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Book Review | Languishing: How to Feel Alive Again in a World That Wears Us Down by Corey Keyes

From the publisher: Languishing—the state of mental weariness that erodes our self-esteem, motivation, and sense of meaning—can be easy to brush off as the new normal, especially since indifference is one of its symptoms. Languishing is a must-read for anyone tempted to downplay feelings of demotivation and emptiness as they struggle to haul themselves through the day, and for those eager to build a higher tolerance for adversity and the pressures of modern life.

I don’t read a lot of self-help books, but like a lot of people post-pandemic, I find that I am struggling to stay engaged and find energy and meaning. Languishing wants to take its readers from languishing to flourishing. Author Keyes hit home with me right from this passage in the Introduction: “The simple question ‘How are you?’ can feel like an unwelcome pop quiz, leaving you casting about for a socially acceptable response, not quite knowing the answer yourself.” Keyes includes a list of 12 symptoms of languishing, and all 12 of them rang true.

That said, I don’t feel like this book presented me with a clear path to change. I agreed with a lot of what I was reading (much of which I’ve read elsewhere but not all in one place), but I don’t feel inspired to run out and act on the Action Plans. I guess that’s the real challenge though, if you aren’t feeling inspired, to find inspiration and change.

Some of the sad but true areas the author covers are an epidemic of loneliness, the need for a certain amount of adversity to find a high life satisfaction, the necessity of finding purpose in life, and the joy of play. The chapter on play especially resonated with me. He writes about how many people these days are so obsessed with documenting whatever they are doing that they forgot to live in the moment. A lesson for everyone: “Don’t let your smartphone and your obsession with social media remove all the joy from your joy, okay?” (chapter 9)

This book is part memoir and part self-help. The author lived through an abusive childhood and continues to struggle with his own mental health. This helped me feel that this person at least understands what he is writing about. I also agree with him that we need to spend more time, money and effort on mental health, not just mental illness.

This is a gently encouraging book that I continue to think about. If you are feeling worn down and are struggling to find meaning, you may find Languishing worth a read. I read an advance reader copy of Languishing. It is scheduled to be published on February 20, and Galesburg Public Library will own it.

Book Review | Blood On Their Hands by Mandy Matney

From the publisher: The highly anticipated inside look at the collapse of the Murdaugh dynasty by the celebrated investigative journalist and creator of the #1 hit Murdaugh Murders Podcast, Mandy Matney.

I am not a podcast listener and so have not heard any of the Murdaugh Murders Podcast (MMP), an extremely popular podcast that has often been ranked #1 ranked on Apple Podcasts. I requested an advance reader copy of Blood on Their Hands expecting it to be true crime nonfiction about Alex Murdaugh. It’s not. It’s a memoir by a journalist who wants us all to know how hard she has worked to be successful and how many people got in her way.

Mandy Matney is a good writer with a major chip on her shoulder. She wants to be a good journalist fighting the good journalist fight and shining a light on crime and corruption. She has faced sexism in the workplace – welcome to being a working woman, Mandy – and feels she has been betrayed by a number of colleagues she trusted. As I read this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about Sally Field and her “I can’t deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me!” speech when she won an Oscar.

I don’t question that Matney has put in the work to become a respected journalist, but to me, a reader unfamiliar with her and her work, she comes off as whiny and bitter in this book. Alex Murdaugh, his family, and the aura of invincibility around them needed to be investigated, and it seems like Matney and colleagues did good work. But, for example, Matney acknowledges that Will Folks gave her a job when she needed one, and the support and leads (and paycheck) she needed to investigate Murdaugh, but she also writes near the end of the book, “Looking back now, I can see that the relationship was a bad fit from the start. Will threw me a lifeline when I was desperate for a way out of The Packet,  but I think I gave him too much credit for ‘saving’ me. I excused the rumors about his unsavory reputation because of how much I wanted to believe he was a good guy. I ignored the times his judgment felt off because I was eager to grow with the company. But our early talks about my earning equity at FITS never panned out, and as MMP took off, I began to realize Will saw me more as a competitor than as a teammate. I see now that I never needed a man or an institution to lend my work credibility – I just needed more confidence in my abilities. I’ll always be grateful to FITS for being a stepping stone at a crucial time in my career, but I wish I could go back and tell my former self to get out as soon as things started to curdle.” (p. 251 of the ARC). Way to throw someone under the bus who by her own admission gave her a lot of information and contributed to her ability to write the podcast stories about the Murdaugh family. Matney didn’t do herself any favors with me as a reader with this section. She could have said it was time to move on and left it at that.

