The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 11, 2009

 

The Mosquito staff recommends books for holiday giving

This year marks the 20th anniversary of The Mosquito’s holiday book-giving selections. Hands down, this is one of our readers’ favorite features, probably because the list offers such a diversity of titles, making it easy to find the perfect gift for the hardest to please. So tear out these pages, go to your favorite bookstore, and check some items off of your holiday gift list... and if you end up buying a gift or two for yourself, your secret is safe with us.

Clerk Lorraine Pasquantonio sneaks in a quick read of The Nine at the Carlisle Post Office. (Photo by Rik Pierce)

Cecile Sandwen, reporter:

The View from Castle Rock by Alice Munro. The Canadian writer Alice Munro uses family letters to construct this fictional set of stories about her ancestors, starting with those who emigrated from Scotland after imagining that the view from Castle Rock was of America. She continues through the years telling the tales of ancestors who farmed in Ontario and ends with her own parents’ failing farm enterprise. Gleaning personalities from a few saved letters, Munroe imagines her forbearers’ hopes, disappointments, and small satisfactions and brings them alive through beautiful prose. She also takes the opportunity to examine her own family’s issues. This would be a lovely gift for anyone interested in exploring family roots.

The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes – and Why by Amanda Ripley. A strange choice for a gift? Maybe it’s not for the anxiety-prone, but I was enthralled and empowered upon reading this well-researched book. Ripley interviews survivors and experts in the field of human psychology to find out why some people take action to save themselves in a disaster, while others freeze. Along the way she delivers an indictment of most disaster training, which focuses on first responders and equipment, when the vast majority of rescues are self-saves or are performed by bystanders. She notes that providing information spurs positive action and almost never promotes panic. Giver beware: since reading this book I’ve been boring my family with interesting (to me) factoids. For example, why are men more likely to escape a disaster? The advantage isn’t strength, decision-making skills or speed – it’s footwear. Women are more likely to be wearing high heels.

Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace With Books Not Bombs in Afghanistan by Greg Mortenson. This is an inspiring story of incredible perseverance in helping to build schools, especially for girls, under incredibly difficult conditions. The story focuses on Afghanistan and is the sequel to Three Cups of Tea.

A Rule Against Murder by Louise Penny. This is the fifth book in her series about mysteries that occur in the isolated and charming village of Three Pines near Montreal. It should make you want to go back and read Penny’s early books, too.

DVD collection of The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. (Three discs of Season 1 from the HBO series). Based on the Alexander McCall Smith novels about courage and love in Botswana. These episodes have the charm and wisdom of the McCall Smith books while introducing some new characters and bringing to life the original ones.

David Freedman, Forum staff:

Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? by Michael J. Sandel. In Justice, Sandel, a government professor at Harvard, explores some of the ethical and moral conundrums of contemporary society and its governance while providing a relatively painless primer on a number of classic philosophers through the ages. Before you know it, Sandel’s subtle humor and the elegance of his writing may have you pondering some pretty complex moral issues. A gift for yourself or for someone you know who enjoys thinking. The book is a companion piece to a new PBS series filmed in Sandel’s undergraduate class at Harvard. (The series can be viewed online at www.justiceharvard.org; you can also make a gift of the three-DVD set.)

His well known artwork in the background, Maris Platais of River Road reads Gleason Library’s Community Read selection in preparation for the discussions in January. (Photo by Rik Pierce)

Bev Guyer, bookkeeper:

Two books have been recommended to me that are quite different from the usual, fast-paced novel that I read each night before going to sleep. These books take time and thought and are next to my chair to read in the late afternoon.

Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly was recommended to me by a distant cousin of my husband’s (they share the same great-grandparents who lived in County Galway) as she knew I enjoyed Ireland and tracing the family genealogy. Galway Bay spans six generations, beginning with the potato famines, when three times in four years their only food rotted in the ground, and continuing to the immigration to ”Amerikay,” with the Kelly family eventually ending in Chicago.

Earthbound and Heavenbent by Elizabeth Pendergast Carlisle was recommended to me by a lady who visited me when she saw my home was originally a summer cottage and viewed my many pieces of family furniture and articles. I have yet to read this book. Earthbound and Heavenbent is the story of a house, Forty Acres, in Hadley, Massachusetts, and three generations of the Porter-Phelps family who lived there.

Nancy Shohet West, reporter:

Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey is one of the most unforgettable novels I’ve read in years. Putting aside the James Frey memoir controversy, this is an astoundingly far-reaching fictional account of pretty much every kind of existence to be found in modern-day Los Angeles, with great story-telling and captivating characters.

