Saturday, June 30, 2007

Judi, Judi, Judi

Ten years ago, Dame Judi Dench was nominated for an Oscar for her performance as a grieving Queen Victoria in Mrs. Brown. This was the first time that Americans became fully aware of an actress who had captivated British audiences for years. Since then, she has been nominated for 6 Academy Awards and won for her mesmerizing performance – all 6 minutes – of Queen Elizabeth I in Shakespeare in Love. You may have seen her work in Chocolat, Pride and Prejudice, Notes on a Scandal, Iris, Tea With Mussolini or Ladies in Lavender (all movies that we have here at the library). But to really understand why she is Dame Judi Dench, you should see her work throughout her 50-year career. The Judi Dench Collection presents nine different BBC productions spanning four decades, from her 1962 portrayal of Anya in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard to a 1991 production of Absolute Hell, in which she plays the boozy proprietor of a London nightclub after WWWII. Dame Judi can do comedy, tragedy, farce, musical theater (the Collection has a moving rendition of Send in the Clowns), and Shakespeare. She can be vulnerable, vicious, common, commanding, ditzy and malevolent. Everything she does seems effortless, but she is consistently the best performer in any production. She can even make James Bond films watchable. Don’t feel compelled to watch all 19 hours of this DVD set, but you could definitely find one or two plays that you will really enjoy. And if you are just bowled over by Dame Judi, we have plenty of other films in which she appeared, including a few small, but meaty, parts: A Room With a View, Henry V and Hamlet (the Kenneth Branagh productions).

Friday, June 29, 2007

Beloved Series

Finding a good series is like finding a bowl of M&Ms: you can’t sample just one. So when you’re hooked on a series, you wait with baited breath until the next installment comes out and you can find out what dangerous, or wacky, escapades your beloved protagonist gets into. And here at the library, we just happen to have a few new titles, so you can exhale now.
Seventeenth-century Spanish swordsman Captain Diego Alatriste is back in The Sun Over Breda, by Arturo Perez-Reverte. Fans of the historical novels of Patrick O’Brian and Bernard Cornwell will enjoy the adventures of Alatriste as he leads his band of soldiers against the Dutch during the Battle of Flanders. Lots of action and wonderful period detail make this a great series to follow, and I hope Perez-Reverte continues the narrative.
Helen Tursten has added a new installment to her series about Swedish detective Irene Huss, of the Goteborg crime force. A hard-boiled mystery with a female lead – think Prime Suspect – The Glass Devil involves the puzzling murder of a young teacher and his parents, perhaps the work of a Satanic cult. Huss travels to England to see if the only surviving member of the family has any clues that will help solve the mystery.
Journey back to medieval Europe – a particularly horrible time to have lived in – with Alan Gordon, and watch events unfold in The Lark’s Lament. Theopolis, a jester with the Fool’s Guild, must solve a mystery in a monastery with the help of his wife and daughter.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

One man's meat

I don’t randomly buy materials for the library. I read book reviews and pick titles that received good critical recommendation. So obviously whoever wrote the review for Heart of Honor, by Kat Martin, was completely misleading, because this has to be one of the stupidest books I have ever seen. The time is 1846, the setting is England, and the heroine (granddaughter of an earl) writes a weekly magazine called Heart to Heart, where she tackles the thorny issues of women’s rights and social reform. She has received anonymous threats warning her to leave men’s work – publishing – to men. But not our heroine! She is too plucky by half to back down. O.K., I could live with that as a plot device. But now we have the hero: a shipwrecked Norseman from a village that still maintains the ancient Viking way of life (think 1000 A.D.). The locals have caged him up and display him at a freak show that the heroine goes to visit (granddaughters of earls frequently attended freak shows during the Victorian era). She and her father – a professor – recognize the ancient Viking language spoken by the caged hero and buy him from the circus in order to turn him into a proper Englishman. Still with me? Our heroine is of course attracted to his animal magnetism, and our hero is the strong defender that all women need (even when they advocate for equal rights), and the earl is won over by our hero’s romantic intentions for his granddaughter: “Krista says you need grandsons. My blood runs hot and strong and I will give her sturdy sons who will make you proud”. Phrases sure to go over well in Victorian England drawing rooms. The hero grunts and glowers his way through the book, even after he has learned English in a remarkably short time, and the heroine allows him to invade her personal space in a way that would seem a tad loose even in 2007. I searched in vain for the notation somewhere in the title page that this book was a parody. If you need a laugh, and you have no other constructive way to spend 2 hours of your life, then I guess you could give this book a try.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Aging gracefully

