May 30, 2014

Non-Fiction Refreshment For The Scientific Drunkard

Proof: The Science of Booze (Adam Rogers)
May 27th 2014, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Humans have been perfecting the science of alcohol production for ten thousand years, but modern scientists are only just beginning to distill the complex reactions behind the perfect buzz. In a spirited tour across continents and cultures, Adam Rogers puts our alcoholic history under the microscope, from our ancestors’ accidental discovery of fermented drinks to the cutting-edge laboratory research that proves why—or even if—people actually like the stuff.
From fermentation to distillation to aging, Proof offers a unique glimpse inside the barrels, stills, tanks, and casks that produce iconic drinks. Rogers ventures from the whiskey-making mecca of the Scottish Highlands to the most sophisticated gene-sequencing labs in the world—and to more than one bar—introducing us to the motley characters and evolving science behind the latest developments in boozy technology. He uncovers alcohol’s deepest mysteries, chasing the physics, molecular biology, organic chemistry, and even metallurgy that power alcohol production, and the subtle mixture of psychology and neurobiology that fuels our taste for those products.
With intoxicating enthusiasm, Rogers reveals alcohol as a miracle of science. If you’ve ever wondered how exactly your drink of choice arrived in your glass, or exactly what will happen to you once you empty it, Proof makes an unparalleled drinking companion.

May 26, 2014

Let's take some books and build a library!

What constitutes a library? According to Wikipedia it's an organized collection of sources of information and similar resources, made accessible to a defined community for reference or borrowing. Then of course there's this thing called "private library" which is certainly a collection, not always organized, and more often than not cutting back on the whole borrowing part (especially when you're as finicky as me and try to keep your books in pristine condition).

Being avid readers and all it's probably a fair bet that I'm not alone when it comes to dreaming about my very own home library. And by that I don't mean shelves filled with rows of books, stacked behind one another, and a couple of boxes filled with even more books crammed into a corner. I'm talking about our books having their own space to be beautifully displayed and thoroughly enjoyed.

Now, dreaming up the perfect library is no easy task, but I'm fairly sure that we all have certain criteria that need to be met to put the perfect in front of the library. That being said (and sadly, lacking a real-life library that could be displayed here) let me introduce you to the TOP FIVE* of things that are a must when it comes to my ideal library ...

An old-fashioned Chesterfield armchair as one wants to be seated in style while reading.

An open fireplace adds to the cozy atmosphere and it keeps those tootsies warm too.

A spiral staircase to complement the bookcases running up to the high ceiling.

A tea tray. Obviously tea is the beverage of choice for this reader.

A butler. Gerard Butler might be a definite bonus, but any butler will do as long as he's adept in refilling the teapot, stirring the fire, and answering the door when the mailman brings another batch of ordered books. 

Now it's your turn to spill what your ingredients for the perfect library are! Please share.

*Books and shelves are already a given, so I did not include those in the list.

May 23, 2014

Non-Fiction Views On Our Deluded Reality

Kidding Ourselves: The Hidden Power of Self-Deception (Joseph T. Hallinan)
May 20th 2014, Crown

To one degree or another, we all misjudge reality. Our perception—of ourselves and the world around us—is much more malleable than we realize. This self-deception influences every major aspect of our personal and social life, including relationships, sex, politics, careers, and health.
In Kidding Ourselves, Joseph Hallinan offers a nuts-and-bolts look at how this penchant shapes our everyday lives, from the medicines we take to the decisions we make. It shows, for instance, just how much the power of many modern medicines, particularly anti-depressants and painkillers, is largely in our heads. Placebos in modern-day life extend beyond hospitals, to fake thermostats and “elevator close” buttons that don’t really work … but give the perception that they do.
Kidding Ourselves brings together a variety of subjects, linking seemingly unrelated ideas in fascinating and unexpected ways. And ultimately, it shows that deceiving ourselves is not always negative or foolish. As increasing numbers of researchers are discovering, it can be incredibly useful, providing us with the resilience we need to persevere, in the boardroom, bedroom, and beyond.
Provocative, accessible, and easily applicable to multiple facets of everyday life, Kidding Ourselves is an extraordinary new exploration of our mind’s flexibility.