Columbine by Dave Cullen - Columbine is part of our cultural lexicon, but as Dave Cullen explains, most of what we know about it is incorrect. His ten-year-long pursuit of the truth makes for a fascinating account of how the media can mess things up, especially in the Internet/cell-phone age. Yes, it’s a harrowing story, but anyone concerned with the media’s role in how we perceive information will find this a memorable read.

Boy Alone: A Brother’s Memoir by Karl Taro Greenfeld. The way people understood autism 40 years ago was dramatically different from how we now see it. For the journalist Karl Taro Greenfeld, the cultural beliefs around autism when he was a child profoundly affected his understanding of family life, since his brother has autism. A sad but thought-provoking account and a reminder of how rapidly things change through the decades in the realm of developmental and mental health.

Bob Zielinski, reporter:

The Diamond Cutter: The Buddha on Managing Your Business and Your Life by Michael Roach. Michael Roach is an American teacher of Tibetan Buddhism and was the first Westerner to qualify for the geshe degree at Sera Monastery, which was originally in Tibet but reconstituted in India after 1959. The main text of this book is a description of practical applications of Buddhist philosophy to his approach to be ethical and prosperous in business. He discusses his 17 years as an employee of the Andin International Diamond Corporation in New York City. To bolster his points he interweaves ancient and contemporary wisdom from Tibetan Buddhism. Prominent are quotes from the Diamond Sutra, an ancient text of conversations between the Buddha and a disciple. Glimpses into the inner workings of the world-wide diamond trade alone are well worth the read.

Marilyn Harte, editorial writer:

The Sibley Guide to Trees written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley. For those naturalists who live in the Concord area, the author’s name Sibley conjures up images of beautiful birds. No longer is it just birds that the name Sibley can be applied to, because now he has published a marvelous guide to North American trees. Recently, a group of Concord-Carlisle High School freshmen stopped by our house to collect and identify leaves for their biology class. Luckily my husband, who had just purchased the Sibley’s Guide to Trees, could show them and confirm a White Ash, Shagbark Hickory and Black Mulberry.

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin. This is the book that Carlisle readers voted to read and discuss for the Gleason Public Library’s Cover to Cover 2010 Community Read in January. Toobin, a staff writer for the New Yorker and CNN legal analyst, is more than qualified to write about the nine justices who made up the court in 2007. From the Bush versus Gore travesty to the interviews with the justices and their law clerks, this is a book for anyone interested in the legal body that is the final arbiter of our laws. Read this book yourself and attend one of the Cover to Cover discussion groups and the panel discussion in January.

EVERYBODY LOVES A GOOD BOOK! Marlow Duffy and her bovine friend are engrossed in The Nine, Gleason Library’s selection for a Community Read in January. A review of that book and others recommended by the Mosquito staff for holiday gift giving can be found on pages 12 and 13. (Photo by Rik Pierce)

Susan Mills, ad department:

Blind Side by Michael Lewis. Watching the movie version of this book I was convinced that the movie glossed over many aspects of this wonderful story. Indeed, Michael Lewis provides much more detail about football, the motivations of the people involved in this true story and some of the controversy surrounding the decisions made by those people and the resulting outcomes. The story provides a delightful read for anyone even slightly interested in football and for everyone who wishes a heartwarming, moving tribute to the power of love and education.

Gourmet Today: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen edited by Ruth Reichl. Before it ceased publication, Gourmet Magazine released a new cookbook with a promise I found particularly compelling. The new recipes are tailored to take advantage of the many ethnic fruits, vegetables, sauces and condiments now readily available in supermarkets and farmers markets. The recipes provide a refreshing wealth of new creations to make that take advantage of the current marketplace and our desire for healthy modern meals.

Ornit Barkai, Forum staff:

Born Digital by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. “Digital natives,” defined as children who were born into and raised in the digital world, are the subject of recent Harvard University research and this book. Exploring issues of identity, privacy and safety, they examine narratives of online piracy, cyberbullying, political activism and learning. Inspired by the decade-old book Being Digital by MIT’s Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, Born Digital is a practical guide (and a handy glossary) to parents, educators and anyone else who wants to understand our digital world in the age of information.

The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keene is a great read for anyone interested in contrarian perspectives on the impact and implications of Web 2.0 on our lives. In his first book, Keene, a Silicon Valley insider and self-described “amateur writer,” offers his provocative insight on how Web 2.0 assaults content creators, journalists, authors, editors, musicians and artists. “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” he borrows from the famous 1993 New Yorker cartoon, while acknowledging the equalizing nature of the Web. Then, in a detailed account, he wittingly argues that the “cut and paste” cyber culture and self-published user-generated content over the democratized media platforms on the Internet, are destroying our economy, culture and values.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. A recent selection of my neighborhood book group, The Middle Place is a bittersweet, moving memoir of a young mother and writer, as she battles breast cancer while also learning of her father’s late-stage cancer diagnosis. Taking the reader through the emotional ups and downs of her daily challenges as a patient, working parent and daughter, she portrays the evolving family dynamics and relationships. In a clear voice with detailed nuances, Corrigan manages to offer insight, inspiration and even some guidance to family and friends of cancer patients.

