Book Reviews

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is one of the most famous autobiographies in English, certainly in America. Benjamin Franklin was not only a prominent figure in the US War of Independence, but also one of the most accomplished men of his day, well versed in several fields, and a self-made man to boot (call Central Casting – we have ourselves a Renaissance American).

In some respects, Franklin could be favorably compared to Samuel Johnson. Franklin was an auto-didact. His father, a chandler in Boston, needed his sons’ help in business, so that his sons did not receive the education in school and college for which they were all well-suited. Franklin received a lot of his education from reading material his brother James published (James had a printing press in Boston, and young Ben apprenticed there). Franklin would read the material coming to his brother’s print shop, which kept him apprised of current events. He learned the newspaper business as it was practiced at the time, and even created characters who would pen letters to the editor (taking on the persona of Silence Dogood, a God-fearing woman to comment on current events).

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

It is summer and that means Farmer’s Markets and more glorious produce than I almost know what to do with. At this time of year, there is a tried and tested book that I turn to make the most of all of the delicious things I bring home.

I discovered Deborah Madison’s book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone shortly after the 10th anniversary edition was released in 2007. Madison is well-known in the Slow Food movement and has been a long-time advocate of farm-fresh, seasonal produce and trying to reconnect people to fresh produce, the “pleasurable essential to the enjoyment of good health.”

It's time again for our Kansas City Public Library Staff Picks! Employees here at the Library have given us some of their favorite reads for the month, whether it be a new book coming out or an old favorite they've recently rediscovered.

In Lisa Scottoline’s new novel, Don’t Go, Mike Scanlon is an Army surgeon only a month away from finishing a dangerous tour in Afghanistan. Even this close to the end of his deployment, he worries about the toll his absence is taking on his young wife, Chloe, their infant daughter, Emily, and about their future if he doesn’t come home alive.

The Year Without Summer

Summer is meant to be hot with ample growing time for crops. What would a season be like if this did not happen? 1816 proved that such an event could happen.

William Klingamen and Nicholas Klingamen in The Year Without Summer: 1816 and the Volcano that Darkened the World and Changed History examine the weather in 1816 and what took place in the United States and Europe. The Tambora volcano in Indonesia sustained a powerful eruption in 1815 that left atmospheric residue that changed the climate. Temperatures and precipitation underwent a dramatic change in 1816. The records reveal extremes as the devastation continued through the year.

The authors state that the weather had been changeable for several years prior to this event. In 1816 New England saw snow and bitter cold as late as June. Farmers watched their newly planted crops perish in the unseasonal storm. Sheep which had been sheared for the summer died of exposure. After the snow melted, drought set in along the eastern United States. Between the late winter storm and lack of moisture, staple crops such as wheat, corn, and oats did not fully develop. Fruit trees had already lost their blooms leaving nothing to harvest.