Ann came to the Island shortly after Cpt. Vancouver made his brief stop at Restoration Point and has lived here off and on ever since. A former member of the Library Cart Precision Formation marching in the Fourth of July parade, she’s also donned skin-colored long underwear and ridden a horse in the Scotch broom parade - as Lady Godiva! Twenty years ago, she joined the crew at the bookstore and ever since has been shelving books, looking up titles, making up limericks (some of which have been suitable for all ages) and recommending reads. She’s our resident polymath, unless operating something involving electricity when her inner Luddite flares to the surface.
The 100-year-old man of this novel's wonderful predecessor has aged. He's now one hundred and one, but his propensity for rubbing elbows with history and those who occupy the daily headlines has not dimmed. He gains possession of contraband uranium. He and his friend, Julius, an asparagus farmer, have intricate and sometimes nefarious dealings with Kim Jong-un. They make it safely out of North Korea and appear before Donald Trump. Then it gets complicated. The story also wanders through a series of intriguing and incredible adventures. All in all, it's a delightful romp.
This is the account of General Douglas MacArthur's much-storied, promised return to Manila in February, 1945, which marked the long-awaited liberation of two, eventually three, internment camps. Though the general expected that the enemy would retreat, it remained entrenched, and what followed was a horrendous twenty-nine-day battle, one that destroyed the city and slaughtered thousands of Philippine men, women and children. At the close of the conflict the commander of Japanese forces in the Philippines, General Tomoyuki Yamashita, was apprehended and brought to trial. He was found guilty and sentenced to hang. This is a brutal story but one told meticulously that should be remembered.
Ed Asner does not mince words. He is unapologetic about being "An Old-Time Lefty," and he's not happy with those on the right who cite the Constitution both as God-given and as the bedrock of their beliefs. Asner examines and explains not only the original fifty-five framers of the Constitution but also the Constitution itself, the Bill of Rights, and for good measure a variety of other targets. It's a lively work since Asner presents his biases front and center, and, in chapters that are both instructive and entertaining, he makes his case.
There’s no doubt that the man who painted The Mona Lisa was a genius, and in this thoroughly satisfying account, Isaacson explores the extent of his intellect and his amazing curiosity. He illuminates Da Vinci's interest not only in painting but also in science and nature. The artist/scientist dissected cadavers to study tendons and muscles. He also studied birds in flight and drew designs for tools, machines and props for stage presentations. The most intriguing of Isaacson's explorations, however, are his descriptions of Da Vinci's paintings and the techniques he used. With various paintings he discusses perspective, shading, even the geology of the backgrounds. It is utterly fascinating.
This amazing adventure memoir details the life of BBC and National Geographic cameraman Aldred as he makes his way into the canopies of the world’s magnificent trees. It’s an account that entails figuring out how to reach the lower branches of a 250 foot strangler fig tree in Borneo. There’s excruciating tension as he endures an attack by a nest of bees in Gabon. There’s heat and drenching humidity but also the great beauty of the view from the tree tops, and because Aldred writes well and loves what he does, the entire account is lyrical.
This gentle memoir extends from 1921 to 2008, and examines two lives, Rao Pingru and his wife Meitang, during this time. It's told simply and, as it develops, with the addition of Rao's small and charming illustrations. The story is extensive covering China's history and the book itself a work of art.
In the Bellevue Psychiatric Prison Ward things are often grim. Dr. Elizabeth Ford describes the grimness as she details the years she spent working there. She dealt with all manner of transfers from Rikers, the violent, the schizophrenic, the antisocial, the juveniles. Working with them, as she describes it, is exhausting and at times was more than she could bear. But in this gripping account she explains why she continues to work in this challenging environment.
Hendrik Groen is an 83¼-year-old widower living in a nursing home in the Netherlands. Because he feels that, as a rule, he is too wishy-washy, too polite and courteous when he'd rather speak his mind, he has decided to express his true feelings by keeping an uncensored diary, an exposé if you will. It is quite an exposé. Most every aspect of life in "the home" is detailed: the friendships, the ailments, the rules, the rebellions, the onset of Alzheimer's, the prospect of euthanasia. It's a quiet book, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, always genuine, always engrossing.
