Check It Out: Give your brain a break with good reads




Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at

Well, the turkey has been roasted, the cranberries “sauced,” and the pumpkin “pied” — now we’re riding the grand countdown to Christmas. As I mentioned in last week’s column, it’s important to carve out some quiet time during the crazy weeks of December. Reading is one way to decompress, so I am offering end-of-the-year reading suggestions which, of course, are available at the library. Now, take a deep breath, grab a book and give that overworked gray matter a rest from the “I’m-starting-to-panic-because-it’s-already-December-and-I-don’t-have-enough-time-to-do-everything” noise.

• “Adventures in Slow Cooking: 120 Slow-Cooker Recipes for People Who Love Food,” by Sarah DiGregorio: Why not slow down the holiday cooking frenzy, too? This recently published slow-cooker recipe guide has more than just dinner ideas. Party food, desserts, cocktails and more are promised right on the book’s cover, so if the prep work for, say, the Orange, Olive, and Fennel Chicken Tagine is just too much to contemplate, soothe those jangled nerves with a batch of Mulled Pear and Apple Cider. Perhaps the Warm Triple-Citrus Bourbon Punch meets with your approval. Plenty of tasty treats for all.

• “Aerial Geology: A High-Altitude Tour of North America’s Spectacular Volcanoes, Canyons, Glaciers, Lakes, Craters, and Peaks,” by Mary Caperton Morton: Looking at beautiful photographs is another fine way to unwind, and “Aerial Geology” does not disappoint. From the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to the Florida Keys, science and travel writer Mary Caperton Morton shares an array of aerial and satellite photographs of some of North America’s most amazing geological wonders.

• “Crafting for Cat Ladies: 35 Purr-fect Feline Projects,” by Kat Roberts: You know I must be out of sorts if I don’t include a cat-related title, so not to worry — all is well! Charm your cat-minded friends and family by creating a “‘It’s Meow or Never’ Makeup Zip Case,” or a “Cozy Kitten Drink Koozie.” You can even kitten up your wardrobe with instructions and templates to make a Persian Cat Wrap Skirt or a “Look at Me Meow” Bejeweled Collar. Purr, purr, purr …

• “Fifty Years of 60 Minutes: The Inside Story of Television’s Most Influential News Broadcast,” by Jeffrey Fager: Back when I was a kid, before there was cable television and the glut of channels now available, I remember having five channels to choose from – ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and an independent station. And Sunday evening meant three things: watching “The Wonderful World of Disney,” “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” and “60 Minutes.” I tended to favor Mickey Mouse and lion cubs to Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace, but “60 Minutes” was still a staple, and I learned a lot about the world watching this show. Catch up on the history of “60 Minutes” — can it really be 50 years? — through this fascinating review of one of television’s most esteemed news programs. Still miss Marlon Perkins, by the way.

• “Paper Pups: 35 Dogs to Copy, Cut & Fold,” by Hiroshi Hayakawa: I may be a crazy cat lady, but I know that cats don’t rule the world. Yet. Dogs are pretty darn terrific, too, so for all the crafty, dog-minded readers out there, “Paper Pups” is for you. The 35 doggone cute projects are created through the art of kirigami which is similar to origami in that paper is folded but also cut. Whether you’re a beginner or have plenty of experience with kirigami, Hiroshi Hayakawa has you covered. Start out easy with a Scottish terrier; work your way up to a Greyhound; then dazzle your admirers with a Chinese crested. You won’t be barking up the wrong tree if you learn how to transform paper into Fido.

• “Remarkable Books: A Celebration of the World’s Most Beautiful and Historic Works,” by Michael Collins: Last week I wrote about “Boundless Books,” 50 Literary Classics Transformed Into Works of Art.” Now I’d like to highlight the art of the book itself. This gorgeous tribute to bibliographic works begins with the Ancient Egyptian “Books of the Dead” and finishes with Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and the Chairman Mao Tse-tung’s “Quotations.” It includes the “Book of Kells” and “The Domesday Book,” but I was surprised and delighted to see “Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions” and Albert Einstein’s “General Theory of Relativity.” Another beautiful book to help you take your mind off holiday chaos.

• “The Weekend Effect: The Life-Changing Benefits of Taking Time Off and Challenging the Cult of Overwork,” by Katrina Onstad: Feeling overworked is all too common these days. The overall message, whether it’s coming from work or home, is more, more, more. I know most of us say we get it, we need more time off, but we keep on grinding. Learn to stop paying lip service to the idea of being overworked, and embrace letting go. Read this timely book and find out what Katrina Onstad means by the “Weekend Effect.” Seriously, stop working so much.

Jan Johnston is the collection development coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at