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Animal, Vegetable, Junk

by Adult Services Library Associate Beth

“This is a book about man’s war against nature, and because man is part of nature it is also inevitably a book about man’s war against himself.”

Rachel Carson
Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal by Mark Bittman | print / digital

The above quote from Carson can be found in the opening to Mark Bittman’s latest book, Animal, Vegetable, Junk: A History of Food, from Sustainable to Suicidal. In his book, Bittman traces the history of agriculture from its earliest post-hunter gatherer/small-scale farming to our modern (i.e. “Western”) system which is overwhelmingly industrial, corporate and monopolized. In telling this history, Bittman demonstrates how agriculture systems were (and in many ways, still are) drivers of slavery, colonialism, and famine. And today, this food system is responsible for intensifying climate change, deteriorating the planet, and exacerbating diet-related, chronic diseases. (After all, we can’t ultimately distinguish environmental destruction from human destruction, as Carson’s quote illustrates.)

This history takes up about the first three-quarters of the book. Admittedly, it is a hard-hitting, oftentimes depressing, and exasperating read. But it’s also fascinating, thought-provoking and incredibly important. Rather than repeating that history here, however, I recommend picking up a copy of Bittman’s book yourself. And check out an upcoming program on a very similar topic! “Diet for a Large Planet”, presented by OSU History Professor Chris Otter, will look at the history of how our modern diets – diets largely reliant on red meat, white bread and sugar – developed.

The last quarter of Bittman’s book, thankfully, is much more optimistic and uplifting. After discussing all the ways our current food system is destructive and unsustainable, Bittman highlights efforts both here and abroad to create new types of food systems: fights to raise wages and improve working conditions for workers throughout our food systems, creating more local and regional food networks, transitions to farming that is less reliant of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and national school-lunch programs that use locally sourced ingredients. And while the scale of the problem will require collective and systemic changes, Bittman offers readers ways to make changes in their own individual consumption: changing your eating habits, supporting initiatives to protect the rights of workers in the food and farm industry, and buying food from small-scale farms that use sustainable and holistic farming practices. On the topic of changing eating habits, be sure to attend our virtual program on July 14, “Eating Plants“, where Bexley residents Dr. Andrew Mills and Dr. Jessica Garrett-Mills discuss the practice and philosophy of veganism.

Bittman ends his book with the following: “We are all eaters. Providing the food we need to sustain ourselves and flourish is the single most fundamental and important human occupation. How we do it defines our present and determines our future.” With this in mind, I’m grateful to be a part of the BPL community, which offers invaluable resources and educational materials on such important topics to help learners navigate and understand the world we live in. And I’m grateful for Bittman’s book, which is such a transformative and profound read.

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Booklists Programs Recommendations Virtual Book Club

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

by Adult Services Library Associate Beth

Did you know that May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month? During the month of May, we recognize the contributions and achievements of Asian American and Pacific Islander Americans in history, culture, science and beyond. Celebrate with us this May (and every month) by reading, watching, and listening to the multitude of AAPI authors and artists available to you through the Bexley Public Library and the CLC consortium! See the small collection of films, musical albums and books below to get started. 

And be sure to register for this month’s BPL Virtual Book Club, where we’ll be discussing Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise, winner of the 2019 National Book Award. Provoking conversations about fiction and truth, friendships and loyalties, Trust Exercise is sure to inspire a lively discussion. The discussion will take place on Wednesday May 5 at 7pm on Zoom. Hope to see you there!

Films

  • The Farewell; Written and directed by LuLu Wang | DVD
  • Lucky Grandma; Directed by Sasie Sealy, Written by Angela Cheng and Sasie Sealy | DVD / digital
  • Minding the Gap; Directed by Bing Liu | DVD

Music

  • Omoiyari by Kishi Bashi | CD
  • Nectar by Joji | CD / digital
  • Be the Cowboy by Mitski | CD

Books

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Booklists Recommendations Virtual Book Club

BPL Virtual Book Club | Autumn 2020

by Adult Services Library Associate Beth

With just less than a month to go, the second meeting of the BPL Virtual Book Club is just around the corner! The upcoming meeting will be held on Wednesday, November 4 at 7PM, and we’ll discuss the book Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. It’s an award-winning book, well received by critics and readers alike, and is sure to generate an engaging discussion. Register to join us! I’m still in the midst of reading the book, but I’m enjoying it so far. It seems like a book I could usually finish in just a day or two, but I’ve been trying to take my time with it. Not only to better prepare for the discussion, but I also have a feeling it is a book I’ll be sad to see end. 


If you’re like me and don’t want to race through the book just yet, you might be looking for another book to absorb yourself with in the meantime. These books share a variety of themes with Shamsie’s: identity, belonging (especially as experienced by an “outsider”), and the nuances of strained/difficult relationships. They follow well-developed, complex and sympathetic (though often flawed) characters. They’re books that evoke a strong sense of place and that attempt to humanize and explore sometimes difficult political stories; i.e., my favorite kinds of books. Indeed, several of these make my list of all time favorite reads!

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Booklists BPL News & Information Online Resources Recommendations

Gear Up for the 2020 Election

by Adult Services Library Associate Beth

Election Day 2020 is now a mere 43 days away. Somehow this seems like both a lifetime away and, well, tomorrow. Regardless of how you plan to vote this November, Bexley Public Library is here to help! To encourage everyone in the community to exercise one of their most fundamental rights, we are hosting two drive-in voter registration events with The League of Women Voters on Tuesday, (TOMORROW!) September 22 from 3-5PM and Thursday, October 1 from 5-7PM. Both events will be held in the BPL parking lot and will also feature musical guests and food trucks. Join us as we celebrate – maybe not the election itself, but at least our ability to have a say in its outcome! And be sure to visit http://bexleylibrary.org/vote or give us a call at 614-231-2793 to get more information on deadlines, procedures, accessing voting materials, etc.

In the spirit of the election season, I’ve composed a list of some of my favorite “political” (I’m using that term in a fairly broad sense) books. And while this list is attached to a post about preparing for the upcoming election, I’ve chosen books that, I think, are largely non-partisan, and don’t focus much on presidential elections or candidates. Rather, they’re books that have helped me better understand and refine my own political worldview, while also helping me better understand those views I may not agree with. Importantly, several of these books put the struggles and concerns of real people at their centers: in my mind, what politics should always be about. Such stories help us build empathy for, and an understanding of people who aren’t always politically aligned with us already. Happy reading! 

  • The Populist’s Guide to 2020: A New Right and New Left are Rising  by Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti | print
  • Freedom is a Constant Struggle by Angela Davis | print / digital
  • Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt by Hedges and Sacco | print
  • With Liberty and Justice for Some by Glenn Greenwald | print
  • Strangers in their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild | print / digital
  • Hate Inc. by Matt Taibbi | print / digital
  • We’re Still Here: Pain and Politics in the Heart of America by Jennifer M. Silva | print / digital (e-audiobook only)
  • Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg | print / digital