Greg O’Brien, a writer and investigative reporter for 35 years, has Early-Onset Alzheimer’s. His mother died of the disease as did his grandfather. In stark and careful prose, O’Brien recounts the agony of its progression until the forgetting completely swallows memory and thought. He also details his own struggles and in the process examines and illuminates the terrifying world of losing one’s mind. It’s a powerful tale.
This novel will have you postponing dinner and reading late into the night just to find out what happens next. Backman, author of A Man Called Ove , has written the story of a remote town in Sweden with not much to recommend it except its hockey team and their chance to win the national championship. Beautifully written, the book has a complex but believable plot. The characters are well defined and react realistically to various events. And the ending is thoroughly satisfying. I didn't get a thing done until I finished it.
Bainbridge author Munat recounts with unflinching candor the six years during which she was the caregiver for her husband suffering from dementia. She does this with honesty and grace, and for a caregiver, be it someone enduring six years or six months or six weeks, she captures the agony, the fatigue, and the dashing of faint hopes with a clear and true voice. It is a brave and loving account of a marriage with so much promise, one that ended far too soon.
This novel is a delicate tale about life and what it’s worth. Is the life of a man with cancer who has achieved much but come up short as a father worth more than the life of small girl, also with cancer, who is coloring the chair in her hospital room because, “You’re allowed to draw on the furniture when you have cancer.”? Death, wearing a grey knitted jumper, is there too. She’s lurking in the hospital corridors keeping track while carrying with her a folder with all our names in it. Is she about to let the man make the deal of a lifetime? Backman weaves the story gently and reveals the fateful ending with care.
Christmas isn’t really Christmas without Dylan Thomas’s classic. Once the children are bathed and in their pajamas, once the stockings are hung and there’s a fire in the fireplace, this is the perfect read-aloud book to make the season complete. ~ Ann
Sometimes, it seems, all that's necessary to recommend a book is mentioning the author. Such is the case with Millard, who wrote Destiny of the Republic about President Garfield's assassination, and River of Doubt about Teddy Roosevelt's trip to the Amazon. In this instance, Millard recounts Winston Churchill's determination to fight in the Boer War and his subsequent capture, escape and harrowing flight to safety. It's an exciting account, meticulously told and, once again, a Candice Millard triumph.
This fascinating book is all about pitching. McDermott describes and gives the history for every type of pitch from the fastball to the slider to the outlawed spitball. He does so in nine chapters and in these nine chapters he recounts the nine innings of Seattle Mariner Felix Hernandez's perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012. It's a great book for baseball fans and especially a great book for Mariners' fans.
Hill’s debut novel is a big book. It’s long. It’s complicated and it’s intricate, involving protagonist Samuel Andresen-Anderson’s search to uncover and understand the reason his mother abandoned him as a child. There are a multitude of scenarios in this masterful work, and Hill assembles them with skill and precision. The language and plot twists, humor and pathos make this a powerful story right up to the final page.
The balance and back-and-forth of the two stories—a blind girl and a German boy—could have been choppy and distracting, but Doerr manages it superbly. The result is a smooth and fascinating story of World War II.
We in the Pacific Northwest remember when Mount St. Helens exploded on a sunny May morning in 1980. In his comprehensive book, Olson fills in the rest of the story. He details the vast old growth forests around the mountain and their vital importance to the Weyerhaeuser Company. He fills in the backgrounds of those scientists and ordinary folk who were caught in the area and either survived the blast or didn't. And he reports on the political actions in the years since, that have been concerned with the importance of preserving the blast area. Olson's account is as tense and gripping as any mystery novel.
What an enlightening memoir! In 1968 in Lancaster, California, a young boy with an alcoholic father and an often bed-ridden mother happens into a magic shop. He finds not the owner but the owner's mother who, as they speak, intuitively understands his outlook on life. She instructs him in the basics of meditation, of calming his mind, and finally of visualizing his goals in life. It's a powerful talent and one that in the future allows him to succeed as a college student and eventually as a neurosurgeon. Not until he also taps into the benevolence that he learned from the owner's mother, however, does he achieve peace of mind. It's a fascinating study of the mind's power and well worth reading.
