Friday Reads: The Right to Die

 

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Topics may be new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

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Have you read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal:  medicine and what matters in the end during our town-wide read this year?  Are you following along with the stories in the local newspapers about a Falmouth doctor fighting for the legal right to end his life because he is terminally ill?   If you have an interest in the complex issue of physician assisted death or euthanasia and want to learn more about it, I recommend a reference book recently added to our collection:  The Right to Die by Howard Ball.

As part of the series of reference books called Contemporary World Issues, The Right to Die is written for students in high school and college working on research papers, as well as activists, policy makers and yes, general readers.  It provides reliable, balanced and current information from a wealth of sources in a clear manner.  The publisher writes about the series, “Each book, carefully organized and easy to use, contains an overview of the subject, a detailed chronology, biographical sketches, facts and data and/or documents and other primary source material, a forum of authoritative perspective essays, annotated lists of print and non-print resources, and an index.  Readers of books in the Contemporary World Issues series will find the information they need in order to have a better understanding of the social, political, environmental, and economic issues facing the world today.”

For example, the “Profiles” section contains entries for people and organizations grouped according to whether they support or are opposed to Death with Dignity Laws.  Each entry provides a brief background of the person’s role and opinion on the issue, as well as other helpful information.  The entry for Atul Gawande, which is among the longest entries, states: “… his writing about how one should approach death is extraordinarily beautiful; any person interested in exploring the parameters of the right to die – regardless of the person’s predisposition – will do well to read Gawande’s ethical-medical philosophy of death and dying.”

You can find this book in the reference department with call # REF 179.7 BAL.  It cannot be checked out, but you can spend as much time with it as you like in one of our easy chairs by the window.

 

Friday Reads: My Green Manifesto

 

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Topics may be new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

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The January meeting of the Narrative Nonfiction Book Club was post-poned one week due to the snow storm on the 4th.  We had a fine time yesterday, however, discussing and guffawing over My Green Manifesto:  down the Charles River in pursuit of a new environmentalism by one-time Cape Cod resident, David Gessner.

The publisher describes the book thus, “In My Green Manifesto, David Gessner embarks on a rough-and-tumble journey down Boston’s Charles River, searching for the soul of a new environmentalism.  With a tragically leaky canoe, a broken cell phone, a cooler of beer, and the environmental planner Dan Driscoll in tow, Gessner grapples with the stereotype of the environmentalist as an overzealous, puritanical mess.”

We covered many topics in our discussion, including ‘what is a manifesto?’  and noting the literary tradition from which this work stems (Think Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Edward Abbey, John Hay, Aldo Leopold, Bill McKibben, Wendell Berry and Rachel Carson.)  We also compared the author’s “new” environmentalism with older doomsday-style “environmental extremists” (Think Al Gore and the author’s favorite antagonists Ted Nordhouse and Michael Shellenberger.) Gessner’s “new” environmentalism is an approachable method rooted in having fun in the wildness and fixing what ails your own backyard.  It may also include beer.

Since we are in the midst of reading a series of books about social justice issues, we made sure to tie the book into the theme.  Climate change is responsible for drought, water shortages, floods, extreme weather, crop failures and a host of other calamities which strike the poor the hardest.

Next month we will discuss Glass House: the 1% economy and the shattering of the all-American town by Brian Alexander.  Pick up a copy of the book at the reference desk and join us in the Hermann Room on Thursday, February 1 at 10:00 for what is sure to be an illuminating and engaging discussion.

 

From Book to Golden Globe

Will you be watching the 75th Golden Globe awards on Sunday, January 7th?

Here are a few  book suggestions to enhance your viewing!

