Monday, July 27, 2009

Reading Across Rhode Island and Life As We Knew It

These days much of my reading is focused on the long list of possible titles for Reading Across Rhode Island 2010 – the Rhode Island Center for the Book’s state-wide community read program.

So far I have read (or listened to): Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer and The Autobiography of God by Julius Lester. I am in the middle of reading The Lost City of Z by David Grann and The Radioactive Boy Scout by Ken Silverstein. I plan to report on most of these titles as I finish reading.

Life As We Knew It is basically a book for young adults, but an interesting read nonetheless. Miranda and her family (Mom and two brothers, Matt and Johnny), are caught in a futuristic dilemma: an asteroid has crashed into earth’s moon and actually knocked it off its trajectory. This altered course causes multiple tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes and all the attendant weather problems. Food lines dry up; water runs out; the climate changes drastically; modern communications are a thing of the past. (Reading this book shortly after a large, mystery object actually crashed into Jupiter was a bit disconcerting. I called the book futuristic, but sometimes the future can be too close to reality for comfort.)

Miranda’s family is forced into survival mode and seeing how they cope (and sometimes fail to cope) was remarkable enough to keep me reading. At first getting ready for the what might happen seems like a gigantic wilderness adventure. Miranda does not see the need for half of the precautions her mother insists upon. But it soon becomes apparent that it is only due to her mom’s foresight that the family is able to survive.

Sacrifice, strict planning and rationing, hard work and most important the love, concern and respect that the family has for each other are also what keeps them alive and almost flourishing. One of the themes of the book is the value of living every day to the fullest, and that is certainly a philosophy everyone, young adult, adult, senior – can take to heart. Meg

Monday, July 20, 2009

Thrillers for the Times - the Techno-thriller

That same Wiki article (entitled Thrillers) that I mentioned in the first post about Medical Thrillers defines the Techno-Thriller as a work “that usually focuses upon military action, in which technology (usually military technology) is described in detail and made essential to the reader’s understanding of the plot.” This article calls Tom Clancy the "father of the Technothriller" and the Hunt for Red October as the work which defined the genre.

I confess I am not “thrilled” with this definition. It seems to me too narrow and leaves out a whole host of other works I would have considered a techno-thriller. So – going back to our online search, I picked up a few other definitions that are briefer but more accurate.

Our friends at Merriam-Webster simply state that a techno-thriller is a thriller that relies on technology. Seems rather straightforward. But then I discovered another (separate) Wiki article entitled Techno-Thriller that did a much better job than the first article I quoted. Techno-thrillers, according to this Wiki article, are a “hybrid genre, drawing subject matter generally from spy thrillers, war novels and science fiction.” I suggest reading the entire entry, as it is very interesting. But I want to get on to recommending authors.

Read the Hunt for Red October if you haven’t read it already. The movie, starring Sean Connery, was excellent, but the book is brilliant. And as long as we are talking about the military side of Techno-thrillers, I also recommend Nimitz Class by Patrick Robinson. He writes about the near-future Navy and the technology that keeps the shores of the US safe. But his characters (do check out Admiral Morgan) are a treat and his plots are always multifaceted and intriguing.

Dan Brown is more famous for his religious thriller, The Da Vinci Code, but his earlier works, especially Digital Fortress and Deception Point are also edge-of-the-seat techno-thriller reading.

And just for fun – and to honor Michael Crichton, who just recently passed away - pick up The Andromeda Strain. Written in 1969 this is a story about an deadly alien germ that causes havoc and death in a small town in Arizona. Crichton was way ahead of his time with the kinds of dilemmas he envisioned, and even though a bit dated, Andromeda Strain is still frightening today. Meg

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Adult Summer Reading is here!

Summer reading isn't just for kids! Don't miss your chance to win great prizes (gift certificates to Newport County restaurants and attractions); join the adult Summer Reading Challenge today.

This year you can register online at our Summer Reading Challenge blog.

You can also stop by the reference desk to register and pick up a reading log. But the blog gives you a chance to share your thoughts and reviews with others. The contest runs from July 13-August 22, and you must read FIVE books to be eligible for the grand prizes. Click the link above for more details, and then kick back with a good book all summer long.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Breakfast with Buddha - June's Book Discussion Title

Everyone in the group found something to like about Breakfast with Buddha by Ron Merullo, with mostly everyone really enjoying this selection. We agreed that while it may not be the exhaustive, comprehensive choice if you want to learn or practice Buddhism, reading this book is a good way to start thinking about how we live our lives, and how we might seek peace in spiritual but ordinary ways.

Breakfast with Buddha was a quick, light read in many ways. The main character of Otto is well written. Otto is presented as a good man - husband, father, person - who is seeking something, but he hasn’t quite figured out what yet. As a result of his road road trip to North Dakota with Volya Rinpoche, he learns how to seek. Rinpoche’s philosophy is a mixed bag of Eastern religions, and not strictly Buddhist. Some participants liked that ecletic approach. Merullo uses his story to explore deep human issues in an accessible and even humorous way, making it easy for readers to open up to alternative thinking, as he pits the skeptic Otto against the guru Rinpoche.

Even those who faulted the book as predictable in plot and bordering on pop psychology, did enjoy the amusing moments, and the descriptions of the road trip across the mid-west, with the savory stops in wayside eating places an interesting sideline. Readers enjoyed the bowling alley and miniature golf scenes, too. You will have to read this book to find out why.

Our Thursday evening group is wrapping up this year’s list next month with M.F.K. Fisher’s The Art of Eating. We will meet at a local restaurant (TBA) for the discussion and a pay-your-own-way dinner.

We do not meet in August, but will resume for another 11 months of reading in September. Please consider joining us. PL

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The World of Book Blogs

The greatest gift is the passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.” Elizabeth Hardwick

There was a study done in 2004 by the National Endowment for the Arts on the reading habits of Americans and the results were quite disheartening – especially to a librarian and one who loves and believes in books. The NEA declared that “literary reading” was in a “dramatic decline” calling this decline a “national crises.”

Well – I am not too sure about that. Have you ever explored the online world of book blogs? There are SO MANY folks – men and women, young and old, librarians and housewives, artists and engineers – people from every walk of life, who read and read and read – and then want to share their thoughts on what they have read with everyone on the net who cares to visit.

My first introduction to the world of book blogs was tiny little reading room, maintained by (in her own words) a “children’s/YA librarian who keeps getting herself into too many reading challenges.” But the really neat thing about these book blogs is that they lead you to other book blogs. Scroll down the tiny little reading room until you come to (in the right column) the Blogroll – and there you will see a LONG LIST of other book blogs.

I highly recommend that you check these out. My favorites (at least currently) are:

Jennie Loves to Read
Jennie loves to “knit, read lots of books and laugh with friends. Life is too short!” A girl after my own heart.

Should be Reading
Should be Reading is quite a mixed bag of a blog, but one feature I really like is Teaser Tuesday. Teaser Tuesday goes like this -

  • Pick a book you like (and have read)
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two "teaser" sentences from somewhere on that page. (Be careful not to include spoliers and don't share too much!)
  • Share the title and author - so others can add the book to their "to be read" (TBR) lists.

Maybe we will try a Tuesday Teaser post here one day.

A Life in Books
This is blog that has been around for a while, and is really neat. First of all, the reviews are well-done and in-depth (for a blog). And then take a look (all the way down!) at the left-hand column. There are all sorts of neat things listed there – an extensive blog roll; other recommended other recommended book sites; random books from the blogger’s library; and then finally, the reading challenges she has participated in.

So click to one of these book blogs, find the blog roll and begin the adventure. I, for one, do not think reading is dead. Meg


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