Please note that your reaction may vary. Readers who love Matney and her podcasts may love this book. If you are a fan of Murdaugh Murders Podcast, give it a shot. If you are not, this might not be the Murdaugh book for you. I read an advance reader copy of Blood on Their Hands. It is scheduled to be published on November 14, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it.

Book Review | This House of Grief by Helen Garner

From the publisher: On the evening of Father’s Day, 2005, separated husband Robert Farquharson was driving his three young sons back to their mom’s house when the car veered off the road and plunged into a dam. Farquharson survived the crash, but his boys drowned. Was this a tragic accident, or an act of revenge? The court case that followed became a national obsession.

A parent and their children go into a body of water in a vehicle; the parent survives but the children don’t. This unfortunately is a story we’ve heard before. Robert Farquharson claims he had a coughing fit and passed out. Once in the water, he was able to exit the car and swim to the surface, but his three sons were not. This book about his trial was published in 2014 in Australia; now a new edition has been published in the United States.

I can well imagine what a sensation this was in Australia. I remember the media fascination with Susan Smith in the 1990s after she left her sons to drown. I remember the Jaclyn Dowaliby case in the Chicago area in the 1980s. (That case didn’t involve drowning, but a child reported abducted from her home and found murdered a few days later, and a trial of the mother.)

This House of Grief feels like it was written much longer ago than 2014. It is a call back to classic works of true crime like In Cold Blood. It has a literary feel to it that most modern true crime that I’ve read does not. The author acts as a cool and objective narrator. She has no connection to the case other than reporting on it. She feels emotion – pity, grief – but not passion over whatever happened. Robert Farquharson himself remains a remote figure; I felt I got to know and understand his ex-wife’s parents better than I did Farquharson or his ex-wife.

On page 6, Garner writes, “When I said I wanted to write about the trial, people looked at me in silence, with an expression I could not read.” She is very thoughtful and philosophical as she observes and comments on the trial and all the people involved. The subtitle of the book is “The Story of a Murder Trial,” and the author writes her book as a story (a story with an ending that will not satisfy all her readers).

If you like classic works of true crime, I recommend This House of Grief. If you like graphic descriptions, every criminal detail, and proper closure in your true crime, this may not be the book for you.

I read an advance reader copy of This House of Grief. It was published on October 10, and Galesburg Public Library’s copy will be added to the collection soon. 

Book Review | Walk Through Fire by Yasmine S. Ali

From the publisher: The first book to examine the rarely-acknowledged Waverly Train Disaster of 1978 – the catastrophic accident that changed America forever and led to the formation of FEMA.

Since Galesburg is a railroad town and I can hear the trains go by my house – most of us in Galesburg can – I was interested in Walk Through Fire. I was in high school when the Waverly Train Disaster happened, and even though my parents are both from Tennessee, I don’t remember hearing anything about it.

Ali was a child in Waverly when the disaster happened. Her parents are physicians who emigrated from the Middle East to Waverly and played critical roles in the one bright spot during the disaster – the triage work that took place in the small local hospital after the explosion. Ali is justifiably proud of them and interested in the disaster, and her personal interest is reflected in the book.

Ali covers a lot of ground. Some of the information did not add much to the story for me as a reader. For example, there is a long part about Union Forces in Tennessee during the Civil War and the laying of tracks by Black laborers, and the information about what caused the disaster was very detailed. But Ali really cares about the town and its people, she knows many of the survivors, and her empathy for the people of Waverly really shines through. I can tell she did a lot of research and conducted a lot of interviews. She describes the terrible burns that people suffered with compassion and her own medical knowledge as a doctor.

I actually feel better about the unknown cargo on trains coming through Galesburg each night after reading this book. A lot of mistakes were made that led to the Waverly explosion, by the railroad and by local law enforcement because they had no idea how dangerous the situation is. A full investigation led to a number of changes to regulations and standards and to the creation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

I listened to the author read much of the book. She’s not a professional reader, and some of her phrasing was a little odd. However, her own passion for the subject kept me going.

