Thursday, December 8, 2016

New Book Adventure: Book Cougars Podcast

Book Cougars Podcast - Chris Wolak and Emily Fine (WildmooBooks)
Book Cougars logo designed by Laura Thoma

I have a new book adventure that I'm so excited to share with you all today. My friend Emily Fine and I have started a book podcast!

Introducing--drum roll, please--the Book Cougars: Two Middle-Aged Women on the Hunt for a Good Read.

Our first episode went live on Tuesday and you can stream or download it from our website: We're working to get it on iTunes.

The first episode is just over an hour long. The first half is a test run where we talk about doing the podcast, who we are, where we are, etc., and the second half is a "proper" episode with what we believe will be our regular segments: Just Read, Currently Reading, Literary Adventures, Upcoming Jaunts, Upcoming Reads.

Emily and I met because of a book podcast, namely, Books on the Nightstand, hosted by Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness, so it seemed kind of natural for us to start our own podcast (especially since Ann and Michael have, for now, retired their podcast).

Michael gave us a wonderful shout-out on Twitter:
  Thank you, Michael!

Book Cougars Podcast - Chris Wolak and Emily Fine (WildmooBooks)
Literary Adventures and Joint Jaunts

We've already recorded Episode 2, a holiday special, which will be available early next week. In that episode Emily and I each talk about our top 10 reads of 2016 and offer some holiday gift ideas for book lovers.

You can find us on:
Facebook: and

And if you'd like to send us feedback or ask a question our email address is bookcougars at gmail dot com.

I'd be so honored if you'd give us a listen. 

P.s. What is it with me and animals in my titles? WildmooBooks blog, Book Cougars podcast...?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Martin Luther's Travel Guide by Cornelia Dömer

Martin Luther's Travel Guide (

Martin Luther's Travel Guide is a helpful guide for planning a pilgrimage to Germany and a nice introduction to Luther's life and times. It covers the major locations, people, and conflicts in Luther's life and work, and offers websites, hotel recommendations, maps, and sites to see in each city/town as well as travel suggestions by car or rail.

I like that the address, phone number, and website of monuments, museums, hotels, and other sites are individually listed. For being only 176 pages, this book packs in a ton of information. Its small size (5x8 inches) makes it an easy resource to carry around in a day-pack or purse and it is sturdily constructed to withstand actual travel usage.

The book includes s a list of some of the larger events and exhibits throughout Germany that celebrate the 500th anniversary of Luther nailing his 95th Theses to the Wittenburg church castle door on October 31, 1517.

I've been making the rounds, visiting the recommended websites, and a good please to start is,

The book also lists three Luther related exhibits currently on in the US:
  • Los Angeles: (now through March 26, 2017)
  • Minneapolis: (now through January 15, 2017)
  • New York: (now through January 22, 2017)

Colorful photographs of sites and key players in Luther's life grace just about every page.

Martin Luther's Travel Guide (
Scan of pages 76-77

The place in this book that I'm most familiar with is Dresden, my mother's home town. My first visit to this beautiful city was shortly after the Wall came down and the Frauenkirche was still in ruins. Over subsequent visits it was amazing to see the church being rebuilt and then to attend services when the restoration was complete.

The author ends her section on the Frauenkirche by saying the organ, "has not been rebuilt." I think this statement was intended to mean the original organ was not reproduced. However, there IS an amazing organ in the church that was designed specifically for the space. If you're ever in Dresden, be sure to add the Frauenkirche to your list of places to visit, and attend a service or concert if your schedule permits.

Frauenkirche - Martin Luther's Travel Guide (
Luther statue at the Frauenkirche, Dresden (source).
The Frauenkirche was built long after Luther's death, but he did visit Dresden twice, first in 1516 and again in 1518. Also known as The Church of Our Lady, The Frauenkirche was built from 1726 - 1743 in the Baroque style. It was destroyed by Allied bombing on February 13 & 14, 1945, left in ruins during Soviet occupation, and was fully restored in 2005.

