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Rebecca Feind, Reference Librarian
Reading: what library faculty and
staff read and recommend!
Here are the results of a survey of library faculty and staff. We
hope these reviews might provide some titles to add to your own To Read
||Betsy Bugg, Government
Documents : Breaking
Out by Laura Fairchild Brodie
If you interested in the concept of women attending previously
all-male military schools, you will love this account of the transformation of VMI to a coed institution. Brodie is no outsider
to life at VMI; she is the band director's wife, holds a doctorate in English
literature, and has part-time teaching responsibilities. She describes herself
as a member of the VMI family, and a feminist "not a man-hater, not a witch, not an inflexible opponent of all things
patriarchal, but a supporter of a society equally fair to its mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters."
Brodie sets the stage with several chapters of background, then moves to the
planning, then to the actual implementation. The intricate sociological and psychological
maneuvering by the administration, alumni and students makes fascinating reading, and Brodie is a fine writer. VMI is "close to
home"; many of us know teachers and students, past and present, and that makes this story all the more relevant. Co-educating military students is
an interesting dilemma when viewed from a distance, but Brodie gives a view of the passionate and frustrating process from the inside out.
Assistant to the Dean: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
by Michael Chabon
This rollicking, sweeping novel, which won this years Pulitzer Prize
for fiction, brings together a number of themesmagic, Jewish history,
World War II and the Holocaust, homosexuality, love, revenge, art and the advent of modern popular culture, plus a group of characters you
really care about. The story opens in 1939, when Sammy Clay, a savvy Brooklyn teenager and his newly arrived Jewish refugee cousin Joe
Kavalier pair up to create a comic book superherothe Escapist. Pragmatic but devoted to Joe, Sammy sees comic books as a way out of
Brooklyn and into Manhattans world of artists and celebrities, while
Joe hopes to use his comic book art to build a fortune in an attempt to
save his brother and parents in Europe and to deal with his survivors
guilt. Ultimately, art cant fight reality and the book drags a bit
during the sad days of World War II, but things sort themselves out. Chabon has really done his homework (his father was a
cartoonist) and along the way you learn a lot about the history of comic
book art. The book has a touch of roman a clef, with folks like Salvador Dali and Orson Welles wandering through. Chabons earlier
novels (Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Wonder Boys) are great too, but very
different, set in the present day and on the fringes of academic life.
Milne, Technical Services: The
Raj: A Novel, by Gita Mehta.
This is a historical novel of one woman's
role in Indian society during the British Raj in India (circa
1927-1940's). She is born of
a royal family, married into another at a young age to a husband who
largely ignores her in favor of socializing with the British and American
film stars. She is actively
involved in the politics of India during the time Gandhi and others seek
to wrest control from the British over their own destiny.
This is probably one of the few books written about the British Raj
from an Indian perspective and it is informative as well as entertaining
and a window on the life of higher caste society in India. I highly
from Jennifer McCabe, CISAT Library:
Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, by Dave Eggers.
The title, combined with the hype it received with its release, put me off
of this book for over a year. But I bought it when it came out in paperback, and I am very
glad I did. This is a memoir.
The heartbreak is that both of the authors parents died of
cancer within six months of each other, leaving the author, at the age of
22, to raise his eight year old brother. The genius is how he tells the story with no traces of
self-pity, sentimentality or sappiness.
Despite what at first seems to be a glib (do not call it ironic)
writing style, the dialog is wonderful, the story compelling, and the
scenery vibrant. In addition
to telling the story of his new family life, he also writes a lot about
being young and creative and trying to earn a living in a new city.
Readers of the paperback edition get an appendix titled Mistakes
We Knew We Were Making in which the author offers some clarifications
and fleshes out some scenes that had been edited.
But the real treasure of the appendix is the perspective that
Eggers gained in the time between the writing of the book and the release
of the paperback edition. He
likens the writing of his memoir, and the requisite reliving of
experiences, to being in a sauna with someone who will not stop pouring
water on the rocks. Thus anyone who feels the author did not emote enough in the
book proper gets some insight into the intensity of his experience.
I loved this book and did not want it to end.
|Also, recommended by
Dimed: On (not) Getting by in America, Barbara Ehrenreich
In these post welfare reform years, Ehrenreich set out to discover what it
is really like to work in low wage jobs in America.
