Library Column–December 29, 2005

Let’s be considerate of others: if you smoke cigarettes or cigars or like to wear perfume, please try not to return your library books in whiffy condition. Airing the books for a couple of days will take care of cigarette smoke, but cigar smoke is very persistent, and so are some perfumes. Another possibility is using some sort of "smokeless" ashtray to reduce the stray smoke. Other ideas on this topic are welcome!

We have a big pile of new audio books in, including some brand-new bestsellers. We also have some new wooden toys for the kids: a pirate ship, a dump truck, a circus train, a floater plane and a gorgeous new rainbow stacker.

My reading (and listening) over the last two weeks has been quite diverse—bits of this and that:

The Almond Picker by Simonetta Agnello Hornby. Do we ever really know or understand another human being? This deceptively simple little book explores the much misunderstood life of a servant woman in Sicily, wandering through the lives of the residents of a small city, filled with gossip, conflict, debate, hatred and love. An excellent novel.

Steeplechase: A Homer Kelly Mystery by Jane Langton. I really, really enjoyed this book. It is two stories in one. In the contemporary story, Mary and Homer Kelly are doing research for a book about old churches in small towns in Massachusetts. The other story is set in 1868 in a small town in Massachusetts where a dispute about a wonderful old tree metamorphoses into the building of a new church, which ends up "disappearing," providing the mystery for the Kellys to chase.

Captain Alatriste by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. A dark story of swashbuckling swordplay in Madrid, set in the early 1600’s. Heroic, tragic, funny and filled with scraps of actual poetry and some real historical characters.

The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quests to Become the Smartest Person in the World by A. J. Jacobs. (Paperback Collection) A very amusing first-person account of a successful attempt to read the entire Encyclopædia Britannica, in a not altogether serious attempt to become enlightened and knowledgeable. Plenty of fun information and a surprising number of odd and amusing incidents.

Infidels: A History of the Conflict Between Christendom and Islam by Andrew Wheatcroft. (From the regional library: we have it until March.) A good read for those who like in-depth history. His concentration is on the use of language to attack and define the other. There has been a lot of distortion on both sides, in a conflict that is 1400 years old and still going. In addition to the discussion of language he describes the conflict in medieval Spain, the Crusades in medieval Palestine, the conquest of the Balkans by the Ottoman Turks and the misunderstandings and distortions arising during and after the European Enlightenment.

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