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Engaging Methuen Readers


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Books for the Green Energy Revolution

Maybe you’ve noticed and maybe you haven’t, but alternative energy is all the rage. Who wants to live on an overheated planet? Not this librarian! Green energy doesn’t have to be super expensive. In fact, the library has resources that can help you get it cheap and even build it yourself. Start with these excellent picks from the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium!

Cover image for Careers in green energyCareers in Green Energy by Laura Mars

Sure, solar panels can be expensive, but they also pay well! Whether or not you can personally use green energy on your home right now, you can still contribute to the revolution (and make a little green of your own on the way.)

Cover image for Do-it-yourself projects to get you off the grid :Do-It-Yourself Projects to Get You Off the Grid: Rain Barrels, Chicken Coops, Solar Panels, and More from Instructables.com; edited by Noah Weinstein

I told you there would be a book that showed you how to build a solar panel! If you’re not familiar with Instructables.com, then it’s worth your while to click over before you borrow this book. It’s a great resource for all things DIY, and it hosts a thriving community of DIY solar-panel makers.

Cover image for The energy wise home :The Energy Wise Home: Practical Ideas for Sustainable Living by Jeff Dondero

From insulation to efficient appliances to renewable energy for your home, this book covers it all from soup to nuts. If you want to start at the top and learn everything there is to know about making your home as efficient and environmentally friendly as possible, this is your book.

Cover image for The homeowner's energy handbook :The Homeowner’s Energy Handbook: Your Guide to Getting Off the Grid by Paul Scheckel

Getting “off the grid” may be the holy grail of the sustainability movement, but you’ll find that you can cherry-pick what works best for you from this useful and interesting book.

Cover image for Musings of an energy nerd :Musings of an Energy Nerd: Toward an Energy-Efficient Home by Martin Holladay

The Energy Nerd had a great blog where you can still read all about how to make your home more efficient. After all, reducing your use is a great first step to becoming more environmentally conscious!

 

Cover image for Real Goods solar living sourcebook :

Real Goods Solar Living Sourcebook: Your Complete Guide to Living Beyond the Grid with Renewable Energy Technologies and Sustainable Living by John Schaeffer

With an introduction by 350.org’s Bill McKibben, this book is a standout for alternative energy aficionados. If you’ve read through the basic energy-saving books and want more, then this is where to turn.

Cover image for Renewable energy :Renewable Energy: a Primer for the Twenty-First Century by Bruce Usher

What’s all this renewable energy business about, anyway? If you want to have an intelligent conversation about sustainable power, then this is the book you need to read first. You’ll be glad you did when you can fluently explain the history of humanity’s energy use and how humanity can transition from burning things for fuel to a more advanced system.

Cover image for Self-sufficiency for the 21st centurySelf-Sufficiency for the 21st Century by Dick & James Strawbridge

Don’t be intimidated by the intense title: there is some great green energy advice in these pages! You might pick up some other lifestyle tips at the same time, but don’t let that stop you.


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What’s NaNoWriMo, Precious?

If your friends have suddenly been seized with the writing demon, you’re not alone. National Novel Writing Month occupies the entirety of November. If you’re not a writer and don’t have any idea what I’m talking about, here’s a rundown.

What it is

National Novel Writing Month challenges writers to produce 50,000 words between November 1 and November 30. This pans out to about 1,667 words per day, but because November also includes Thanksgiving, most writers try to work faster than that.

Novels can be about anything, but it’s generally agreed that this isn’t a way to produce a finished piece. Instead, it’s a way to shake off the rust and get your creative juices flowing. Some writers have generated viable first drafts for NaNoWriMo, too. Erin Morgenstern, whose debut, The Night Circus, became a bestseller, drafted her first novel over the course of two NaNoWriMos.

That said, a lot of people don’t worry about writing a cohesive novel for NaNo. Writers have been known to produce short stories, write correspondence, generate computer code, blog, and otherwise dedicate themselves to content creation. 50,000 words of anything is a lot of writing! I’m actually counting this blog post toward my own total.

Well-known authors give pep talks throughout November to participants who register as Wrimos. It’s a creative good time that started with 21 participants in 1999.

How it started

Chris Baty was a hobbyist writer living in the San Francisco Bay area in 1999. He had the idea to challenge writers to generate a novel in 30 days, and sure enough, 21 people took him up on it. That first NaNo was set in July. However, the nice weather proved to be a distraction and the next year, Baty moved the event to wintery, unpleasant November.

