Adventure in Cooking

By Christina Stephenson

“Adventure is worthwhile.” – Aesop

I love this quote.  It sums up perfectly my philosophy of life.  Adventure nudges us out of our comfort zones and into the greater world.  The interesting thing about adventure is that sometimes you don’t even have to leave your own home to find it.

When my children were younger I homeschooled them for several years.  At the time I was taking care of my father and wasn’t working, so I had time and we enjoyed a lot of flexibility in our schedules.  I made an effort to get us out of the house and do something new most days, but one day I realized we had the same conversation nearly every afternoon.

Child:  What’s for dinner tonight?

Me:  I don’t know I haven’t really thought about it yet. We can stop at the store and grab some chicken?

Child: Ugh!  Not chicken again!

That same week I read an article about how people tend to rely on the same 5 to 7 meals most of their lives and use a limited group of staples for those meals.  We were definitely stuck in a 5-7 meal rut, with limited protein choices and staples! We relied on what was familiar and easy to make, and I realized that my family was missing out on an opportunity to enrich our lives a bit more.

I thought about it long and hard, and decided that we were going to have a year of new to us meals at least 5 times a week, and not variations on the same old same old.  “I can do this!” I thought, and I would make the children a part of the process.  We were going to incorporate what we were learning in homeschooling into our meals, and we were going to make food from as many countries and regions as possible.

I took a deep breath and decided on a plan of action.  I printed out a calendar for March (the month we began) and marked off my target days for the new recipes.  The next decision had to be WHAT to make each day and how to source any new ingredients that were not typically in our pantry?!  We were just wrapping up our study of Mesopotamia and moving onto the Indus Valley, so we choose Persian and Indian foods for the first two weeks.  I wanted authentic recipes from the areas and not some western celebrities interpretation, so I searched for cookbooks by authors from that region. 

Have I mentioned that cookbooks can be very pricey and take up a lot of room in your house?  Although I did purchase a few amazing cookbooks, the majority that I used that year I found in the library.  I would read the cookbook and show the children the recipes that I thought we might want to try and they helped to choose the ones they found most appealing.  I then photocopied the recipes (because I like to make notes as I cook and do not want the book itself to get dirty – I confess I am a messy cook!) and returned the book to the library.  We have stacks of photocopied recipes now that we often go back to.

Surprisingly, one of the least difficult things was finding some of the more exotic (to me) ingredients.  Many of them I could find either at the international markets in Albuquerque, or I bought online and they came right to my door.   for a few ingredients I had to search for a suitable substitute, but often there were good suggestions online from other cooks.  I did buy a few specialty cooking containers like a tagine and a paella pan, but the truth is I could have managed without them. (Although I am happy I bought them!)

The children and I would often cook the meal together and when we sat down to serve it we would talk about the food, the region, geography, and history of the country.

In that year we not only met the 5 new recipes a week goal, but often exceeded it.  We made food from every continent (except Antarctica for obvious reasons), each region of the United States, and many different countries (I am not sure of an exact count).  We made a roast from Columbia, a vegetarian feast from Ethiopia, stuffed cabbage from Russia, variations of curry from the Caribbean to the Far East, lamb tagine from Morocco, fish stew from Peru, and so many other amazing flavors.  Did we have a few duds?  Yes we did.  Did they deter us?  No they did not.   Although our time is more limited now that I am working full time and the children are teens, we still make an effort to cook together on the weekends.  We have added many new favorite recipes to our meal rotations and we feel that it makes life better.

Now the afternoon question goes more like this:

Child:  What’s for dinner tonight?

Me:  I don’t know I haven’t really thought about it yet.  We can stop at the store and grab some chicken?

Child: Oh!  Can we make that yummy chicken from Brazil?!

I hope to try this food adventure again one day and share it with my Family and Friends.  We often talk about our year of cooking around the world with smiles and as a shared adventure.

If you are interested in trying some new recipes, The Santa Fe Public Library has a cookbook for you!  A few of my recent favorites include:

Salt & Time: Recipes from a Russian Kitchen by Alissa Timoshkina – I want to try the Ukha (Rustic Fish Soup) on pg. 69.  This looks like a lovely soup to serve with crusty buttered bread on a cold winters night.

Tasting Paris: 100 recipes to eat like a local by Clotilde Dusoulier – I am making the Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Apple Cider Sauce on pg. 213 this weekend!  Pork isn’t my favorite protein, but this recipe looks delicious.

