Library Column–May 11, 2006

Spring has sprung! I hope everyone has been enjoying the lovely tender green of the trees and the gorgeous spring flowers. When I’m not outdoors enjoying my grandchildren, I’m indoors reading. Try some of these!

Adventures from the Technology Underground: Catapults, Pulsejets, Rail Guns, Flamethrowers, Tesla Coils, Air Cannons, and the Garage Warriors Who Love Them by William Gurstelle. This is a very entertaining book about people who like to build and play with odd and sometimes dangerous gadgets. My favorite was the descriptions of the World Championship Punkin Chunk, complete with catapults, trebuchets, slingshots, onagers, spring engines, mangonels, and colossal compressed-air cannons all competing to find out who can throw a pumpkin the farthest. A nice feature of the book is that the seriously technical sections are separated from the entertainment portions, so if you are bored by diagrams and technical terms you can just skip over a few pages and get back to the guys and their gadgets.

Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent. Although this story has some amusing moments, most of the account is scary and sad. Norah disguised herself as Ned and spent time in various all male enclaves in an attempt to find out what men are really like. This would make an excellent book club selection, but for full impact the discussion group would have to include men AND women.

Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (audio CD). The bestseller that examines how much can be picked up at a glance, how well and how badly this "thin slicing" can work and what steps to take if you want to develop your perceptive skills.

The Train to Estelline by Jane Roberts Wood (audio cassette). Journey back in time to West Texas in 1911-12 with a young school teacher setting out for her first teaching position, in a one-room country school house. The story is entirely in letters and moves skillfully from her naïve shock at the rough life, to her growing understanding of the land and the people. The book is sweet, but not cloying.

More Book Lust: 1,000 New Reading Recommendations for Every Mood, Moment and Reason by Nancy Pearl. The "action figure" librarian recommends books. A lot of books. An entertaining read which includes many worthwhile recommendations linked together by a very wide selection of themes. From the regional library and available in Warren until August, along with a number of other nifty free books.

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink (paperback collection AND regular collection). A brief novel about a woman, a boy, a love affair and the collective and individual pasts of the German people. An amazingly good read, for anyone who may have missed it when it first came out.

Dead at Daybreak by Deon Meyer. Thriller from South Africa includes many of the standard elements—a morose hero, a beautiful woman lawyer, a mysterious death, but excellent writing and plot development lift it above the pack.

Perdita: The Literary, Theatrical, Scandalous Life of Mary Robinson by Paula Byrne (paperback collection, biographies). The remarkable story of a woman who married at 15, discovered that her husband was a jerk, became an actress, then the mistress of the Prince of Wales (and one or two other gentlemen), remade herself as a novelist, poet and feminist and died young. Among other achievements, she was a friend of Mary Wollstonecroft.

The Singing and Dancing Daughters of God by Timothy Schaffert. Your basic small town out on the Plains, with divorced parents, loneliness, religion, death and confusion. Oddly, a hopeful and essentially positive story about hanging in there against the odds.

In the Belly of the Beast: Technology, Nature, and the Human Prospect by Steve Talbott (paperback collection). An excellent (and brief) review of the human relationship with technology, past and present.

Purity of Blood by Arturo Perez-Reverte. Another Spanish swashbuckler from the author of Captain Alatriste. In this one, our hero comes up against the Spanish Inquisition, an adversary that requires all of his courage and luck. There are five books in this series and we are only on the second. Please read and let me know if I should add the other three over the next few years!

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