Library Column – June 26, 2008

The library is suddenly very busy as our summer folk return. Welcome back to the Valley! We have new books coming in very soon, plus downloadable audio, the Summer Reading Program for the children and a great book discussion series for the grown-ups. Stop in and we’ll tell you everything. Meanwhile, here are a few reviews, two from a guest and five from me.


Guest reviews by Jane Goodwin: One culture drinks fermented mare’s milk and the other drinks yak-butter tea. Two great books to give you a respite from our own present floods and world disasters. Read how people in remote areas have coped for generations. It is hard to believe that we are all on the same planet.

Leaving Mother Lake is the story of Yang Erche Namu told by Christeine Mathieu. The locale is southwestern China, near Tibet. Namu makes it out of there and travels all the way to Shanghai where she becomes a famous singer of the  Moso folksongs. Moso has some different sexual mores. Namu goes through her “Skirt ceremony” as she becomes a woman and then has her own room with a door to open to her lovers. Then she can decide on a mate.


The other book is Apples from Kazakhstan by Christopher Robbins. After you have sorted out all the “istans” you find this state is enormous and is the original home of the first wild apples. The author goes to check on this rumor and becomes fascinated with the local culture and with the beauty of the mountains and the steppes of this remote and little known nation.  Both these books are good “get-aways”.

Main-Course Vegetarian Pleasures: 125 Delicious Meatless Entrees by Jeanne Lemlin. A few days ago I realized I needed to cook something. Generally I plan my cooking ahead of time and shop for a week’s worth of meals at one time, but I’d messed up and needed to create a meal at short notice. Moments like that demonstrate the benefit of working in a library. I went to the shelf, pulled off this cookbook and found an excellent recipe. Then I headed over to a local store, bought some local ingredients to combine with a couple of items already sitting at home and had a yummy, easy dinner. Personally, I’m not a vegetarian, but I do like cooking and eating vegetarian meals. I find that recipes in “purely” vegetarian cookbooks are usually better than the occasional meatless recipe in a regular cookbook. Perhaps it is the enthusiasm of the author?


Wild Nights! by Joyce Carol Oates. Short stories about five great American authors: Edgar Allen Poe, Emily Dickinson, Mark Twain, Henry James and Ernest Hemingway. The delightful thing about this book is that you don’t have to be a literary expert to enjoy these oddball little pieces. Just about everyone has read at least one piece by these authors (remember your English classes?) and that enough context to enjoy Ms. Oates wild explorations of their writing styles and their lives.


One Skein: 30 Quick Projects to Knit and Crochet by Leigh Radford. This small book is useful in several ways. Do you have bits of left-over yarn from other projects? Lots of ideas on how to use it up. Do you love to make stuff, but can’t afford to spend a lot on your projects? Most of the projects in this book are cheap to make. Do you need to create a gift in just a day or two? Check out this book. Are you looking for attractive projects which don’t require advanced skills? Here are several to choose from.


The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett (available in our regular collection, the paperback collection, as audio CD and, until September, as audio cassette). A total break from his usual thrillers, this novel tells the complex and amazing story of the building of an English cathedral in the 1100s. The book includes a fascinating mix of characters, masons, churchmen, monks, earls, merchants and outlaws. Through the midst of war, famine and oppression hundreds of people sacrifice to build a soaring building which will represent their dreams and lives to the future. An excellent read.


The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein. A novel based on the life of a real Chinese woman painter, literally sold into a brothel by her uncle, who struggled through incredible difficulties to become a successful painter. Tragic and inspiring.


See you at the library!


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