Among the nominees for Best Picture are:

Call Me by Your Name –  Check out the novel of the same name by André Aciman,

Dunkirk – Borrow the book: Dunkirk: the history behind the major motion picture by Joshua Levine

The Post –Borrow the book, Katharine Graham- a Personal History

Nominees for Best Actress- Drama

Jessica Chastain for Molly’s Game 

Borrow the book –Molly’s Game: the true story of the 26-Year-old Woman behind the most exclusive, high-stakes underground poker game in the world

Michelle Williams for All the Money in the World-

Borrow the book- Uncommon Youth: the gilded life and tragic times of J. Paul Getty III by Charles Fox

Nominees for Best Actor- Drama 

Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour

Borrow the bookDarkest Hour: how Churchill brought England back from the brink by Anthony McCarten

Nominees for Best Musical or Comedy

The Disaster Artist

Borrow the book- The Disaster Artist: my life inside The Room, the greatest bad movie ever made by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell

Greatest Showman     

Borrow the book- P.T. Barnum: America’s greatest showman by Philip B. Kunhardt, Jr., Philip B. Kunhardt III, and Peter W. Kunhardt

I, Tonya

Borrow the book- Fire on Ice: The Exclusive Inside Story of Tonya Harding by Abby Haight

Judi Dench- Victoria & Abdul

Borrow the book: Victoria & Abdul: the true story of the queen’s closest confidant by Shrabani Basu

Nominees for Best Actor in a Motion Picture- Musical or Comedy

Steve Carell- Battle of the Sexes

Borrow the book- A Necessary Spectacle: Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, and the tennis match that leveled the game by Selena Roberts

Friday Reads: The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Topics may be new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

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This week, Reference Librarian, Donna Burgess, takes a turn with this column and highlights a new biography of James Parkinson, the man for whom Parkinson’s disease was named 200 year ago.

The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson: the pioneering life of a forgotten surgeon and the mysterious disease that bears his nameThe title of this book drew me in immediately. My sister was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease when she was fifty years old, and each year she struggles with the onset of even more debilitating effects.

Written by Cherry Lewis, The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson delivers an appealing, often gruesome account of the life of a workaholic and highly respected surgeon-apothecary from a time long-ago.  In 1817, during the age of Enlightenment, he “defined this disease so precisely that we still diagnose Parkinson’s disease today by recognizing the symptoms he identified.”  Parkinson also helped Edward Jenner in inoculating Londoners against smallpox, being among the first to do so.

In addition to medicine, Parkinson had two other passions: politics and fossils, which were popular pastimes for upper crust Edwardians.  As a political radical, Parkinson was interrogated in the plot to assassinate King George III.  He became a founder of the Geological Society of London, and wrote a scientific paper on fossils, one of which, a Jurassic ammonite, was named for him: Parkinsonia parkonsoni.

A Kirkus review noted that The Enlightened Mr. Parkinson is “a fine biography of a colorful figure who lived in a turbulent era.” And Publisher’s Weekly stated, “Parkinson’s groundbreaking work, as Lewis notes, represented a ‘farsighted, questioning approach’ that ‘left us with a remarkable scientific and medical legacy’.” – Publishers Weekly

Look for this intriguing biography on the NEW nonfiction shelf, Call # 926.17 Parkinson.

Friday Reads: Eye of the Beholder

Friday Reads: Eye of the Beholder: Masterpieces from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Edited by Alan Chong, Richard Linger and Carl Zahn

One of the great treasures of the city of Boston with its many colleges and universities is the number of museums in the metropolitan Boston area. From the majestic Museum of Fine Arts to the eclectic Institute of Contemporary Art on the waterfront, the city is brimming with art and sculpture. My personal favorite is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in the Back Bay/Fenway section of the city. Originally the home of Mrs. Jack, as Isabella was sometimes called, the museum is the very picture of a Venetian palazzo.  After inheriting a sizable fortune from her father, she went on to become a world class collector.

“Isabella Stewart Gardner collected and carefully displayed a collection comprised of more than 15,000 objects-paintings, sculpture, furniture, textiles, drawings, silver, ceramics, illuminated manuscripts, rare books, photographs, and letters-from ancient Rome, Medieval Europe, Renaissance Italy, Asia, the Islamic world and 19th-century France and America.

The palazzo at Fenway became a salon where “artists and thinkers gathered at Fenway Court around works by Giotto, Fra Angelico, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, and Vermeer.”