May 21, 2014

Let's publish a newspaper!

Newsletters are so passe, especially when you can now have your very own newspaper. I can already see it in front on me - The Book Garden Daily. I like the sound of that. Of course, so far I haven't dabbled with creating my very own online newspaper as I only just found out about it. Still, I like the idea behind it, so I needed to share with you.

With you can automatically find, publish and promote articles, photos and videos from across the web. Just select your sources and a bit of customizing later you can start promoting by tweeting or even putting a widget on your blog.


Want a taste? Two fellow book bloggers have already jumped onto the wagon, so check out The Parajunkee Daily and The Ellen Warren Daily.

How do you like the idea of publishing your personal newspaper? Yay or nay?

May 19, 2014

Would you like some phobia with that book?

Some books are quite scary like, say, your average horror novel. There may not be a cure for the effects a Stephen King novel has on you, other than not picking it up in the first place. Besides, some readers (including myself) take pleasure in these bloodcurdling stories despite or maybe because of the fear they induce in the literary adventure we love to immerse ourselves in. Of course, if you think that horror novels are the pinnacle of all that is (bloody) scary, you're wrong. There are worse things to fear when it comes to books. And I'm not referring to the ever-present risk of getting buried alive underneath your TBR piles in the event of a major earthquake.

People can be scared of a great many things that don't necessarily have to do with certain genres. Think living in fear of long words. Or handwriting. Sounds far-fetched? I can't blame you for presuming that I'm making this up as I go. Alas I'm not. Enjoying literature has more hazards than you probably ever expected (not to mention, imagined) and it certainly takes reading to the next thrill-level ...

Bibliophobia - Fear of books
Logophobia - Fear of words
Sesquipepalophobia* - Fear of long words
Metrophobia - Fear of poetry
Mythophobia - Fear of myths or stories
Graphophobia - Fear of writing or handwriting
Scriptophobia - Fear of writing in public
Papyrophobia - Fear of paper

And you thought Carrie was scary. Oh wait did I just put some fear into you with that fully unintended little rhyme? Seems as though you're a borderline metrophobic then. If it's any comfort, things could be a whole lot worse. Fear of writing in general won't be helpful if you want to be the worlds most prolific author. Same goes for a sudden onset of bibliophobia. Not as though I were an expert of phobias, but if they can show up like allergies, from one day to the next, completely unexpected, this must be a book-lover's worst nightmare. Literally.

While compiling the above list I was wondering why there is no such thing as fear of authors or libraries. Of course they could simply be lacking an official name. Or the list of phobias I searched through is incomplete. Maybe it's just my cruel imagination, but those don't seem all that far fetched either. Maybe only lacking a name yet. But let's not dwell on even more things one could be scared of. Let's try to find a cure for the ones already known instead.

A cure? Let's not get ahead of ourselves and start by asking the question which of these phobias could actually be relatable. The only phobia that might qualify must be papyrophobia. Why? In case you're a klutz who's prone to paper cuts and can't stand to see your own blood, you know the answer to that one. What's a bookaholic to do if the fear of paper suddenly strikes? Any guesses? Why, buy an eReader and be done with it.

As an afterthought - I kind of like the concept of logophobia, at least when you look at it from a different angle. You know what they say about the pen (which happens to be putting those words down) being mightier than the sword. Some words should be feared ... more than a tiny papercut.

Have you ever heard of any of these phobias? Which one do you consider to be the worst? Please share.

*aka Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia

May 16, 2014

Non-Fiction Not Just For Criminal Minds

The Punisher's Brain: The Evolution of Judge and Jury (Morris B. Hoffman)
May 13th 2014, Cambridge University Press

Why do we punish, and why do we forgive? Are these learned behaviors, or is there something deeper going on? This book argues that there is indeed something deeper going on, and that our essential response to the killers, rapists, and other wrongdoers among us has been programmed into our brains by evolution. Using evidence and arguments from neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, Morris B. Hoffman traces the development of our innate drives to punish - and to forgive - throughout human history. He describes how, over time, these innate drives became codified into our present legal systems and how the responsibility and authority to punish and forgive was delegated to one person - the judge - or a subset of the group - the jury. Hoffman shows how these urges inform our most deeply held legal principles and how they might animate some legal reforms.