2000 was also the year that Baty and a friend set up a website to organize WriMos and help them track their progress. Through a connected Yahoo group, he clarified the rules: the novel had to be new, couldn’t be co-authored, and had to be written and verified entirely within the month of November. Writers who achieved 50,000 words were considered to have “won.” That year, 140 people participated. NaNoWriMo was becoming a national phenomenon.

In 2005, NaNoWriMo was officially so big that it had to be its own company. Baty himself had written a couple of books about banging out a fast first draft, during NaNoWriMo, of course. Thousands of people participated, with membership in this de facto creative organization growing every year. In 2017, over 300,000 people participated from around the world. Tens of thousands met their goal.

How to participate

It’s easy! Just create an account on NaNoWriMo.org and get down to business. It’s not too late to catch up! Regions tend to form groups and write cooperatively, sometimes with food present. Events like all-night write-ins and kickoff parties are common. The NaNo website hosts topical and regional forums where writers can support each other.

A lot of libraries also have NaNoWriMo programs. Some of these are in the Merrimack Valley Library Consortium! Check out Hamilton-Wenham’s library NaNo program while November is still in full swing.

So what are you waiting for? Go write that novel today!


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Cook! That! Pumpkin!

Welcome to Halloween Spookytown! Here the chainsaw killers harvest candy corn from the creepy abandoned fields as eerily cheerful children run from deserted house to deserted house ransacking them for full-sized candy bars. That said, we still need our vitamins, so we also eat pumpkins. Here are a few of our favorite recipe books.

20774886Cooking with Pumpkin: Recipes That Go Beyond the Pie by Averie Sunshine

You might know the author’s blog. Now she has a line of cookbooks, and this is the best one of the bunch. (Probably.) Pretty much the entire lineup is cakes, candies, muffins, and the like. Also, there are pumpkin spice drinks and instructions on how to make pumpkin spice. This is the best part of the book. In Halloween Spookytown we wean the children on pumpkin spice.

46742277. sy475 Healthy and Flavorful Pumpkin Cookbook: The Best Pumpkin Recipes for Pumpkin Lovers by Molly Mills

This is a healthier option than the last crowd-pleaser of a cookbook, which means that there is broccoli in it. Nothing is scarier than a Halloween without broccoli! Green bean and pumpkin salad also features, as does the ever-lovin’ black bean and pumpkin bake. Lot of legumes and green stuff in this one. You’ll love it if you’re one of those people who trick or treats for UNICEF.

Cover image for The pumpkin cookbook :The Pumpkin Cookbook: 139 Recipes Celebrating the Versatility of Pumpkin and Other Winter Squash by DeeDee Stovel

The prettiest of pumpkin pictures meets the most useful of pumpkin culinary direction, viz a viz how to cook a pumpkin in a microwave. And here you thought that pumpkin would be a chore! You also can and should grill pumpkin, both on your Weber and in the interrogation room. Wipe that smug grin off its face. It’s in your house now.

29608067. sx318 Pumpkin It Up! by Eliza Cross

Woot! Raise the roof! It’s pumpkin time! If you’ve got it, flaunt it, shake it, and put a pumpkin in it. Interestingly, this same author also wrote a book called 101 Things To Do With A Pickle, and as a result, all of the pumpkin-based ingredients in Pumpkin It Up! can be replaced with pickles. (I assume.) A word to the wary: it does sometimes rely on frankenfood like those buttermilk biscuits that come in a tube and sit next to the eggs at the store, like that makes any sense. But after all, this is Halloween Spookytown, and we’re here for the horror. Just don’t read the label or it’ll get too real.

Cover image for Purely pumpkin :Purely Pumpkin: More Than 100 Seasonal Recipes to Share, Savor, and Warm Your Kitchen by Allison Day

Who knew there were so many different kinds of heirloom pumpkins? You need to collect them. Sample them all. From the American Tonda to the Yokohama, they will grace your home. No orange conformists here! This book is about pumpkin appreciation – nay, pumpkin love. Although it details the many varieties of edible pumpkins on this side of our mortal coil, a large part of the book is about drinks. A surprisingly small number of them use any actual pumpkin and most of this subset of recipes are for pumpkin spice lattes. Oh well. Our love for pumpkin is a complicated creature.


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Bunny Books For Bunny Day

The bunnies are coming! It’s that time of year again: time to find eggs, eat chocolate, and read all kinds of books about rabbits. If you really want to get into the Easter spirit, try these hopping books.

Watership Down by Richard Adams

watership_down_coverRichard Adams made this story up to entertain his children on a long trip. It became a book that’s beloved by all ages, but is probably a little too mature and bloody for most young kids. Watership Down is the tale of a brave band of warrior rabbits, led by a great leader and his clairvoyant brother, trying to make a new life for themselves after a disaster decimates their warren.

