The Wire finale: now what? (A reading list).

image-of-woman-watching-the-wire-courtesy-of-locator.jpgOkay, so it is over.  Case closed. After five captivating years, HBO’s lauded series The Wire calls it a wrap. Now what do we do? Aside from chain-watching DVDs of the series (and its excellent Baltimore precursor, Homicide: Life on the Street), we’re seeing a lot of Wire fans in withdrawal are turning to books to prolong the feeling. This is hardly surprising given the series’ strong literary ties. Here are some of our favorite gritty tales of the street from Baltimore and beyond:

  • The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighborhood, by David Simon and Edward Burns. It all starts here, with this searing, compassionate account of the hard realities underlying America’s drug culture and its victims. Wire co-creators Simon and Burns refuse to oversimplify an intractable problem twisted up with issues of race, class and unbridled capitalism. See also Simon’s Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.
  • The Night Gardener, by George Pelecanos
    This insightful story of an old unsolved crime and its lingering effects on three police is just the latest in a succession of outstanding novels stirring up the murky moral depths on both sides of the law, by a prolific Washington DC author and Wire contributor.
  • Mystic River, by Dennis LeHane
    After penning five terrific Boston-based hardboiled mysteries, Wire contributor Lehane had a major breakthrough with this richly textured, haunting psychological thriller about the hidden wellsprings and lasting effects of crime.
  • Lush Life, by Richard Price
    Another accomplished writer recruited into The Wire’s stellar stable, Price’s unflinching, morally-complex crime Continue reading “The Wire finale: now what? (A reading list).”

Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries

photo of author jo dereskeTurns out my favorite librarian in the universe will be making an appearance at our very own Green Lake Library this week. Okay, make that my favorite fictional librarian, created by Northwest author Jo Dereske, who will be reading from her popular Miss Zukas mystery series and discussing writing mysteries (she has a new series in the works) on Thursday, March 13, from 6 to 7:45 p.m.

Wilhelmina (Helma) Zukas’ independent spirit, intelligence and resourcefulness make it impossible for this librarian/sleuth to resist solving murders and setting things straightcatalogue of death book cover in her beloved Bellehaven (think Bellingham/Fairhaven). I love the local setting, witty style and crisp writing that comes through in each of the ten Miss Zukas mysteries (which the New York Times called “a loving sendup” to the librarian stereotype). I was delighted when Miss Zukas returned, after a three-year break, in Bookmarked to Die and Catalogue of Death. The 11th title in the series comes out in April.

Author Jo Dereske (who is also a librarian) gives us a bit of insight into Helma Zukas — as well as some excellent reading suggestions — in part one of a two-part interview:

How does this amateur detective benefit from her librarian background?

Well, as everyone knows, library folk are sharply observant, and relentless researchers. Miss Zukas understands patterns and anomalies and she does not give up. She has a book and she knows how to use it.

Those who don’t yet know Miss Zukas may have some preconceived notions based on her profession. What do you wish people knew about Helma Zukas?

When I began writing the series I wanted to respond to two things. I’d been told: “Nobody would ever publish a book about a librarian.” The other was the way librarians were viewed as dull stereotypes by the Continue reading “Northwest author Jo Dereske creates a ‘loving sendup’ to librarians in Miss Zukas mysteries”

The War in Fiction, part 2: The Home Front

prisoners.bmpA War is not one story, but many.

Here is the second of three lists of fiction that views the war through many eyes, reflecting the diverse experiences of civilians and soldiers around the world whose lives were drawn into the Second World War.

As the war draws to its close, the lives of men and women in a rural Kentucky town are indelibly changed whether they are returning from the front lines or waiting back at home.

Humor and pathos punctuate this coming-of-age novel in which Josh, a witty 17-year-old, navigates Continue reading “The War in Fiction, part 2: The Home Front”

Books About Autism

Why are there so many good books about autism? Sadly, maybe it’s because there are so many families dealing with this very difficult diagnosis. I love to read “my problem and how I solved it books” (think Ladies Home Journal’s long-running “Can This Marriage Be Saved?” series). Unfortunately many of the family members with autism in their lives do not have solvable problems. Nevertheless, the novels mentioned here show sensitivity, intelligence and often the dark humor needed to survive.
In Daniel Isn’t Talking by Marti Leimbach, Melanie Marsh, an American living in London, tries to keep her marriage going after she and her husband learn that their two-year-old son is autistic. Lots of humor and a white knight of a therapist.

Another mother, Rachel, battles fiercely for her young son’s emotional health and the health of the rest of her family in Ann Bauer’s Wild Ride Up the Cupboards. In the compelling mystery Eye Contact, by Cammie McGovern, an autistic child is found next to the body of a murdered child. Curious Incident of the Dog in Night-Time by Mark Haddon is a gently humorous exemplary first novel in which a 15-year-old autistic boy, falsely accused of murdering a dog, sets out to find the real killer. Family Pictures by Sue Miller is a timeless saga by the master novelist about how an autistic son directly affects the whole family.

What’s Up with Autism? is the title of a free lecture tonight at the Central Library, as part of the Medical Series of lectures sponsored by The Seattle Public Library and the University of Washington School of Medicine. Topics covered will include the increase of autism diagnoses, current understanding of autism and approaches to treatment. ~ Susan

Blurring Boundaries: translating the digital to the book

With all the press lately about Kindle, the latest wireless reading device to take a stab at capturing the book reading market, it is interesting to see books traveling the other way, out of the ether and on to the printed page.

The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life by John Maeda an internationally respected graphic designer, visual artist and computer scientist with MIT’s Media Lab came out of his ongoing work, then ruminations on his blog, finally “simplified” onto the written page. It proposes ten laws of simplicity to consider in design, corporations, perhaps even for the person. Most interestingly is his goal to allow his thinking on his mission for simplicity in our increasingly complex world to evolve past the thinking captured in the book via his ongoing blog.

The physical book here acts as a slide or snapshot of a point in the intellectual process in a very immediate way.

We Are Smarter Than Me by Barry Libert & Jon Spector and thousands of other contributors evolved from a collaborative effort of students, faculty and alumni of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the MIT Sloan School of Management, as well as leaders, authors, and experts from the fields of management and technology, as a how-to-do-it manual for ways to implement web 2.0 sharing practices in real world businesses. 

Once again the book freezes the frame, hits the print command and saves your work for the ages – as long as our libraries continue to collect and retain these artifacts of our communal learning. We are interested in knowing about other cross-fertilization efforts; please feel free to share what you run into on your travels, online and off.

~posted by Kay K.