figures in pale grey reaching out for her. The book cover of "Hooray for Women!" depicts a cartoon parade of women in different costumes, contemporary and historical, with eight famous women depicted in boxes around the perimeter of the center picture: The book cover of "Not One Damsel in Distress" depicts two women fighting off dragons and a wild boar with a sword and bow and arrow. The book cover of "The Mighty Miss Malone" depicts the title character in a tan shirt looking over her shoulder. The book cover of "The Eagle Huntress" depicts the title character with a tethered eagle mounted on her arm. The book cover of "Herstory" depicts a group of women role models in a colorful collage.

Coraline by Neil Gaiman – also available as an ebook and an eaudiobook through Libby/OverDrive, as an ebook through CloudLibrary, as a book on CD, and in a graphic novel adaptation by P. Craig Russell

Coraline, a curious and adventurous young girl, moves into a new flat with her parents. While exploring her new home, she discovers a door to another world where she finds another mother and another father who want her to stay and be their daughter forever. At first, Coraline thinks this world is better than her own, but she soon realizes things are not as they seem in this other world and something terrible lurks behind its perfect facade. 

Not One Damsel in Distress: Heroic Girls from World Folklore and Not One Damsel in Distress: World Folktales for Strong Girls by Jane Yolen

Forget about a princess needing a knight (or anyone else) to save her. These collections of folk tales from a wide range of countries showcase smart, strong, brave women. Learn about heroes who overcame harsh conditions, rescued their people, and fought for what was right as you explore cultures from around the world. The first title is an updated version of the second, with two additional stories.

The Eagle Huntress: The True Story of the Girl Who Soared Beyond Expectations by Aĭsholpan Nurgaĭvyn  – also available as an ebook on Libby/OverDrive

At 13 years old, Aĭsholpan Nurgaĭvyn became the first woman – and youngest person – to ever win Mongolia’s famous Golden Eagle Festival. In her inspiring memoir that will resonate especially with tweens and young teens, Aĭsholpan takes pride in sharing about her legendary Kazakh heritage, while also challenging traditional gender customs to train and compete with her beloved eagles. To learn more about Aĭsholpan’s amazing experiences, you can also check out the award-winning subtitled Kazakh-language documentary of her story – available on DVD.

For Teens: 

The collage has the descriptors "Women's History Month" and "Picks for Teens." The cover of "Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word" shows a clenched fist with red fingernail polish on the thumb. The cover of "Make Trouble" depicts diverse female faces against a pastel backdrop. The cover of "Votes for Women!" depicts a suffragette holding a copy of "Women's Journal and Suffrage News." The cover of Lumberjanes depicts a group of teens standing in front of a summer camp cabin, with animal trophies above their heads. The cover of Ms. Marvel depicts the title character, wearing a black shirt emblazoned with her lightning bolt logo, and a colorful scarf. The cover of Golden Compass depicts the compass itself against a teal sky and snowy ground, with a polar bear running with a rider astride his shoulders.

Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word by Nadia Higgins

The word feminism makes some uncomfortable, and many people define it in different ways. This book introduces readers to pioneers of feminism in the United States along with modern leaders who continue to fight to empower women in every arena. Explore what feminism is and what it means to you as you read the range of ideas and perspectives presented in Feminism: Reinventing the F-Word

Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead (Young Readers Edition) by Cecile Richards with Lauren Peterson, adapted by Ruby Shamir –  also available as an ebook on OverDrive 

Cecile Richards grew up in Texas, where her parents, one of whom was the first woman governor of the state, taught her the importance of working for change, including making trouble. This young reader’s edition of her biography shares the lessons Richards learned along the way and highlights the people who have supported her in her journey. Read Make Trouble to feel inspired to push for progress and empowered to fight for what is important to you. 

Votes for Women!: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling – also available as an “always available” eaudiobook from Libby/Overdrive

Last year celebrated the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote in the United States. The fight to reach that goal encompassed decades of passionate work, including marches, protests, and even lawbreaking, on the part of many women working together. Votes for Women! provides a glimpse into the lives and experiences of many suffragists, including the uglier moments in the battle for women’s right to vote. 