This travel guide will be put to good use for my next visit to Germany (in 2017), during which I hope to incorporate a Luther site or two. It will no doubt be a popular book for those planning a trip and/or those wanting to learn more about the geographic particulars of Luther's life.

I was raised Lutheran and it would've been neat to have such a book when I was going through Confirmation classes.

Title: Martin Luther's Travel Guide: 500 Years of the 95 Theses: On the Trail of the Reformation in Germany
Author: Cornelia Dömer
Translator: Cindy Opitz
Publisher: Berlinica Publishing, November 2016
Source: Purchased it
Bottom line: An excellent resource for those interested in Martin Luther and travelers interested in history and historic tourism.

About the author: Cornelia Dömer, PhD, serves as a representative for the State of Rheinland-Pfalz at the federal German level and with the European Union. From 2000 to 2007, she managed the Luther-Zentrum Wittenberg. Previously, she was responsible for culture and marketing Luther at the Sachsen Anhalt GmbH, and e.V. She studied English and Romance language and literature, geography, and received postdoctoral certification at Cologne in 1992.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The Institute Library in New Haven, CT - Guest Post on The Emerald City Book Review

The Institute Library, New Haven, CT (Chris Wolak - WildmooBooks)

Lory of The Emerald City Book Review asked me to write a guest post on a New England library for her year long Reading New England challenge.

Please HEAD OVER TO HER BLOG to check out my contribution featuring The Institute Library of New Haven, CT, a subscription library that was founded in 1826.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Author Home: Herman Melville's Arrowhead

Yesterday I took the day off and headed north to to visit Arrowhead, Herman Melville's home in Pittsfield, MA. It was the last day of the season for tours at the historic home. They were closed the day before due to a storm that dropped about 12 inches of snow.

Arrowhead Herman Melville Home (
Melville lived at Arrowhead from 1850-1863, his most prolific years as a writer. His study is on the second floor, front right. His mother-in-law wanted the room for her bedroom but he claimed it for his study. The main house was built in 1784 and Melville added the side porch and the outbuildings.

Arrowhead - Herman Melville's Study (
Melville's study where he wrote Moby Dick and much more.
Even on a cloudy day the study gets great light and has a real warmth to it. The table pictured above  is similar to the one on which he wrote. Melville positioned the table against the window, which looks out toward Mount Greylock. The room just visible to the left is a small bedroom that Melville set up for his friend Nathaniel Hawthorne who spent a total of four nights there. Melville initially didn't let anyone else sleep there.

Mount Greylock in the distance as viewed from the parking lot.
The snow-filled clouds obscured much of Mount Greylock and my little iPhone was certainly no match for the landscape. Lore has it that a snow covered Mt. Greylock was Melville's inspiration for a white whale. Peter, my tour guide, said that in the mornings when there's better visibility it does look like a whale. The wispy fog that often hugs the mountain in the morning looks like sea foam, adding to the whale mirage.

Arrowhead - Herman Melville's Study (
Another view of Melville's study.
Just below Melville's study on the lower level is the parlor where guests would be received. Photography is not allowed inside Arrowhead, other than in Melville's study, so you'll just have to take my word for it that the walls are painted a pale green and the trim--ALL the trim--is painted hot pink which was THE new paint color in 1851 when Mrs. Melville made the color choice. Lest you think she was unhappy with the color combination, the Melville's also had special wallpaper made for their bedroom--a green and hot pink thistle pattern hand stamped on a creamy yellow background.

Arrowhead - Herman Melville's Study - Art Work (
This decorative tile that Melville purchased in Constantinople hangs in his study.