In addition to a very comprehensive art education, this book would serve as a wonderful guide as you roam through the collections in this marvelous building.

Have you ever been really impressed by a painting? One that you can remember the art but not the artist? There is a painting at the museum of a young boy with haunting eyes, an image that has stayed with me for a long time. I remembered it was in the Blue Room as you first entered the museum on the left.

“The Blue Room is a gallery brimming with objects that reflect Gardner’s personal relationships. In the early days of the Museum the Blue Room welcomed concert goers, serving as the ladies’ reception area. It displays the work of artists in Gardner’s closest circle of friends. With its low ceilings, fabric covered walls, and well-lit alcoves showcasing paintings, furniture, books, and cases, the Blue Room invites visitors to explore the collection at close range and in an intimate space.” – from the museum’s website.

While browsing through Eye of the Beholder, I was delighted to find on page 217, “The Standard Bearer of the Harvest Festival” by Antonio Mancini, the very painting of the boy with the haunting eyes and angelic face!

Provenance

Purchased by Isabella Stewart Gardner from Antonio Mancini for 1,000 francs in 1884, with the assistance of the American painter and collector Ralph W. Curtis (1854-1922).

Marks

Signed (?) with red crayon (lower right): A Mancini Roma
Undated label (on back of frame) with Isabella Stewart Gardner’s address at 152 Beacon Street, Boston.

I do hope that viewing the masterpieces in Eye of the Beholder will entice you to visit the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum in person. As an extra incentive, the Falmouth Public library offers reduced admission passes to the museum. You can request the passes online here.

Please note: The Museum is closed on Tuesdays.

Lost in Translation

Today’s book radio show on The Point with Mindy Todd was all about books that have been translated, primarily translated into English, as well as the challenges for translators of translating one language into another language. Joining Jill Erickson and Mindy was author Peter Abrahams. Below you will find a list of books mentioned, and if you missed the show you can listen online anytime!

 

Peter’s Picks

The Trial by Franz Kafka, translated from the German by Willa and Edwin Muir

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated from the Russian by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, translated the French by Jacques Le Clercq

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, translated from the Russian by H. T. Willetts

The Original Folk & Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: the complete first edition, translated from the German by Jack Zipes

Holy Bible, the King James Version

 

Jill’s Picks

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, translated from the French originally by Katherine Woods and in 2000 translated by Richard Howard

Is That a Fish in Your Ear: translation and the meaning of everything by David Bellos

Collected Poems by C. P. Cavafy, translated by Daniel Mendelsohn in 2009 and by Edmund Kellery & Philip Sherrard in 1975.

December Heat By Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza, translated from the Portuguese by Benjamin Moser. Part of the Inspector Espinosa series.

In Translation: translators on their work and what it means, edited by Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust, translated from the French by Lydia Davis

Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector, translated from Portuguese by Alison Entrekin. Also try The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector, translated by Katrina Dodson and Why This World: a biography of Clarice Lispector by Benjamin Moser. That’s the cover from Lispector’s complete stories that illustrates this blog.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy, translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett or Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky or Rosamund Bartlett or Marian Schwartz. Article about the Anna Karenina translations can be found in The New York Times, written by Masha Gessen.

Bonus book, for which there was no time, but is well worth reading if you are interested in a short book on translation. Why Translation Matters by Edith Grossman. (Includes a list of the author’s picks of important translations.)

 

 

 

Friday Reads: Fun with Reference Books

 

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

 

If you think reference books by definition are dry, academic type tomes with small print and fat bindings, give me a couple minutes here.  I’ll show you some fun ones.

We have the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations and in it I found these quotes: “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?” Can you believe Abraham Lincoln said that?  And “Too much of a good thing is wonderful.” I can believe Mae West said that.  This little book is full of amusing quotes organized by subject, just the thing if you want to lighten up a presentation or impress your friends.

In Book Lust to Go:  Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers, librarian Nancy Pearl recommends great armchair travel books, both fiction and non-fiction.   Many times, patrons have asked me to recommend books to read before they go on vacation, to help get them in the mood.   Going to Niagara Falls this fall?  Nancy has several suggestions, including The Falls, a novel by Joyce Carol Oates.