It happens to all of us before we know it, and certainly before we are prepared for it: we start to age. A couple of gray hairs, a laugh line that hangs around after we're done laughing, a dark smudge under the eyes that doesn't wash off. People deal with this in a variety of ways, from undergoing thousands of dollars of plastic surgery and cosmetic treatments (think Joan Rivers - ouch!) to throwing up their hands and letting everything go to pot. Beauty maven Bobbi Brown takes the middle road, and in Living Beauty, she explains what that entails. She advocates healthy eating, nutritional supplements and lots of exercise (you know, just once I would like to find someone who advocates eating buckets of fried chicken and channel surfing). She also talks about how to use makeup to tone down signs of aging and highlight the attractive features of your face. She explains how to use concealer to mute the dark circles under your eyes, how to even out blotchy skin tone, how to hide signs of thinning hair, and what to do about skimpy eyelashes. Brown also gives advice on hair styles, coloring, and the types of clothing to embrace and avoid. Her book is full of before and after photos of lovely middle-aged women. The nicest thing about this book is that Brown is perfectly happy with a less-is-more approach to makeup: you can use it to bring out your beauty without looking like you've been trying to shoplift makeup by carrying it out of the store on your face. This book is a nice little affirmation that just because you're older doesn't mean you're not still beautiful.

Monday, June 25, 2007


There are some people who are so intelligent and talented that it is just exhausting to watch. Ruth Gruber, author of Witness: one of the great correspondents of the twentieth century tells her own story, is one of those people. She earned her doctorate at the age of twenty, becoming the youngest Ph.D. in the world and making headlines. She had written the first doctoral thesis analyzing the writing of Virginia Woolf, and was rewarded with an invitation to tea with Woolf. In 1935 – at the age of 24 – she traveled through Soviet Siberia as an international correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. She worked for Harold Ickes, Secretary of the Interior for Franklin Roosevelt. As Ickes’ assistant, she was sent to Alaska to document the construction of the Alaska Highway. She also visited the communities of Barrow, Hooper Bay, and Point Hope, photographing the people and places she encountered. She sailed from Europe aboard a Navy ship carrying Holocaust survivors to America, collecting their stories and taking photos of them still wearing their striped concentration camp pajamas. She attended the Nuremberg trials, visited Jewish refugee camps in Cyprus, and reported on the establishment of Israel. As a female reporter, she was able to gain the trust of the women and children she met, and her photographs are very personal and touching. She was in the midst of history as it was being made, and at the age of 95, her memories and reflections are fascinating.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Stranger Than Fiction

I’ve never had a real burning desire to see a Will Ferrell movie, so I approached Stranger Than Fiction with a little trepidation. I had heard good things, though, and I love Emma Thompson, so I gave it a shot. And I really liked this film. It’s not Lawrence of Arabia, but the writing was good and the lines were funny. In fact, Zach Helm’s script is so good that I was convinced it was an adaptation of a novel. It has a lot more depth to it than your typical romantic comedy (it’s supposedly a drama, but it has the same tone and feeling as While You Were Sleeping), and the acting is well-done. Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah didn’t have roles they could really get their teeth into, so that was a little disappointing. But overall, I enjoyed the movie (although I have to agree with Hoffman’s character about what should be the appropriate end to the story).

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Top Ten Overlooked Magazines

In descending order, here are the magazines most likely to be overlooked here at the library. When you read the list, you'll probably be surprised at which big-name magazines people don't seem to read (Sports Illustrated just missed making this list!)

10. Military History
9. Business Week
8. Outdoor Life
7. US News & World Report
6. Entertainment Weekly
5. Runners World
4. First Things
3. Vandidades
2. The Nation

And four magazines tied for last place, with apparently no readers whatsoever:

  • Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
  • Publisher's Weekly
  • Watercolor Magic
  • The Weekly Standard

For your good deed for the week, consider adopting one of these poor, unloved periodicals. Catch up on some news analysis, read about the latest Hollywood happenings, learn who the movers and shakers are in the business world, or brush up on your history. They're free and available!

Friday, June 22, 2007

A Top Ten List

People love top ten lists: pet peeves, fashion must-haves, romantic destinations, movies of all time. You name it, and someone has quantified it and ranked it. So, as not to be left behind, here is a list of the TOP TEN MAGAZINES at the public library, based on the number of times each issue is read.

  1. Cottage Living

  2. Discover

  3. Beadwork

  4. Mother Earth News

  5. Backwoods Home

  6. People

  7. This Old House

  8. American Craft

and 4 magazines tied for the last two spots:

  • Bead & Button

  • Brides

  • Cooking Light

  • National Geographic

If you haven't looked at any of these magazines before, stop by and check out what why people are interested. All of our magazines - with the exception of the most current issue - can be checked out for three weeks.
Tomorrow, I'll give the Top Ten LEAST Read Magazines.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Going, Going, Gone

It’s a simple concept. Ask 100 conservation groups from around the world to identify the one plant or animal they are most concerned about: a plant or animal that they feel is in danger of extinction. Some of the organisms in Going, Going, Gone are already extinct in the wild. Each listing tells the reader what their ecological status is, their estimated population, and what you can do to help save these creatures (usually this involves contacting a conservation group or lobbying a politician). There are a few unheralded species here – the Augustus snail of New Zealand, the Corncockle flower of Great Britain. But most of the endangered plants and animals in this book are well-known. African lions, lowland gorillas, ringed seals, leatherback turtles, jaguars, chimpanzees, cheetahs, elephants (both Asian and African). The list goes on and on. And that’s what is truly depressing about this book. It seems so easy to write off a snail, or a flower (sad, but unfortunately true). But the large, powerful mammals that have always been a source of fascination for us, ever since we were children? How could we not have our children grow up hearing stories about lions, tigers and bears? Oh my!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A beautiful soul

In February of 2006, baseball fans were stunned when the Baseball Hall of Fame selection committee released a list of 17 Negro League players and owners who were to be inducted into the Hall – and Buck O’Neil’s name was not on the list. Buck, who died in October of last year, breathed baseball. In almost eight decades of association with the sport, he was a player, a manager, and a scout. He knew legends like Satchel Paige and Willie Mays, saw the color barrier broken by Jackie Robinson, and eventually founded the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. Sportswriter Joe Posnanski has penned a beautiful tribute to Buck with The Soul of Baseball: a road trip through Buck O’Neil’s America. He doesn’t talk about Buck’s record as a player, or the dignified way he dealt with racism, or his successes as a scout with the Chicago Cubs. Instead, he talks about the way people reacted to Buck, to his friendliness and his warmth, to his positive love for a sport that has seemed a little tarnished lately. Buck’s gentle manner and ability to touch people and make them happy is a far greater legacy than any batting stats. This is a lovely book of a lovely man who was always able to remember why baseball is so great.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New books by bestselling authors

We have some new books on the shelves by some of the most popular names in fiction:
Robert B. Parker has just published his sixth mystery novel featuring Boston private investigator Sunny Randall. In Spare Change, Sunny teams up with her father - a retired policeman - to track down a serial killer from her dad's past who has recently resurfaced.

Lindsey Davis has written the 18th installment in her Marcus Didius Falco mystery series. In Saturnalia, Falco must track down a missing fugitive destined for sacrifice during the Roman holiday of Saturnalia, and the missing brother of his partner Helena Justina. (If you are a big fan of the historic setting of these mysteries, you might also try the Gordianus the Finder novels of Steven Saylor and the John the Eunuch mysteries of Mary Reed).

Suspense author Jeffrey Deaver introduces a new heroine in The Sleeping Doll. Special Agent Kathryn Dance is caught in a battle of wits with an escaped murderer whose crimes mimicked those of Charles Manson. Expect lots of plot twists, fast-paced action, and nail-biting suspense.

Perennial bestseller Clive Cussler has added another Kurt Austin adventure novel to the shelves. Co-authored by Paul Kemprecos, The Navigator sees Austin hunting for a stolen Phoenician statue stolen from a Baghdad museum. What is so special about this statue that people are willing to kill - and die - for it?