Moorish: Vibrant recipes from the Mediterranean by Ben Tish – I am always looking for new ways to serve side dishes and the Olive Oil-roasted Potatoes with Green Peppers, Chilli and Green Olives on pg. 110 is a yummy new way to have potatoes.  My family ate every bite!

The Irish Cookbook by JP McMahon – I have a duck in my freezer and I am planning to make the Spiced Duck with Potato and Sage Stuffing and Apple Sauce on pg. 198 with it soon.  You can find Duck at most of the grocery stores in town and it has become one of our favorite proteins.

Ethiopia: Recipes and traditions from the horn of Africa by Yohanis Gebreyesus – I have LOVED Ethiopian food ever since I first had it as a child, but I never attempted to make it myself until our great year of cooking.  Last year I made the Duba Wat: Spicy Pumpkin Stew on pg. 94 and my family ate every bite, so I will be making it again this fall when the pumpkins are for sale and a chill is in the air.

Please stop in or call us at Reference if you need assistance finding some great cookbooks.  Main Reference 505-955-6781, La Farge Reference 505-955-4862, and Southside Reference 505-955-2820.

Here Comes Science – science books for non-science people

By Callie Stockman

I was never a math and science person, but I have always appreciated science. I love the process of discovery and the story of inventions. I might tune out a little when it gets too technical, but the stories of triumph that are inherent in the science field make me want to stand up and cheer.

I’m sharing a list of my favorite science books for non-science people. These books either focus on the stories behind the scientists or they break down the science enough that they’re enjoyable for the layman. You’ll see a lot of them same authors over a variety of subjects. I hope you enjoy!

The Body: A Guide for Occupants by Bill Bryson

The Bastard Brigade: The True Story of the Renegade Scientists and Spies Who Sabotaged the Nazi Atomic Bomb by Sam Kean

Into the Magic Shop: A Neurosurgeon’s Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart by James R. Doty

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee

The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons: the History of the Human Brain as Revealed by True Stories Trauma, Madnesss, and Recovery by Sam Keane

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love by Dava Sobel

The Violinist’s Thumb: and Other Lost Stories of Love, War, and Genius as Written by Our Genetic Code by Sam Keane

The gift, and burden, of STUFF

By Christina Stephenson

When my parents died, they left behind so much stuff that years later my siblings and I are still trying to sort it and make decisions.  It sits in closets, cupboards, drawers, and in trunks piled in the garage waiting for their turn to be sorted.  There are genuine treasures and memories with some of it, which is a gift that gives me a warm feeling of a hug.  There are emotions that come up; both good and bad with some of it.  Sometimes I resent that my life has been taken over by someone else’s choices and detritus and that feeling can be such a burden and feel overwhelming.

My parents were from the generation that saved and valued “useful” things.  My father left behind a garage lined with coffee cans of nails and screws.  My mother loved textiles, and I still have piles of cloth she collected, tins of buttons, and thread.  My life is so busy working, raising my children, taking care of everyday things, that dealing with all of my parents stuff is often postponed for months at a time.  I keep plugging away at it though, little by little, and have decided that I will not leave so much STUFF for my children to deal with.  I don’t want them to be burdened by too many of my things when I die.  I want them to cherish the few things that are meaningful to them.  To that end, I have turned to the library collection for inspiration and advice on how to deal with both mine and my parents STUFF, and the SFPL collection has not disappointed me!

One of my favorites has been “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to free yourself and your family from a lifetime of clutter” by Margareta Magnusson.  In it she affirms with experience and humor how beneficial decluttering your life is for both you and your loved ones before you die and leave it to others.  It is an easy read and, despite the title, is not sad but rather uplifting.

Another favorite is “The Life-Changing Magic of tidying Up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing” by Marie Kondo.  This gentle and inspiring book has become the gold-standard recently for organizing your life and there is good reason.  Kondo is direct and clear in her philosophy of being tidy, and it is simple to follow.  It is not fussy and she asks that instead of looking at an entire house, you look at tackle parts at a time.  She provides a system to tackle each part and makes it doable and not overwhelming.

I also found “10 Minute Tidy Home: hundreds of easy tips to straighten and clean every room of your house” by Sara L. Hunter and “10 Minute Declutter: hundreds of tips to organize every room of your house” by Skye Alexander to be helpful.  These tip filled books are less of a cover to cover read and more of an inspirational life-hack guide.  You can look up specific issues and get tips to help using the handy index in the backs of the books.

If, like me, you too have STUFF and you need inspiration on how to deal with it there are plenty of materials in our collection for you, not just the ones I have mentioned.  Please stop in or call us at Reference if you need assistance finding materials.

