Library Column – August 10, 2006

I’m amazed at how much people read during the summer. Books have been zooming out the door, but we still have lots of good books. Come on in and check out a few to read in a cool shady spot.

Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff. This book is written about politics, but it applies to any area where people have disagreements about matters of public interest. Strongly recommended!

Cooking with Fernet Branca by James Hamilton-Paterson. Two people find themselves living next door on an isolated hilltop in Italy: a pretentious Englishman who likes to cook very, very strange food and supports himself writing celebrity biographies; and a Eastern European woman composer who is doing the music for a film by a well-known Italian director. The book is both very funny and a bit repulsive at the same time. Includes the occasional recipe for extraordinary cuisine such as “Mussels in Chocolate”.

Inside the Kingdom: My Life in Saudi Arabia by Carmen Bin Ladin. Carmen married one of Osama’s many brothers and lived in Saudi Arabia for a number of years.  The luxurious but claustrophobic life of the Bin Ladin women is vividly described. Highly recommended for anyone who would like to understand certain aspects of Middle Eastern life.

The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of Rome and the Barbarians by Peter Heather. A new take on the end of the classical world—Rome could have carried on for a while longer if it hadn’t been for the Huns, who pushed the barbarians into the Empire.  He is right, sort of, but I think it isn’t the whole story.  For history buffs.

Fat Politics: The Real Story Behind America’s Obesity Epidemic by J. Eric Oliver. Does carrying extra poundage make people more prone to disease? Does obesity kill us? This book will make you rethink everything you’ve been told about the importance of being thin.

The Case for Israel by Alan Dershowitz. This is a book I meant to read when it first came out…but I didn’t. Although some things have moved on, the basic challenges of the Israeli-Arab conflict remain. An interesting book and guaranteed to provoke strong feelings!

A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon. The most recent book in an excellent series of historical novels. Time-travel is one element in the story line, but mostly it is just well-researched, well-written history. If you like historical novels and haven’t tried this series, ask me!

Absurdistan by Gary Shteyngart. A bitterly funny story of an overweight Russian Jew, son of a gangster, who only wants to live in New York City. His escape route from Russia leads through the former Soviet Republic of Absurdistan, where a civil war breaks out. A major player is a company called “Golly Burton” and then there is the oil field, the disputing ethnic groups, the diplomats, some more gangsters. The author even pops himself into the book in an offstage cameo as an evil seducer and intellectual pretender. This novel manages to be both entertaining and horrifying at the same time.

Child of Mine: Feeding with Love and Good Sense by Ellyn Satter. The classic book on overcoming food challenges with children of all ages. Clear, straightforward and practical, this book is guaranteed to improve family mealtimes.

Mavericks of the Sky: The First Daring Pilots of the U.S. Air Mail by Barry Rosenberg & Catherine Macaulay. The crazy story of the first attempts to transport mail via airplanes. Filled with brave flyers (including one woman), stubborn bureaucrats, hostile congressional committees and wild flying adventures and disasters. Chapter 20 is the climax of the book, with a cliff-hanging attempt to fly the mail coast to coast, including flying at night.

Unraveling the Mystery of Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder: A Mother’s Story of Research and Recovery by Karyn Seroussi. Recently donated book describes how Karyn’s son became ill (he was obviously physically ill), how he was diagnosed as autistic, and how she successfully treated both his physical problems and his behavioral difficulties. We also own Evidence of Harm by David Kirby, a more recent title on possible causes for autism.

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