Book Buzz Episode 47 – A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking & How to Hide an Empire

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Air date: April 28, 2024

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A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking

How to Hide An Empire

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Episode 47 


Hi, this is Jessica Russell. I’m the assistant director of collection services at Sno-Isle Libraries. And welcome to Book Buzz. 

Today's two reading recommendations are from the genres of fantasy fiction and American history.  

First, we’re going to hear from Jayanne, librarian at the Freeland Library, for a sweet tale of a teen with special powers. Go ahead, Jayanne! 


Thanks, Jessica. Some people have magic, and some wizards use their amazing control over lightning or water to defend the kingdom. In “A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking” by T. Kingfisher, 14-year-old Mona doesn’t have that kind of big or flashy magic. That’s fine by Mona. Her magic works on dough and baked goods, which is far more practical considering she lives and works at her aunt and uncle’s bakery. 

Unfortunately, there’s an assassin hunting down all the magic folk and one of the victims ends up on the floor of the bakery. Mona is accused of the murder and is hauled off to the palace to be tried. What starts as a murder mystery grows bigger and more complex, not unlike Mona’s familiar Bob, a sentient sourdough starter. 

Mona is extremely relatable. She is a sensible girl who doesn’t understand why some adults are so clueless or why you can never find a bathroom when you need one. While she has no desire to be a hero, the actions she takes (which rarely go smoothly) come from her desire to protect her friends, family, and city.  

There is a lot of humor and heart in this award-winning story, but you may never look at gingerbread men and sourdough the same way ever again. 


Thanks, Jayanne! Sounds deliciously magical! 

Next, let’s switch gears for a deeper understanding of the USA, from Alexander, library associate at the Darrington Library. Take it away, Alexander! 


“How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States” by Daniel Immerwahr shows how, since our nation’s founding, American values of liberty and freedom have clashed with the desire for power and prestige on the world stage, and how our values haven’t always come out of that clash unsullied. 

While most of us have grappled with the moral and political impacts of Manifest Destiny and U.S. expansion from sea to shining sea, this book focuses on the lands across the sea which have been claimed for the red, white, and blue. 

Full of vignettes which drive home the grandiose and the gruesome, the folly of ambition told through the perspective of pioneers, profiteers, presidents, and patriots, Immerwahr describes how U.S. overseas possessions grew from spits of rock scattered across the wide ocean in search of fertilizer; to dominion over islands like Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and the millions of people inhabiting them; to a comprehensive system of military bases and industry standards that project American will all across the globe. 

This book is an excellent survey of historical U.S. imperialism, which I would recommend to those who seek an understanding of why the world seems purpose-built around the United States, to those interested in American anti-colonialism, and to those looking for another step in understanding the unique position of U.S. Territorial residents and what it means for their political rights past, present, and future. 


Thanks, Alexander! Whether you’re a history buff or not, this book will open your eyes to some interesting revelations.  

Our recommendations this week are: “A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking” by T. Kingfisher and “How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States” by Daniel Immerwahr. 

Join us next time, when we’ll explore more great reading recommendations — interesting books you can find at your favorite local bookstore or at your local library.   

Until then, I’m Jessica Russell from Sno-Isle Libraries.   

Thanks for joining us for Book Buzz on KSER. 

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