Arrowhead Herman Melville Home (
The back of the house.
The section of the back of the house, on the right with the three windows on the first floor, is the dinning room and above that are bedrooms. On the opposite side of the dining room, at the front of the house, is the family parlor.
Arrowhead Herman Melville Home (
Winter has arrived in the Berkshires!
Arrowhead opens again for regular tours in May and I highly recommend a visit. There are four special Candlelight and Chocolate tours of Arrowhead coming up in Nov & Dec if you're in the area. There's also The Melville Trail self-guided tour of 12 sites in Berkshire County related to Melville and his writing. And Edith Wharton's home, The Mount, is just a few minutes down the road as is the W.E.B. DuBois National Historic Site, which is a work in progress.

Tourism is up in the Berkshires this year due to J.K. Rowling setting Ilvermorny, the North American School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, on Mount Greylock. Here's an article on Mount Greylock's influence on the literary imagination.

780 Holmes Road
Pittsfield, MA 01201
(413) 442-1793         <---- Lots of great info on Arrowhead's website

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Food for People Who Like to Eat Dirty

The Dude Diet by Serena Wolf (WildmooBooks)

I'm not much of a cook. Neither is my wife. We have some fancier recipes in our repertoire, but for the most part we like pizza, mac & cheese, dogs in blankets, etc. We're both 50 year old women, but eat like we're teenagers and it shows on the waistline. Hence, my interest in this book.

When I was a bookseller one of the sections that I tried to avoid was food and cooking. For one thing, the books are usually oversized and heavy (spend a couple hours organizing such a section to see what I mean by heavy). The section was also chronically overflowing with new titles and newfangled subsections regularly popped up to complicate matters. It was a bitch to keep organized.

Then one day a coworker told me that her bedtime reading was cookbooks. Yes, she actually read cookbooks in bed at bedtime. I thought that was weird (and still do), but it made me see cookbooks as more approachable. Now, after spending time looking through The Dude Diet, I kind of get it. I was actually in bed last night looking through it to choose something to make this weekend, which made me remember my coworker.

Serena Wolf (WildmooBooks)
Wolf studied at Le Cordon Blue Paris
The recipes in The Dude Diet are familiar dishes with standard, non-frightening ingredients. The book starts out with some backstory on how The Dude Diet was born and offers basic nutritional information and guidance. There's a helpful chapter on pantry essentials--from oils and spices to suggestions on actual cookware and tools. After that the food begins:
  • Badass Breakfasts
  • The Classics (Mac & Cheese, Burgers, Lasagna, etc)
  • Game Day Eats (Buffalo Chicken Tenders, Tacos, Quesadillas, Dogs, etc)
  • On the Grill
  • Serious Salads
  • Take-out Favorites (Lettuce Wraps, Sesame-Orange Chicken, Pad Thai, Pizza, etc)
  • Sexy Sides
  • Back-pocket Recipes (Easy and reliable recipes like Idiotproof Chicken Breasts)
  • Chronic Cocktails
  • Sweetness (Desserts! I will be making the Dark Chocolate Power Bark asap)
The textbook size and quality of this book is appealing (not too big, not too small, and seems like it'll hold up well from heavy use) and I really like the photography by Matt Armendariz. He makes the food look real, tasty, and unpretentious.

I had planned on making a few of these recipes and including pretty (or disastrous) action photos with this post, but last month's unexpected arrival of Buddy Fitzwilliam, our new 50 pound puppy, derailed my kitchen plans (I blame everything on Buddy these days). But I do have post-it notes on multiple pages and plan on doing more cooking this winter, so you might actually start seeing foodish photos on this blog in the future.

Title: The Dude Diet: Clean(ish) Food for People Who Like to Eat Dirty
Author: Serena Wolf
Publisher: HarperCollins 2016
Source: Review copy from TLC Book Tours

Bottom line: Serena Wolf is a chef trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris. Her simple recipes with standard ingredients make this a great cookbook for beginners or for busy folks looking to cook healthier yet tasty versions of fast food favorites.

TLC Book Tours Host (WildmooBooks)

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