Friday, June 29, 2001
A Summer Full of Reading...
From the high minded to the humble, books of all types to take to the beach and the hammock
Ahhh, summer... time to kick off the sandals, grab a tall glass of ice tea and settle into your favorite Adirondack chair with one of those books that you have been saving for vacation. If your summer reading pile is depleted, try one of these books, recommended by a variety of readers. There's something here for everyone -- enjoy!
Arthur Dulong, new principal at Concord-Carlisle High School
The Last Full Measure by Jeff Shaara: This is part of a Civil War trilogy which was actually begun by Jeff's father. It truly brings the times and the people to life. It is easy to read and entertaining, but extraordinarily well researched and historically accurate.
Beer and Circus by Murray Sperber: This is an interesting exposé on how big-time college sports and high-profile universities are changing the undergraduate experience. It's not light reading, but it will enlighten those who think they know it all about colleges and universities.
Red Sox Century by Glenn Stout and Richard Johnson: If you love the Red Sox, as I do, you'll love this book. It will provide hours of pleasure and, as a bonus, can decorate your coffee table.
Also, for really light reading, maybe a day at the beach, anything by Robert Ludlum (always filled with political intrigue), Regis Philbin's book So, You Want to Be Me (very, very light, but lots of laughs), and anything by John Grisham (always a good storyteller).
Gabor Miskolczy, Carlisle Minuteman and active member of Carlisle community for many years
Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver: The author constructs a narrative net, weaving many threads which get entangled at the very end. Fascinating details of biology and evolution are included. I also learned the correct definition of prodigal as "lavish and extravagant." The story takes place in Appalachia and the appearance of coyotes leads to the final entanglement of the story lines.
Dick Shohet, retired English teacher and owner of Mill Iron Farm in Carlisle
Renato's Luck by Jeff Shapiro: The author is a former student of mine at Newton South High School. He captures the essence, the smell and taste of ethnicity of Tuscany as well as I've seen done.
Jude by Liz Trotta: You don't even need to be Catholic to understand the usefulness of this Saint of Lost Causes. I tried him; it worked.
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III: He's as good as his father at spinning an informed and informing suspense story about folks in San Francisco, but it could have happened right here as well. You just cannot put it down.
Ellen Rauch, director of the Gleason Public Library
Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark: Evil, deception, identity and moral dilemmas, all in 166 pages written by the wonderful Muriel Spark, make this novel a quick read and an entertaining one. Spark weaves a story about the real Lord Lucan, who disappeared after the rather grisly 1974 murder of his children's nanny and the beating of his wife. He (and a body double) appear 20-plus years later at the Paris office of a famous Bavarian psychiatrist, herself a fraud with a secret past.
Elegy for Iris by John Bayley: If you're a fan of the late Iris Murdoch (and if you're not, but enjoy twentieth-century English novels, I recommend The Unicorn) you might be curious to know about her life with her husband, the literary critic John Bayley. I listened to the audiocassette version while commuting, and was carried away into the story of their life together, from their meeting 50 years ago through his devoted care for her as Alzheimer's Disease stole her brilliant mind. Bayley's compassion for his wife strikes a remarkable note in the stories of families who struggle with Alzheimer's Disease.
House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III: If you avoid novels that get a lot of hype, please give House of Sand and Fog a chance. It's a sad yet compelling story with exquisitely drawn characters, who want only what the American dream promises. An immigrant from the transformed Iran and a recovering addict from Saugus both want a home, but the clash that results when they want the same home is inevitable and tragic.
Michael Luby, thirteen-year-old avid reader finishing seventh grade at the Carlisle School.
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card: I liked this book because it was realistic science fiction. It is set just a few years in the future, and only the presence of aliens and a space station make this science fiction. I thought Mr. Card's style was interesting too. It was as if a camera were hovering just behind Ender (the main character) and you could hear what he thought. This was a way to keep the reader in the dark while using a third-person narrative.
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis: I don't read very many realistic fiction books, but this was a very good one. I think the plot was intriguing. It was about a boy called Bud and his adventures to find his father in "The Big City." I liked the humor which reminded me of Holes by Louis Sachar. I think the ending leaves some loose ends, but the beginning and middle are great.
Parzival by Katherine Paterson: I read a lot of Arthurian myth, but this is one of the best yet. It is about a 12-year-old grail-knight, or a knight who is destined to find the Holy Grail. I liked it because it is a new interpretation of an age-old legend. I have read other accounts of the grail-knight, but in all the others, the grail-knight is quite old and experienced. This tale is different because Parzival is unaware of the normal customs and traditions, and that makes his quest to become a knight even more difficult.
Timothy Hult, Carlisle Selectman
The Gates of the Alamo by Stephan Harrigan: If you liked Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, you will love this novel about the fall of the Alamo. The portraits of the people, both the common folk and the famous characters, Bowie, Crockett, et al., are as compelling as the unfolding of the events leading to the battle. It reads quickly.
Last Train from Berlin by Howard K. Smith: This book, recently re-released, was written by Smith shortly after he left Germany on December 7, 1941. It is a stark and revealing picture of Germany and the German people during the period leading to the Second World War and during the initial years of the conflict. When you think that this was written when the outcome was still in doubt, you gain insight into that fascinating period.
BOBOs in Paradise by David Brooks: BOBOs are bourgeois bohemians in modern society. This is a book of social commentary that attempts to take a critical look at the new upper class and how they got there. The book is quite insightful and extremely funny in some parts. Yes, you will certainly see many aspects of Carlisle in these pages.
