The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 7, 2001

Features

Mosquito staff suggest books . . .

On Sunday, the New York Times published its Holiday Books for 2001, while the Boston Globe listed its Top Gift Books for 2001. But that won't stop the Mosquito from chiming in with our suggestions of books to give as gifts during the upcoming holidays.

Some of the books we are suggesting have been bestsellers during the past year while others are now out in paperback. A few are just books that we feel deserve a second time around.

Here are books for almost anyone: for an aunt in Chicago, for a second grader who wasn't born when William Steig's Sylvester and the Magic Pebble was first published, for the naturalists

among us who were turned on to dragonflies during the spring biodiversity weekend, and the cooks who wish to serve nutrutionally balanced vegetarian meals, to mention just a few.

The list of authors is diverse from mystery writer Elizabeth George to Francophile Adam Gopnik, from Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Chabon to the inimitable John Steinbeck. Carry this list along with you when you visit your local bookstore.

Midge Eliassen, photographer,

recommends:

Moosewood Restaurant New Classics.

The Moosewood Restaurant is a real one, in Ithaca New York. I will give four or five copies of this just-published cookbook. My family of excellent cooks who are extremely nutrition-conscious (and some vegetarian), cook just fabulous meals using recipes from earlier Moosewood collections (Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special, and Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. ) I know this latest collection of their healthy and extremely tasty vegetarian, natural food recipes will be a big hit with my family. Try any of these titles to introduce others to these eclectic collections. It's great eating, much appreciated by the non-vegetarians in the family.

The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan. I'm also giving Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World to my nephew who is an organic farmer. The book examines the relationship between humans and four specific domestic plants (apple, tulip, marijuana and potato) in supporting Pollan's contention that these plants have evolved in a reciprocal relationship to gratify human desires, so that man will help them multiply.

Susan Emmons, general manager,

recommends:

Dragonflies of the World, by Jill Silsby (Smithsonian Institution Press).

A beautiful book with interesting text and color plates that describe the life and habitats of dragonflies and damselflies. Great for a naturalist of any level or anyone intrigued by these spectacular creatures.

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior

Illustrated by David Allen Sibley, who created the wildly successful identification guide last year (a must-have for anyone interested in birds), and written by 48 biologists and birders, this guide details "how birds live and what they do."

Kay Fairweather, contributor, recommends:

Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome.

This is a few hours of sheer delight for the person who enjoys the understated brand of humor that the British do so well. Published in 1889, the book tells the story of a rowboat trip on the Thames. Jerome creates a humorous side for incidents that didn't really have one. Part history, part travel guide, totally funny.

Francesca Bjork, typezapper and reporter, recommends:

The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning classic about the Great Depression is worth reading again, if the first time you read it was in high school because "you had to." The story of the fictitious Joad family, farmers from Oklahoma, and their Dust Bowl migration is perceived in a vastly different light once you have a few more years under your belt. A truly captivating novel.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, by William Steig.

This children's book, a Caldecott Medal winner, is suitable for second graders or older to read by themselves or for reading to a younger child. It chronicles Sylvester Duncan, a donkey, and his trials and tribulations once he finds a magic pebble. The possibilities are endless and can also be dangerous. A book worth reading more than once.

Verna Gilbert, typezapper, recommends:

Addiction, by G.H. Ephron.

For the medical mystery lover on your holiday list, this second book in the Peter Zak series centers on unraveling the murder of Zak's college friend, ex-lover and fellow psychologist, Channing Temple. Suspects include a teenager abusing Ritalin, doctors treating themselves with Ativan, and pharmaceutical researchers vying to create new drugs.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West, by Stephen Ambrose.

This definitive account of a momentous pioneering effort in our nation's history, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, draws from Lewis's private journal, to follow the explorer's footsteps from his youth and close relationship with Thomas Jefferson through his ventures into vast, wild, and breathtaking lands to his ultimate depression, despair and suicide. Undaunted Courage provides a broad social overview of the young American republic.

Baby Mozart, available in video/DVD for the infant/toddler.

Not a book, but a series of images of brightly colored objects floating across the screen accompanied by entertaining sound effects and Mozart's music in the background. It captures the baby's attention and keeps him/her occupied and intrigued.

Marilyn Harte, Feature editor, recommends:

Seabiscuit, An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand.

This is the biography of the thoroughbred Seabiscuit, as well as the story of his owner, his trainer, and the jockey who was to ride him to victory after victory over the course of three years, 1935 to 1938. This was in the depths of the Great Depression, when everyone was looking for something to cheer for. Seabiscuit's rise to fame, culminating in a win over the 1937 Horse of the Year War Admiral, is the stuff of a great story, one that explains the relationship between a great horse and his handlers.

I gave Seabiscuit to my 89-year-old aunt, a horsewoman who lived in Louisville, Kentucky, during the war years and who attended the Kentucky Derby more than once. Later, she moved to Chicago with her horse Nimbletoes and enjoyed riding in Jackson Park, along the shores of Lake Michigan.

Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik. Those who have read Adam Gopnik's pieces in The New Yorker will know they are in for a treat when they receive this book as a gift during the holidays. Gopnik, his wife, and their young son lived in Paris from 1995 until 2000. In this collection of essays, Gopnik writes about experiencing the magic of this great city, while at the same time dealing with the more mundane details of everyday life.

Parkman Howe, Forum staff member, recommends:

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick.

On November 20, 1820, the whaleship Essex of Nantucket was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale 1,500 nautical miles west of the Galapagos Islands. The crew of twenty then set out in open whaling boats to sail 4,500 miles against wind and current in three months to South America. The ordeal and the account of one of the survivors inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick and this non-fiction account by a Nantucket historian.

Wine & War: The French, the Nazis and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, by Don and Petie Kladstrup. The book tells the stories of five prominent winemaking families in France during WWII and their strategies to produce, hide, and smuggle wine during the German Occupation. The barbarism of the occupiers is more than matched by the heroism and ingenuity of the French. Hitler kept a mountain vault full of wines, even though he himself didn't like wine (yet another reason not to like Der Führer). All's fair in love, war, and wine.

The Inferno, translated by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander.

This translation by Princeton scholar Robert Hollander and his poet-wife Jean is likely to become the standard edition of Dante's masterpiece, despite celebrated recent translations by Robert Pinsky and others. This version has the Italian on one page, the English translation on the other. It has been praised in The New Yorker for its fidelity to the original and its supple versification in English.

Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses, by Bruce Feiler.

Since most of us aren't going to be going to the Holy Land any time soon, this is a wonderful way to experience the sights and sounds of contemporary biblical sites, from Mt. Ararat to Egypt's Nile, from Mt. Sinai to the Temple Mount. While Mr. Feiler is a bit of a biblical literalist, his descriptions of the places where Moses and David walked breathe more life into the Bible as well as today's on-going battles.

Parkman Howe, Forum staff member, recommends:

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick.

On November 20, 1820, the whaleship Essex of Nantucket was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale 1,500 nautical miles west of the Galapagos Islands. The crew of twenty then set out in open whaling boats to sail 4,500 miles against wind and current in three months to South America. The ordeal and the account of one of the survivors inspired Herman Melville's Moby Dick and this non-fiction account by a Nantucket historian.

Wine & War: The French, the Nazis and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure, by Don and Petie Kladstrup. The book tells the stories of five prominent winemaking families in France during WWII and their strategies to produce, hide, and smuggle wine during the German Occupation. The barbarism of the occupiers is more than matched by the heroism and ingenuity of the French. Hitler kept a mountain vault full of wines, even though he himself didn't like wine (yet another reason not to like Der Führer). All's fair in love, war, and wine.

The Inferno, translated by Robert Hollander and Jean Hollander.

This translation by Princeton scholar Robert Hollander and his poet-wife Jean is likely to become the standard edition of Dante's masterpiece, despite celebrated recent translations by Robert Pinsky and others. This version has the Italian on one page, the English translation on the other. It has been praised in The New Yorker for its fidelity to the original and its supple versification in English.

Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses, by Bruce Feiler.

Since most of us aren't going to be going to the Holy Land any time soon, this is a wonderful way to experience the sights and sounds of contemporary biblical sites, from Mt. Ararat to Egypt's Nile, from Mt. Sinai to the Temple Mount. While Mr. Feiler is a bit of a biblical literalist, his descriptions of the places where Moses and David walked breathe more life into the Bible as well as today's on-going battles.

Ellen Miller, proofreader and Carlisle Oral History Project coordinator,

recommends:

A Tuscan Childhood, by Kinta Beevor. A beautiful evocation of Tuscany between the two world wars, for any traveler who has been there or dreams of going one day.

A Traitor to Memory, by Elizabeth George.

Although not her best, this is George's most recent detective story, sure to baffle and delight lovers of literate English mysteries who also adore P.D. James and Ruth Rendell. George's Payment in Blood and A Great Deliverance are great choices, too.

Cecile Sandwen, reporter, recommends:

The Great White Man-Eating Shark: A Cautionary Tale, by Margaret Mahy. Norbert is a boy who concocts a scheme to clear a crowded beach by strapping a fin on his back and pretending to be a shark. It works until a female shark falls in love with him. This book with its funny theme and somewhat cute sharks is comforting for kids scared by news stories about real man-eating sharks. This was one of my son's favorite books when he was six, and now that his cousin in San Diego is that age (and has the same fascination with sharks) I plan to buy it for him.

The Secret of Platform 13, by Eva Ibbotson.

A magical island is missing its prince, who was kidnapped as an infant. Now that the portal ("gump") between the island world and the real one is open for the first time in many years, a strange band of rescuers must go to London to find the prince before the portal closes again. This book was recommended to me as "Harry Potter-like." It combines magic, weird creatures and adventure in a way that appealed to both my elementary school son and my middle school daughter no mean feat. I will be sending a copy to a niece who is also a Harry Potter lover.

Enemy at the Gate, by William Craig. This is a very readable non-fiction account of the seige of Stalingrad, which tells the story through a combination of historic overview, eye-witness accounts, and dispatches and letters. It focuses perhaps more on the fates of the starving Germans trapped inside the encirclement of the Russian army, though any sympathy for these doomed men is offset by an early description of their conduct in their progress through Russia (rape, pillage, and systematic murder). Reading this on a plane made me actually appreciate my crammed seat and measly snack of peanuts. I will give a copy to my brother who, besides being a history buff, has extra Army Reserve duty, and may have a need for reading material that makes him grateful for an army bunk and rations.

Priscilla Stevens, reporter,

recommends:

Beethoven's Hair, by Russell Martin. This is a non-fiction account of the travels, over 200 years, of a lock of Beethoven's hair. Part of the lock ends up in a laboratory, which yields interesting new information about the cause of the composer's deafness and death. The lock's history includes a brush with Nazi Germany as well. There are many stories here, loosely tied together by this lock of famous hair.

Remmy and the Brain Train, by Dr. James B. Maas, with accompanying CD by Suzanne Scheniman.

This is a children's book (ages 4-8) about the importance of getting a good night's sleep: a serious message told in very accessible and fun verse. Carlisle's own Suzanne Scheniman created the CD, using the voices of local residents, human and animal, for sound effects.

Ex Libris, by Anne Fadiman.

For anyone who loves words and books, this is absolutely the best gift book there is. It is a superb book of essays on the love of books and reading. Anne Fadiman is the daughter of well-known critic Clifton Fadiman, who figures in the book as well. My copy is well-thumbed and always at hand, and I've given it to all my book-loving friends. Guaranteed to please!

Karen Trittipo, reporter,

recommends:

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon. A "ripping good yarn" for adults about two cousins whose lives become intertwined with the nascent comic book biz, WWII and its after-effects. A complex, beautifully written page-turner. Don't be intimidated by its 650 pages or Pulitzer Prize.

Wall: At Storm King, by Andy Goldsworthy.

A beautiful, inspiring coffee-table gift book for anyone who loves the structural beauty of the natural world. British sculptor Andy Goldsworthy works with only natural, found objects to create beautiful, often temporary outdoor artwork. Any of his pieces would be right at home here in Carlisle's natural places. Also see his other photo books, Stone, Wood and Arch.

Penny Zezima, editor,

recommends:

The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, selected and introduced by Caroline Kennedy.

A friend mentioned how much she loved this book, and how it seemed to contain all the poems that had meant something to her in her youth. A mixture of poetry that ranges from the elegant to delightfully silly, this book is a charming chronicle of a family life where reading and reciting poetry was encouraged.

An Intimate Look at the Night Sky, by Chet Raymo.

What to get for the brother who has everything? That is always my Christmas dilemma, but in this time of celestial wonder (the Leonid meteor showers just past and the Geminid asteroid showers coming up on December 13), this book seems the perfect answer. Not just a star guide, Raymo's collection of essays explores mythology and religion as well as history. A great gift for the winter solstice.

Olivia and Olivia Saves the Circus, written and illustrated by Ian Falconer. Though these books are aimed at ages three to seven, I've asked for them for Christmas. I love these stories of the plucky pig Olivia. With her fertile imagination and her admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt, she's not just your run-of-the-mill pig with an attitude. Falconer's spare illustrations, done in black and white with an occasional punctuation of red, are perfect, allowing just the right amount of wiggle-room for a child's imagination.


2001 The Carlisle Mosquito