For Adults: 

The collage descriptors are "Women's History Month" and "Picks for Adults." The cover of "She Caused a Riot has pink script on a yellow background. The cover of "The Left Hand of Darkness" depicts a lunar-like surface with two opposite-facing profiles carved out of rock, against a dark sky. The cover of "Difficult Women" has a stylized pink heart against a black background. The cover of "That's What She Said" has the title in black against a white background, surrounded by a gold vine. The cover of "We Should All Be Feminists" has three half-circles each at the top and the bottom, half-black and half-white, against an orange background. The cover of "Dear Ijeawele" has a dark purple silhouette of a woman with dark purple paint slashes against a paler lavender background, with the lettering in mauve.

She Caused a Riot: 100 Unknown Women Who Built Cities, Sparked Revolutions, and Massively Crushed It by Hannah Jewell – also available as an eaudiobook on Libby/OverDrive

In a witty, conversational, and occasionally sarcastic tone, Hannah Jewell explores the extraordinary lives of 100 women throughout history from all over the world. Sorted into chapters like Wonderful Ancient Weirdos, Women Who Wrote Dangerous Things, and Women Who Punched Nazis, the stories of these women range from triumphant to tragic, but never fail to inspire, and Jewell’s humor and enthusiasm for her subjects never fails to entertain. 

That’s What She Said: Wise Words from Influential Women by Kimothy Joy

That’s What She Said offers a brief introduction to over thirty influential women from various areas of life – some well-known and some women with whom readers may not be familiar.  Author and artist Kimothy Joy’s beautiful watercolor illustrations add to the enjoyment of this informational book. This is a great place to start for an overview of women’s history, or to find women or subjects that inspire deeper investigation. 

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin  – also available as an ebook, an eaudiobook, and an eaudiobook dramatization from the BBC on Libby/OverDrive

Ursula K. Le Guin’s classic The Left Hand of Darkness is a book about political intrigue and a forced epic journey across an icy planet (probably the fodder for a good miniseries). The book has the drama and action of an arduous journey as well as a personal journey of the protagonist to appreciate those different from him through the relationship he builds. The protagonist, an envoy from another planet, struggles to understand a gender-neutral people using the social constructs of his own culture. 

If you want to explore more exhibits and offerings in honor of Women’s History Month, take a look at the Library of Congress’s Women’s History Month page.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. All our staff wish that we could see you in person, but we are happy to help you discover new reads while we are apart.

Staying Cozy with Elkridge – for teens and adults

The photograph depicts two hands holding an open book against a colorful woolen blanket, with sunlight streaming in to illuminate the book.

By Elkridge Branch staff

Winter is a great time to curl up with a cozy read. Cold and sometimes dreary weather begs for a blanket, a hot drink, and a fire. This month, the Elkridge branch staff members have collected a list of titles to encourage you to Stay Cozy! Keep an eye on the HCLS Facebook page to see titles for all ages highlighted throughout January, and make sure to track titles for the Winter Reading Challenge. Here are just a few of those titles. 

FOR TEENS: 

The book cover depicts a blue-eyed husky above the title, with a panoramic scene under the title of a driver, dog sled, and dogs against a winter forest backdrop in muted blue and gray tones.

The History of the World in Fifty Dogs by Mackenzi Lee, illustrated by Petra Eriksson

Cozy up with canines and a large bowl of snark in The History of the World in Fifty Dogs by Mackenzi Lee, a compilation of Milkbone-sized, illustrated essays about interesting bits of human history accompanied by dogs. Dogs have won Pets in World Mythology Best in Show for millennia. While Cerberus, Anubis, and Fenrir take first place in name recognition, you can find other good dog deity stories such as Gourd Tray, a bug-turned-dog-turned-prince. I especially liked the guide dog to the underworld, Wepwawet, whose name I now consider the greatest dog name aside from Entropy. Sit, stay, and play an around-the-world game of Fetch the Friendship of doggo and hooman. 

Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz

Now imagine a different sort of mutt–a sport with lineage derived from rugby, capture the flag, and Krav Maga. With magic. On dragons. Lana Torres eats, sleeps, and breathes Blazewrath. It connects her to her Papi and the golden age prior to her parents’ divorce when they lived together amid Puerto Rico’s Cayey mountains. Now, for the first time, her beloved homeland has the requisite number of dragons to play the game. Amid internal and external debates about identity and merit, pro-dragon terrorists attack. When the Dragon Knights threaten the World Cup, Lana fears it to be a Hydra. Runners do not run from the fight; they run toward it. With worldbuilding adventure at its finest, with a diverse cast of authentic LGBTQ+, POC, and disabled characters, this book enthralls.