Place Last Seen by Charlotte McGuinn Freeman: This is a gripping novel about the loss of a child on a camping trip. The child, who has Down Syndrome, disappears, apparently into thin air. The story of the search-and-rescue effort and the parents' emotions will keep you glued to the pages.
Freedom From Fear by David M. Kennedy: If you are tired of the glossed-over version of history provided by Pearl Harbor (the movie) and Private Ryan, here is a serious work of history for which David Kennedy received the Pulitzer Prize. It is a detailed chronicle of the issues facing the American people in the Depression and War from 1929-1945. Great reading for those who seriously love history.
Mairead Murphy, third grader at the Carlisle School
Clockwork by Philip Pullman (suggested age group 8 to 12): This is a great book to read in the morning or the afternoon. Do not read it at night, though, because it is very scary. The story is about a prince who has a clockwork heart, a clockmaker's apprentice facing complete failure, a sweet girl named Gretl, and a doctor who might be the devil. The plot is very exciting and full of adventure and suspense. If you pick up this book you won't put it down until you're done (I didn't), which is okay since it is on the short side, with only 107 pages.
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli suggested (age group 9 to 16): Stargirl is the name of the girl in this story who moves to quiet Mica, Arizona and captures the hearts of all the students at Mica High. This highly unusual girl carries her ukulele around with her everywhere she goes, keeps a pet rat in her backpack, and attends funerals for people she doesn't know. The story is told by sixteen-year-old Leo Borlock, who falls in love with this different girl and tries to understand her, but finds that he can't really. Soon the school turns on Stargirl, however, and she becomes an outcast. This book is kind of sad and makes you think about how it feels to not be popular and what you have to do fit in.
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (suggested age group 9 to 99): The Golden Compass is about Lyra Belacqua, an eleven-year-old girl who lives in Oxford, England in a parallel universe. In her world, all the people have daemons. They are animals that are like the souls of their owners. Lyra's daemon is named Pantalaimon. All over the country children are disappearing, and finally Lyra's friend Roger is taken. Lyra goes on a terrific journey where she learns the truth about her past.
The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman (suggested age group 9 to 99) This third book in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy is great for anyone who enjoys fantasy and adventure. In this final chapter of Lyra and Will's epic adventure, the children pass through many parallel universes and even spend time in the land of the dead where they have an unforgettable experience. I would highly recommend reading the first two books of the trilogy, The Golden Compass and The Subtle Knife, to fully appreciate the whole amazing story. These three books will keep you happy all summer!
Glen Urban, professor and former dean of the Sloan School of Management at MIT
The Snowfly by Joseph Keywood: I could not put it down. A fly-fishing mystery as well as a study in compulsion.
Diplomatic Immunity by Grant Sutherland: This book is the perfect example if good beach reading. If you are a fan of international intrigue, I recommend this one highly.
Close Range by Annie Proulx: Set in Wyoming, these short stories are very good and sometimes a little bizarre the perfect book to read before sleep.
Wendy Davis, former teacher at Carlisle Middle School and current teacher of the "Arthurian Legends" adult education class in Concord.
The Folk Keeper by Franny Billingsley: Supposedly written for middle schoolers, this is a book rich in mythic patterns. The story is of a young girl who becomes the person who keeps the cave-dwelling folk from disrupting life at the seaside manor of a wealthy family. Since the Folk Keeper has always been a man, the girl must be in disguise and change her name from Corinna to Corin. As she discovers the mystery of her background and her powers, she learns why she has always yearned for the sea. The unexpected ending is splendidly satisfying, and the book is a good read for all ages.
The Young Visiters by Daisy Ashford: Written by an eight-year-old English girl, this book was published in 1919, over thirty years after it was written. It was published again in 1951, and most of the copies are dog-eared or lost. Now it is in print again and many will rejoice.
The Young Visiters retains its original misspellings and grammatical errors, and these add to its charm. The tale is hilarious, naive, and even sophisticated and romantic. Daisy had an astounding grasp of story, an acute ear for conversation, and an eye for detail of Victorian life. This astonishing author even knew how to tie up all the loose ends in one short final paragraph. This is a great read-aloud book for adults and children. Enjoy!
The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Arthurian Legends compiled by Ronan Coghlan: The illustrations are from many sources and range from ancient to modern. The forward is by John Matthews and the introduction is by Coghlan, who spells out the history and development of the Arthurian stories. Everything is listed alphabetically, and included are well-known as well as obscure persons, castles, objects, theories about the legends, and many other topics. This is the most comprehensive book I have yet found on Arthurian subjects and I enthusiastically recommend it to students interested in the Matter of Britain.
Bob Hilton, former head librarian at the Lexington Public Library
The Breach; Inside the Impeachment and Trial of William Jefferson Clinton by Peter Baker: Here's an escape into the not-too-distant past by a Washington Post reporter. This is a thorough and well-researched treatment. It could also be pertinent (or scary) whatever your partisan persuasion, as many in the cast of characters are still active players on the national scene. Any political junkie will enjoy this book.
Double Fold; Libraries and the Assault on Paper by Nicholson Baker: This is a provocative account of how technology can have negative effects for library service when they are not adequately anticipated. Most old bound newspaper runs, for example, have been destroyed after microfilming, but this medium makes them much less useful for many other purposes. This means that originals are often now unavailable for newer and better (digitized) formats. Baker gives other examples of what is now called preservation not being conducive to conservation.
Death in Holy Orders by P. D. James: James's newest thriller, featuring police superintendent Adam Daigliesh, is more than just a bestselling summer read. Set in a small Anglican seminary on the bleak East Anglian coast, the novel presents Daigliesh with murder, sacrilege and a range of well-drawn, complex characters.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito