Thanksgiving, Happiness and Gratitude

Book cover for One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving.  There is something invigorating about the crisp Missouri air during this time of year.  Also, the holiday is primarily about family and food and generally devoid of consumerism, which is refreshing in the hyper-marketed world that we live in. However, the celebration of food and family is only part of the Thanksgiving equation for me. I often ponder happiness, gratitude and peace during the holiday.

I often refer to my well-thumbed copy of the “Varieties of Religious Experience” by William James when I think of Thanksgiving. Starting with lectures IV and V, James writes: “If we were to ask the question: ‘What is human life’s chief concern?’ one of the answers we should receive would be: ‘It is happiness.’  How to gain, how to keep, how to recover happiness . . .”  Perhaps Thanksgiving is a good time to reflect on what has made us joyful during the year, in addition to giving thanks for the many blessings we have received.

About this time last year, my then three-year-old daughter gave me a “Daddy present.” “Daddy presents” are often crumpled pieces of paper with incredibly cute drawings on them stuffed into small envelopes. With a flying pony sticker on the front. This gift, though, was a purple bracelet with “Complaint Free World” engraved on the side. It was bought for 5 cents at a garage sale. DBRL has several books associated with the “Complaint Free World” movement, including the popular “Complaint Free World: How to Stop Complaining and Enjoy Life.” The movement was started by Will Bowen, who is relatively local (based in Kansas City), and the book is a gratitude-based look at life in the modern world. His motto is: “if you feel you must complain about something, try to change what it is in your life that is causing you to complain.” The most updated version was published in 2013.
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Recommending YAFA (Young Adult Books for Adults)

Photo of a readerThere’s been a lot of controversy lately about adults reading young adult fiction (YA). Many argue that adults should be ashamed for reading books written for children, while others say it shouldn’t matter. If you enjoy reading YA, that’s all that’s important. I have to agree with the latter argument. Telling adults they should be ashamed to read YA is absurd, but then again, telling anyone they should be ashamed to read ANYTHING is absurd!

Sure, YA books are novels aimed at readers aged 12 to 19, but YA is more than that. Many books for teens are written in a style meant to keep these readers engaged, and thus much of YA is full of more direct language, faster pacing, action scenes and emotional turmoil. These features appeal to many people (not just teens!!) because of the other media they love with similar plots or pacing – movies, TV shows, Twitter and Instagram.

Enjoying this style of book isn’t just something teens can do. Everyone can.

Now, that being said, I don’t think the classics are dead, or adults should read only YA. That’s also crazy talk. Everything has its place and time. Everything is important to someone. But should an adult feel ashamed for not wanting to be bogged down with what they might see as superfluous language or ambiguous endings? Hardly. Everyone has their preferences.

If you have read YA fiction and thought it was immature, then maybe you haven’t read enough YA. Just like in any genre or category of books, there is the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. You can’t judge an entire type of book based on one work, or even two.

My series of YAFA posts will suggest YA books that will, I hope, appeal more to adult readers. And they won’t be books already enjoying big buzz like “The Hunger Games” or “The Fault in Our Stars.” Here is my first recommendation.
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From Humble Beginnings to the Nobel Prize: Marie Curie

Photo used under a Creative Commons license, photo by Tekniska museet via FlickrOn November 7, 1867, two teachers in Poland welcomed a daughter into the world. They were poor but managed to nurture within her a love of learning. In a day and age where most women did not consider higher education, the girl found herself fascinated by math and science. It was this fascination that lead the girl – Maria Salomea Sklodowska, better known as Marie Curie – on a journey to the University of Paris in 1891. This journey changed not only her life but also directly influenced the future of science and medicine.

In Paris, Marie met Pierre Curie, a physics and chemistry instructor. Pierre was the love of her life, as well as  her scientific partner in Nobel Prize-winning research on radioactivity. Marie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, and she was the first person (and only woman so far) to be awarded a second Nobel Prize, which she won in 1911 for the discovery of radium and polonium. Marie’s life was marked by these great successes but also by great tragedy. Both her mother and husband died far too early in their lives. Despite these losses, she persevered. Marie Curie was an unassuming woman who saw herself as simply a wife, mother and scientist. She probably never imagined her role as such an important pioneer for women and science. If you’re interested in learning more about her, the library owns several fascinating books that explore Marie’s life, family and legacy.

  • Madame Curie: A Biography” by Eve Curie. Marie Curie’s daughter, Eve, recounts Marie’s scientific successes, examining how her mother’s Polish childhood ultimately shaped her into a superstar of the scientific world.


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November is National Adoption Month

Book cover for November is National Adoption month. More than 100,000 children and youth in the U.S. foster care system are awaiting permanent families. National Adoption Month is a time to raise awareness about the adoption of children and youth from foster care, and we wanted to share with you some informational resources about adoption, books available from your library and a publication put out by the Missouri Attorney General called “Welcome Home,” a step-by-step guide to the adoptive process.

A newly updated resource on adoption topics is located on our library’s website. In this adoption subject guide, you will learn current information about the adoption process, including local adoption resources, national and international services, post adoption support and, of course, financial and legal resources.

Adoption Display at the Columbia Public LibrarySeveral books written on the adoption process are available for check-out from DBRL. Here is just a sampling (and some of these books are on display at the Columbia Public Library).


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Better Know a Genre: Weird Fiction

Stacks of books by Thomas GalvezOur first Better Know a Genre post was in the realm of nonfiction. In this installment, we turn our attention to fiction. Earlier this year, I read “Annihilation,” the first book in Jeff VanderMeer’s wonderfully unsettling Southern Reach Trilogy. At just over 200 pages, it was a slight book, but it lingered in my mind for many weeks. I did a little research and discovered that this book was in a genre known as “weird fiction.” I was excited to learn that not only did this genre have a name, but also that it contained some of my favorite authors. I liked weird fiction and hadn’t even known it!

So what is weird fiction? As one would guess from its name, it is unusual. Before we (society) had genres, we just had stories, and some of these stories had ghosts and vampires and swamps and mysterious deaths, but they were still just stories. Later, we (publishers) had to make it easier for readers to distinguish among all the possible books to purchase, and genres became established.
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Prepare Yourself for NaNoWriMo

Image courtesy of National Novel Writing MonthNovember is NaNoWriMo. If you’ve never heard of NaNoWriMo, it stands for National Novel Writing Month, and yes, it’s as daunting and hard as it sounds – 50,000 words in 30 days. That’s an average of 1,600 words a day, including Thanksgiving. Easy? Definitely not.

Lots of writers participate in NaNo, using it as motivation to write that book they’ve been thinking about or to finish their current work in progress. But NaNo isn’t just for writers; it’s for anyone creative who has been procrastinating and needs inspiration (or peer pressure!) to accomplish their creative goals. Maybe that goal is drawing one illustration a day, painting for 10 hours a week or posting two blog posts each weekend.

Use November as the month to set your goals and meet them. (And sometimes even beat them!)

The books I’m suggesting are ones meant to inspire you creatively and to help you through those phases where you think, I simply can’t go on. When you meet your goal at the end of November (because I know you will), you’re going to feel very accomplished.

Book cover for Steal Like an Artist by Austin KleonSteal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative” by Austin Kleon

Austin speaks from his own experiences in “Steal Like an Artist,” breaking the creative process down into 10 major ideas. Full of humor and wit, this compact book will give you suggestions on how to keep going and new ways to develop your creative self. Easy to read and full of cartoons and pictures, “Steal Like an Artist” is a must read for all artists, not just writers.
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