EIGHTY GREEN THUMBS: Review of LESSONS FROM THE GREAT GARDENERS: FORTY GARDENING ICONS & WHAT THEY TEACH US by Matthew Biggs

EIGHTY GREEN THUMBS: Review of LESSONS FROM THE GREAT GARDENERS: FORTY GARDENING ICONS & WHAT THEY TEACH US by Matthew Biggs

Lessons from the Great Gardeners: Forty Gardening Icons & What They Teach Us popped up, unbidden, in the Brooklyn Public Library’s online catalogue during a search for one of the gardeners profiled in its pages. It’s not the cheesy “lifestyle” book I was expecting, but a terrific primer on who matters in the gardening world, and why. The expertise of author Matthew Biggs comes through in his interesting, carefully chosen selections, and in his sensitive and intelligent writing.

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LET FREEDOM RING: Review of NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT: FINDING FREEDOM, LOVE, AND JOY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE by Jack Kornfield

LET FREEDOM RING: Review of NO TIME LIKE THE PRESENT: FINDING FREEDOM, LOVE, AND JOY RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE by Jack Kornfield

No Time Like the Present values responding over reacting, creating space to understand and contextualize feelings. Its tone is wondering, compassionate, encouraging, and kind. It is also slyly political. Kornfield writes, “Politicians and media feed our fears…Yes, there are big problems…If you only worry, you’ll feel overwhelmed. What is indisputable is that you are here, now, and you can contribute…You are free to contribute to this world—every moment, every day.”  This call to action is the charge that all the drumbeats of the book seem to herald. Yet as Kornfield points out, “hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed.”

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EBONY AND IVORY: Review of DOG YEARS: A MEMOIR by Mark Doty

EBONY AND IVORY: Review of DOG YEARS: A MEMOIR by Mark Doty

“To choose to live with a dog,” Mark Doty writes at the start of Dog Years: A Memoir, “is to agree to participate in a long process of interpretation—a mutual agreement, though the human being holds most of the cards.” In moving but restrained prose, Doty reveals the cards held closest to his chest: his feelings about loving and losing his canine companions, Arden and Beau.

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MUSIC APPRECIATION: Review of LEONARD BERNSTEIN: AN AMERICAN MUSICIAN by Allen Shawn

MUSIC APPRECIATION: Review of LEONARD BERNSTEIN: AN AMERICAN MUSICIAN by Allen Shawn

By offering an informed, rigorous, sensitive, nuanced, and compassionate evaluation of Bernstein’s creative output, Shawn, a teacher of composition and music history at Bennington College, achieves a remarkable feat: he gives a master class in biography as music appreciation.

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A HOME-STYLE TASTE OF PARIS: Review of PARISIAN HOME COOKING by Michael Roberts

A HOME-STYLE TASTE OF PARIS: Review of PARISIAN HOME COOKING by Michael Roberts

Part of the pleasure for me in discovering and reading this book was remembering a world of the “armchair traveler,” when imagination made the only pictures the mind saw of a trip. This book was published in 1999, pre-European Union. This was before the heyday of the internet, and the age of global tourism, when for many people Paris wasn’t a place, but an idea.

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"NOTHING HAS CHANGED": Review of NOT YOUR MOTHER'S RULES: THE NEW SECRETS FOR DATING by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider

"NOTHING HAS CHANGED": Review of NOT YOUR MOTHER'S RULES: THE NEW SECRETS FOR DATING by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider

I was watching a lot of the old Hammer Horror Dracula movies at the same time I was reading this, and I think there are a lot of similarities. Facing something scary and possibly unknown, you want to arm yourself with knowledge and weapons, however regressive they may be. Vampires hate sunlight, garlic, the sign of the cross, and holy water. Guys like a girl who looks “hot, hot, hot. Not slutty—sexy!” Guys like a chase.

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MANDATORY READING: Review of ZERO WASTE HOME: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SIMPLIFYING YOUR LIFE BY REDUCING YOUR WASTE by Bea Johnson

MANDATORY READING: Review of ZERO WASTE HOME: THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO SIMPLIFYING YOUR LIFE BY REDUCING YOUR WASTE by Bea Johnson

Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life by Reducing Your Waste by Bea Johnson should be mandatory reading for every single person on Earth. This is a book about values that forces us to examine our own. The focus is on our consumption habits and the role they play in the destruction of this planet we all share. “Statistics and hard data are not my expertise,“ Johnson warns, “this is a practical guide based on my experience.”

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FIERCE COMPANY: Review of PAULINE KAEL: A LIFE IN THE DARK by Brian Kellow

FIERCE COMPANY: Review of PAULINE KAEL: A LIFE IN THE DARK by Brian Kellow

Pauline Kael: A Life in the Dark examines the personal life and career of Kael, who established herself, largely through her writing at The New Yorker, as the preeminent voice of 20th Century movie criticism. The book is well-written, well-researched, and Kellow does a good job of staying out of the way. What comes through is Kael’s voice.

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