If you live near trains or are interested in how disasters shaped our lives for the better by prompting safety changes, you might want to read Walk Through Fire.

The Galesburg Public Library owns Walk Through Fire in print and as a Playaway audiobook.

Cooking the Books | Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller

I was looking for a pumpkin scone recipe, and while I didn’t find one of those, I did find Bouchon Bakery. It’s a pretty big book filled with all sorts of bread, muffins, and other carb-filled confections. As with most modern cookbooks, personal anecdotes, pieces of advice, and beautiful photos are interspersed between recipes. The personal anecdotes don’t mean much to me, since I have no idea who these folks are, but I did find a lot of good advice I had never heard before. Who knew you were supposed to lightly beat and strain eggs before mixing them to batter? Without the photos this would definitely feel overwhelming. Even with the photos, this cookbook could keep you busy for a very long time– reading it and baking from it. The authors are in favor of sacrificing convenience for the freshest ingredients and most authentic flavors. This means you better be prepared, as some doughs need to rest before they are baked. You also might need to look in specialty shops for things like fresh vanilla beans or whole nutmegs.

Some advice they gave, however, felt unrealistic or unfeasible for a hobby baker. I personally don’t plan on ordering pre-cut rectangles of parchment paper from restaurant specialty shops or acquiring a bicycle pastry cutter, and I definitely don’t have all (or even most) of the pastry bag tips they suggest. Unfortunately, the too-small font combined with the sheen of the pages and the unwieldy size of the book make this book difficult to read for very long.

Since I didn’t find my pumpkin scone recipe, I went with the next closest thing: pumpkin muffins. I opted to not decorate, frost, or fill mine (sorry, coworkers).

I did make a few changes to this recipe to make it work in my kitchen:

  • I didn’t have a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, so I whisked the batter by hand.

  • I used ground nutmeg instead of fresh grated nutmeg.

  • I used unsweetened applesauce in one batch (instead of eggs) for a vegan friendly version.

  • I also didn’t have a kitchen scale, so I used the cup/spoon measurements provided.

Since I had the home team advantage, I tried one of each (traditional and eggless) as soon as they were cool enough to eat. I could tell that they were dry but had the bready fall flavor I was looking for. Aside from that, I couldn’t tell the difference between the two once they were baked. In dough form, it was visibly obvious that the applesauce batter was more moist. The consensus from my coworkers was that the muffins were dry but had a lot of flavor–the clove flavor especially stood out. Some of their comments include:

  • Good, but not as moist as I would like.

  • Delightfully crusty on top, and crumbly inside. Appreciate that they aren’t greasy like so many muffins.

  • A little dry, very dense, I like the cloves.

  • Good spice flavor, but very dense and somewhat dry. Afterburn with the clove, which is nice.

  • Very tasty, but they are a tad dry. The no-egg version [muffins] are much more moist! Very good!!

A couple of people suggested adding things like chocolate chips or walnuts. Overall, I thought these were pretty tasty and definitely worth the effort.



All-purpose flour 200 grams | 1 ¼ cups + 3 tablespoons
Baking soda 2.3 grams | ½ teaspoon
Ground cinnamon 2.2 grams | ¾ + ⅛ teaspoon
Ground cloves 0.6 gram | ¼ teaspoon
Freshly grated nutmeg 0.5 gram | ½ teaspoon
Ground allspice 0.1 gram | pinch
Kosher salt 1 gram | ½ teaspoon
Granulated sugar 222 grams | 1 cup + 2 teaspoons
Canola oil 100 grams | ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons
Pure canned pumpkin puree or fresh pumpkin puree 210 grams| ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons
Eggs 100 grams | ¼ cup + 2 ½ tablespoons
Golden raisins (optional) 80 grams | ½ cup + ½ tablespoon
Cream cheese frosting 286 grams | 1 ¼ cups

You’ll need a 6-cup jumbo muffin pan, muffin papers, a disposable pastry bag, a pastry bag with an Ateco #865 French star tip (optional), and a 1 ⅜ inch round cutter (optional)


TO BAKE THE MUFFINS: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (standard). Line the muffin pan with muffin papers and spray the papers with nonstick spray.

