Library Column – April 6, 2007

Volunteers are currently needed at the library, so do give me a call at 496-3913 of you are interested in helping out. Thank you! A reading summary: four books about murders, two non-fiction accounts and two novels; three books about history, two non-fiction and one novel; a foodie magazine and one more novel, this one sans corpse. Enjoy! 

The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and The Invention of Murder by Daniel Stashower. True crime mixed with an extraordinary piece of literary history—Poe’s invention of the fictional detective—the ancestor of Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot and all the rest. Mary Rogers may or may not have been murdered, but her story does tell us a lot about the (in)justice system in New York City in the 1840s.

Thunderstruck by Erik Larson (audio CD). How Marconi developed long-distance wireless and how the new technology trapped a fleeing murderer is the theme of this odd and entertaining narrative.

 A Deeper Sleep by Dana Stabenow. The latest in a series of mysteries set in one of the wilder parts of Alaska, and starring a woman PI, Kate Shugak. This one addresses the difficult question: What do you do about someone who keeps getting away with murder?

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Have you ever wondered what it was really like, traveling with a small circus? This novel vividly recreates the world of the “train circus” in 1931, with a story of a young veterinarian whose life has unraveled. He makes a wild leap (literally) and lands in the middle of a troubled little circus filled with odd characters.

Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust’s Long Reach into Arab Lands by Robert Satloff. Many thousands of Jews found themselves under Nazi rule in Northern Africa, mostly indirectly through the French or Italians. Satloff tells the tragic stories of persecution and the occasionally joyous stories of rescues of this forgotten group of Holocaust victims.

Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of
by A. J. Langguth (Audio CD). An entertaining account of a rather silly war between the U.S. and Britain over trade and the impressment of U.S. sailors. The Native Americans came badly out of this particular bout as the British used them but did not protect them, and the Americans used the fact that some Indians sided with the Brits as an excuse to take more of their land. This is the little war where Washington, D.C. got burned down and Dolley Madison saved the portrait of President Washington. Andrew Jackson made his reputation defending New Orleans in a bloody battle, fought three months AFTER the peace treaty had been signed in Europe.

Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers by Barbara Hambly. Takes you into the inner lives of Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Sally Hemings and Dolley Madison. When you are living through the historical events it is not clear how things will turn out, and there was more than one point where the Revolution and later the new
United States looked set for disaster. Lively, entertaining and well-written.

Bon Appétit published monthly. A patron recommended a recipe from their regular column  Readers’ Favorite Restaurant Recipes so I took the magazine home and copied it out, but I haven’t tried it yet. Snazzy, upscale food magazine for the affluent eater.

The Right Attitude to Rain by Alexander McCall Smith (available on audio cassette and as a book). Third in a series set in Edinburgh, Scotland, with a philosopher, Isabel Dalhousie as the main character. Isabel is always struggling with moral questions, and this time some of them come very close to home, indeed.

See you at the library!

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