Wednesday, May 7, 2008

April 2008

Jo Anne starts out by telling us that The Thing about Life is One Day You'll Be Dead. Will it really be Better when we move into the final sunset of A Thousand Splendid Suns, or will we just be A Long Way Gone?

So once again the Bookies' interests diverged into different universes, but fear not, I can bring it all together in one silly sentence, which is just a way of explaining that we are having a terrific time!

So even though Jo Anne's choice sounded morbid, she explained that The Thing About Life is One Day You'll Be Dead was really quite down to earth and sometimes funny. "Mesmerized - at times unnerved - by his ninety-seven-year-old father's nearly superhuman vitality and optimism, David Shields undertakes an investigation of the human physical condition. The result is this exhilarating book: both a personal meditation on mortality and an exploration of flesh-and-blood existence from crib to oblivion - an exploration that paradoxically prompts a renewed and profound appreciation of life." "Shields begins with the facts of birth and childhood, expertly weaving in anecdotal information about himself and his father. As the book proceeds through adolescence, middle age, old age, he juxtaposes biological details with bits of philosophical speculation, cultural history and criticism, and quotations from a wide range of writers and thinkers - from Lucretius to Woody Allen - yielding a magical whole: the universal story of our bodily being, a tender and often hilarious portrait of one family." "A book of extraordinary depth and resonance, The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead will move readers to contemplate the brevity and radiance of their own sojourn on earth and challenge them to rearrange their thinking in unexpected and crucial ways."--BOOK JACKET.

Karen showed her competive spirit by sharing not just one book, but TWO books: A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini and Better by Atul Gawande. Hosseini's book is about Mariam, "raised in poverty by her unwed epileptic mother and married off early by the rich, elegant father who has always kept her at arm's length. Mariam would seem to have little in common with the second main character in the book, well-educated and comfortably raised young Laila, yet their lives intertwine dramatically in this affecting new novel from the author of The Kite Runner, who proves that one can write a successful follow-up after debuting with a phenomenal best seller. As Mariam settles in Kabul with her abusive cobbler husband, smart student Laila falls in love with friend Tariq. But she loses her brothers in the resistance to Soviet dominion and her parents in a bombing just as the family prepares to flee the awful violence. Simply to survive, she becomes the second wife of Mariam's husband and is bitterly resented by the older woman until they are able to form the bond that serves as the heart of this novel. Then the Taliban arrive. Hosseini deftly sketches the history of his native land in the late 20th century while also delivering a sensitive and utterly persuasive dual portrait. His writing is simple and unadorned, but his story is heartbreaking. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/07.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Karen's second title, Better : a surgeon’s notes on performance , is a title by a "New York Times" bestselling author who examines the complex and risk-filled medical profession and describes how those involved progress from merely good to great. Gawande provides rare insight and offers an honest firsthand account of his own life as a surgeon. (summary taken from LCCC catalog description)

Vickie chose a rather harsh autobiography by Ishmael Beah, but promised that it had a redeeming conclusion. A Long Way Gone: Memoir of a Boy Soldier, is a gripping story by a children's-rights advocate recounts his experiences as a boy growing up in Sierra Leone in the 1990s, during one of the most brutal and violent civil wars in recent history. Beah, a boy equally thrilled by causing mischief as by memorizing passages from Shakespeare and dance moves from hip-hop videos, was a typical precocious 12-year-old. But rebel forces destroyed his childhood innocence when they hit his village, driving him to leave his home and travel the arid deserts and jungles of Africa. After several months of struggle, he was recruited by the national army, made a full soldier and learned to shoot an AK-47, and hated everyone who came up against the rebels. The first two thirds of his memoir are frightening: how easy it is for a normal boy to transform into someone as addicted to killing as he is to the cocaine that the army makes readily available. But an abrupt change occurred a few years later when agents from the United Nations pulled him out of the army and placed him in a rehabilitation center. Anger and hate slowly faded away, and readers see the first glimmers of Beah's work as an advocate. Told in a conversational, accessible style, this powerful record of war ends as a beacon to all teens experiencing violence around them by showing them that there are other ways to survive than by adding to the chaos.—Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA

(Hey gals, I'm blatantly cutting and pasting here, so that's why this is a private blog, only for our own education, and maybe a few friends!)