Transfer the batter to the disposable pastry bag and cut ½ inch of the tip from the bag; or use a large spoon. Pipe or spoon the batter into the papers, stopping ½ inch from the top (140 grams each).

Place the pan in the oven, lower the oven temperature to 325 degrees F, and bake for 45 to 48 minutes, or until the muffins are golden brown and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Set the pan on a cooling rack and cool completely.

TO FILL THE MUFFINS: Using the round cutter, cut through the top of each muffin, stopping ½ inch from the bottom, and carefully remove the center (or use a paring knife to remove the centers).

Transfer the frosting to the pastry bag with the star tip and fill the cavity of each muffin with 35 grams/2 ½ tablespoons of the frosting. Then pipe a rosette in the center of each muffin. Refrigerate uncovered for about 30 minutes to firm.

The muffins are best the day they are completed, but they can be refrigerated in a covered container for up to 3 days. Unfilled muffins can be wrapped individually in a few layers of plastic wrap or stored in a single layer in a covered container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 1 week.  Makes 6 muffins.

New Adult Nonfiction — October 2023

As the autumn leaves turn, October 2023 heralds a fresh wave of adult nonfiction books that promise to ignite curiosity and broaden horizons. From illuminating science and history to compelling personal narratives, these upcoming releases cater to diverse intellectual tastes. Join us in this blog post as we dive into a curated selection of new nonfiction titles, perfect for readers seeking knowledge, inspiration, and a meaningful October reading journey.

Why We Love Baseball: A History in 50 Moments by Joe Posnanski

In Why We Love Baseball by Joe Posnanski, readers are treated to a captivating journey through 50 iconic moments in the history of America’s beloved pastime. Posnanski’s storytelling prowess and unique perspectives, from fans to players, bring these moments to life, whether it’s Willie Mays’s legendary catch or Kirk Gibson’s limping home run. Building on his prior work, The Baseball 100, Posnanski explores the heart of the game, spanning from historic duels to breaking racial barriers, offering fresh insights into our enduring love for baseball. This book serves as an affectionate tribute to a sport that continuously inspires, thrills, and leaves us yearning for more.

While You Were Out: An Intimate Family Portrait of Mental Illness in an Era of Silence by Meg Kissinger

In While You Were Out by Meg Kissinger, the façade of a charmed 1960s suburban Chicago family with eight children and loving parents conceals a darker reality. Behind closed doors, their mother grapples with anxiety and depression, their father exhibits manic tendencies, and their children face bipolar disorder and depression, resulting in tragic outcomes. Meg Kissinger’s personal family story evolves into a journalistic career, shedding light on the flaws within America’s mental health care system. This powerful blend of memoir and investigative reporting exposes the consequences of silence, flawed policies, and the potential for healing through innovative treatments.

The Milkweed Lands by Eric Lee-Mäder

The Milkweed Lands offers a captivating exploration of the often-overlooked milkweed plant and its intricate ecosystem. Ecologist Eric Lee-Mäder and botanical artist Beverly Duncan provide engaging text and stunning illustrations to trace every stage of milkweed’s lifecycle and its vital role in supporting a variety of creatures, from monarch butterflies to bumblebees. The book also delves into different milkweed species, garden propagation, industrial uses, and more, making it a comprehensive and delightful journey into the world of this remarkable plant.

The Horrors of the House of Wills by Daryl Marston

In The Horrors of the House of Wills: A True Story of a Paranormal Investigator’s Most Terrifying Case, readers are drawn into the heart-pounding world of Daryl Marston, co-lead on A&E’s Ghost Hunters, as he recounts a spine-chilling journey that pushed the boundaries of his paranormal expertise. Within the malevolent confines of the House of Wills, a former funeral home in Cleveland, Ohio, Marston confronts an insidious evil that has simmered for years, culminating in a nightmarish paranormal maelstrom. Marston’s gripping firsthand account unravels the thirteen-hour investigation, marked by lost time, phantom footsteps, and relentless dark spirits attempting to breach his psyche. This true story unfolds as a haunting exploration of the unexplained and leaves an indelible mark on both Marston and readers alike, showcasing the depths of terror that can be found within the House of Wills.

Talking to Spirits by Sterling Moon

In Talking to Spirits by Sterling Moon, readers are guided through the art of spirit communication. Moon, drawing on extensive experience, provides step-by-step instructions and engaging stories to help readers develop their own practice. The book covers diverse spirit types, from ancestors to elementals, and includes practical techniques and journal prompts. Moon also offers guidance on managing haunted situations and explores various communication tools. With a strong focus on ethics and protection, this comprehensive guide is suitable for both beginners and experienced practitioners.

Book Review | A Light in the Dark: Surviving More Than Ted Bundy by Kathy Kleiner Rubin and Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi

From the publisher: The first book by a confirmed survivor of Ted Bundy, and the only memoir to challenge the popular narrative of Bundy as a handsome killer who charmed his victims into trusting him.

I haven’t read that much true crime. I’ve read a lot about John Wayne Gacy because I was in high school in the Chicago area when his horrors were discovered, but I didn’t know much about Ted Bundy going into this memoir. I held the popular beliefs that he was charming and intelligent in addition to being a serial killer. Kathy Kleiner Rubin was one of the young women he attacked when she was sleeping in her sorority bedroom, and she has a lot to say about how Bundy is viewed in popular culture.

The author makes the case that what we believe about Bundy is wrong. He was not charming; most women he approached found him creepy. Most of his victims were not lured into his car by a sad tale that he spun but were attacked in their beds or from behind by Bundy. He was not intelligent or learned; he was a poor student who had no aptitude for the law or anything except killing.

I had no idea how many suspected victims Bundy had. I knew he was brutal but didn’t know his preferred technique was to bash his victims in the head first, before violating them. The author is only a few years older than me, and I found her passionate defense of Bundy’s victims very moving. The memoir very much gave me “there but for the grace of god go I” vibes.

Kathy Kleiner Rubin is very resilient and a true survivor. She has one son, Michael, and he didn’t find out until he was 37 years old that the attack she suffered in college was at the hands of the notorious Ted Bundy. When he found out, he called her in shock. Toward the end of her book, she writes, “Michael was a big part of my happiness in life. During that phone call, as he kept repeating ‘you were so normal’ he brought up the pool parties I hosted for his birthday and other things I did to make his life as ordinary as possible. To me, this was one of my great accomplishments in life. Bundy was on a sick and twisted journey and he dragged his victims down the path. After I survived the attack, I dug in my heels so that he could pull me no further.”

There is some information about the author and her husband surviving Katrina which felt like filler, but aside from that the narrative flowed. The author has a lot of encouraging words for others who are fighting battles. Her words and memories are very inspirational. Appendix A is a list of the women and girls who lost their lives to Bundy, which is very reverential and which I read with great care. As the author points out, none of them are to blame for being murdered by a monster. Appendix C has a helpful list of ways to replace his narrative with remembrances of his victims.

If you like memoirs of people who have overcome great obstacles, or if you’d like to know more about Ted Bundy’s victims, I recommend A Light in the Dark.

I read an advance reader copy of A Light in the Dark. It is scheduled to be published on October 3, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it.

Book Review | Disneyland on the Mountain: Walt, the Environmentalists, and the Ski Resort That Never Was by Greg Glasgow and Kathryn Mayer

From the publisher: A fascinating look at Walt Disney’s last, unfinished project and the controversy that surrounded it, including the budding environmental movement that made sure the resort never saw the light of day.

I’m a huge fan of Disneyland, Disney World, Disney movies, and their creator, Walt Disney. Walt Disney revolutionized animated films and theme parks. He truly was an American genius. (And I think he’d be appalled at some of the things being done in his name today.) When I saw a book was coming out about his attempts to build a Disney ski resort destination, I wanted to read it.

I’m afraid to say I did not find the entire book to be “fascinating,” no matter what the blurb says. Parts of the book I did indeed find fascinating, but I think this book could have been a great essay. The book appears to have been exhaustively researched. There are 18 pages of footnotes, a 2 page bibliography, and a 7 page index. There is no doubt that the authors did indeed find the subject fascinating.

The book opens just three months before Walt Disney’s death from lung cancer in December 1966. Right up until the end of his life, he was excited about goals he had for the Disney company. If he had managed to turn California’s Mineral King valley into a Disney resort, it would probably have been amazing. This book tells the story of the environmentalists who were determined to stop the resort from being built. (I got a definite sense that some of the people who already lived in the valley wanted to keep it pristine for themselves. It reminded me of a quote, attributed to Dennis Miller, that I heard my environmentalist brother-in-law repeat more than once: “A developer is someone who wants to build a house in the woods. An environmentalist is someone who already has a house in the woods.”)

I did find parts of the book interesting, and I learned things that I did not know. It’s only about 200 pages (not counting the footnotes and index). If you are attracted to all things Disney, you may want to read Disneyland on the Mountain.

I read an advance reader copy of Disneyland on the Mountain from Netgalley. It is scheduled to be published on September 13, and the Galesburg Public Library will own it.

New Adult Nonfiction — August 2023

Welcome book enthusiasts! Today is an exciting day for all you nonfiction lovers, as we share some of the most recent true stories to hit our shelves. From captivating biographies that illuminate untold stories, to thought-provoking explorations of science, history, and culture, this latest release of nonfiction books promises to expand your horizons and challenge your intellect. Join us as we delve into the pages of these newly released works that are set to redefine the way we perceive the world around us.

Ultra-Processed People: The Science Behind Food That Isn’t Food by Chris van Tulleken

It’s not you, it’s the food.

We have entered a new age of eating. For the first time in human history, most of our calories come from an entirely novel set of substances called Ultra-Processed Food. There’s a long, formal scientific definition, but it can be boiled down to this: if it’s wrapped in plastic and has at least one ingredient that you wouldn’t find in your kitchen, it’s UPF.

These products are specifically engineered to behave as addictive substances, driving excess consumption. They are now linked to the leading cause of early death globally and the number one cause of environmental destruction. Yet almost all our staple foods are ultra-processed. UPF is our food culture and for many people it is the only available and affordable food.

The Happy Home: The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Home That Brings You Joy by Chelsea Foy

This lovely and inspirational guide, organized around six joyful qualities, will show you how to create a happier home, through prompts, quick fixes, afternoon projects, and mindful design and organization— The Happy Home is not just a title, it’s a promise.

Energize. Uplift. Comfort. Calm. Empower. Express. The road to happiness is paved with good emotions. In fact, a happy home is infused with these six actions and this cheerful book will help you create a space you love and that loves you back. Lovely Indeed creator Chelsea Foy offers up more than 50 creative ideas to engage all the senses to brighten your mood throughout your home. This book sits at the intersection of HGTV home improvements and design, thoughtful Marie Kondo practices, and a cheery color palette fans of the Home Edit will love.

Tangled Vines: Power, Privilege, and the Murdaugh Family Murders by John Glatt

Among the lush, tree-lined waterways of South Carolina low country, the Murdaugh name means power. A century-old, multimillion-dollar law practice has catapulted the family into incredible wealth and local celebrity―but it was an unimaginable tragedy that would thrust them into the national spotlight. On June 7th, 2021, prominent attorney Alex Murdaugh discovered the bodies of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul, on the grounds of their thousand-acre hunting lodge. The mystery deepened only months later when Alex himself was discovered shot in the head on a local roadside.

But as authorities scrambled for clues and the community reeled from the loss and media attention, dark secrets about this Southern legal dynasty came to light. The Murdaughs, it turned out, were feared as much as they were loved. And they wouldn’t hesitate to wield their influence to protect one of their own; two years before he was killed, a highly intoxicated Paul Murdaugh was at the helm of a boat when it crashed and killed a teenage girl, and his light treatment by police led to speculation that privilege had come into play. As bombshells of financial fraud were revealed and more suspicious deaths were linked to the Murdaughs, a new portrait of Alex Murdaugh a desperate man on the brink of ruin who would do anything, even plan his own death, to save his family’s reputation.

Owner of a Lonely Heart: A Memoir by Bich Minh Nguyen

At the end of the Vietnam War, when Beth Nguyen was eight months old, she and her father, sister, grandmother, and uncles fled Saigon for America. Beth’s mother stayed—or was left—behind, and they did not meet again until Beth was nineteen. Over the course of her adult life, she and her mother have spent less than twenty-four hours together.

Owner of a Lonely Heart is a memoir about parenthood, absence, and the condition of being a refugee: the story of Beth’s relationship with her mother. Framed by a handful of visits over the course of many years—sometimes brief, sometimes interrupted, sometimes with her mother alone and sometimes with her sister—Beth tells a coming-of-age story that spans her own Midwestern childhood, her first meeting with her mother, and becoming a parent herself.