Main Reference 505-955-6781, La Farge Reference 505-955-4862, and Southside Reference 505-955-2820.

I Multi-Read!

By Callie Stockman

I read multiple books at once. Sometimes it’s 3 or 4, sometimes it’s as many as 10. Occasionally I feel guilty about having so many books going at once. Usually though, I only feel guilty because some random power-that-be says it’s bad form. When I try to cull my currently-reading stack, I also cull some of my joy in books.

I like to think of my to-be-read list and currently-reading-books as a swimming pool. Swimming pools are one of the best places to be! I want to dip in and out of the water and enjoy the time the way I want. I’m not an Olympic swimmer trying to earn gold medals. I’m not a lifeguard watching out for infractions. I just want to have a good time.  When it comes to books, that means picking up a book when the spirit moves me and not trying to keep my currently-reading list to some random number. 

Besides the fact that it really just brings me joy to read however many books I want, I also think there are some real benefits to it as well. 

The most important benefit to me is that I can read longer when I’m reading multiple books. Sometimes I’m reading a book that I just need a break from. Perhaps it’s a boring part, or I’m becoming too emotionally involved and need a break. If I want to stop reading book A, and I’m only reading book A, I have to stop reading altogether. However, if I have a stack of books, I can cycle through without getting bored or overwhelmed and read for literally hours. 

Another benefit is that it gets me through my TBR pile faster. Here’s a confession I’ve shared with you before: I don’t finish every book I start. If I don’t like a book, it goes back to the library. It would be awful to have a popular book sitting in my TBR pile because I was determined to finish another book before I opened it. It would be even worse if I read the first chapter and decide it’s not for me. You could have had that book days earlier, if only I weren’t dedicated to only “X” many books at a time. 

I also appreciate the books I’m reading more  if I wait to finish one before starting a new one. I can imagine that if I’m reading a book and a new one comes in that I’m excited about, I might start to resent the one I have to finish. I may rush through it or simply give up, even though I like it. 

There are a few tips and tricks I have when reading my large pile of books at once that I’d love to share with you. The most important thing is to read a little longer in a new book before switching over to one you’re already currently in the middle of. When you first start a book, it’s important to get a feel for the “bones” of the plot and people before setting it aside. It will be easier to keep what’s happening in your mind as you dip in and out. 

I also have a “primary books” system. If a book is due back sooner than the others or I’m anxious to lend it to a friend, I’ll make those books my priority. I’ll start my reading day by reading in those first and come back to them more frequently to make sure they get read and returned in time. 

Finally, I try to read a little bit in each of my books everyday. If you go too long without reading in a book it becomes easier to forget what’s happening and lose the feel for the book. If I find myself struggling to read in all of my books consistently everyday, it is a sign that I really DO have too many going at once!

I hope you have fun splashing around in your pile of books! 

Lucky Number 7: The Best Books with “7” in the Title

July is NOT my favorite month

By Callie Stockman

There is little about the month of July I like. It’s too hot and the fireworks scare my dog. One thing that the month has going for it is that it is the 7th month. Although 7 isn’t my lucky number in most aspects, when it comes to book titles, it often signals some of the greats. 

The 7 and ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: This is the “7” book that started it all for me. In a manor house outside of London, a man wakes up with absolutely no idea who he is or what he’s doing there. He spends the next few days inhabiting the bodies of other manor guests to discover who kills Evelyn Hardcastle every night. It sounds confusing, and the first chapter truly is. Once you relax into the chaos, this will be one of the most fun and surprising novels you’ve read in years.

The 7 or 8 Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames: Such a similar name to the previous book and yet so different. This novel follows an Italian family as they leave their country and set down roots in New England in modern times. It especially follows Stella Fortuna, lucky in looks and rich in near death experiences. 

The 7 Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid: Golden age Hollywood starlets have always fascinated me, and I liked this twist on the average “I’m going to make it in LA” trope. Evelyn learns something about herself at an early age and spends the next few years processing what it means. We meet her at the end of her life, after a very successful career, as she inexplicably gives her life story to a perfect stranger without seeming to ask for anything in return. 

Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan: If quirky and slightly awkward protagonists are your thing, you’ll love Willow. After both of her parents die in a traffic accident, twelve year old Willow is forced out of the carefully constructed world she has built herself. Rounded out with a cast of equally oddball but endearing misfits, this is a middle grade novel for everyone rooting for the underdog.

Into the Beautiful North: An Unexpected Perspective

by Ann B.

NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.
El proyecto NEA Big Read es una iniciativa del National Endowment for the Arts (el Fondo Nacional para las Artes de Estados Unidos) en cooperación con Arts Midwest.