 

A Day In The Life Of Marlon Bundo by Marlon Bundo

Marlon Bundo by Last Week TonightMarlon is the bunny that belongs to Mike Pence, the Vice President of the U.S. In this children’s picture book, he and his bunny boyfriend resist the forces of an ignorant and bigoted bug who says that little bunnies shouldn’t be happy together. A great lesson is learned by all, including the actual V.P., whose wife wrote the picture book that this work parodies.

 

Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

Tgoodnight_moon_coverhis children’s classic features iconic art, a cluttered room, and main characters who are bunnies. Because why not? Odds are good that you encountered this book growing up yourself. The children of the smartphone age still enjoy its bright colors and soothing, simple story.

 

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo

miraculous_journey_of_edward_tulane_coverEdward Tulane is a toy rabbit. He’s also an arrogant jerk who has no regard for anyone or anything other than himself. That will all change when he’s separated from his owner. After all, what’s a toy without someone to play with it? Follow Edward as he realizes the error of his ways and comes to appreciate life in a new way.

 

 

Stories Rabbits Tell: A Natural And Cultural History Of A Misunderstood Creature by Susan Davis

stories_rabbits_tell_cover

Rabbits. They’re symbolic, iconic, domesticated, and delicious. You might be surprised at this humble creature’s place in our cultural and social landscape. Let this book enlighten you about the rabbit’s past, present, and probable future in the context of modern life. This books reconciles the many aspects of the rabbit, from Playboy bunnies to Peter Rabbit. If you’ve ever wondered what the heck is up with rabbits, this book is your go-to.

 

Bunnicula by Deborah Howe

bunnicula_cover.jpgThe new bunny is a vampire. As the other household pets become certain of the danger inherent in the family’s fluffiest new member, they struggle to devise a plan. But does Bunnicula really deserve their fear? Or is he just misunderstood?

 

 

Usagi Yojimbo by Stan Sakei

usagi_yojimbo_vol_1_coverWant more warrior rabbits? Look no further than Usagi, the legendary ronin samurai of Stan Sakei’s cult classic comic book. After his side loses in an epic battle, lone rabbit swordsman Usagi walks throughout Japan, taking work as a bodyguard when he can find it and righting wrongs whenever he runs into them. Lots of fighting!


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4 Things You Didn’t Know About Sherlock Holmes

That’s right, kids: it’s Sherlock time! The world’s greatest detective (other than Batman) was born on January 6, 1854. He is now 165 years young and still the most filmed fictional character in the world. Here’s a little Sherlock trivia for true fans and movie nights.

1. He’s been on screen more than 254 times

As of 2012, Holmes had been portrayed on film an average of three times per year since his TV debut in 1938. This statistic comes to us courtesy of the good people at Guinness Book of World Records, who must have spent an awfully long time counting up Holmes appearances. That figure doesn’t even count more modern Holmes portrayals, such as the spoof that currently stars Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly.

In case you’re dying to see some obscure Holmes on screen, then the MVLC library system can connect you with such wonders as Young Sherlock Holmes, where Sherlock is a hip teen; The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, where Gene Wilder tries desperately and hilariously to live up to the real deal; and Sherlock Gnomes, which only gets away with that pun because it’s for kids. See the whole list here!

2. Holmes claimed he used drugs because he got bored between cases

Sherlock was addicted to both cocaine and morphine, which were technically legal in Victorian England. That said, their adverse health effects were well known to the medical community. Holmes’ friend, the medical doctor Watson, wasn’t anywhere near as bumbling in the books as he’s generally portrayed on-screen, and he voiced considerable alarm at Holmes’ drug use. In return, his friend shot him down with one of the lamest excuses in literature: he was bored. Here’s what he had to say in Chapter 1 of The Sign of the Four:

“My mind,” he said, “rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I have chosen my own particular profession,—or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.”

Maybe do a puzzle instead?

3. The TV show House was based on Sherlock Holmes

Suspend your disbelief for a minute and consider that Gregory House solved unsolvable medical mysteries through deduction, had a drug problem, and had a friend named Wilson. House is a close match for Home, which sounds like Holmes. Wilson and Watson are also close. House even lives at an address numbered 221b. Best of all, Hugh Laurie himself confirms that the surly doc was modeled on the Victorian detective.

4. Sherlock has never been played by a woman…until now!

It’s not surprising that a male detective from the Victorian era is generally played by guys. At the same time, there’s been a female Watson, a female Doctor Who, and lots of modernized adaptations of Sherlock Holmes himself. If Holmes can be a grumpy doctor, a garden ornament, and a New Yorker. Why not a lady?

