Mushrooming: An Illustrated Guide to the Fantastic, Delicious, Deadly and Strange World of Fungi,
by Diane Borsato
It seems everyone is embracing their inner mycophile these days, and though I retain a contrarian teenager’s aversion to trends, I’m totally on board with the mushroom craze. Because mushrooms are magical. And marvelous sautéed with garlic. And wonderfully, fascinatingly bizarre. There are mushrooms that so resemble birds they’re routinely shot by hoodwinked hunters, ghostly tooth-like mushrooms that drip “blood,” mushrooms that glow in the dark—all of which, along with well over a hundred others, can be found in Toronto-based artist Diane Borsato’s new mycological masterpiece. More than your standard field guide, Mushrooming introduces readers to a magnificent array of fungi, offering not only the practical “can I eat this without dying?” basics of each species but also musings on what these spore-bearing beings can teach us about “sensory literacy,” biodiversity, mortality and regeneration, artistic inspiration, and the interconnectedness of the living world. With Borsato’s rich, lyrical descriptions and vibrant gouache illustrations by Kelsey Oseid, this book is sure to turn you on to the wonders and weirdnesses of our fungal friends.
For fans of chanterelles, reishi, lion’s mane, chaga, maitake…
Your Body is a Revolution: Healing Our Relationships with Our Bodies, Each Other, and the Earth,
by Tara Teng
Western culture has spent centuries, if not millennia, stiffening into a decidedly antagonistic stance towards physicality, an antagonism we’ve absorbed and experience today as a profound collective disconnect from the bodies that we are. The pain of this disconnect pangs particularly sharp for women, who have come to symbolize the despised body more so than men, but its harms touch us all, as we are taught to distrust, dismiss, devalue, and demonize our own flesh and blood; as we strive to mold ourselves after impossible media-imposed ideals and sense our bodies as enemies when we fail to meet them. And who better to understand this age-old culturally induced disconnect, and to develop the insights to undo it, than a former beauty queen? Named Miss World Canada in 2012, Tara Teng’s time in the public spotlight as a “perfect specimen” instilled in her an intimate familiarity with the pressures, shames, and alienation associated with being a human body. Now, having doffed her tiara, she brings this perspective to her work as an embodiment coach and women’s rights activist, and to her debut book, Your Body is a Revolution. Teng sets out to support readers in overcoming cultural and personal trauma, in order to shift into more loving relationships with their own bodies, and the bodies of others and the earth in turn. In Your Body is a Revolution, she examines the social systems that have made us exiles from our own bodies and invites us “to reclaim what has been has been stolen from us,” to finally come home.
For fans of The Body Keeps the Score and everybody else made of bones, blood, flesh, guts, etc.
Wail Song, by Chaun Webster
Wail Song, released this month, submerges readers in the belly of the whale at the bottom of the ocean at the end of our world: the abyssal zone of what it means to be human, or mammal, born beneath dark water far from any safe shore, yet still drawing breath. Chaun Webster evokes oceanic imagery, dives into the history of whaling and the transatlantic slave trade, and revamps Moby Dick in what he has called a “long meditation,” a heavy wade into Blackness and not-drowning despite the deluge.
For fans of socially conscious poetry, artful page design, and philosophy.
Blood Snow, by dg okpik
The thaw we welcome now is a tender thing: green’s shy resurgence as a new season quickens, nursed on lengthening days, a warmer pulse through the soil. But there is another thaw, too, one of rawboned polar bears grown painfully cliché, faultlines in thinning ice floes, eroded shores and the steady drip towards destruction. This harsher thaw is the strife that dg okpik, an Inupiaq poet from Anchorage, Alaska, inhabits in her second collection, Blood Snow, published in October of 2022. In fractured language at once brittle and earthy, radiating its own stark luster, okpik draws the injured ecosystem of her homeland into her body, laying bare the ultimate inseparability of the two. A harrowing, dazzling collection by an American Book Award-winning poet and graduate of University of Southern Maine’s Stonecoast College.
For fans of Indigenous writers, Maine poets, and nature poetry with an edge.
Concentrate, by Courtney Faye Taylor
The title of Courtney Faye Taylor’s award-winning debut collection refers to the bottle of orange juice that Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl, was accused of stealing by shop owner Soon Ja Du, a Korean woman, in Los Angeles in 1991. The dispute over the alleged theft escalated into an altercation, which ended when Du shot Harlins, killing her. Haunted by the young girl’s murder, and shocked to learn that the killer was an Asian woman, Taylor felt moved to explore the case in depth. Concentrate is the result, a formally inventive collage of found texts, images, poetry, travelogue, timelines, and personal reflections. This poignant archive chronicles not only the tragic story of Harlin’s murder, but also the complexity of gun violence and racial tensions in the United States.