Find these gripping new novels, along with many other gems, on our new book shelves this week.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Moving With Kids

By the time I graduated from high school, I had lived in 8 different towns and gone to 10 different schools. To me, moving to a new town is no big deal. My parents didn’t have any instructional book to guide them, but I think they did a pretty good job of keeping life normal for their kids. In skimming through Moving With Kids: 25 ways to ease your family’s transition to a new home, by Lori Collins Burgan, I saw that many of the tips she gives parents were things my mom and dad did. So obviously, I think they’re good ideas. Moving doesn’t have to be the biggest source of turmoil and upheaval in your life. It’s a perfect opportunity to clean house, eliminate clutter and get a fresh start on things. New friends, new neighbors, new places to explore. The #1 rule with my parents (it’s #18 in the book) is Always remember what’s most important. In other words, family is everything. Regardless of what you may leave behind in the move, your family is with you and they are the anchor in your life. When you think about it, isn’t that a good lesson for anyone to learn?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Global fiction

The imaginative world of fiction is always spiced up notch when the author approaches the story with non-Western eyes: a different cadence, a different tone, a different experience upon which to draw.
A former Algerian army officer, writing as Yasmina Khadra, has just published a follow-up to his award-winning novel The Swallows of Kabul. This new novel – The Sirens of Baghdad – examines the events that drive a young University of Baghdad student to become a radical militant.
Japanese writer Haruki Murakami examines the weird lives people lead in the darkest hours of the night. After Dark consists of the interwoven stories of three main characters, and the conversations in the novel are mesmerizing.
The main protagonist of South African writer Andre Brink's latest is a novelist looking back over his sexual history, and thinking about the way it intersects with the history of South Africa. In Before I Forget, the sexual encounters are mostly hollow, ugly and unsatisfying, but then the history of South Africa doesn’t generally warm the cockles of the heart, either.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A little biscuit fiddle

In the summer of 1983, my aunt and I drove cross-country, and we stopped off in Minneapolis to go watch a real live radio show in action. A Prairie Home Companion was not quite the phenomenon it is now (having a movie version and all), but it was pretty popular amongst the NPR listeners, especially those that actually listened to radio shows growing up. As fun as it is to listen to this show, it’s even better watching it. You feel like you’re part of some inner circle, that you’re privileged to get the real scoop on what’s happening during the show. There’s a connection made between the performers and the audience, just like any live performance. Whether that connection gets made when you’re watching a DVD is doubtful, but that doesn’t matter. A Prairie Home Collection: great moments from the original radio show is so much fun to watch, especially if you’re already a fan. There’s a nice mixture of skits and musical performances, and the obligatory update on what’s going in this quiet week in Lake Wobegon. So fire up the DVD player, and drift away to a kinder, gentler place where all the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are above average.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mergers and Acquisitions

Young college grads clawing their way up the career ladder in the financial district of New York City. Manhattan socialites, private clubs, swanky restaurants, Armani suits. Think Bright Lights, Big City in 2006. Well-written, realistic fiction by someone who actually lived the life. A glimpse of the high-life, where perks and pampering are the goal of a very bloody fight for the top spot, the corner office. And you know what? Mergers and Acquisitions is chock-full of the type of people that should be drop-kicked into the Hudson. Good book, really interesting, but my strong antipathy for the characters couldn’t save it for me. Your flashy Manhattan life is hollow? You’re unfulfilled by your $250,000 a year job? Bummer.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Eye of the Archangel

The operative word here is ‘fun’. An espionage thriller set in the good old days of the Cold War, back when the dividing line between the good guys and the bad guys was strictly political, Eye of the Archangel is a slick tribute novel. Following along the lines of James Bond, author Forrest Devoe Jr. puts in just enough camp to keep his book from being pretentious and silly. Instead, it’s an enjoyable throwback to classic spy novels. The two heroes – freelance operative Jack Mallory and CIA agent Laura Morse – have a nice chemistry, made even nicer by a little sexual tension behind the scenes. The setting: Europe, 1963 (all the fun was happening in Europe then). The enemy: icy black marketeer 'the Dane'. The mission: recover a stolen spy satellite supposedly left over from Hitler’s Project Archangel. (How do you steal a spy satellite? Aren’t those things kinda big?). Result: lots of action, cool gadgets, witty repartee, and a great summer read.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Agatha who?