She lived in different cities (with varied climates) and took
unskilled jobs, waiting tables, cleaning houses, shuffling
merchandise at Wal-Mart. She
lived in motels and apartments, and befriended her coworkers in order to
form a picture of the working class.
Not only does this book offer valuable insights into the working
lives of many in America, it reveals the dismal conditions that are
imposed on them. One of the
most valuable and humbling insights comes near the end of the book when
Ehrenreich reflects on the fact that never, during any of her stints as
floor cleaner or clothing sorter, did she feel that her education (she has
a PhD) or prior work experience gave her an advantage in the workplace.
She also reveals that the work she did was not only backbreaking,
but psychologically and mentally demanding.
Add to the demands of the actual work the challenges of finding
affordable, safe, housing and child-care, reliable transportation, and
nutritious food, and you begin to see the challenges faced by thousands of
our neighbors every day. It
is an excellent book that reveals a lot about working in America.
I read the latest P.D. James mystery, Murder in Holy Orders a few
weeks ago. This was a very good book, up to her usual high standards in
regards to character development, plotting and mis-en-scene. A must read
for mystery buffs in my opinion.
The Mystery of Jacob Amman by William R. McGrath
Jacob Ammann, the individual for whom the Amish are named, is written
about in this book. The
Amish, at times, have received a negative press and are among those who
are sometimes called the Dumb Dutch.
The author has spent time in Switzerland and Alsace researching in
archives and libraries. He
portrays Ammann as being a mystery because not much has been known of him
and because those writing about him have frequently cast him in a negative
writes very favorably about Ammann and his movement that began in Alsace
and the Emmenthal region of Switzerland in 1693.
He details much of why Ammann believed the way he did and
how other Anabaptists of the time followed him in his beliefs. This book
was of much interest to me because of my Amish ancestry and because of a
trip to Switzerland and Alsace this spring, in which I saw the areas where
Ammann had lived and worked. This is an excellent book that will give its readers new
insights into the life and times of Jacob Ammann.
|Kathy Clarke, Business
This is the story of the relationship between an unlikely racehorse, his
owners, his trainer, his jockey(s) and the public's fascination with
each. With this backdrop, the bond between this "family"
that forms in the care of this horse is remarkable and seems to have
happened long ago, instead of the 1940s. Hillenbrand takes the
reader through the very unseemly world of horseracing and touches on
enough detail to make the point without losing the reader in
technicalities. The research done to make this true story come to life
coupled with author's storytelling skills made this the first book I
actually purchased in a long time.
Nathaniel Philbricks In
the Heart of the Sea, The Tragedy of the Whale ship Essex tells
the story we know as Melvilles Moby-Dick but with a fascinating
new twist to the historic context. Philbrick
tells us in incredible detail what happened leading up to and after the
whale ship Essex was rammed by the huge enraged sperm whale, how the
20-man crew survived 3 months in the open ocean in 3 small boats, who made
it home, who did not, and how they did it.
The book is less
than 300 pages, including notes. A quick read well worth your time.
The New York Post says: If you loved Titanic and gobbled
up The Perfect Storm then In the Heart of the Sea is
just for you. Its a seat
of the pants real life tale
Mary Wilson Stewart,
The Sixteen Pleasures by Robert Hellenga
My favorite book of the summer! It was a well-written novel with a very unusual story. A
young librarian volunteers as a book conservator to go to Italy to help
salvage rare books and manuscripts but ends up involved in an intriguing
mystery. If you like Italy, Italians, Italian art--you'll love this book.
Heres a quote from the cover: "The Italians called them
"Mud Angels," the young foreigners who came to Florence in 1966
to save the city's treasured art from the Arno's flooded banks. American
volunteer Margot Harrington was one of them, finding her niche in the
waterlogged library of a Carmelite
convent. For within its walls she discovers a priceless Renaissance
masterwork: a sensuous volume of sixteen erotic poems and drawings.
Inspired to sample each of the ineffable sixteen pleasures, Margot
embarks on the intrigue of a lifetime with a forbidden lover and the
contraband volume--a sensual, life-altering journey of loss and rebirth in
this exquisite novel of spiritual longing and earthly desire....."
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