May 14, 2014

Quote Garden - A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us ...

Many a book is like a key to unknown chambers within the castle of one’s own self.

Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.

I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.

A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity.

I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.

Franz Kafka

May 12, 2014

Have you instagramed your tweet on Facebook today?

Some days I wonder when they'll finally say, "Social Media is dead!". So far, it's not just alive and kicking, it multiplies like bunnies too. Of course I've always been at least two steps behind when it comes to following the latest trend on the web. Case in point - I only ever signed up on Twitter two months ago and I'm neither sure what even led to this impromptu decision nor where the tweeting road will take me. So far, fourteen tweets. Some folks tweet more often in a single day.

Of course, Twitter is old news and almost as ubiquitous as smartphones these days. And that leads me straight to what appears to be the latest rage, namely Instagram. As much as I love photography - and let's neglect for a moment that I tend not to share private photos all over the internet, plus I'm lacking the most important tool of the trade, a smartphone - I'm seriously starting to wonder when the growth spurt of Social Media will find an end. Why not just turn my back on it and call it a day then? Because.

Because being a blogger often translates into a widespread online presence that reaches out into the realms of Facebook & Co. and like the universe it just keeps on expanding. The credo being, promote promote promote your site. Not saying that every blogger feels the need to go overboard here, but some can be found on pretty much every available Social Media outlet, almost as if it weren't enough to keep it simple and just putter about on your blog without much additional ado. A blog post a day? Sorry, that just won't cut it. I wonder why the need ever arose to throw in a rosary of daily tweets, pins and shares, plus a vlog every other day as well. To me it just seems too much. Communicating with your blog readers is certainly important, and contrary to what you might believe, I'm not a total opponent to having more than one online presence. Yet spending the better half of your days roaming around on half a dozen different websites feeding the internet with pictures, thoughts and whatnot's, seems a little bizarre verging on tiresome. However, just because I don't get this phenomenon, doesn't mean it won't feel both beneficial and entertaining for somebody else. It hopefully does, because otherwise why engage in it?

Either way, let's not be coy. You may find my blog on Facebook too, mostly as a way to allow people to follow my blog posts. Actual status updates? Every once in a blue moon. It doesn't look much better on my Pinterest page, which I rarely shower with stuff happening blog or otherwise. And as far as Twitter is concerned, well, let's not even go there. Google+? Dead as a door-nail. In all honesty, the only reason I haven't deleted my Google+ profile is the fear that I might actually delete my whole Google account and then I'd be seriously screwed aka my blog would be history. Overall it's safe to say, I'm stranded on the spartan side of Social Media, and frankly, that's perfectly all right with me.

What's your take on bloggers using Social Media? Is it a must in today's blogosphere or do you find it largely superfluous and even redundant like I do? Please share.

*The blog post title doesn't make any sense? It was never supposed to.

May 9, 2014

Non-Fiction Panorama From A Watershed Decade

The 40s: The Story of a Decade (The New Yorker)
May 6th 2014, Random House

The 1940s are the watershed decade of the twentieth century, a time of trauma and upheaval but also of innovation and profound and lasting cultural change. This is the era of Fat Man and Little Boy, of FDR and Stalin, but also of Casablanca and Citizen Kane, zoot suits and Christian Dior, Duke Ellington and Edith Piaf.
The 1940s were when The New Yorker came of age. A magazine that was best known for its humor and wry social observation would extend itself, offering the first in-depth reporting from Hiroshima and introducing American readers to the fiction of Vladimir Nabokov and the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop. In this enthralling book, masterly contributions from the pantheon of great writers who graced The New Yorker’s pages throughout the decade are placed in history by the magazine’s current writers.

May 7, 2014

Which [book of choice] character are you?

As it so happens, we sometimes have a spare minute or two between chapters, so how about spending them by doing some fun bookish quizzes?

Which Harry Potter Character Are You?
Which Hunger Games Character Are You?
Which Lord of the Rings Character Are You?