I don’t know what the appeal of Agatha Christie is based on – she wasn’t a fabulous wordsmith, her characters (especially Hercule Poirot) didn’t really develop much over time, and she had this maddening habit of not giving up all the clues before revealing the identity of the murderer. Poirot would get a telegram from overseas, or Miss Marple would deduct the identity based on another case she knew of years ago, but it was always some secret piece of information that you – the reader – was never privy to. But despite all that, I love her books and have read them multiple times. Based on the worn, tatty condition of some of our copies here at the library, many other people have been reading and loving them also. So, not only have we started refurbishing our current collection with crisp, clean new copies, we have also started adding a few more titles. Our newest crop includes:

Hercule Poirot –

· The A.B.C. murders
· Appointment with death
· Evil under the sun
· Murder in Mesopotamia
· The murder of Roger Ackroyd
· Murder on the Orient Express
· The mysterious affair at Styles
· The mystery of the Blue Train
· Sad cypress

Miss Marple:
· 4:50 from Paddington
· The moving finger
· Murder at the vicarage

So rediscover the queen of crime, and keep an eye out for new titles in the coming months.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Maybe it’s because it’s an hour or two before dinner while I write this, but the recipes in Barbecue Nation, by Fred Thompson, sound delicious. The term ‘barbecue’ is pretty all encompassing, and can mean just about anything grilled over flame. So while some of the recipes here deal with the smoky, tomato-based sauce slathered over pork, other dishes are out of the ordinary. Portobello mushroom burgers with basil-mustard sauce, Italian grilled pork chops with grilled leeks, and grilled shrimp with tamarind sauce are just a few of the delectable treats in this book. Thompson also includes side dishes, appetizers, marinades, vegetables and desserts. The recipes all come from dedicated barbecue fanatics from around the country, and represent a plethora of regional flavors and traditions. Salmon recipes from North Carolina, though? Hmph.

Monday, June 11, 2007


There are people who garden, and then there are gardeners. You can recognize the true gardener because they refer to plants by the scientific name, do their own propagation, recognize the difference between cultivars and actually have a long-term plan for their gardens. The dilettantes (like me) buy whatever is on sale and blooming, and jam it in the ground any old where. So, for the gardeners, we have The Oxford Companion to the Garden, edited by Patrick Taylor. A lot of the entries are about specific gardens and designers, but there are also a number of entries explaining landscape gardening terminology. There aren’t a huge number of photos in this book – it’s about facts, not inspiration – but the photos it does contain are stunning. And if images of Versailles inspire you to install an enormous fountain of Apollo in your yard, then so be it.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

World War II

This week saw the 65th anniversary of the battle of Midway, and the 63rd anniversary of D-Day (and the 40th anniversary of the Six-Day war, but that’s another story). If you know the bare minimum of history, you can name the Japanese Admiral that was defeated at Midway. If you’re pretty nifty with military history, you can name all the beaches at D-Day and who landed on which beach. And if you’re an absolute nut about World War II, then you read books like The Oxford Companion to World War II by John Keegan. The entries in this encyclopedia range from the basic – i.e. Russia – to the precise. Who founded the Yugoslav Home Army? Why, that would be Colonel Dragoljub Mihailovic, who was executed by the communists (unfortunately or not, depending on your point of view) in 1946 for treason. This being an Oxford companion, rather than a Harvard companion, the emphasis tilts a bit towards the British perspective. There is an entry for Anderson [bomb] shelters, but not for Victory gardens. But it’s over 1,000 pages, chockerblock with facts, and perfect for any World War II buff. (And by the way, I quizzed a WWII nut I know about Col. Mihailovic, and he not only knew who he was, he gave me a little 10-minute history lesson about his eventual defection to the Germans in order to fight Tito's communist partisans. That will teach me to ask!)

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Art Raffle Fundraiser

Do you have a blank space on your wall? Shelves crying out for a beautiful display? Would you like to help Ketchikan fund the construction of a new public library? Then get your raffle tickets for the Friends of the Ketchikan Public Library Art Raffle. Prizes include paintings by local artists Susan Copeland, Marilyn Lee, Diane Naab and M J Turek. There are also lovely beaded pieces by Sarah Corporon and Nancy Tietje, as well as sculpture by Sandy Shephard. Ken Decker has donated a Big Foot Studio Drum, and the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council has donated tickets for 4 for any one Torch Night event. Grace Freeman has also donated artwork. All proceeds from the raffle benefit the Friends of the Library New Library Building Fund. Tickets are $5 each or 4 for $20, and are available at the Ketchikan Public Library, Tongass Federal Credit Union, and the Home Office. The drawing will be held on Saturday, August 4 at the Blueberry Arts Festival. Best of all, you get to pick which piece of art you take home (order of selection is based on the order in which the tickets are drawn). The more tickets you buy, the more chance you have of taking home a beautiful piece of local art. And, the sooner we can build a new library for Ketchikan!