For fans of conceptual works of poetry, experimental memoir, and Black and Asian American history.
It is fitting that April is the month of poetry, when poems burst out of dormant minds and flower our consciousness. A celebration of words, a celebration of life. Poetry feels to me like a first language, when atomic particles of words fuse into strings of meaning and we know at once that something has happened. Poetry changes you, and the book of poetry that most changed me was Galway Kinnell’s Book of Nightmares, published in 1971. Kinnell’s poems are felt more than read, the observations of a new father who realizes at once the profound gravity of bringing forth new life, life that is at once fierce and fragile. Life that is dependent on the love and promises of others, often flawed humans. It is a work of all seasons, of Hen Flowers and Aquarian Stars, each poem a “concert of one” sent out to the universe until it falls in your ear, and takes root.
African Town: Inspired by the True Story of the Last American Slave Ship by Charles Waters and Irene Latham
In 1859, over 100 free residents of the area now known as Benin were kidnapped and shipped across the Atlantic in appalling conditions aboard the Clotilda. When they arrived in Alabama, they were sold into slavery by the ship’s financier Timothy Meaher, who had organized their illegal kidnapping and transport based on a bet. Years later, as the Civil War came to a close, many of the new arrivals organized a successful self-governing community in Alabama known by the name of “African Town.” Forty years of their history, from the shores of Africa to the swamps of Alabama, are re-told and imagined in this YA historical novel-in-verse.
The novel is impeccably constructed, utilizing over a dozen characters (each of whom is given their own distinct poetic form), to cover a large swath of time. This history is deeply sobering, detailing slave trading forty years after it was deemed illegal in the United States. And one of the unforgivable villains is, in fact, Mainer William Foster, who captained the Clotilda across the Atlantic. However, the novel also celebrates the extraordinary tenacity and successes of the residents of African Town. YA and Adult readers of historical fiction and poetry will find this novel-in-verse to be valuable, memorable, and beautifully told.
Can’t get enough poetry? Celebrate National Poetry Month with our Poetry Walk, Poetry of the Past and more!
PFL Staff have been busy reading this week! Check out our extensive list below, and don’t forget to place your holds!
Carnegie’s Maid by Marie Benedict
The Wicked King by Holly Black
The Anchoress by Robyn Cadwallader
Cici’s Journal: The Adventures of a Writer-in-Training by Joris Chamblain & Aurélie Neyret, translated by Carol Klio Burrell
The Aztec Heresy by Paul Christopher
The Emotional Lives of Teenagers: Raising Connected, Capable and Compassionate Adolescents by Lisa Damour
After-Cave by Michelle Detorie
Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult by Michelle Dowd
The Commitments by Roddy Doyle
Winterset Hollow by Jonathon Edward Durham
Lungfish by Meghan Gillis
American Royalty by Tracey Livesay
The Charming Quirks of Others by Alexander McCall Smith
1984 by Fido Nesti (Graphic Novel Adaptation)
My Father’s House by Joseph O’Connor
Where the Lost Aprils Are by Elisabeth Ogilvie
Once Upon a Time on the Banks by Cathie Pelletier
The Romantic Agony by Mario Praz
Eat Like a Fish: My Adventures as a Fisherman Turned Restorative Ocean Farmer by Bren Smith
This Time Tomorrow by Elizabeth Straub
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin
Someone recently recommended Lungfish by Meghan Gillis to me, so I grabbed it and dove right in. I really loved it! I thought the writing was extraordinary literary prose. It made me feel a lot of things with lots of beautiful, and also harrowing, Maine coast imagery. I learned a lot about what drug addiction looks like for the addict and also the paranoia for a wife of one. I particularly loved the writing about motherhood, as Tuck does whatever she can to provide for her 2-year old daughter. They make seaweed soups and rosehip jam and grab at little green crabs to keep themselves alive. It’s a Read ME pick for the Maine Humanities Council so I’ll be curious to know what others think of it!
Gia, Children’s Room
Carmageddon: How Cars Make Life Worse and What to Do About It by Daniel Knowles
In this scathing anti-automobile polemic, Economist journalist Daniel Knowles argues that cars have taken over the world, and gone a long way towards ruining it in the process. As the miracle invention that drove 20th-century modernization, cars promised freedom, convenience, and the romance of the open road. But what have they delivered? Just over a century later, the case against the car has accrued a weighty burden of evidence on its side: air pollution, global warming, parking lots where once were fields and forests, 26-lane highways of doom, fragmented habitats, millions of car-associated casualties (including roadkill galore). The cost of the car’s rise to global supremacy has been high, for humans, animals, and the earth alike. So, the question is: what can we do now? Seeking proven solutions, Knowles looks to the bike-friendly urban planning of European cities and Tokyo’s renowned public transportation system.
For those in need of motivation to bicycle more this spring!