We loved A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, and now we get to embrace Britt-Marie Was Here. Britt-Marie is precise. In fact, she’s downright rigid. She cleans incessantly and judges people by the way they arrange their silverware drawer. But Backman plunks her down in Borg, where life and the few residents of the small town are anything but orderly. Then, with humor, pathos, delight, and suspense, he forces her to adapt until, in the end, there is no doubt that Britt-Marie was there.
This is the true story of the Fukuhara family living first in Washington State in the 1930s and then, when forced by circumstances to leave, living in Hiroshima, Japan. During World War II, Harry, the older brother, who had returned to the States, is first interned, then commissioned as a translator in the U.S. Army. His brothers, still in Japan, are eventually conscripted into the Japanese military. Their mother is forced to endure the hardships of war and finally the bombing of Hiroshima. It is a fully researched and riveting account.
Reading this book is like opening an old photo album. In it Angell, now 93 and still a senior editor and sometime contributor to The New Yorker, recalls his long lifetime in New York and New England. He remembers the legendary authors and the baseball greats he’s known and written about for decades. He muses on theft and muggings in Manhattan. And he mourns the passing of telephone prefixes with names like “Lehigh” and “Atwater.” But it’s his essay “This Old Man”—a gentle review of the particulars that define old age—that makes the photo album complete and makes this book a joy to read and review. ~
There are thirty-some short, magically exquisite pieces in this collection. There is one about the Archbishop who loses his faith after the salad course at a country club function. There is a letter from two sons to their mother starting with, “all the charges were dropped.” And there’s the Catholic priest who develops stigmata that disappear on Easter. All have a certain fantastic twist. But most wonderful is Doyle’s recounting of his father’s delight in his sons’ Christmas and Easter performances at Saint John Vianney Grade School. It will have you, as his father says, “spitting your apple tea across the table.”
Joy and infectious playfulness enliven these thirty-some short, magically exquisite pieces. Most wonderful is Doyle’s recounting of his father’s delight in his sons’ Christmas and Easter performances at Saint John Vianney Grade School. It will have you, as his father says, “spitting your apple tea across the table.” This is a book that can brighten even the dreariest winter day.
From approximately 565 million years ago, when organisms, not yet animals, inched their way across the prehistoric mud, Moor has traced the tracks that spider-web the earth. He examines ants busily marching, caterpillars threading their way along branches, and elephants traveling to food, or water, or even the graves of fellow elephants. He studies Native American trails that weave across the land and, in many cases, have become our modern highways, and he recounts his own trek on the Appalachian Trail. He does it all in fascinating detail in this engrossing account.
From ants marching seemingly in lock step, to Native American footpaths that are now interstate highways, to his own trek on the Appalachian Trail, Moor’s examination of the trails that spider-web the earth is vast and fascinating.
Haruf, author of the beloved novels Plainsong and Eventide, submits the following premise: If a person’s intentions are honest and true when dealing with life, love, and intimacy, it shouldn’t matter what other people think. It shouldn’t, but does it? In this, his quiet, haunting, and gentle final novel, Haruf examines and answers the question as few authors can.
Jonas Jonasson, the author of The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, is at it again. His motley cast of characters in this adventure consists of a defrocked lady priest who doesn’t believe in God; her paramour, a receptionist in a former brothel; and the titular Anders, whose skill at breaking assorted bones has endeared him to underworld characters who have both money and a grudge. It’s a delightful and unpredictable romp as Jonasson gleefully lets his characters go with every possible murderous whim that occurs to them. Well worth a sampling.
For someone who grew up with dinner conversations on the proper usage of “lie” versus “lay” and “who” versus “whom,” is a delightful journey to yesteryear. Norris, a long time copy editor at the New Yorker, covers every aspect of language, from spelling to punctuation to the admonition against saying “between you and I.” She does so in a bright and entertaining fashion. I gratefully accept her advice not to “ultracrepidate,” (use words beyond my expertise.) And I embrace her declaration that, “The semicolon can be done without.” Between you and me, this an entertaining and instructive read.
MacLaughlin had worked for years at a job with a Boston newspaper when tedium began to creep in. Almost on a whim, she answered an ad for a carpenter’s assistant, and thus began an adventure into the world of skill saws, plumb bobs, and levels. It was a move she sometimes questioned, but the satisfaction derived from being able to hang a cabinet on a warped wall was worth it. For those of us who have tiled a bathroom or mudded wallboard, this book brings on a mixture of nostalgia and admiration for MacLaughlin’s new found skills in this engaging summer read.
