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And Another Thing

What we’re reading and loving lately

By: Susan Rushton
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Ta da! My first book column of 2019!

Cynthia Maier recommends “The Historian,” by Elizabeth Kostova. “The story starts out in 1972 Amsterdam with a father and daughter searching for the tomb of Count Dracula. It’s a great read and will keep you spellbound.”

Count Dracula? Spellbound? I guess so.

Around the time that the State Theatre hosted typewriters, an author and a movie about typewriters, I heard from Karen Reitz: “I was just reading about the ‘The Typewriter Revolution.’ Are you aware that Tom Hanks has written a book with a strong typewriter theme called ‘Uncommon Type’? I ran across it accidentally in an airport book store. Did not know he was a writer among all his other talents.”

I’m going to have to investigate. I like Tom Hanks.

My non-fiction friend Earl Walker emailed me with this information: “I've got a non-fiction book to recommend that has your name all over it … It's about one of your favorite subjects — libraries. The book is called ‘The Library Book,’ (by Susan Orlean.) One of her earlier books was a big best seller: ‘The Orchid Thief.’

“The book is really a love letter to public libraries and their essential-ness. Its center is the tale of the Los Angeles Central library, the building of which burned, along with destroying or damaging about a million books, in April 1986.”

Yow … this is a book to break my heart. A million books, gone. But there’s good news, because the library survived. “And along the way it tells of the evolution of libraries, past and expected future, particularly in Los Angeles but also around the world. It's well written, sometimes poignant, always educational, full of fascinating people and anecdotes. Who knew a book about libraries could be so entertaining? Fun book.”

Several months ago, Jim Ferris slipped me a list of books he’s been investigating. I put it in a drawer where I knew I wouldn’t lose it and promptly forgot about it. Then … well, here it is:

“Books read (or reading now) in the past 4-5 months: ‘Dracula,’ ‘The Martian Chronicles,’ ‘The New American Spirituality’ by Elizabeth Lesser, Edward Abbey’s ‘The Fool’s Progress,’ ‘Kingdom of Fear’ by Hunter Thompson, ‘Quite Enough of Calvin Trillin: Forty Years of Funny Stuff,’ by Calvin Trillin (a classmate at Yale), plus magazines: ‘The New Yorker,’ ‘Smithsonian,’ ‘The Week.’”

Busy guy. Calvin Trillin, a classmate at Yale? What fun.

As I prepared to write this particular column, I found several previous columns in which I’d mentioned my adoration of “All the Light We Cannot See,” by Anthony Doerr. Turns out I’ve been in the middle of this book since 2017.

I stopped reading it because I needed time to pay attention to it, because it’s not a novel to read quickly. Also I didn’t want it to end. Of course you understand: the longer you read something you love, the sooner the end comes. Then what are you going to do?

But I’m caught. I love this book. The writing’s wonderful. Besides, if I don’t finish it, I can’t start “The Gentleman from Moscow,” which keeps staring at me from the shelf.

At the December meeting of my book group, each of us brings a wrapped book that we’ve either loved or know we’d love. We each take a number and then pick a book and then hope to keep it. Some years nobody takes a book already opened; other years (like this time) there’s a lot of trading and promises to loan books.

These are the titles we brought:

“Before We Were Yours,” by Lisa Wingate: children struggle in orphanages.

“Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher,” by Timothy Egan: about a photographer of the Old West.

“Unsheltered,” Barbara Kingsolver: two families centuries apart struggle to survive what feels like the end of the world as they know it.

“Clock Dance,” by Anne Tyler: a young widow takes care of strangers and learns the value of community.

“Small Country,” by Gaël Faye: childhood during genocide in Rwanda.

“The Mermaids Singing,” by Lisa Care: three women are changed on an Irish island.

“Plum Spooky,” by Janet Evanovich: the fourth in her “between the numbers” Stephanie Plum series.

“The Adults,” by Caroline Hulse: a divorced couple, their new partners, their grown children and their partners spend Christmas together. Uh-oh.

“Triple Homicide,” by James Patterson: an omnibus, “from the case files of Alex Cross, Michael Bennett and the Women’s Murder Club.”

“Boundary Waters,” by William Kent Kreuger: second in the Cork O’Connor detective series.

“The Lowland,” by Jhumpa Lahiri: Characters from India struggle in their move to America.

“Keeping Faith,” by Jodi Picault: a mother, her cheating husband and their troubled daughter who hears voices.

“Skipping Christmas,” by John Grisham: a couple tries to skip Christmas and travel to the Caribbean, but it’s not so easy.

“Lilac Girls,” by Martha Hall Kelly: three women confront trouble and fear during WWII.

OK, your turn. What are you reading and loving lately? Email me at the address below.

Susan Rushton’s opinion column appears regularly in the Auburn Journal. Her email is rushton@suddenlink.net.