Reconnecting after Isolation: Coping with Anxiety, Depression, Grief, PTSD and More by Dr. Susan J. Noonan
Of all the side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most painful has been social isolation. After years of lockdowns and gatherings nixed for fear of super-spreading, many people remain wary about venturing back into the potentially infectious fray of public life. Yet humans are social animals, Zoom has failed to fill the hole left by the sudden loss of connection and community, and we’ve found ourselves in the midst of a national mental health crisis. Dr. Susan J. Noonan’s Reconnecting after Isolation is a much-needed, evidence-based, and approachable guide to overcoming the emotional repercussions of isolation. A physician and mental health coach, Dr. Noonan offers advice for developing coping skills, confronting isolation-induced anxieties and phobias, building resilience, finding effective mental health care, and navigating re-entry into society after the long hiatus.
For humans in the wake of a pandemic seeking to support themselves and others.
Held by the Land by Leigh Joseph
An ethnobotanist, researcher, and community activist, Leigh Joseph is a member of the Squamish Nation, indigenous to the region now known as British Columbia, Canada. She is also the founder Skwalwen Botanicals, for which she creates skincare products developed using native plants and rooted in Squamish plant knowledge. In Held by the Land, Joseph calls upon her cultural heritage and botanical expertise to offer a trail map towards reviving our relationships with plant life and the land, in recognition that humans are a part of the ecosystems in which we live rather than apart from them. The book features charming full-color illustrations and a guide to identifying over forty plants of cultural significance to the Squamish people, along with practical tips for sustainable harvesting and growing, setting up a home apothecary, and working with plants both medicinal and culinary.
For plant lovers, herbalists, and fans of Braiding Sweetgrass.
The residents of The Rabbit Hutch are a diverse cast of characters; a mother secretly afraid of her newborn’s eyes, an elderly couple bent on revenge, an online obituary writer, a trio of former foster children all in love with the same girl. Weaving throughout their stories is Blandine, a strange and luminescent girl obsessed with an ancient martyr and carrying past secrets of her own. Their stories swirl and intersect in unexpected ways both compassionate and violent, painting a beautifully fractured portrait of a low-income residence in a city clawing its way back from economic collapse.
It’s a story somehow quintessentially American yet universal yet deeply personal, told in a way that straddles novel, vignette, short story, and at times even graphic novel. Author Tess Gunty is a brilliant and skillul writer; The Rabbit Hutch won the 2022 National Book Award for Fiction, the inaugural Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize, and the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize. Surely this book will win your heart as well- it certainly did mine.
-Hannah, Program and Outreach Manager
Bloomsbury Publishing has created two hyper-focused book series and I can’t stop reading them. The first is the 33 1/3 series, which includes 168 books, each one a deep-dive into a specific album. Each book has a separate author and each author, passionate about the album of his or her choice, chooses the direction they will take in their discussion of it. It might be a half-fictional narrative of The Pogues’ Rum, Sodomy, and the Lash, a technical breakdown of what it took to create Television’s Marquee Moon, or a straight-up song-by-song analysis of The Pixies’ Doolittle. No matter which tactic the author takes, the result is always a new appreciation for the record.
The next is the BFI (British Film Institute) Film Classics, which includes 237 titles. Same idea, except this time each book delves into a specific film. These are fantastic and there is wide range of movies, from It’s a Wonderful Life to The Shining. They are just as aesthetically pleasing as the 33 1/3 series; both are small, with beautiful covers. The film covers all look like mini Criterion DVDs and the album covers are simple reproductions of the album but paired with others make a lovely set.
Many of these are available to request through Minerva and if you’ve ever wanted to learn more about a beloved film or album, they are a great resource!
We’ve had Presidents’ Day, a snow day, and February Break all in the same week, which means there has been a lot of time for books! Check out the list below to see what PFL staff has been reading this week.
The Thing by Anne Billson
All the Broken Places by John Boyne
Before I Do by Sophie Cousens
All That is Wicked: A Gilded-Age Story of Murder and The Race to Decode the Criminal Mind by Kate Winkler Dawson
Wild New World by Dan Flores
Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for Our Own by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.
The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty
The 1619 Project by Nikole Hannah-Jones
The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration by Bernd Heinrich
The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honoree Fanonne Jeffers
Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer
Desire Lines by Christina Baker Kline
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas
Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muire
The Cousins’ Wars: Religion, Politics, and the triumph of Anglo-America by Kevin Phillips
Jingo by Terry Pratchett
The Common Good by Robert B Reich.
Cult of the Dead: A Brief History of Christianity by Kyle Smith
Everyone in My Family Has Killed Someone by Benjamin Stevenson
Night of the Living Rez by Morgan Talty
It Came From the Closet: Queer Reflections on Horror edited by Joe Vallese
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Miss MacIntosh, My Darling by Marguerite Young