Reminiscent of Hampton Sides’ Ghost Soldiers, Henderson’s book is a harrowing tale of rescue in World War II. Los Baños, south of Manila, was a civilian internment camp with men, women, and children who, in early 1945, were close to death from starvation. It was doubtful whether they could last until MacArthur’s liberation. With knowledge of the imminent danger and trust in the intricate plans for rescue, the Army, with paratroopers and amphibious tanks, launched a surprise attack and managed, with no fatalities, to evacuate all the internees. It’s an exciting account of bravery and precision in World War II.
This book recounts the six months in 2011 when the author, a journalist masquerading as a missionary, was employed as an English teacher to 270 privileged young men at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology in North Korea. Each day she was exposed to the unceasing propaganda of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il’s miraculous accomplishments, which her students believed without question. She learned to love these students, but the ease with which they were able to distort the truth and glibly lie, plus their stubborn opposition to new ideas, became suffocating after a while. While this is a fascinating account, it makes one despair that change is possible in North Korea.
Richard III, the treacherous king of England, died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Legend had it that a mob dug up his body, tore it to pieces and threw it in the river Soar. But Philippa Langley, a history enthusiast, was convinced his bones rested under a parking lot in Leicester. Langley’s faith is rewarded when archeologists dig through the pavement and unearth Richard’s skeleton, with its unmistakable curved spine. It’s an exciting tale and Pitts traces each step, from the suspicion that the body would be found in the nave of what was Greyfriar’s Church, clear through to testing and the DNA result. ~
This story of love and loss and a promise kept is exquisitely told and a joy to read.
This is the sort of novel one hates to describe in too much detail, since it might ruin the story. Ove is a curmudgeon and a grump whose life is interrupted by boisterous new neighbors: pregnant Parveneh and her husband Patrick who, Ove notes, can’t even back up a trailer successfully. Ove is cantankerous. He has no patience with imperfection. He snaps at pleasantries. He rages against those who ignore the rules. And he’s an absolute delight. This was my favorite novel of 2014. ~ Ann
When he was a twenty-three-year-old freshman graduate student, Kiehl walked into the maximum-security prison in Abbotsford, British Columbia. His task was to interview prisoners to determine which ones showed psychopathic traits. Many of the men he would talk to were considered the most dangerous in Canada. But his work began the career detailed in this book, and it’s a fascinating story told by someone who is now one of the leading experts in the field of psychotherapy. Kiehl holds the reader's attention right up to the last page.
Jonasson, who delighted us with The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, gives us another glorious romp. It’s a gallop through the life of Nombeko Mayeki—a fourteen-year-old latrine cleaner in Soweto, South Africa—who, because of her intelligence and her agile wit, ends up in Sweden with an unregistered nuclear missile, a twin who doesn’t officially exist, his brother, an idiot, and a sampling of other weird and incompetent characters. As with its predecessor, this novel is wickedly absurd. ~ Ann
This novel of a man stranded on Mars was well researched and unfolds in increasingly exciting detail. Thus, while I read it, the dishes remained unwashed, the beds unmade, and the laundry unsorted.