What do you think of when you hear “book club”?  Middle aged women discussing the latest literary fiction or, maybe chick lit, novel, while drinking wine of course.  Or maybe you think of retirees, discussing the latest John Grisham or C.J. Box novel.  You probably don’t think of inmates discussing the plot line of any novel; much less bring up the plot device of “the hand of God” also known as “Deus ex machina”.  But that is what we have been experiencing through our partnership with the Penitentiary of New Mexico for our Big Read of Luis Alberto Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North

It has been, in a word, fantastic.

Prison book clubs are not incredibly new but they are not necessarily prevalent in many facilities.  There are many things to consider: 

  • the topic of the book
  • its availability in paperback (hardcover books are not allowed)
  • volunteer training and orientation
  • approval from facility leadership

We have met for the past three Tuesdays via video conferencing for a lively discussion of Luis Alberto Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North.  Roseanna Andrade, the PNM librarian, has wonderfully led us through three-quarters of the book. Our group includes six Santa Fe Public Library librarians and six prison inmates along with Roseanna. 

Ryan, Virgilio, Joshua, Carlos, Larenzo, and Richard are active and engaged participants.  Their interests include science fiction/fantasy, adventure, mystery, self-help, philosophy, and history.  Their favorite characters include Aria Stark, Lisbeth Salander, Teresa Mendoza, Roland Deschain and others.  Some are from the Southwest and are familiar with the border area that combines New Mexico, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico.  Others have no experience with the notion of border crossing beyond what they see and hear on TV.  Diverse backgrounds make for great discussion.

However diverse their background, finding common ground in Urrea’s book is not difficult for them or for us.  If you have not read the book yet, maybe this will inspire you to check it out from the library.  Or if you have read it, thethoughts and insights from these men may shine a different light or give you a different perspective.

Also, spoiler alert. . .

One of the first topics that came up was the idea of the grand quest. Two of the men mentioned they were reading or re-reading Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series, a 14-book series with questing and traveling at its core.  The questing theme is found in almost all literature.  Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces explores this concept in depth. We are all searching for something, aren’t we?   Our main character, Nayeli, leads the group of four on a quest to bring seven strong men back to save their town.  This, of course, turned our first discussion to the movie The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner, which inspired Nayeli to embark on this quest.  The consensus is the 1960 version was better than the 2016 remake.  But, the first original, The Seven Samurai, is a classic. 

The discussion moves towards some hard questions.  Are there any good men in the story?  Matriarchal society versus machismo culture was mentioned, as the character, La Osa, is a strong and fierce woman. The inmates definitely picked up on the fact that all the men have left the small town leaving it defenseless and ripe for the picking by drug cartels.  One of our participants confirmed that this happens frequently.  This is not a made up plot line to move a story along.  Drug cartels take over the small towns when the young and able-bodied men head north. So, again, where are the good men?  Finding partners for themselves is as much a part of the quest  as saving the town.

In our three sessions, so many new perspectives and ideas have been brought forth.  With only one more to go, I am anxious to see where it leads.  Will we discuss the Dump metaphor?  The Dump representing disposable people?  But also representing making something good out of someone else’s trash like the couple that helps the group and feeds them in Tijuana?  Or maybe the idea of divine providence will pop up again? 

What about home?  Where is your home? Is it in you?  Do you make a home wherever you end up?  Or, what reminds us of home?  A smell, a sound? 

And what about our expectations?  The dream of going north versus the reality of the experience.  The reality of thieves, deportation, tear gas, and assault outweighs the kindness experienced through a simple meal.  Our discussion on kindness was intense.  A couple of participants were concerned that the group wasn’t experience real kindness as there were ulterior motives involved.  True kindness is seen as selflessness and sacrifice.  It must be altruistic. 

In reading this book, we may forget that three of our main characters are teenagers.  They still have a lot of growing to do.  Roseanna mentioned, and we all agreed, that a significant amount of growing up is going on.  But they don’t just grow up during this experience, they grow through it.  And doesn’t that just sum up all of our life experiences. 

The beauty of books and book clubs, the experience of a shared discussion, is that it brings to mind our similarities as well as our differences.  As I said earlier, our group is a wonderfully diverse group including people with a range of experience, ages, and ethnicities.  Yet we all find common ground either in the characters, the setting, the plot, or the plot device.  I hope you have the opportunity to share this experience too.

National Library Week

by Ann B.

“To ask why we need libraries at all, when there is so much information available elsewhere, is about as sensible as asking if roadmaps are necessary now that there are so very many roads.”