If memory serves, I ended up with different results the first time I tried these quizzes (then again, I might have retaken some of them a couple times - but certainly not more than maybe three to seven times - to be, say, Katniss Everdeen). Today I took each quiz just once and was rewarded with an all male cast (admittedly the fact that they all wear their hair long is a bit of a consolation). And is it just me or are they all a bit on the grumpy side with a dash of quirkiness? Hmmm ...

Which characters did you get as results? Did you take the quizzes more than just once to see what other results you might get? I promise I won't judge you for that.

May 5, 2014

A sloth now resides on my bookshelves ...

Before animal welfare starts breathing down my neck, let me explain. That sloth is obviously a metaphorical creature who's made himself quite comfy on my bookshelves. The most he'll do all day long, except for general slothing around, is plucking off leaves off my ficus tree which, as I'd like to add, already looks like it's priming for Halloween. Occasionally Mr Sloth - after living with me for several weeks now, he certainly deserved a name, not as though he'd actually listen up when I talk to him - will swing his lithe body from one shelf to the next, remove a bit of dust with his butt, and remain in his slothy position for the rest of the day (or week, in some cases, this usually depends whether the ficus tree is still only an arm-length away).

Now, the interesting question would have to be how Mr Sloth came to live with me. Any wild guesses? I know what you're thinking - how did a sloth enter my apartment? A valid but unfortunately wrong question. The real question being - how come there's room for Mr Sloth on those book shelves?
To (finally) get to the point, the reason why there's available shelf-space in my humble abode is the frightening fact that I haven't bought any books in not just weeks, but months. And it's not as though I'd be on a book-buying-ban or flat broke to explain this. One day I woke up, and realized I hadn't added any new books to my TBR piles in a very long time. Not to say that the shrinking of said piles wasn't a dead giveaway that somethings awry. Of course I've read quite a number of books this year, but I felt next to no motivation to do the Sisyphus routine of reading one and adding two. I never managed to make a diet work for me. Then this involuntary book-shelf diet came along and apparently works like a charm.

To make matters worse, and it probably goes without saying that the unplanned waiver of book acquisition already made things go a bit downhill, bookishly speaking, I found myself in a total and complete reading slump. Now that pretty much equals hitting rock bottom. This unexpected state of affairs (and mind) only set in maybe two or three weeks ago. At first I tried to fight it and slouched halfheartedly through some books, until I bravely called it quits. Funny thing, around the same time I realized I wanted to go back to book blogging. It's almost as if I have lost the capacity to do both reading and writing at the same time. Well, not at the same time, but you know what I mean. Mr Sloth is rubbing off his slothy nature on me, and my only hope is that he'll move out, once he's finished with that ficus tree. Ever the optimist, that'd be me.

Of course, looking at the whole scenario objectively, it's far from the end of the world. Not buying books by the dozen? Big deal, still plenty to read. A little reading fast? That hasn't killed anyone either, at least not that I'd heard of. It's just so weird and unusual for me that it took me by complete surprise. There's not just a sloth sitting on those book-shelves, there's another one looking back at me when I look into the mirror. If you can't get rid of it, you'll have to live with it, right? Besides, there aren't all that many leaves left on that ficus tree anyway.

Have you ever experienced something similar? No motivation to buy new books and/or finding no pleasure in reading? If so, how did you cope, or rather, get back into that bookish saddle? Please share.

May 2, 2014

Non-Fiction Fare For The Hungry Reader

The Kitchen Magpie: A Delicious Melange of Culinary Curiosities, Fascinating Facts, Amazing Anecdotes and Expert Tips for the Food-lover (James Steen)
May 1st 2014, Icon Books

Join award-winning writer James Steen for a feast of food and drink facts and culinary curiosities.
Delving into forgotten corners of gastronomic history, Steen reveals what Parmesan has to do with broken bones and why John Wayne kept a cow in a hotel. Laying bare the secrets of the kitchen, he concocts the ultimate hangover cure and explains how to cook perfect rib of beef with the oven off.
With much-loved cooks including Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood sharing passion and know-how, this mouth-watering miscellany will sate the appetite of every kitchen dweller, from the masterful expert to the earnest apprentice.
James Steen is an award-winning journalist, food writer, author and ghostwriter. He has a deep fascination for both the cook and cooking, and collaborates with great chefs.