Ginny Lamere, reporter:

Infidel by Ayaan Hirst Ali is the true story of a woman who was raised in a strict Muslim family and lived in four Muslim countries as a child. She escaped a forced marriage and fled to the Netherlands. There she learned the language, went to college and eventually became a member of Parliament, until the death threats mounted. It is a story of courage, persistence and triumph. It also gives much insight into the Muslim culture.

The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper is the autobiography of a rich, privileged girl growing up in Liberia whose family escapes to America to avoid the growing violence. The family leaves without Helene’s foster sister. It is a story of a lost childhood, the difficulties of starting over in a new country, the path back to find the foster sister and a life the author makes as a journalist.

Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer is a biography of Samuel de Champlain who was a great explorer, sailor and the driving force in the creation of the first sustained French colony in North America. Fischer paints Champlain as a tremendous leader, someone who learns to communicate with the different tribes along the river and create a French community that lives in harmony with the natives. He traveled through what is now six Canadian provinces and five American states. It’s a great read and will leave you with a sense of his vast accomplishment.

In Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas Friedman, who wrote The World is Flat, focuses on a strategy for our nation for clean energy and conservation. He clearly states the relationship between America’s large oil-burning mentality and its connection to terrorists in the Middle East. He explains that there are growing populations, mostly in India and China, that are striving to live like we do here in Carlisle and why the Earth cannot support a large population living our lifestyle. Friedman can be repetitious, but many of his points are valid and should give us food for thought and incentive to change our ways.

Mary Hult, interim features editor:

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. I recently happened on this book, perfect for the toddler/pre-schooler on your list. It is the sweet tale of a pre-verbal toddler’s attempts to communicate, set in Brooklyn with contemporary stylized characters. Willems is a Caldecott Medal winner and, not surprisingly, this book was awarded the BCCB Blue Ribbon Picture Book Award.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows. This is a light read, told in letter format, primarily about life on Guernsey Island during the Nazi occupation. Humorous touches lace the tales of the characters, likable and heroic. This would be a particularly fine choice for the women who lived through that era.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. This author is widely known for her books The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies and once again, I marveled at how quickly I became empathetic with her characters, all Bengalis, coping with generational and cultural differences as they settle into life in America.

What is the What by Dave Eggers. In all honesty, this was my choice for the library’s community read. It is a fictionalized memoir of a real-life Sudanese hero, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, who spends 15 years wandering in exile, in and out of refugee camps. His tale is harrowing and enlightening, one that will leave the reader with a new found respect for survivors of such conflicts.

his points he interweaves ancient and contemporary wisdom from Tibetan Buddhism. Prominent are quotes from the Diamond Sutra, an ancient text of conversations between the Buddha and a disciple. Glimpses into the inner workings of the world-wide diamond trade alone are well worth the read.

Marilyn Harte, editorial writer:

The Sibley Guide to Trees written and illustrated by David Allen Sibley. For those naturalists who live in the Concord area, the author’s name Sibley conjures up images of beautiful birds. No longer is it just birds that the name Sibley can be applied to, because now he has published a marvelous guide to North American trees. Recently, a group of Concord-Carlisle High School freshmen stopped by our house to collect and identify leaves for their biology class. Luckily my husband, who had just purchased the Sibley’s Guide to Trees, could show them and confirm a White Ash, Shagbark Hickory and Black Mulberry.

The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court by Jeffrey Toobin. This is the book that Carlisle readers voted to read and discuss for the Gleason Public Library’s Cover to Cover 2010 Community Read in January. Toobin, a staff writer for the New Yorker and CNN legal analyst, is more than qualified to write about the nine justices who made up the court in 2007. From the Bush versus Gore travesty to the interviews with the justices and their law clerks, this is a book for anyone interested in the legal body that is the final arbiter of our laws. Read this book yourself and attend one of the Cover to Cover discussion groups and the panel discussion in January.

Susan Mills, ad department:

Blind Side by Michael Lewis. Watching the movie version of this book I was convinced that the movie glossed over many aspects of this wonderful story. Indeed, Michael Lewis provides much more detail about football, the motivations of the people involved in this true story and some of the controversy surrounding the decisions made by those people and the resulting outcomes. The story provides a delightful read for anyone even slightly interested in football and for everyone who wishes a heartwarming, moving tribute to the power of love and education.