Jon Bing (1944-2014. Norwegian writer and law professor at the Norwegian Research Center for Computers and Law)

As we come to the end of National Library Week, we are so grateful for our libraries and library staff.

Libraries are a place of belonging, a place to find something about yourself or any other topic in which you are interested. And even with all the resources available on the internet, the library is increasingly important to all communities.

Speaking personally, I usually get two responses when I tell people I am a librarian. 
“Really?  That’s so cool!  I love reading.  It must be so nice to sit and read all day long.”  For the record, I don’t get to read all day long; most librarians do not get to do this.  We do spend time reading and reviewing titles but we are pretty busy otherwise.
The other response is “Do people still use the library?” which of course I answer with a resounding “YES!” 

In honor of National Library Week, below is a short list of books, both fiction and nonfiction, centered on libraries and librarians.

This is one of my favorites in that it is a very good read. That being said, it is the factual account of every librarian’s nightmare. The Library Book by Susan Orlean chronicles the fire that ripped through the Central Library in Los Angeles, California in 1986.  Over 400,000 books were consumed in the fire with another 700,000 being destroyed. 

The New Public Library: design innovation for the twenty-first century by R. Thomas Hille.

This gorgeous book discusses the historical architecture of libraries and new modern designs.  An examination of how library buildings have changed due to changing communities and services, I found this book inspiring and hopeful.  Libraries, as an essential part of any community, are adjusting to new services and opportunities which should be reflected in their buildings.  It’s not just about the books, but about the information and access we provide.

The Most Beautiful Libraries in the World by Guillaume de Laubier.

A book to inspire your wanderlust, the images in this book are too beautiful to describe.  Twenty-Three libraries from around the world are explored visually and historically.  Small and large libraries, public and academic, are detailed with gorgeous photos and descriptions. 

The Library Book by Thomas R. Schiff.

Yes, this has the same title as Orlean’s but definitely happier content. Duplicate title besides, this book “beautifully captures the shifting architectural styles and missions of the library in sweeping 360-degree panoramas–from the very earliest American libraries to the modernist masterpieces of Louis I. Kahn and others.”

For the fiction readers, there are many, many stories centered on libraries and librarians.  If Cozy Mysteries are your thing, we’ve got you covered.  Fantasy?  Check.  Historical fiction? Yep. 

The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman is the first book in a series of seven, so far. “One thing any Librarian will tell you: the truth is much stranger than fiction… Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities.” I mean, spies and librarians, how could you go wrong?

Another library-related fantasy is The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. This is truly a winding tale described as “a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.”

If you like cozy mysteries, check out (pun intended) The Spook in the Stacks by Eva Gates or Murder Past Due by Miranda James. ( Like most modern libraries, we do not have late fees.  So, if you’ve been worried about returning late books, don’t!  ) Most librarians are invariably curious which of course makes for great amateur sleuth characters.

A couple of newer titles are The Giver of Stars: A Novel by Jojo Moyes and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek: a novel by Kim Michele Richardson. Interestingly enough, both of these books were written in 2019 and center around Eleanor Roosevelt’s Pack Horse Library Project. Both novels take place in 1930s Depression Era Kentucky and explore the women who took on this heroic endeavor.

We love being part of and serving the Santa Fe community.  I hope these books inspire you to share your love of libraries with your friends and neighbors.  We are still working for you during this time.  You are still able to place holds on our website or phone.  You can pick up your items during our curbside hours at all three branches.  And, of course, you can return items 24/7 at our outdoor drops.  We love serving our neighbors and we want everyone to have access to our collection which is really your collection! 

For more information on our interim services or to browse our catalog, visit Information can also be found on our e-resources, digital library, author events, and our Big Read.

St. Patrick’s Day

by Ann B.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Santa Fe! The staff at the library wish you a lovely day full of friends, family, maybe some yummy treats, and, of course, a few good books.

Some of us got into the spirit of the day as well. Enjoy the pictures of staff showing off their spot of green. And, don’t worry, no pinching is allowed for the lack of green-ness!


Kevin Dundon’s modern Irish food : more than 100 recipes for easy comfort food by Kevin Dundon. These recipes look amazing. I’ve made soda bread a few times . . . and now I have to make more.

Real Irish food : 150 classic recipes from the old country by David Bowers. “Real Irish food is brown soda bread so moist it barely needs the yolk-yellow butter; fragrant apple tarts with tender, golden crusts; rich stews redolent of meaty gravy and sweet carrots; crisp-edged potato cakes flipped hot from a skillet directly onto the plate. Forget meatloaf or mac and cheese–this stuff is the original comfort food.” While there is no way I will ever give up mac and cheese (especially if it’s homemade), apple tarts are always welcome.

