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June 22, 2011 by pjorgensen
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Tagged in: libraries, public, public library, public libraries, book, books, review, reviews, book review, book reviews,
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It's Notable--A Voyage Long and Strange

June 01, 2009 by PatLeach

"A Voyage Long and Strange" by Tony Horwitz was one of the first books I chose from this year's Notable Books List.

Horwitz takes a personal journey through the parts of North America where Europeans made contact between the landing of Columbus in 1492 and the arrival of the Pilgrims in 1620.  His inspiration was a trip to Plymouth rock where he overheard conversations among the visitors, most of them indicating basic ignorance of the historical facts.  Many referred to the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria landing there.

Horwitz tells his story of exploring the journeys of the Europeans who discovered, made conquests, and finally, settled in America.  Along the way, he comments on restaurants, amusement sites, and the overall popular culture of each area he visits.

I learned a lot from this story, and found two points reinforced.   One is that while I consider myself reasonably informed, there's plenty for me to learn about the history of the United States.  Another is a theme that is repeated in another Notable Book, "The Hemingses of Monticello," that is, a place's accepted history typically excludes crucial aspects. 

I'd recommend "A Voyage Long and Strange" to people who enjoy history, or who savor travel books, especially when those are told by a quirky but curious author.

Tagged in: Notable Books, Good Books, book reviews, A Voyage Long and Strange,
Comments: 2

Meeting Olive Kitteridge

May 19, 2009 by PatLeach
Alas!  Library Directors are seldom paid to read, but like many library people, I do plenty of reading on my own.

I read "Olive Kitteridge" by Elizabeth Strout because it's on this year's Notable Books List, as chosen by a committee of the American Library Association.  It also won this year's Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Olive Kitteridge is the main character in several of these stories, and just a small player in others.  I found myself watching and waiting for her, wondering when and where she'd enter the story.  I ended up reading the book more like I read a novel, not pausing between stories.

Strouts sets the stories in Maine, in a small town along the coast.  The stories vary in time through the late 20th century.  Olive Kitteridge teaches, and so knows a lot of people.  She's a large and physically awkward person who often says the wrong thing and who sometimes stokes her own resentment when people don't turn out the way she'd hoped.

Strout employs the short story for its full potential here.  Exploring "what ifs" in social situations...what if the mother of the groom overhears the bride laughing at her?  What if a man who is about to commit suicide must first save the life of a drowning woman?  What if your big sister expects you to keep her secret about running away?

Each year, I read most of the books on the ALA Notable Books list, hoping that I'll find favorites among them.  So far this year, "Olive Kitteridge" leads the "favorites."

And if you've read "Olive Kitteridge," what did you think?  Is it one of your favorites?

Tagged in: Olive Kitteridge, ALA Notables, Notable Books, book reviews,
Comments: 0

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