No doubt you’ve heard the phrase, “Seven Wonders of the World,” but fess up, can you actually name them?  If you hesitated, I recommend flipping through, What Are the Seven Wonders of the World? And 100 Other Great Cultural Lists Full Explicated.  Then you can ace trivia night at Liam Maguire’s this winter.

If you are the type to toss salt over your shoulder to ward of bad luck, you may be interested in Witches: an encyclopedia of paganism and magic.  In there, you’ll discover Alomancy is the term for your salty ways and that the term’s first meaning is an ancient practice of divination.  So, toss the salt to be safe this Halloween, then read the pattern of sprinkled grains to see what your future holds.

You have probably seen tattoos frequently, ranging from a single small flower to ones covering much of the body.   People from most cultures around the world have tattoos and they are popular in advertising in the U.S. now.  But, have you seen eyelids tattooed with open eyes or a balding person with a tattoo of a lawn mower at the hairline?  Read all about the many varieties of joke tattoos in Inked: Tattoos and Body Art Around the World.  Maybe it is just the inspiration you need to get a moustache tattooed to your index finger, so you can hold it under your nose when you’re feeling jaunty.

Are you a political junkie?  You may want to consult Hatchet Jobs and Hardball:  the Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang to expand your vocabulary with some fun terms such as: bafflegab (confusing or unintelligible speech), Foggy Bottom (the U.S. Dept. of State, because it is located in the district by that name) or dope story (speculative or false information planted or leaked).   Each entry tells you where and when the terms were first used.  Dope Story, for example, was first used by the New York Times on January 3, 1929 when former governor Alfred E. Smith said, “When you get these reports that I’m going to take all kinds of jobs; that I’m going to be a baseball player on the Giants; why, I wish you wouldn’t come running up here to ask me about them because you’ll know there’s nothing to all these dope stories.”

I could go on, but hopefully you now know there is more variety to reference books than you may have first thought.  Yes, we have lots of encyclopedias, directories, gazetteers, catalogues and bibliographies.  Most of them will make you say, “Now that’s interesting!”  and some of them will even make you laugh.

Friday Reads: Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

 

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

 

We had a full house at the Narrative Nonfiction Book Club meeting this week, with some new or long absent faces mingling in with the full-timers.  Kicking off our new 6-month theme of Social Justice, we discussed Evicted:  Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond.

Evicted follows the lives of eight families in Milwaukee who subsist in squalid apartments, trailer parks, homeless shelters or on friends’ couches and struggle to buy enough food and medicine to sustain themselves.  Facing eviction several times over for not being able to pay the rent, these families are caught in a vicious cycle of homelessness and joblessness, compounded by mental and physical illnesses, low education, drug abuse, sexual abuse or other tough issues.   Thoroughly researched, brilliantly written, compelling and important, Evicted presents the view of both landlords and tenants in an unbiased manner.

It is a more statistic-filled and emotionally wrenching book than our usual fare, but being primarily narrative, it was an excellent book for us to learn from and discuss the many contributors to and ramifications of eviction and poverty.  Despite some hesitancy from some members to start the book, the group got deeply involved in it and brought great comments and questions to the table.   It is a wonderful book for discussing with others as it challenges preconceived notions and introduces details most of us not in poverty probably would not be aware of.

Next month, we will discuss Just Mercy:  a story of justice and redemption by Bryan Stevenson.  If you would like to join us, pick up a copy of the book at the reference desk and come to the discussion on Thursday, November 2, 2017 at 10 AM in the Hermann Foundation Meeting Room.  All comments and opinions are welcome.