The Deep

Close your eyes and think of the most outrageous creature you’ve ever seen in a sci-fi movie. Now think of the most delicate glass figurine. Got those images in your mind? Now take a look at the pages of The Deep: the extraordinary creatures of the abyss by Claire Nouvian, and see real animals that surpass fictional creations in their beauty, complexity, and even horror. Close-up, the fish of the deep seas look completely terrifying with their rows of long teeth, their huge, opaque eyes, and their gaping mouths. The bioluminescent patterns of the jellyfish and siphonophores, the perfect symmetry of the radiolarians, and the apparent fragility of some of these gelatinous creatures are all just beautiful. The photography in this book is so impressive that you can even see the skin textures on the cephalopods. There is a chain of siphonophores (pg. 117) that looks just like a Dale Chihuly sculpture, and the tube worms create little forests on the sea floor. The only complaint I have with the book is the inclusion of some computer-generated images. It’s disrespectful of the natural beauty of these animals to throw a bunch of fake images in amongst the real creatures. Besides, the man-made pictures are easy to pick out because they’re not as intricate, and the features look flat (so there!). But computer-generated silliness aside, what a gorgeous book this is.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


When’s the last time you checked your email? How many times a day do you check your email? Have you ever talked on your cell phone while you were driving? There is a lot of concern these days about our kids and their apparent addiction to technology, but those apples didn’t fall very far from the tree. It’s easy as parents to dismiss computer applications that we don’t use as frivolous and harmful, and the poster child of this attitude is MySpace. The current feeling seems to be that if it involves bits and bytes, then someone, somewhere has found a way to make it dangerous. So what do you do? Hermetically seal your house, put a 24-hour guard on your kids, ban them from contact with anyone their own age? Or maybe just close your eyes and hope things will turn out for the best? How about this: acknowledge that your kids will find technology just as addictive as you do (how many times did you check your email today?), learn how their favorite technologies work, and talk with your kids. We can help you tackle item #2 with a new book: Generation MySpace: helping your teen survive online adolescence by Candice M. Kelsey. Co-founder of a private high school and evaluator for the U.S. Dept. of Education, Kelsey not only presents her own experiences with high school students, she also includes interviews with kids who explain why they use MySpace, problems they’ve encountered, and the ways they have dealt with those problems. She advocates communication and understanding, and helps parents understand what MySpace is and what they need to know about how their children use this site. This is a must-read for anyone with kids from 9-19.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sherman Alexie

It's been a few years since we've heard from one of the Pacific Northwest's most enjoyable writers: Sherman Alexie. He has just released a new novel titled Flight. In typical Alexie style, it is funny and depressing and gripping all at the same time. The narrator is a 15-year-old half-Indian, half-Irish street kid who has a revolving door relationship with detention centers. And even though he has had a lot of adult experiences and gained a lot of adult knowledge in his short life of crime, he is still a kid. In the middle of another criminal act, he seems to be transported through time and space to inhabit the body of another person. He continues his travels through much of the novel, inhabiting different people and living through different times. And as he travels, he begins to gain some of the maturity and thought processes that need to go with the street knowledge he has already acquired. It's an interesting book, written by an entertaining author - an author who openly acknowledges that he thinks librarians are sexy, so how can you not like him?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Free time

Just on the off-chance that you're sitting around with nothing to do but let the dust settle on your shoulders, we have three books here whose very titles are sure to ratchet up your stress level a notch or two. 1,001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die, edited by Rae Spencer-Jones; 1,001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, edited by Robert Dimery; and 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, edited by Peter Boxall. Apparently, people have decided to take up the challenge of writing titles even more irritating than the whole Complete Idiot's Guide to... series. I especially like the subtle touch of sneaking the word 'must' into the title, as if the pearly gates will fail to open for you if you haven't plowed your way through the entire list of albums, books and gardens you are required to experience.
If you are particularly well-read, well-traveled, and well-(what? Well-heard? Well-listened?), then looking through these books will be an exercise in self-affirmation. If you're like me, you're limited to the satisfaction of having at least heard of most of the books and albums. (The gardens were a washout for me, since a trip to Quebec is as exotic as my travels have ever been). The Garden book is arranged geographically and the Book book is arranged chronologically. But there is a handy title index, in case you don't remember which year The Mill on the Floss was published. The Album book is chronological also (I was feeling very smug about my musical experience until I realized I had opened the book smack in the middle of the 1980's).
These books are fun to page thorough, and a good source of inspiration if you're looking for something to read or listen to, but don't feel bad if you only get to listen to 973 albums before you peg out. St. Peter will understand.