An Irish country cookbook by Patrick Taylor. If you’re a fan of Taylor’s Irish County series, this cookbook is for you. Not only does it have 150+ recipes, it also includes 10 short stories featuring his characters.


The Immortal Irishman: the Irish revolutionary who became an American hero by Timothy Egan. “From the National Book Award-winning and best-selling author Timothy Egan comes the epic story of one of the most fascinating and colorful Irishman in nineteenth-century America. The Irish-American story, with all its twists and triumphs, is told through the improbable life of one man. A dashing young orator during the Great Famine of the 1840s, in which a million of his Irish countrymen died, Thomas Francis Meagher led a failed uprising against British rule, for which he was banished to a Tasmanian prison colony. He escaped and six months later was heralded in the streets of New York — the revolutionary hero, back from the dead, at the dawn of the great Irish immigration to America.”

Angela’s ashes: a memoir by Frank McCourt. “Angela’s Ashes , imbued on every page with Frank McCourt’s astounding humor and compassion, is a glorious book that bears all the marks of a classic. “When I look back on my childhood I wonder how I managed to survive at all. It was, of course, a miserable childhood: the happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood.” So begins the luminous memoir of Frank McCourt, born in Depression-era Brooklyn to recent Irish immigrants and raised in the slums of Limerick, Ireland.”

Teacher man: a memoir also by Frank McCourt. “Teacher Man is also an urgent tribute to teachers everywhere. In bold and spirited prose featuring his irreverent wit and heartbreaking honesty, McCourt records the trials, triumphs and surprises he faces in public high schools around New York City. His methods anything but conventional, McCourt creates a lasting impact on his students through imaginative assignments (he instructs one class to write “An Excuse Note from Adam or Eve to God”), singalongs (featuring recipe ingredients as lyrics), and field trips (imagine taking twenty-nine rowdy girls to a movie in Times Square!). McCourt struggles to find his way in the classroom and spends his evenings drinking with writers and dreaming of one day putting his own story to paper.”

My father left me Ireland : an American son’s search for home by Michael Brendan Dougherty. “The child of an Irish man and an Irish-American woman who split up soon after he was born, Michael Brendan Dougherty grew up with an acute sense of absence. He loved his mother but longed for his father, who only occasionally returned from Ireland for visits. He was happy enough in America, but desperately wanted the sense of cultural belonging that his Irish half-siblings seemed to enjoy . . . [H]e began to study Gaelic. He buried himself in Irish history and learned old songs to sing to his daughter. Most significantly, he began writing letters to his father about what he remembered, what he missed, and what he longed for, realizing along the way that his longings were shared by many of his generation. These letters would become this book. Many Americans today, of all backgrounds, lack a clear sense of cultural heritage or even a vocabulary for expressing this lack. And as the national conversation about identity becomes increasingly polarized, people tend to avoid talking about their roots altogether. In these deeply felt and fascinating letters, Dougherty offers a new way for all of us to think about who we are, where we came from, and where we’re going.”


St. Patrick’s Day murder: a Lucy Stone mystery by Leslie Meier. Something slightly more light-hearted. . .

The ninth hour by Alice McDermott. “– a powerfully affecting story spanning the twentieth century of a widow and her daughter and the nuns who serve their Irish-American community in Brooklyn.”

Until the next time: a novel by Kevin Fox. “For Sean Corrigan the past is simply what happened yesterday, until his twenty-first birthday, when he is given a journal left him by his father’s brother Michael–a man he had not known existed. The journal, kept after his uncle fled from New York City to Ireland to escape prosecution for a murder he did not commit, draws Sean into a hunt for the truth about Michael’s fate. Sean too leaves New York for Ireland, where he is caught up in the lives of people who not only know all about Michael Corrigan but have a score to settle.”

I hope you enjoyed this quick list of Irish flavored books! Maybe you’ve been to Ireland, want to go to Ireland, or just want to cook some Irish food (which you can share with us), make sure you explore everything Irish. You can find more on our online catalog,

Quit Lit

by Callie S.

The season of Lent began on February 17th and is generally a time of reflection and sacrifice.  Although historically observed by Christians, many secular individuals have joined in the Lenten holiday, which is commemorated by choosing to go without one of life’s pleasures for some 40 plus days. Unsurprisingly, alcohol is one of the main things people choose to forego.

