Library Column – March 6, 2008

Last chance to participate in The Big Read book discussions will be March 12 at the Joslin Memorial Library, 7 PM. We have several copies of The Maltese Falcon available so come and pick one up if you haven’t yet read it. Also coming up is Jennifer McMahon, (Promise Not to Tell) Vermont writer, talking about her craft on March 11, at the Warren Public Library and our next book discussion in the mystery series, Bangkok 8 by John Burdett. There are still a few copies available of Burdett’s book.

Books I’ve read (or heard) in the last two weeks include:

The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell. This haunting novel tells the story of a teenager who misbehaves and ends up spending the next 60 years in an insane asylum. Her sudden reappearance reveals more than one awful family secret. I think this would make a wonderful book group read when it comes out in paperback.

The Queen’s Handmaiden by Jennifer Ashley. Queen Elizabeth I as seen by her dressmaker. One problem with writing historical novels about fairly well-documented events is that many readers will already know the plot. I’d recommend the novel to anyone interested in a good story about exciting events who hasn’t already read a biography of any of the main characters.

The Woman Driver by Jean Thompson. I bought this book based on a patron request. The book was published in 1985, but has aged well. A story of “true” love from the viewpoint of the “other woman” with some painful twists, by an excellent writer.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver (Audio CD or book). Eating locally explained in practice by the well-known novelist and her family. The book has been out ever since we acquired it, but the audio edition has been available occasionally. Highly recommended!

The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman. A history of the triumph of the Neo-Conservative movement written by a long-time liberal. What I found most interesting is his claim that the Republicans have depended mainly on the politics of race to win elections and that this strategy is running out of steam. Read it for yourself and let me know if you think he makes a solid case.

The Man Who Killed Shakespeare by Ken Hodgson. I enjoyed this book, but I cannot understand why it is described on the cover as a “rollicking yarn.” True, there are some funny moments, but the story takes place in the Depression, against a backdrop of hunger and despair, so the humor is dark. Shakespeare is a dying town, hoping to be revived by a gold mine, only the mine owner is a scam artist, but he gets taken in by some other con men, and then there is a very nice lady named Delight who is practicing a very old profession and a bartender whose cooking may be fatal—but the best player is a dog named Wesley with a talent for killing rattlesnakes.

Plus one DVD documentary:Victory at Sea Volume III (DVD). Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 were kindly donated to the library by a patron a while back and I finally got around to plopping it into my DVD player. An impressive documentary with music by Richard Rodgers and great battle scenes. I was interested to spot a few black soldiers, in the midst of a mostly white army and also interested to see that the documentary avoided racist slurs against the Japanese.See you at the library!

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