In fact, a female Sherlock, who lives in Japan, is set to release on HBO Asia.

There’s one caveat that needs pointing out, however. Holmes hasn’t been played on-screen by a woman, but literature is a completely different story. In the Eleanor Arnason story Holmes Sherlock, an alien woman studying Earth literature adopts the stylistic peculiarities of Sherlock Holmes when she becomes enchanted by Arthur Conan Doyle’s mysteries. Incidentally, this alien’s people are universally homosexual and female-led. You can read the entire story here!

 


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Happy birthday, Internet! Have a cyberpunk nightmare!

Cyberpunk happens when lowlifes dabble in high tech. Think cutpurses with cybernetic enhancements and prostitutes who moonlight as hackers. That may seem futuristic, but remember, ten years ago Google was exciting and new! In honor of the Internet’s birthday, here’s a taste of the unmitigated chaos that is our digital future.

Neuromancer by William Gibson

Case used to be a hacker. Kinda. He stole information with his brain, courtesy of implants that let him jack into cyberspace directly. Then he irritated his boss and his boss destroyed his brain, like you do.

The problem is that nobody’s as good at information theft as Case, and now someone important needs him for the job of a lifetime. Case is back, damage and all, but this time, he’s going to need some help…

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

This book was the basis for the hit film Blade Runner, although it varies in a few key points. Rick Deckard is an assassin, but he’s never killed a person – just androids. Runaway machines can blend in with the human population perfectly, but though they may look human, they have no empathy or spiritual connection. That may change, though. As the line between robot and human blurs, Deckard finds himself questioning everything he knows about himself.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

Hiro is a pizza boy. For the Mafia. In an America that’s been carved up and essentially destroyed by corporate interests, he’s just a cog. But in the Metaverse, he’s a superstar hacker living a glamorous digital double life. That’s how he learns about the new computer virus that not only attacks circuitry, but the mind. Weirder still, the virus might also be a language, a religion, and a piece of lost Sumerian technology capable of freeing the world from its hyper-capitalist vice. It’s up to Hiro to figure it out – or save the day trying!

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz

How many pharmaceutical pirates named Jack travel the world in their illegal submarine? Not many! That’s what makes the Robin Hood of illegal medicine such a cool chick. But when a batch of her drugs reprograms people to become addicted to work, Jack knows she’s got to set things right. That means figuring out where the drugs are coming from and stopping them by any means necessary!

Infomocracy by Malka Older

Even when the Internet finally takes over government, it’ll need scumbags to make sure the wheels don’t come off. Unfortunately, those are the same people who stand to gain from a little chaos. A corrupt politician. A radical dissenter. An employee of the search engine that rules us all. They will soon discover more than they wanted to know about how democracy really works.


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Feats of Clay

Ah, March! Theoretically it’s warming up, but who’s to say when a snowstorm will hit? This time of the year defines unpredictability. What better time to develop a hobby? Get your hands dirty and make something gorgeous! Here’s everything you need to start making pottery – aside from the clay and equipment, of course.

pottery1The Craft of the Potter by Michael Casson

From hand-building to wheel-throwing, this book will introduce you to the mystical, manual art of pot creation. Become one with the ancient tradition of earthenware! Though some of its focus is on stunning examples of genius in clay throughout the ages, this book also features step-by-step guides to various pottery techniques.

 

 

pottery2Fired Up With Raku by Irene Poulton

Raku is how you make jaws drop. This stunning Japanese pottery finish technique relies as much on the will of the furnace as on the skill of the artist. What you create will be a collaboration between you and the spirit of fire. Plus, it’s metal as heck! (Seriously. A lot of the glazes you use in pottery are metal-based.)

 

 

pottery3.jpgThe Big Book of Ceramics by Joaquim Chavarria

If you’re looking for a good, all-in-one roundup of everything pottery, then look no further. This book is the soup-to-nuts guide to all things clay, including firing techniques, custom design strategies, and the history of claywork. Also, color photos!

 

 

BONUS:

sewingpotterySewing Pottery by Machine by Barbara Warholic

What? You say you’re not interested in getting fancy expensive dirt under your nails? Good! You can make pottery using nice, soft, clean, warm, cheap fabric. It’s true! It’s not hugely difficult to learn how to sew pots and the results look incredible. Plus, all you need is fabric, cord, and a sewing machine. What could be simpler? Now you can use your old clothes to make stylish storage solutions for all your yarn! #metacrafting