Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Book Reviews

I am reading a couple of really good books right now. And they couldn't be more different! Isn't that one of the best things about summer reading?

The first one is Pigeons : the fascinating saga of the world's most revered and reviled bird by Andrew Blechman.
Many people consider the ever present rock dove, better known as the pigeon, a "rat with wings." But as the author demonstrates in his enjoyable and informative book, this much maligned bird has served humans well for thousands of years, carrying messages informing the ancient Egyptians about flood levels along the Nile, bearing news of Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo and saving thousands of soldiers' lives during the two world wars. Today pigeons are found everywhere, from the queen of England's luxurious racing pigeon lofts to the garbage-strewn streets of every large city. Pigeons gregarious, easily domesticated and capable of flying for hours at speeds of more than 100 mph are interesting in their own right, but Blechman writes not so much about the birds themselves as about the people who either love or hate them. These include members of a New York City homing pigeon club who dedicate themselves to raising and racing pigeons; Queen Elizabeth's royal pigeon handler; breeders who spend years perfecting champion birds for show; gun enthusiasts who participate in brutal live pigeon shoots. Many of these people are eccentric, and while this book won't convert pigeon haters to pigeon lovers, it does make for entertaining reading. And even though it is not written as a "how-to" book, it did have interesting information about nutrition and care in it. Very interesting book!

The next book I wanted to talk about is by Anne Lamott, Grace (eventually) : thoughts on faith. Now this is not a traditional set of essays on faith. What it IS is description of how Anne Lamott copes. The challenges seem alternately inconsequential and insurmountable - the anger engendered by an obstinate carpet salesman or president; the engulfing envy at a friend's professional success; the bewilderment at discovering that a child has grown up or that a friend wants to die on his own terms - and they are also universal. The familiar topics are here Mom; her son; illness; death; addictions; Jesus; Republicans as is their zany attitude. What is not commonplace is Lamott's struggle to look at the difficulties of life with a maturity and attempt to act like Jesus. With gentle wisdom refining her signature humor, Lamott explores helpfulness, decency, love and especially forgiveness. She explains the change: "Sometimes I act just as juvenile as I ever did, but as I get older, I do it for shorter periods of time. I find my way back to the path sooner, where there is always one last resort: get a glass of water and call a friend." I have found myself in tears at the end of almost every chapter. She surprises me and moves me to try to be a better person. I highly recommend this book!

And another book I have not received yet but anxiously await is Three bags full : a sheep detective story by Leonie Swan. This is what Publisher's Weekly said about it:
In this refreshingly original detective story from debut German author Swann, a flock of sheep investigates the murder of their beloved shepherd, George Glenn. Leading the effort is Miss Maple, considered the cleverest sheep in the Irish seaside village of Glennkill. She slyly "pretends" to graze while eavesdropping on suspects who come to search George's caravan for something he may have died for. When a long-lost ram recounts an incident that occurred upon his departure years earlier, Miss Maple uncovers the catalyst for George's death. The wooly troupe reveals the crime's solution in a near-Shakespearean mime at the annual "Smartest Sheep in Glennkill" contest. The author's sheep's-eye view and the animals' literal translation of the strange words and deeds of the human species not only create laugh-out-loud humor but also allow the animals occasional flashes of accidental brilliance.

This book is on order at the library and I can't wait!

In a separate post I want to talk about a couple of happenings at our local yarn shops, Loose Ends Yarn Shop and Susan's Fiber Shop. Look for that post, I hope, later today!
Well, talk to you soon,
All human beings should try to learn before they die
what they are running from, and to, and why.
James Thurber


gail said...

All of your books sound wonderful. I'll make a note to read them soon. I'm currently reading "The Places in Between" about a man walking across Afghanistan. Interesting but not absorbing.

gail said...

Yes, I hope to be a grade school librarian, but the local school board has reduced all the positions to half time; needless to say, there are no openings. Yes, the river is the Mississippi!!! The arched bridge was built for the rail road to service the many flour mills on the banks of the river. And the blue building is the new Guthrie Theater!