March 2008

Our first gathering over lunch! As you'll be able to see by the selections that each reader made, it was a wise decision to allow these Bookies to choose their own titles to read and share. Otherwise, I think we would still be squabbling over which book to read!

Karen shared Sudye Cauthen's Southern Comforts: rooted in a Florida Place. ""The Florida I love is perishing," writes Sudye Cauthen, a fifth-generation Floridian born in Gainesville and reared in Alachua County, a place whose boundaries once stretched all the way from the Georgia-Florida line to Port Charlotte Harbor, 100 miles south of Tampa." "Cauthen's journey takes readers down city streets and dirt roads, to her people's tobacco fields and churches. She peers into an aboriginal grave, sifts sand at an archaeological dig for the lost Spanish mission of Santa Fe de Toloca, and everywhere marshals evidence for the primacy of place in determining who we are. One story takes us on a foxhunt; another reveals lingering racial tensions." "Part self-reflection, part meditation, and part social analysis, Cauthen's work threads through stories of Native Americans, blacks, and whites, including her own family members. Through their words and hers, Cauthen explores northern Florida's unique history, culture, and geography while she seeks a greater understanding of herself and her surroundings."--BOOK JACKET.

Jo Ann shared Night by Elie Wiesel. "Elie Wiesel is the internationally celebrated author, Nobel laureate, and spokesperson for humanity whose decision to dedicate his life to bearing witness for the Holocaust's martyrs and survivors found its earliest and most enduring voice in Night, his penetrating and profound account of the Nazi death camps. Born in the town of Sighet, Transylvania, he was a teenager when he and his family were taken from their home in 1944 to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and then to Buchenwald. Night is the terrifying record of Elie Wiesel's memories of the death of his family, the death of his own innocence, and his despair as a deeply observant Jew confronting the absolute evil of man." "This new translation by his wife and most frequent translator, Marion Wiesel, corrects important details and presents the most accurate rendering in English of Elie Wiesel's testimony to what happened in the camps. Written so that others would understand, written to ensure that the crimes perpetrated not only against Jewish men, women, and children but also against Jewish religion, Jewish culture, Jewish tradition, and finally Jewish memory would not be erased from human memory, Night carries the unforgettable message that this horror must never be allowed to happen again."--BOOK JACKET.

Vickie shared Duma Key by Stephen King, which she listened to as an audio book. "A terrible construction site accident takes Edgar Freemantle's right arm and scrambles his memory and his mind, leaving him with little but rage as he begins the ordeal of rehabilitation. A marriage that produced two lovely daughters suddenly ends, and Edgar begins to wish he hadn't survived the injuries that could have killed him. He wants out. His psychologist, Dr. Kamen, suggests a "geographic cure," a new life distant from the Twin Cities and the building business Edgar grew from scratch." "Edgar leaves Minnesota for a rented house on Duma Key, a stunningly beautiful, eerily undeveloped splinter of the Florida coast. The sun setting into the Gulf of Mexico and the tidal rattling of shells on the beach call out to him, and Edgar draws. A visit from Ilse, the daughter he dotes on, starts his movement out of solitude. He meets a kindred spirit in Wireman, a man reluctant to reveal his own wounds, and then Elizabeth Eastlake, a sick old woman whose roots are tangled deep in Duma Key. Now Edgar paints, sometimes feverishly, his exploding talent both a wonder and a weapon. Many of his paintings have a power that cannot be controlled. When Elizabeth's past unfolds and the ghosts of her childhood begin to appear, the damage of which they are capable is truly devastating."--BOOK JACKET.