Wednesday, January 28, 2009

John Updike, 1932-2009

John Updike was born in Pennsylvania but moved to the North Shore of Massachusetts when he was 25 and remained a Mass. resident until his death at the age of 76 yesterday, January 27, 2009.

Mr. Updike is best know for his “Rabbit Angstrom” novels which introduced us to Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, one of those middle-class Americans who, as Updike wrote, “aren’t especially beautiful or bright or urban, but about whom there is a lot worth saying.”

The Rabbit novels in order are: Rabbit Run; Rabbit Redux; Rabbit is Rich; and Rabbit at Rest. Rabbit Is Rich and Rabbit at Rest both won Pulitzer Prizes for fiction.

His 22nd novel, Terrorist, tells the story of an 18-tear-old American (New Jersey) suicide bomber. The other central figure in Terrorist is Jack Levy, a non-observant Jew and burnt out high school guidance counselor. The climactic moment of the book brings these two figures together in a desperate confrontation that comes a bit too late.

The Boston Globe has a brilliantly put together photo gallery the follows John Updike through the years. Meg

Monday, January 26, 2009

Presidential Reading

Whenever a new President is elected (or re-elected) there are folks out there who are sure that the new national administrator would do a much better job, if only they read certain books.

[Hint: If you do a Google search under “books the new president should read” you come up with a long list of recommendations from quite a number of people.]

Here is a list from the Washington Monthly.

Bill Moyers, on his journal on PBS, asked for suggestions from the public and there is a very long list of required reading for President Obama.

Tim Weiner, author of Legacy of Ashes (a history of the CIA) and a 2007 National Book Award winner, lists five important books for the new President to consider.

And there are even suggestions for the next science books the President should read from Nature: The International Weekly Journal of Science.

Four books that many lists seem to have in common are:

The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals, by Jane Mayer

An Inconvenient Truth, by Al Gore

The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam by Barbara W. Tuchman

and finally, a few books by the late, great George Orwell were mentioned, including 1984, Animal Farm and the Collected Essays.

What would you recommend? Meg

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Tuesday Book Group Reads The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Last week, the Tuesday Book Group discussed David Wroblewski’s popular new novel, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. The consensus? Well, there was none, which made for a great discussion. Of the six members present, at least two found the book excellent. Several praised Wroblewski’s beautiful and fluid writing style, and we all found his depiction of Edgar, the main character who communicates only in sign, technically ingenious. Other praise focused on the finely crafted descriptions of dog behavior and the natural world, as well as the author’s powerful retelling of the Hamlet story.

At least one group member, however, found the novel tedious, over-detailed, and overwrought. Several agreed, citing inconsistencies in the plot and numerous loose ends. But this didn’t stop the group from liking the book overall: Wroblewski’s rookie novel, if a bit long, is enjoyable to read and even more enjoyable to discuss. Many of the parts we had problems with actually enriched the discussion.

I’ll withhold the details to prevent spoiling the book for those of you who haven’t read it yet. Good news for those still waiting for a library copy: we purchased extra book club copies that will soon come into circulation. Look for “star” copies on the new books display!

The Tuesday Book Group reads classic books alongside modern works inspired by them (for example, Hamlet and The Story of Edgar Sawtelle). Kindred readers are welcome to join us the second Tuesday of the month at 1:00pm. On February 9th, we'll dive into Homer's classic Odyssey. Want to dodge scylla and charybdis with us? Contact the Reference Desk at, for more information. LO

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reading Resolutions for the New Year

These we just might be able to keep!

1. I will reread a book that I loved as a child.
2. I will finally read that classic from high school that I’ve been avoiding.
3. I’ll find a book of poetry and read some aloud.
4. I’ll spend an hour in aimless browsing at a library.
5. I’ll read a book written in the year I was born.
6. I’ll create a journal and keep notes about the books and magazines I read.

7. I will assemble a list of my favorite people and send them my ideas about books - favorites, recent reads, and the like.
8. I will read a book to a child.
9. I will gather a few friends and read a play out loud.
10. I will read a book on the history of my town.
11. I will read a book written from a political point of view totally opposite my own.
12. I’ll read a book about a place I’ve never been.
13. I will reread a book that I just “didn’t get” when I was eighteen.
14. I will read a book written by a non-American.
15. I will ask a librarian to show me some print and online resources for readers.


These Reading Resolutions come to the Newport Public Library compliments of the Seattle Public Library’s Shelf Talk – another great public library blog. Meg

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Laurie King and Sherlock Holmes

My introduction to Laurie King was the first book in her series starring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes (!). Now there have been many authors lately who have tried writing books that include Sherlock Holmes, either as a main character or in a supporting role – and most of them have just not (to my mind) captured the essence of that wonderful Conan Doyle character. So it was with much hesitation that I began reading The Beekeepers Apprentice.

What a wonderful surprise. King has managed to create a brilliant young woman in Mary Russell, and her meeting and partnering with the great Detective Holmes is natural, believable and spot on. Holmes has retired from the detective business and is keeping bees, of all things, in the Sussex countryside.

Mary is a precocious and very bright 14 year old who lost her family in a terrible automobile accident in California. She has come to England to live with her only living relative, her mother’s sister – NOT a very bright woman and not a woman very sympathetic to a bereaved, but very independent teenager. Mary stumbles (literally) into Mr. Holmes while he is observing a group of bees – and they soon discover they are, despite their age differences, quite birds of a feather. And they begin to solve crimes together – first some very small, local problems and then a major kidnapping. It is a joy to go with them on their adventures.

The Women’s Rights movement in London forms the backdrop of the second book in the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and also further develops the characters of Russell and Holmes (as they refer to each other). They are a wonderful fictional pair – almost as fun as Holmes and Watson – and I highly recommend them.

Other titles in the series are:
A Letter of Mary
The Moor
O’ Jerusalem (a prequel, of sorts)
Justice Hall
The Game
Locked Rooms

The Language of Bees (set for publication in April 2009)

It is better, by the way, to read the books in order. Have fun. Meg


blogger templates | Make Money Online