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Programs Recommendations Staff Book Reviews

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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Bexley History Programs

Bexley’s Victory Gardens

by Local History Librarian David

War time rationing of the food supply combined with shortages in production found many front yards across Bexley converted into vegetable gardens. These Victory Gardens that first appeared during World War I were encouraged during World War II by the Bexley Garden Club.

Experiencing demand for ground to plant gardens, the garden club acquired undeveloped land, rent free, from the Berwick Corporation. Located on the south side of Livingston Avenue, the ten acre tract was divided into forty by fifty foot plots, plowed and fertilized, and offered to anyone desiring to plant a garden of vegetables to aid the war effort.

In March of 1943, Bexley residents lined up at the Bexley Garden Club headquarters, at Bexley Public Library, and registered for over two hundred plots. During a meeting at the Montrose school building, a specialist in vegetable gardening from The Ohio State University provided advice and for two hours daily, a garden clinic was held at the library to distribute literature.

Victory Gardens were not entirely without problems. Soon after their planting the city began to enforce “an almost forgotten ordinance” to prevent dogs, who were feeding on the gardens, from roaming the streets. Emboldened by the dog quarantine, rats became a problem and by June complaints of rats eating the produce poured into city hall.

Despite losses of crops, the amount of produce grown in Victory Gardens across the United States during the Second World War was estimated to be equal to commercial production. After the war, such mass production in gardens waned, but renewed efforts to promote Victory Gardens emerged during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“Victory over Virus Gardens” promoted by the Ohio State Extension and Ohio Department of Agriculture during the fall of 2020, produced carrots, kale, beets, radishes, lettuce, and herbs, much of which were donated to community food pantries. The Bexley Community Gardens were included in the “pilot gardens” across the state.

To learn more about Bexley’s Community Gardens and the history and architecture of the homes on this year’s Bexley Women’s Club House & Garden Tour, join us for a virtual program via Zoom at 7 PM on Thursday, May 20. Registration is required.

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Bexley History Programs Recommendations

Pizza in Bexley

by Local History Librarian David

One of Bexley’s oldest businesses, Rubino’s, was established in 1954 by Ruben Cohen, who adapted his Jewish name to sound more Italian as the name of his pizzeria and spaghetti restaurant. There were only ten places in Columbus for pizza at the time, and Cohen made Rubino’s special for its thin crispy crust and “fairly secret” sauce recipe.

When the red brick building was sold in 1983, over five hundred Bexley citizens signed a petition while others picketed outside of city hall to save Rubino’s. The city denied the new owner’s request for a zoning variance that would convert the restaurant into a meat market, and Rubino’s renegotiated its lease.

In 1988, Cohen sold the restaurant to employees Frank Marchese and Tommy Culley. Operated today by Marchese’s children, little of the atmosphere, neon signs, and dining room have changed: only the competition along Main Street. 

Bexley Pizza Plus was established in 1980 by Don Schmitt. It was originally located in the 2500 block of E Main Street, and relocated next door to Rubino’s in 2006. Brad Rocco, a graduate of Bexley High School, started as a delivery driver at Bexley Pizza Plus, and went on to become the co-owner in 1994. They gained national and international attention in pizza competitions, like competing two years with the U.S Pizza Team, and winning the International Pizza Challenge in 2014.

Read more about the history of pizza in Columbus, Ohio in Jim Ellison’s new book, Columbus Pizza: A Slice of History, available now at BPL and Gramercy Books in Bexley.

To hear more about Bexley Pizza Plus listen to BPL’s podcast, 40+ Years of Bexley Pizza Plus with Brad Rocco.

Join us on Tuesday, March 23 at 7 PM to hear author Jim Ellison discuss his book by registering for Bexley Public Library’s virtual program, A Slice of Columbus Pizza History.

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Booklists Recommendations Staff Book Reviews

Monopolized by David Dayen

by Adult Services Library Associate Beth

A handful of books published in the past few years illustrate the emergence of a modern anti-monopoly intellectual movement. (‘Monopoly’ referring to the consolidation of market power into one or a small handful of firms/corporations.) Among others, they include: Goliath by Matt Stoller, Break ‘Em Up by Zephyr Teachout, The Curse of Bigness by Tim Wu, and Monopolized by David Dayen (this last book being the subject of this particular review, below).

