Library Column – May 25, 2007

My visit to the Midstate Regional Library over in Berlin was very fruitful this month. In addition to picking up specific books requested by patrons I found several good novels and two great non-fiction books. First the non-fiction: a super fun book for creative cheapskates—Generation T, 108 Ways to Transform a T-shirt by Megan Nicolay; and a not so fun book for worried parents: The Price of Privilege—How Parental Pressure and Material Advantage are Creating a Generation of Disconnected and Unhappy Kids by Madeline Levine. The fiction: The Sea Lady by Margaret Drabble (one of my favorite authors); Leonardo’s Swans by Karen Essex (for fans of historical novels about painters and their models); The Lay of the Land by Richard Ford (we have this on audio CD); and Brothers by Da Chen (set in China during and after the Cultural Revolution). Regional library books are generally available for 4 months—look on the window sill under the videos and a bit to the right.

What I’ve been reading and watching lately:

The Necropolis Railway by Andrew Martin. This mystery is great on several levels. It is well-written, superbly researched, atmospherically convincing and just plain fun. The answer to the mystery is not obvious at all, the background painting of the railway world in 1903 London is totally convincing and the character of the narrator is beautifully developed. I enjoyed it!

Painted Lady (DVD). Murder, mayhem, art theft, disguises and deceptions. If you want to know more about the creator of the stolen work at the center of the drama, we have her story as CD or book: The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland. Wandering slightly farther afield, we have a non-fiction account of the rediscovery of a work by Caravaggio: The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr (only on CD).

The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream by Barack Obama. Not bad for a book by a politician. Barack shares his thoughts on how to bridge some of the chasms that have opened up in American social and political life over the last 30 or 40 years.

Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay.  Visitors to Provence are threatened by ancient and mysterious beings and forces. A delightful cross between a history course and a fantasy novel—but it works well because of the author’s skill and sensitivity to atmosphere and setting.

Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killers by Michael Connelly. Non-fiction by an excellent writer of mysteries. Some interesting true-crime stories, but the book would have been better if he had either edited the newspaper articles to eliminate redundancies, or just written up the stories for the book. Reading a whole book of newspaper stories is a less than totally satisfactory experience. However, fans of true crime will enjoy these cases, and fans of Michael Connelly will enjoy drawing out the connections between his novels and his day job as a newspaper writer.

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