Aslan, author and religious scholar, spent twenty years researching the life of Jesus of Nazareth: the myths, the misconceptions, and the established facts. His book is an articulate and meticulous retracing of the history of Christianity from Jesus’s baptism by John the Baptist to his crucifixion and resurrection. Since most of the events recorded in the Bible aren’t a result of eye witness accounts, and since a majority of the books of the New Testament were written years after Jesus’s death, Aslan’s task was daunting. But he has written a fascinating and easily understandable book with over seventy pages of corroborating notes. ~ Ann
In May of 1927, with five sandwiches, a quart of water to sustain him, and The Spirit of St. Louis loaded with fuel, Charles Lindberg left New York and became the first man to fly across the Atlantic Ocean. It was an astounding feat, but not the sole event to mark that summer. Also, Babe Ruth chased a home run record, Gutzom Borglum began work on Mount Rushmore, Henry Ford rolled out the Model A, The Jazz Singer—the first talking motion picture—debuted, and Sacco and Vanzetti were executed. Bryson chronicles these and other notable occurrences with ease and grace, and as the reader finishes this fascinating book he has to agree with Bryson that “it was one hell of a summer.” ~ Ann
This entertaining French novel is like a modern game of “Drop the Handkerchief.” Francois Mitterand’s black felt hat, initially left by the head of state in a Parisian brasserie, proceeds to make its way briefly through a series of owners, each time giving the new and often beleaguered recipient unexpected courage, sudden inspiration and essential new wisdom. It’s a delightful tale, cleverly told and in the end quite satisfying. It has won several prestigious awards in France, and I recommend it highly as a light winter read. ~ Ann
The underpinnings of any religion are often nebulous and dependent on tradition and basic faith. But the origins of Scientology, a created religion, can be traced to the mind of science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wright examines all aspects of Scientology including the beliefs, the rules, and the pursuit of Hollywood stars including John Travolta and Tom Cruise. It is a meticulously researched book, years in the making, with more than two hundred interviews. Wright provides a fascinating look at the subject, sometimes disturbing, sometimes unbelievable, but in the end comprehensive. ~ Ann
Sandra Boynton, who with her Philadelphia Chickens rescued parents and children from too many verses of “The Wheels on the Bus,” is back with another lively book/CD package that features musicians including Dwight Yoakam, Alison Krauss, and Ben Folds. She’s given us a country-western, sometimes bluegrass, sometimes honky-tonk romp through twelve wonderfully goofy songs such as “They Make Me Clean My Room,” and “I’ve Got a Dog” (with the Scotty Brothers playing the spoons in the background). She recommends it for ages “one through older than dirt,” and its accompanying CD is guaranteed to sound fresh even after you hear it forty-two times. Ages 1-9. ~ Ann
This novel is wild! In order to escape from a 100-year birthday party planned for him, protagonist Allan climbs out the window of his old folks home, and thereafter has adventures, misadventures, and narrow escapes. In his earlier years, he has brushes with fame, lunching with Truman, annoying Mao, and being sent to Siberia by Stalin. Somehow, he always seems to come out on top. This book has drawn comparisons to Forrest Gump, but I think it is much, much better! ~ Ann, Jane
For those of us who loved Gerald Durrell’s memoir, My Family and Other Animals, this is the last of what might be called the Corfu Trilogy. The book recounts the Durrells’ escape to the Greek island to avoid yet another British winter, and it is delightful. Larry is still wonderfully insufferable. Mother is still harried, put upon and somewhat dotty. Brother Leslie is still ready to shoot at anything that moves. Margo is still self absorbed and Gerry, the youngest, is still curious, still adventurous, and still gathering birds and beasts for his menagerie. This is a refreshing and joyful story, and the chapter describing the various guests at a birthday banquet is in itself more than worth the price of the book ~ Ann
We know all about Lincoln’s assassination and John Wilkes Booth. But the particulars of James Garfield’s untimely death are not generally known. Millard describes the incident: the attack by a madman with delusions of grandeur, the intended convalescence hovered over by a physician unwilling to seek or accept advice, and the fact that his care was in the hands of a medical community blasé about Joseph Lister’s rules concerning cleanliness and sterility when treating wounds. Millard recounts this tragic event with meticulous detail and leaves the reader angry at the idiocy of stubborn and power hungry people, and a true regret at what might have been, for Garfield was an exceptional president and could have been one of the greats. ~ Ann
On April 18th and on into the morning of Easter Sunday, April 19th, 1981, two minor league teams struggled to end the world’s longest baseball game. Barry gives us the game in gloriously descriptive detail. He tells of the players who later make it to the majors—Cal Ripken and Wade Boggs for two. He gives a full accounting of the team owner and tells of the radio broadcasters who wonder if anyone out in the night is still listening. There’s the father and son who stay on, having made a pact never to leave a ballgame until the final out; the bat boy whose mother comes to demand that her son come home to bed; even the umpire who, because of a fluke in his playbook, refuses to call the game. All in all, it’s a fascinating piece of sports history and a mesmerizing read. ~ Ann