Whether you consider yourself a moderate drinker or a bit of a lush, it’s an excellent time to flex your sober muscles. Quit lit, a genre about people giving up primarily drugs and alcohol, is a good way to help you stick to your Lenten goals. Instead of reaching for that glass of wine, pick up one of these instead.    

Unwasted:  My Lush Sobriety by Sacha Scoblic.  This is the first quit lit book I ever read. I loved Scoblic’s glamorous life as a writer in D.C. and that made her inevitable fall and redemption that much more rewarding to read. Scoblic is one of the many sober people I’ve read about who become long distance runners as well, a commonality I find particularly fascinating.

This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness and Change Your Life by Annie Grace.  Grace explores how we become addicted and what alcohol does in the brain. Even more importantly, Grace gives those struggling with alcohol addiction the tools to understand on a cognitive level that alcohol does nothing for us. She takes a lot of her research from Allan Carr’s The Easy Way to Stop Drinking, but builds on her own experiences with alcohol. She hints in the beginning that you can moderate after reading her book, but by the book’s end you find out that no, you really can’t, according to Grace.

Quit Like a Woman: the Radical Choice Not to Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol by Holly Whitaker.  Whitaker not only talks her own personal struggles with alcohol and the biology of addiction, she also explores how women have been targeted by “big alcohol.” I especially enjoyed her thoughts on AA. She goes against the grain of “one day at a time” by substituting her personal empowering statement of “never question the decision.” This book was the most unique and “radical” book on sobriety I’ve read.

We are the Luckiest: the Surprising Magic of a Sober Life by Laura McKowen.  McKowen is probably the most gifted author on the list and the beauty she finds on the other side of alcohol is remarkable. Of course, the ugliness in her life while drinking is probably the most horrifying of all the memoirs on this list, so be prepared. There aren’t any zany and funny stories about her drinking days. There are stories about her leaving her 4 year old daughter unattended while hooking up with a stranger at a wedding.

Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola.  This book is unique in that it spends equal time with the author before and after sobriety.  This book was the most compelling of the memoirs because Hepola is the most like me. Alcohol makes her creative and more fun, not mean and disorderly. She doesn’t have abuse to forget or post-traumatic stress disorder. Hepola is a girl who just started drinking one day and never really needed to stop, until she did.

The Good House by Ann Leary.  Set in a small Massachusetts town, the protagonist struggles with her growing and secret dependence on wine. This work of fiction examines why we drink, why we hide, and what it ultimately takes to get sober. I listened to this one and I can’t recommend the audio version highly enough. 

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Nothing Good Can Come from This: Essays by Kristi Coulter.  I thoroughly enjoyed Coulter’s intimate essays.  She helped me wake up to how common it is for women to encourage other women to drink. When did skinning your knee at 10 am become an excuse for a midmorning glass of rose?  Coulter’s been there, and her poignant essays are never preachy.

The Cat Who series by Lillian Jackson Braun: This series based on a coffee-swilling reporter and his crime-solving cat isn’t really about sobriety. However, the main character is sober and I like how deftly Braun incorporates that into the books without putting a spotlight on it. It’s about a man who happens to be sober, not about a sober man.

Anyone who drinks on a regular basis can learn from the above mentioned books, even if you don’t identify yourself as an alcoholic or someone with a drinking problem. I personally like to keep tabs on my relationship with alcohol and regularly reading books like these helps me do that. The biggest reason I read quit lit is because it’s always a story about the most fascinating conflict on earth: man versus himself.

Movies and more movies!

by John P.

Due to a generous donation of DVDs to the Southside library, we have been able to add some DVD titles we have not been able to carry before, because they have been unobtainable for us. All titles are available through our website at

These movies are the kinds of titles that film buffs will like, and with the shutdown of most alternative movie screens in Santa Fe, at least there is the option of rediscovering them for free from us.

Book Cover

Starting off there is Bitter Victory – from 1958 : “British Capt. Leith (Richard Burton) knows the Libyan Desert like the back of his hand, but Maj. Brand (Curt Jurgens), who’s unfamiliar with the terrain, is chosen to lead a campaign through the area because of his prestigious military credentials. During the mission, tensions build between Leith and Brand, and the latter reveals himself to be a poor fit for the dangerous operation. The power struggle between the officers is only intensified when Brand learns that his wife once loved Leith”.  –  a chance to see a young Richard Burton in an early role.