Gourmet Today: More than 1000 All-New Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen edited by Ruth Reichl. Before it ceased publication, Gourmet Magazine released a new cookbook with a promise I found particularly compelling. The new recipes are tailored to take advantage of the many ethnic fruits, vegetables, sauces and condiments now readily available in supermarkets and farmers markets. The recipes provide a refreshing wealth of new creations to make that take advantage of the current marketplace and our desire for healthy modern meals.

Ornit Barkai, Forum staff:

Born Digital by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. “Digital natives,” defined as children who were born into and raised in the digital world, are the subject of recent Harvard University research and this book. Exploring issues of identity, privacy and safety, they examine narratives of online piracy, cyberbullying, political activism and learning. Inspired by the decade-old book Being Digital by MIT’s Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, Born Digital is a practical guide (and a handy glossary) to parents, educators and anyone else who wants to understand our digital world in the age of information.

The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keene is a great read for anyone interested in contrarian perspectives on the impact and implications of Web 2.0 on our lives. In his first book, Keene, a Silicon Valley insider and self-described “amateur writer,” offers his provocative insight on how Web 2.0 assaults content creators, journalists, authors, editors, musicians and artists. “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog,” he borrows from the famous 1993 New Yorker cartoon, while acknowledging the equalizing nature of the Web. Then, in a detailed account, he wittingly argues that the “cut and paste” cyber culture and self-published user-generated content over the democratized media platforms on the Internet, are destroying our economy, culture and values.

The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan. A recent selection of my neighborhood book group, The Middle Place is a bittersweet, moving memoir of a young mother and writer, as she battles breast cancer while also learning of her father’s late-stage cancer diagnosis. Taking the reader through the emotional ups and downs of her daily challenges as a patient, working parent and daughter, she portrays the evolving family dynamics and relationships. In a clear voice with detailed nuances, Corrigan manages to offer insight, inspiration and even some guidance to family and friends of cancer patients.

Ginny Lamere, reporter:

Infidel by Ayaan Hirst Ali is the true story of a woman who was raised in a strict Muslim family and lived in four Muslim countries as a child. She escaped a forced marriage and fled to the Netherlands. There she learned the language, went to college and eventually became a member of Parliament, until the death threats mounted. It is a story of courage, persistence and triumph. It also gives much insight into the Muslim culture.

The House at Sugar Beach by Helene Cooper is the autobiography of a rich, privileged girl growing up in Liberia whose family escapes to America to avoid the growing violence. The family leaves without Helene’s foster sister. It is a story of a lost childhood, the difficulties of starting over in a new country, the path back to find the foster sister and a life the author makes as a journalist.

Champlain’s Dream by David Hackett Fischer is a biography of Samuel de Champlain who was a great explorer, sailor and the driving force in the creation of the first sustained French colony in North America. Fischer paints Champlain as a tremendous leader, someone who learns to communicate with the different tribes along the river and create a French community that lives in harmony with the natives. He traveled through what is now six Canadian provinces and five American states. It’s a great read and will leave you with a sense of his vast accomplishment.

In Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas Friedman, who wrote The World is Flat, focuses on a strategy for our nation for clean energy and conservation. He clearly states the relationship between America’s large oil-burning mentality and its connection to terrorists in the Middle East. He explains that there are growing populations, mostly in India and China, that are striving to live like we do here in Carlisle and why the Earth cannot support a large population living our lifestyle. Friedman can be repetitious, but many of his points are valid and should give us food for thought and incentive to change our ways.

Mary Hult, interim features editor:

Knuffle Bunny: A Cautionary Tale by Mo Willems. I recently happened on this book, perfect for the toddler/pre-schooler on your list. It is the sweet tale of a pre-verbal toddler’s attempts to communicate, set in Brooklyn with contemporary stylized characters. Willems is a Caldecott Medal winner and, not surprisingly, this book was awarded the BCCB Blue Ribbon Picture Book Award.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shafer and Annie Barrows. This is a light read, told in letter format, primarily about life on Guernsey Island during the Nazi occupation. Humorous touches lace the tales of the characters, likable and heroic. This would be a particularly fine choice for the women who lived through that era.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. This author is widely known for her books The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies and once again, I marveled at how quickly I became empathetic with her characters, all Bengalis, coping with generational and cultural differences as they settle into life in America.

What is the What by Dave Eggers. In all honesty, this was my choice for the library’s community read. It is a fictionalized memoir of a real-life Sudanese hero, one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, who spends 15 years wandering in exile, in and out of refugee camps. His tale is harrowing and enlightening, one that will leave the reader with a new found respect for survivors of such conflicts.


© 2009 The Carlisle Mosquito