Mystical Mushrooms: Discover the Magic & Folklore of Fantastic Fungi by Aurora Kane

Mystical Mushrooms defines the beauty of mushrooms by focusing on their magical connections and symbolic meanings through folkloric tales and superstitions throughout the world. Go for a walk in the woods on any given summer day and you may find yourself surrounded in fungi galore as they lay nestled among the ferns and trees. After a rainstorm, peek out in your backyard and you may see tiny spores sprouting from the grass, forming what is known as a fairy ring. Mushrooms grow in all shapes, sizes, and colors and—depending on where you live—you might find some that are conducive to magic practice. Mystical Mushrooms enters this realm, exploring the magical properties, mythological connections, and symbolic qualities of the fungi that so intrigue us .  Author Mandie Quark takes you on a journey through the mystical universe of mushrooms. From Buddhist traditions to the concept of fairy rings, Quark reveals how mushrooms have long been entwined with the supernatural in art, literature, and religion.

LGBTQ Family Building: A Guide for Prospective Parents by Abbie E. Goldberg

From surrogacy and adoption, to transgender pregnancy and finding child care, parenting as an LGBTQ person is complex. This book is an authoritative, comprehensive, and easy‑to‑read guide to parenthood and family  building for LGBTQ people.

The path to becoming a parent is complicated for LGBTQ people. Some LGBTQ people don’t consider parenthood because of stereotypes and barriers, while others are interested in parenthood but unsure about the first steps or overwhelmed by the path to take. Still others are discouraged by the attitudes of their family, community, or religion.

Incurable Optimist: Living With Illness & Chronic Hope by Jennifer Cramer-Miller

At twenty-two, Jennifer Cramer-Miller was thrilled with her new job, charming boyfriend, and Seattle apartment. Then she received a devastating autoimmune diagnosis—and suddenly, rather than planning for a bright future, she found herself soaking a hospital pillow with tears and grappling with words like “progressive” and “incurable.”

That day, Cramer-Miller unwillingly crossed over from wellness to chronic illness—from thriving to kidney failure. Her chances of survival hinged upon on the expertise of doctors, the generosity of strangers, and the benevolence of loved ones. But what kind of life would that be?

When a Loved One Has Dementia by Eveline Helmink

A vital source of solace and compassion for those whose loved one has dementia, rooted in the author’s unflinching experience of caring for her mother.

Dementia enters life through the back door, slipping in unnoticed. Once it’s there, it can make you feel powerless, angry, and unsure how to move forward. When her mother developed dementia, Eveline Helmink wasn’t prepared. As she learned firsthand, when your loved one is suffering, it takes a toll on you, too.

Book Review | Us by Terrence Real

From the publisher: Not much is harder than figuring out how to love your partner in all their messy humanness—and there’s also not much that’s more important.

At a time when toxic individualism is rending our society at every level, bestselling author and renowned marriage counselor Terrence Real sees how it poisons intimate relationships in his therapy practice, where he works with couples on the brink of disaster. The good news: Warmer, closer, more passionate relationships are possible if you have the right tools. 

This is one of those books that I think everyone should read. Even though it’s designed to help those in romantic relationships, this book changed how I see all of my relationships. Real encourages readers to question the individual-centric culture that is prevalent in western society and reminds us that social connections, on multiple levels, have been necessary for a healthy society since the dawn of humanity. He encourages people to be more patient and empathetic with one another, asking the reader to ask themselves: how is what I’m about to say going to make the other person feel? Real also reminds readers that if the goal of arguing with their partner is to win the argument, both parties end up losing. Though it’s easy to say what one should do when not upset, Real provides sound advice by asking readers to take a deep breath and remind themselves that they love the person they are arguing with before hurling insults or attacking that person’s character.

Having worked with thousands of couples, Real provides clients’ stories as case studies to exemplify his points. Real proves to be a trustworthy source, as he is able to admit his own biases when working with clients. I listened to the audiobook, which is available through Libby. Real himself narrates the book. I always appreciate it when authors narrate their own books, because I think they know the most effective intonation and inflection to convey their message. Clocking in at 10 hours, this book was so easy to digest and flowed so smoothly that I listened to it in pretty much one sitting.

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