Library Column – December 20, 2007

The library will have some new books on the window sill by the time this column is published, so come on in and check them out! Collleen and I decided to move Story Hour back to the library for the next few months, so starting January 8, it will be on Tuesdays, in the library, 10 a.m. My reading, as usual, has been fairly diverse. One book had to go back to the Regional Library, but I can borrow it again if anyone wants to read it.

Last Rights: Rescuing the End of Life from the Medical System by Stephen P. Kiernan. Highly recommended to everyone who may die some day—and if anyone thinks this doesn’t apply to them they really need to read the book. A readable mix of the facts of the problem combined with joyful and tragic stories of the last years and months of many Americans. He argues that people opt for suicide when they cannot get good care during their last few months, so the best way to prevent the passage of “Death with Dignity” laws is to provide everyone who is dying the opportunity to experience excellent care, including effective pain relief.

Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon. In my long-ago youth, I loved reading adventure novels, where flamboyant, sword-wielding men rescued beautiful maidens and overcame armies of villains. This small novel is in the genre, but the sword-wielders are Jewish, the setting is central Asia in roughly 950 C.E. and the adventures are decidedly ironic and filled with unexpected twists. Great fun.

A Christmas Beginning by Anne Perry. For the last few years, some authors have been issuing small novels around this time of year with some sort of holiday related theme. This one pulls out a secondary character from the author’s Monk series and takes him to the Isle of Anglesey off the coast of Wales, where he is pulled into investigating the murder of a young woman.

Halley’s Quest: A Selfless Genius and his Troubled Paramore by Julie Wakefield (available at the Regional Library). An odd little book that combines the history of science with a bit of sea adventure. The same Halley who discovered the periodicity of comets, also captained the first official scientific data collecting expeditions, struggling with a rebellious crew, an awkward ship, the threat of pirates and primitive equipment.

Shelter by Susan Palwick. Speculative fiction explores several fascinating what-ifs: what if we did manage to create artificial intelligence? What if there were “bots” everywhere doing all the mundane work? What if the cure for mental illness or crime was having your brain wiped clean and starting over? What if people who died could be “translated” and live “eternally” on the Internet (unless someone erased their files)? A richly human novel, despite the imaginative play.

Lean Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich (Audio CD or book). More fun with the Jersey Girl, Stephanie Plum, as she tries to catch a grave robber, a taxidermist, a marijuana grower AND a rather nasty murderer. Fortunately she has Morelli and  Lula and Ranger on her side.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (audio cassettes). The story of shy, timid, gentle Fanny Price, who comes to live with her rich relatives and struggles to remain true to her own principles despite extreme pressure. Beautifully read.

See you at the library!

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