My book group recently had a discussion of the books that led to our best –- and most memorable –- discussions ever. It was nice not only to reflect on the many books we’ve read and discussed together, but also look at what makes a “good book club book.” About five or six titles stood out, most notably The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff, a novel that would be a nice companion with Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (another one of our favorites). Two other all-time favorites happen to be part of Seattle Reads: The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. (My book club friends will be quick to point out that we read these before they were selected by Seattle Reads. And we read Middlesex before Oprah discovered it. We like to point out things like that.) A Very Long Engagement by Sebastien Japrisot and The Awakening by Kate Chopin are two we keep going back to. Memorable evenings together Continue reading “Books that inspire the best book group discussions”
Stroke. Brain Damage. Strong words we hear more of these days, with an aging population and engagement in a difficult war with injured soldiers returning to everyday life. Words that call up terrifying images of darkness and loss, for both the injured and their loved ones. Images of diving into the healthcare system like entering a second level of reality, cocooned from the outside world, caught up in the processes of treatment and healing. Once one has stepped into it, a facination takes hold, a seeking for ways to understand the experience. If you have recently gone through such an experience, or know others going through it, two recent compelling first hand accounts can be found in the library collection.
Never Give Up: My Stroke, My Recovery & My Return to the NFL by Tedy Bruschi with Michael Holley would never be called high literature, but it is a sincere heartfelt account of Bruschi’s unusual stroke-he was a healthy Continue reading “Healing the Mind”
There’s something in the air this President’s Day. Call it Millard Fillmania. You’ve probably all seen the recent car commercial offering a soap-on-a-rope effigy of the forgotten statesman touted to be the first to take a bath in the White House. (This oft-repeated “fact” was actually a sly hoax perpetrated by H.L. Mencken, by the way). Then there’s John Blumenthal’s oddball romance, Millard Filmore, Mon Amour, which tells of a deeply neurotic millionaire working on a massive biography of the man. In addition to being a close runner-up among eye-catching presidential titles to Lydia Millet’s George Bush: Dark Prince of Love, it surely has one of the most improbable subject headings in history: Fillmore, Millard, 1800-1874 — Influence — Fiction. But the real tipping point for the Millard Fillmore revival has to be George Pendle’s delightfully daft The Remarkable Millard Fillmore: The Unbelievable Life of a Forgotten President. Taking Mencken’s antic impulse and running with it, Pendle brings forth little-known aspects of our nation’s 13th president, such as his piratical origins, his minstrel show days, his curious disguise during the battle for the Alamo, and his invention of the T-Shirt, all culled from Fillmore’s recently rediscovered “napkin doodles.” Not since Forrest Gump has one man done so much for an ungrateful world. And surely it isn’t just my being a librarian that has me in stitches over the index, with its helpful entries for “Clothes – eating of, 7-8. -refusal to wear, 14. Commas 1-243. Conclusions – jumped to, 34. – leapt to, 189.” etc. No worries: the library still has plenty of real books about Millard for kids doing reports on him. And those presidential napkin doodles? We have those, too.
A quick update for President’s Day: Fillmore Fever continues to sweep the nation. Check out this cool Waiting-for-Guffmanesque Millard Fillmore Musical, The Accidental President, on Youtube, including such numbers as No One Will Remember Me, How Lonesome This World Is, Out There, and my personal favorite, It Has to Have a Window Seat!
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Read by Sissy Spacek
If you’re like me, you read this book in high school because you had to but don’t remember all the details. Harper Lee’s great novel is considered a classic for good reason — it’s powerful and gripping and deals with timeless issues of growing up and prejudice. And listening to this book is incredible – Sissy Spacek is the perfect narrator, her voice quirky and passionate and very believable as the young girl, Scout, who is wise beyond her years. Even if you’ve already read this book, it’s definitely worth a re-listen. I found myself looking forward to my bus commute so that I could tune back in to Scout’s world.
One thing I notice when watching some of the edgier television shows released on DVD for home viewing, is the excellent music selections that appear incidentally at the end or in the middle of a show, sort of audio riffs on some programatic theme. Whoever is choosing this music has a great ear for matching mood to sound.
Lately I’ve taken to following up and tracking down some great CD’s by finding a soundtrack compilation CD in the library collection, say music from the excellent HBO Shakespearian gone Western series Deadwood. Going through the list of performers on the CD leads me to these blues/folk/roots recordings in the library collection that I might otherwise have missed:
Press On by June Carter Cash, a Grammy award-winning recording issued late in her career.
1963 Isn’t 1962 by Bukka White, a terrific live recording of the blues great made after his “re-discovery” in 1963.
Animal Folk Songs for Children compliled and performed by Ruth Crawford Seeger, noted American Modernist and music scholar (no relation to Pete Seeger). She originally published this collection in 1948 for use in children’s music education.