Next a film set in both Brazil and San Francisco from 2000 : Woman on top : “Set to the intoxicating rhythms of Brazil, “Woman on Top” is a spicy, sexy comedy about the magic of food, love and music. Meet Isabella, a sultry enchantress born with the special gift of melting the palates and hearts of men everywhere. When she decides to break free from her rocky marriage, and the stifling kitchen of her husband’s restaurant in Brazil,  she spirits off to San Francisco in pursuit of her dreams of a real culinary career.   – Starring Penélope Cruz, it has a great soundtrack too.

Next we have Āsoka (2001) This movie traces the life of Emperor Āsoka, the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya who ascended the throne of Magadha in the 3rd century B.C. To extend the borders of his kingdom, he wages one of the bloodiest wars in history with the neighboring kingdom of Kalinga, leaving it ravaged and devastated. Confronted by the aftermath of his conquest, Āsoka is overcome with remorse and renounces the path of war to dedicate his life to spreading the teachings of Buddhism. Starring  Shahrukh Khan as Asoka.

Then another film set in India from 1992- City of Joy – : Farmer Hasari Pal (Om Puri) moves his family to Calcutta to start a new life. Settling in the city’s poorest area (the “city of joy”), he finds Texan doctor Max (Patrick Swayze), who has been assaulted and robbed, lying in the street. Hasari takes him to his district, where the homeless and lepers live. Max becomes friends with Hasari and clinic doctor Joan (Pauline Collins), and Hasari gets a job as a rickshaw driver. Max soon plunges into his new life.

Yet another Foreign Indian addition is:  Earth -: The disaster of Indian/Pakistani partition in 1947, seen through the eyes of a child – Lenny, an eight-year-old crippled girl – from Lahore, the Punjabi city that saw some of the bloodiest pogroms. The experiences, hopes and fears of this young girl provide an intense portrait of the period. – Directed by Deepa Mehta.

Moving over to Europe, for the first time in a while, we are able to add Bernardo Bertolucci’s The conformist =: Conformista –from 1970: – “Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is a member of the secret police in Mussolini’s Fascist Italy. He and his new bride, Giulia (Stefania Sandrelli), travel to Paris for their honeymoon, where Marcello also plans to assassinate his former college professor Luca Quadri (Enzo Tarascio), an outspoken anti-Fascist living in exile. But when Marcello meets the professor’s young wife, Anna (Dominique Sanda), both his romantic and his political loyalties are tested.”

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Next on our list is : Zachariah – from 1971. In this Western featuring rock music by such famous performers integrated into the cast as Country Joe and the Fish, Elvin Jones, the James Gang, and Cajun singer Doug Kershaw, Zachariah is an aspiring gunslinger who journeys from town to town, from one adventure to another, from affiliation with the West’s most inept gang of bandits to a shot at membership in the West’s toughest, from a life of quiet farming to a near-fatal confrontation with his best friend. This is a cult classic from the 70’s, often shown as a late night feature on college campuses then.

Then visiting Ancient Egypt we have: Land of the Pharaohs – 1955. Directed by Howard Hawks American Cinematheque has this to say about it: “This truly phenomenal CinemaScope fantasia of ancient Egypt features pharaoh Jack Hawkins, who is obsessed with building an eternal monument to his glory, while nympho wife Joan Collins (at her slinky, scheming best) tries to orchestrate his murder. -Stunning technical credits all around, with a script co-written by William Faulkner (!), and sumptuous art direction by the legendary Alexander Trauner. “When I first saw it as a kid, LAND OF THE PHAROAHS became my favorite film.” – Martin Scorsese

Going abroad again from Canada (2003) we added: My life without me– directed by Isabel Coixet and starring Sarah Polley, Mark Ruffalo, Scott Speedman, and Leonor Watling. A hard-working mother of two Ann (Sarah Polley) discovers she has terminal ovarian cancer and the doctors give her two months to live, she decides to keep the news from her family. ‘My life Without Me’ shows us how vulnerable we can be and how dramatically things can change when we take control of our lives. -Nominated for a Goya Award for Best Picture 2004.

Rounding our list out, we also added- The last metro =: Le dernier métro (1980) –directed by  François Truffaut – “A stylish and poignant film about Jewish director Lucas Steiner (Heinz Bennent), who is forced to hide in the basement of his theater during the Nazi occupation while his wife (Catherine Deneuve) stars in its latest production. Romantic tensions mount when she and her leading man (Gérard Depardieu) begin to fall in love with each other. At the same time, a pro-Nazi theater critic ensconces himself in the theater causing stress to the entire cast”–

We hope you find something new to view! Make sure you check out all the movies, television shows, and documentaries available through your Santa Fe Public Library.

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