Elatsoe by Darcy Little Badger 

One of the most engaging books I have read all year involves a ghost Springer Spaniel named Kirby and an unnamed ghost trilobite, because our Lipan Apache heroine enjoys paleontology. Elatsoe, Ellie for short, has the enviable ability to resurrect spirits. Magic, in all its multicultural glory, gore, and grace, exists, and Ellie can summon the spirits of dead animals, just like her Six-Great-Grandmother. 

The story opens with the death of her older cousin, with whom she had been close. On the way to his afterlife, his spirit pops in to see Ellie. He tells her he was murdered, who murdered him, and tasks her with seeking justice for him while protecting his widow and newborn baby. Elatsoe gets help from her parents, friends, and the stories of her ancestors, which are an ever-present, essential aspect of her life. There’s a cyclical feel to the storytelling, as if the past, present, and future are one. 

The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Barnes – also available as an audiobook on CD and an ebook on OverDrive 

Dear Santa, aside from a ghost wooly mammoth, can I please have a billionaire bequeath me his entire fortune? No? Then I will follow Avery Grambs’s quest to understand why billionaire Tobias Hawthorne, a complete stranger, cut every blood relative out of his will to name Avery his heir. Sure, she’s appreciative, but also confused and curious. Raised by a single mother who treated every action and event as a game, be it chores, poverty, or cancer, Avery’s affinity for puzzles and games sends her down dangerous rabbit holes. With the help of three vastly different, handsome brothers, she unlocks truths about each member of the family. Everyone has a story, often entertaining, always suspect.

Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson – also available as an ebook on cloudLibrary

Dogs + snow = instant cozy. Fourteen-year-old Victoria Secord is angry. A local musher offered her dibs on his high-quality sled dogs. As an aspiring racer, Vicky recognizes the chance of a lifetime, but her mom has to work and apparently does not trust her daughter to drive her dog team across town alone. Vicky sneaks away with her team. Vicky is snow savvy with survival skills to rival Bear Grylls, thanks to her dad. Of course, Chris has none of these skills. Who is Chris? He’s the guy Vicky finds sprawled in the snow bleeding beside a smashed snowmobile. Actually, most household appliances possess more non-urban survival skills than Chris. Go ahead, start your worry. After Vicky administers first aid, she offers him a ride. They get lost. More fun, there’s a rising snowstorm, and by morning everything is hidden under an endless expanse of white, camouflaging all landmark vegetation. Have you started worrying yet? 

FOR ADULTS: 

The book cover photograph depicts a dark grey terrier wearing a knitted pink sweater.

The Little Book of Hygge : Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga) is the Danish word for the contentment that comes from embracing life’s simplest pleasures. Warm, inviting homes, quality time with family and close friends, and an appreciation for all things natural and handmade are just some of its components. Meik Wiking, author and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, recommends recipes, tips for interior design, and activities to enjoy from the comfort and safety of home, and describes how an approach of feeling gratitude for the everyday has helped make the Danes some of the happiest people in the world. 

Nothing Much Happens: Cozy and Calming Stories to Soothe Your Mind and Help You Sleep by Kathryn Nicolai

Based on the beloved podcast, Nothing Much Happens proves that we never outgrow the calming magic of a cozy bedtime story. This collection of short, sensory-delighting stories will lull even the busiest mind into a restful state. In describing everyday moments of joy and beauty, these stories conjure a deep and soothing sense that all is well. The included meditation practices, recipes, and relaxation techniques nurture the body and train the mind in the habit of wellbeing that begins with a good night’s sleep. 

Sweaters for Dogs: 15 Knitting Projects to Keep Your Dog Cozy and Comfortable by Debbie Humphreys

Knitting is a trendy hobby, and what’s cuter than a dog in a sweater? Cable-knit, ribbed, chunky, turtleneck – you name it. You’ll love the fifteen knitting projects, ranked from “one paw” for a straightforward pattern to “three paws” for more complicated projects, as well as stunning photographs of adorable canine models. Whether or not you have a furry companion to keep warm this winter, you’ll enjoy looking through these fun designs.

The Elkridge Branch + DIY Education Center opened the doors of its new building in March 2018. All our staff wish that we could see you in person, but we are happy to help you discover new reads while we are apart.