With politics and politicians swarming the airways like fruit flies on a ripe banana, this is a useful book. Written by three former CIA officers with extensive experience detecting deception, it chronicles the observations and the questions these three have used to flush admissions and confessions from those bent on hiding guilt. Their methods are fascinating and the actual interviews they analyze are “ripped,” as they say, from recent headlines. Now when we yell, “Lies… all lies” at political commercials and the evening news reports, we’ll be able to cite explanations to back up our ranting. ~ Ann
To a Mountain in Tibet is a travelogue. It’s a pilgrimage. And it’s an adventure. But most of all, since the author’s mother had recently died, leaving him the family’s sole survivor, it’s an attempt to acknowledge the fact that his mother, his father and his sister had all been present on this earth. The mountain in Tibet, Kailas, is sacred to four separate religions, and for hundreds of years, though it has never been climbed, pilgrims of many faiths have circled its base in search of penance and solace. Thubron must first reach the mountain high in the Himalayas, and then circle it himself. This he does, recounting it in exquisite and poetic detail. It’s a beautiful and enriching journey. ~ Ann
The author of The Uncommon Reader and The Clothes They Stood Up In has once again cast a mischievous eye on British society, this time with the help of two aging matrons. Mrs. Donaldson is a widow augmenting her income by posing as a patient for the benefit of medical students. She is also a landlord, and here is where the story takes a playful twist, for when her renters fall behind in their payments, they suggest that in lieu of what they owe, they let Mrs. Donaldson watch them have sex. She would have preferred they offer to clean or perhaps paint, but reluctantly she acquiesces. The second matron, Mrs. Forbes, is a woman for whom nothing is acceptable, her son’s new wife for instance. She’s not nearly attractive enough for “my young man.” Perhaps so, but as it turns out, she is bright, far brighter than both her new husband and Mrs. Forbes. Only Mr. Forbes is wise enough to realize this. So, in true Bennett style, both ladies mutter and putter along and are a delight. ~ Ann
In the late 1880s, murders were not solved through fingerprints on the murder weapon or blood spatter patterns. People in those times claimed that criminality was genetic. Thus, certain facial characteristics or physical conditions constituted proof of a person’s guilt. What changed all that was the arrest of a “vagabond” named Joseph Vacher, who had been moving from village to village across the French countryside in a spree of horrendous murders. Two men—magistrate Emile Forquet and Dr. Alexandre Lacassagne, head of the Department of Legal Medicine at the University of Lyon—began to incorporate what would become modern forensics to prove Sacher’s guilt and convict him. Starr traces the development of forensics in measured and fascinating detail, and this book reads like the most modern of crime novels. ~ Ann
This selection of Trillin’s essays, fiction and poetry serves as an antidote to the unending diatribe of this year’s political campaigns. He describes his childhood, which he admits was unfortunately happy. He tackles the subject of his tuxedo and gives evidence that he bears a strong resemblance to T.S. Eliot. He wonders whatever happened to chicken a la king, and he claims his dentist only calls when his son’s college tuition is due. There’s also a chapter of delightfully scathing political poetry, including “If You Knew What Sununu.” The whole collection is wonderful, and just enough to carry us through to November. ~ Ann
Roger Rosenblatt admits to having a talent for one domestic chore—that of breakfast duty and the ability to make the perfect piece of toast for each of his grandchildren. He is called upon to practice this art after the sudden death of his daughter, Amy. Rosenblatt and his wife, Ginny, leave home and move in with their son-in-law, Harris, and their three grandchildren. In Making Toast they are still there. This is a gentle book peppered with fond memories of Amy, with instances of healing as each of them deals with his grief, and with the adjustments they all go through as the three generations learn to live together. Through it all, Rosenblatt’s skill with language and form prevents this eulogy from being either too stark or too sentimental. Instead, it’s the story of a family dealing with tragedy one day, one crisis and one piece of toast at a time. ~ Ann
This recounting of the Bataan Death March and World War II is not an easy read, but it is powerful, fair, and meticulously told.
This book is a delight! The author is a third grade teacher who loves his work, and his funny, goofy students are the reason why. Teachers will love it—so will parents . . . so will anyone who’s ever been in the third grade. ~ Ann
For years the brain has been considered charted territory, static and unchangeable. Not so! Doidge reveals the astounding ways in which our brains are able to adapt after a stroke or injury. It is fascinating! ~ Ann
Bryson at his delightful, absolute best as he revisits his childhood in Des Moines, Iowa, making the reader alternately think, "Thank heavens I wasn't his parent," and "What fun that must have been."