According to these researchers, experts and journalists, the rapid rise of monopolies drives inequality, causes and intensifies social injustices, and exacerbates the economic and political marginalization among already vulnerable groups. To explore the magnitude of this issue, Bexley Public Library is partnering with Morgan Harper and Pat Garofalo of the American Economic Liberties Project to host a virtual event Corporate Consolidation & Democracy. Harper and Garofalo will provide an overview of the impacts of corporate consolidation, the effects this accrual of power has on individuals, communities and democracy as a whole, as well as offer policy changes at the local, state and federal levels that would address this issue. The Zoom event will take place on March 10, 2021 at 7pm.

Register to attend this important presentation, and be sure to check out some (or all) of the books listed here!

(In addition to working at the AELP, Pat Garofalo is the author of a topically related book, The Billionaire Boondoggle, which is also available through the consortium; check it out!)

In Monopolized, journalist and executive editor at The American Prospect David Dayen shows readers just how far consolidation and monopolization reach into our economy. While many readers are probably familiar with the idea of monopolization in the area of ‘Big Tech’ (Google, Amazon, Facebook), and as important as these companies are to this larger trend, Dayen shows us that this issue extends far beyond just tech companies. Dayen exposes readers to the monopolization in the airline industry, agriculture, media, the pharmaceutical and banking industries, just to name a few. And I really do mean a few. By the end of the book, readers will likely come away wondering whether there are any industries left that haven’t been consolidated to a troubling degree.

The book is thorough in demonstrating how monopolization has crept into almost every nook and cranny of our economy, though at no point does reading become tedious. Indeed, while it examines such a serious and immense issue, the book is incredibly engaging. Dayen expertly weaves technical and policy analysis with personal stories of ordinary people and their experiences navigating monopolized industries. (I’m sure each of us has a horror story to tell when it comes to flying; mine involves racing to an ever-changing boarding gate across concourses in Atlanta’s International Airport, only to have my flight not take off at all, keeping me in the city for another evening.) Between each of the longer chapters, Dayen also includes short vignettes, relating his own experiences that range from the infuriating to the absurd. My personal favorite is his story of staying in a hotel that was housed in the very same building as a second hotel, separated only by a sign and a tiled floor. (Both hotels were owned by the same parent company.)

Though the ideas and concepts introduced are complex, the book is very accessible. It’s also wildly witty and entertaining; I found myself laughing out loud several times in my own reading. Probably no book I’ve read in the recent past has done more to so thoroughly change the orientation of my political thinking, and if I had to choose just one book to recommend, it would likely be this one. And now looking at the bags that my Kroger curbside-pickups come packaged in (listing other grocery stores that the Kroger Company owns: Ralphs, Dillons, Smith’s, QFC, Pick ‘n Save, Metro Market, etc.), I can’t help but recall the blurb written by Zephyr Teachout. After reading Dayen’s book, she predicts, “you will see [monopolies] everywhere”.

Check out these titles, available with your BPL card, to learn more on this topic!

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Booklists Covid-19 Information Recommendations

Mental Health and Your Family

by Adult Services Library Associate Nichole

This Thursday at 7PM, Dr. Parker Huston, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and Clinical Director of the On Our Sleeves Program at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, will be discussing how children and families are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including ways to talk about mental health with children.

Dr. Huston’s passion is rooted in providing education and opening doors so that children and their families can achieve their maximum potential and feel like they have agency in their lives. He believes that improving children’s mental health is important to set them up for success as adolescents and adults. Focusing on good mental health practices during childhood can create healthy habits throughout the life span. You can learn more about this Zoom event here.

Whether you’re looking for books to read to your children about their emotions and mental health or are wanting to get more in tune with your own, now is a better time than ever and BPL has plenty titles to choose from!

  • Where Happiness Begins by Eva Eland | print
  • Ravi’s Roar by Tom Percival |print
  • How Do You Feel by Lizzy Rockwell | print
  • Breathing Makes it Better by Christopher Willard | print
  • Bunny Breaths by Kira Willey | print