 

Friday Reads: McTeague: a story of San Francisco by Frank Norris

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

 

Way back when, before I was a librarian, when I lived in San Francisco, I read the novel, McTeague: a story of San Francisco by Frank Norris, published in 1902.  I just picked it up on a whim at a used book store because it was set in my town in the early 1900s and that was enough to interest me.  It was a slim thing with a painting of a slim, disheveled man on the cover.   I remember now that once I got to reading it, I was quickly hooked.  The characters were full and flawed, the setting so vivid I was there on that same street one hundred years ago, and the plot lead me where I least expected.  When asked to name my favorite book, McTeague was it for many years.   Now I have read so many great books, I can no longer answer that question.

But, I had forgotten about McTeague in recent years, … until today.  Today, I saw on our new nonfiction book shelf 100 Great American Novels You’ve (Probably) Never Read by Karl Bridges.   I scanned the table of contents to quiz myself.  How many had I read?  Uh-oh, how many had I even heard of?!  Please let me remind you here, I read a lot more nonfiction than fiction.  But when I saw McTeague on the list, I was thrilled.  It is a great American novel.  No doubt about it.  And if you haven’t read it, Karl Bridges and I recommend that you do.  Bridges describes Norris’ novel as being similar to Émile Zola’s realistic tone and style, but “distinctive in its American voice”.  Here’s his synopsis from the book:

“McTeague is a dentist of questionable background operating a small practice in San Francisco.  He has friends, a reasonable number of patients satisfied with his work, and generally, good prospects in the world.  He seems to prosper, both in his practice and in his marriage to the attractive Trina, who brings a reasonable dowry to the marriage.  As time goes on, however, the marriage and the practice collapse, victim to McTeague’s increasing alcoholism and lack of attention to his marriage, which reveal the horrible character flaws that the has been hiding.  Ultimately, his increasing desperation leads him to murder and to his pursuit by a relentless adversary across California and into the high Sierras, where events come to a thrilling and surprising conclusion.”

McTeague is one novel in the Library of America anthology, Novels and Essays by Frank Norris that I just put on the Staff Picks shelf.  Look carefully, it is that plain little clothbound book that resembles a red brick.  You can find “100 Great American Novels You’ve (Probably ) Never Read” by Karl Bridges on the new nonfiction shelf with the call number 028.9 BRI.  Take a look and see how many novels you’ve read.

Friday Reads: The Psychopath Test

“Friday Reads” is a weekly blog written by reference librarian Faith Lee about great books, magazines, and the occasional reference work.    Blogs may be about new titles added to the library, selections from the Staff Picks shelf or about something she recently read.  Admittedly, there is a definite slant toward nonfiction, because, well, she’s a reference librarian and likes to learn new things.  Guest bloggers take a turn sometimes too.  No matter the source, good reads are featured here. 

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This week I am digging back into past posts to share one of my favorite books, The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson.  The Narrative Nonfiction Book Club discussed it in January, 2014.  Below is a re-posting of most of that initial blog, just in case you missed it the first time around.

In The Psychopath Test, we learned from this often humorous account, that the madness industry is comprised of several different types of people and organizations.  There are of course the obvious: patients, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, treatment facilities, pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies.  But then the author points out less obvious groups that we may not have considered, such as lawyers and teachers who work with patients; journalists who write about the subject, and even, CEOs of companies.

Wait, what?  How did that last one get on the list, you may ask?  Ronson learns how to use a 30-point checklist, created to determine if someone is a psychopath (also called a sociopath).  He discovers that many traits that define a psychopath, such as a lack of empathy for others, a grandiose sense of self, and the need to be in control, are also traits that make a successful CEO.  He explores the connection by interviewing several people, some who are incarcerated for psychopathy and others who are not, and giving them the test.  In addition he visits institutions in England and the United States and meets with several psychiatrists to get a varied picture of the madness industry.  The journey is illuminating, informative, entertaining and just a little bit scary.

We had a great discussion about diagnosing and treating psychiatric patients, from children with ADD to psychopaths.  We also examined the effect of approaching this serious topic with the author’s trademark self-deprecating humor.  Many reviews were written about this book when it came out in 2011 and we had a great time comparing our reactions to those of professional reviewers.

The Psychopath Test is on our lovely new Staff Picks shelf now located near the self check-out machine.  Check them both out – the new shelf and the old book!