On September 28, 1978, a bare thirty-three days after he had been elected to the Papacy, John Paul I died, and according to Yallop, his death most likely was murder. In light of the fact that John Paul I seemed about to cast an inquiring spotlight on corruption in the Vatican Bank, and on six powerful men who knew that the Pope’s decisions could mean the end of their careers, if not their lives, murder seems entirely possible. It’s a chilling thought, and Yallop, after thorough research, presents the facts clearly and simply as he carries the reader along at a breakneck pace. Since Pope Francis, the current pontiff, has also challenged certain aspects of church dogma, the book is particularly relevant and fascinating.
The story of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and the search for John Wilkes Booth is familiar even to elementary school students. However, the details related in this book give a fascinating immediacy to the event. Swanson takes the account from Lincoln’s second inaugural to the assassination itself. He describes Booth’s escape, his torturous flight and eventually to his being cornered and shot in a burning barn. Swanson’s research is meticulous and the account is made ever more real with the recent discovery of a report written by Dr. Charles Leal, who happened to be at the theater when Lincoln was shot and who stayed with him through the night. This is a riveting read, captivating till the end. ~ Ann
After he had been soundly defeated in his 1912 run for the Presidency, Theodore Roosevelt decided to explore the uncharted tributary of the Amazon called the River of Doubt. It was a dangerous endeavor: a seemingly endless procession of rapids, the all-enveloping jungle, and Indians armed with poison arrows lurking in the shadows. Roosevelt fell ill, and in his deteriorating physical condition, the journey proved to be nearly fatal. Millard tells the story in breathtaking detail and, at times, agonizing suspense. It is well worth it.
In the late 1990s Peter Hessler, a teacher and Peace Corps volunteer, was sent to Fuling, China, a small city on the Yangtze River. Among the most surprising and fascinating aspects of this account of his two-year stay are his interactions with the students and their adherence to the party line, and his dealings with the ever-curious and often suspicious townspeople. I highly recommend this book to anyone with China on their itinerary. ~ Ann
Simon Winchester's journey from the mouth of the Yangtze to its headwaters in the foothills of Tibet is a trip across China and through time. He evokes a panorama of history, everything from the Rape of Nanking to Mao's legendary swim across the river at Wuhan. He also beautifully describes the course of this amazing river, one of the world's longest and most important. Winchester's prose is eminently informative and lyrical; all in all, this is an extremely satisfying read. ~ Ann
In The Art of Travel Alain de Botton gives no advice on when to schedule a trip to the Bahamas. He doesn’t recommend any restaurants in London or Paris. And he doesn’t tell us how to pack clothes for a three week trip in just a carry-on bag. Instead de Botton teaches us how to appreciate our travels. In England’s Lake District he recalls Wordsworth and, while sitting under a oak tree, feels the peace the poet so treasured as he listens to the sound of raindrops hitting the leaves above him. In Arles he remembers Van Gogh, and the artist’s choice to capture the bright colors of Provence. He even takes a trip around his own neighborhood and realizes the local butcher shop he had taken for granted is adorned with fascinating Gothic gargoyles. This book is a delight, to savor and remember. ~ Ann
Forget, for the time being at least, about improving yourself, your relationships, and your sagging abdominal muscles. Relax. Bill Bryson hikes the Appalachian Trail for you. As a result, you won't have to move a muscle to be treated to magnificent scenery, exhausting days of climbing, a fascinating history of this environmentally fragile trail, and, best of all, explosions of laughter that will have you doubled up and falling out of your chair.
In an age when literary recollections of childhood too often are painful and disturbing, it's a quiet delight to reread Bradbury's Dandelion Wine, the tale of a boy's twelfth summer in Green Town, Illinois, in 1928. His lyric prose of a time when every morning was brand new and summers were endless make this classic an all time favorite.
Here’s the classic tale of Ping, the duck of the Yangtze. This story has been a childhood favorite since it was first published in the mid-1930s. But the tale of the young duck who wanted to avoid punishment for being late never grows old. Ages 4-8. ~ Ann