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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Nonfiction Addiction

Well, it’s official.  Our new nonfiction book club finally has a name – Nonfiction Addiction!  And the process was even democratic – last month, members submitted names and then voted on their favorite.

So, are you addicted to nonfiction?  Do you like reading about current events and famous people?  Do you sometimes need a break from fiction?  Or maybe you’re like my father, who reads nonfiction exclusively and will only deign to pick up a fictional novel if it’s by Charles Dickens.  Well, you’re in luck.  I promise we won’t ever read anything by Dickens (for that you’ll want to join our other book club – the Main Street Book Club!) – instead we’ll read biographies and books featuring current and past phenomena.

Tomorrow (May 1st at 6:00 p.m.) we’ll be discussing Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden.  I first heard about this book from my sister-in-law, who was going through several books about North Korea.  It sounded fascinating, and reading it did not disappoint.  It’s about the only known escapee from one of the forced labor camps in North Korea.  This is a short book, but that doesn’t make it an easy read.  Conditions in these camps are actually unimaginable – and that is not hyperbole.  I actually had a difficult time picturing the lives of these inmates in my head.  There is no such thing as familial love for a lot of people.  They are raised in families, but they compete for even the smallest scraps of food.  They are also rewarded for snitching to the guards.  Inmates have no concept that the outside world exists – they don’t know that there are people living in countries with ready access to food, education, and shelter.  They are born knowing nothing else but the terrible, desperate lives they lead.  The following is a short excerpt from Escape from Camp 14, speaking of Shin Dong-hyuk, the subject of the book:  “He had no hope to lose, no past to mourn, no pride to defend. He did not find it degrading to lick soup off the floor. He was not ashamed to beg a guard for forgiveness. It didn’t trouble his conscience to betray a friend for food. These were merely survival skills, not motives for suicide.”

To think that this is going on in the world right now boggles the mind.  And it’s just so completely unacceptable.  Most of these people are being held for minor infractions or because they know or are related to the wrong people.

And this is why I love books, especially nonfiction.  Because there may not be much we can do about the problem, especially because North Korea is such a closed country.  But at least we can read about it and think about it and discuss it, until something does change for the better.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

An Ever Growing Pile

Being a librarian is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing because I get to spend some time everyday thinking about books, talking about books, and ordering books.  It’s a curse, though, because the more time I spend hearing about new books or discovering old books that I should have read by now, I realize that I will in fact never, ever get through all the wonderful, mysterious, life-changing books there are to be read.

Here’s a small sample of what my current pile of books to be read (and finished) includes:

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon.  I’ve actually started this one.  Several people in our Main Street Book Club have raved about it, and I have determined to read it.  It’s an epic love story about a woman honeymooning in Scotland who time travels back a few centuries.  I’m looking forward to being immersed in another world.

Spillover by David Quammen.  This has begun like a non-fiction version of Contagion, a chillingly good movie about a worldwide pandemic.  I am by no means a fan of books with a lot of science in them, but this is too fascinating to be boring.  The author details the beginning of diseases like AIDS, Ebola, Hendra, and SARS.  It’s really a detective story, with scientists and health officials taking great risks to find the genesis of these viruses.

Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican.  This intense coming-of-age tale was recently lauded by Gillian Flynn, who said “With Brutal Youth, Anthony Breznican has captured high-school life in all its gruesome, wild, survival-of-the-fittest lunacy. His portrait of teenagers—and the theoretical grownups who tend to them—is, by turns, painfully funny and painfully painful, but always sharp as a well-carved stick.”

All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Darragh McKeon.  A novel that centers on the Chernobyl disaster and also chronicles the end of the Soviet Union.  I’m looking forward to this piece of historical fiction.

Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke.  I actually got chills just reading the reviews.  A thoroughly creepy novel about a mother and daughter stuck at home during a blizzard.  Here’s to a few sleepless nights, at the very least.

What’s in your to-be-read (or to-be-finished) pile?

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Review of “Shotgun Lovesongs” by Nickolas Butler

91AnnUX42YLIsn’t “Shotgun Lovesongs” a great title?  Debut author Nickolas Butler has written a beautifully quiet novel, a lovesong to Wisconsin.The story follows the joys and heartbreaks of five friends who have been friends forever, growing up together in a small Wisconsin town.  One of them, a musician, becomes famous.  Another finds great financial success in Chicago.  Two of them marry and farm the land together.  The last is a recovering alcoholic who used to be a rodeo star but has to quit when he is injured.  They all lead very different lives, but their ties to Little Wing, Wisconsin run deep, and those who have left find themselves returning to their hometown often.  Sometimes it’s to prove to themselves and others that they’ve made it, and other times it’s to find comfort and solace in the familiar.

The novel takes a bit of time to pick up – I found myself wondering where the conflict would come in.  And really, aside from a rather shocking revelation, there isn’t anything cataclysmic.  These are, for the most part, regular people living regular lives.  Which may not sound interesting or worthy of a novel, but the character’s innermost thoughts are conveyed with such beauty.  And their struggles are so relatable – there is unrequited love, money troubles, divorce, but always great friendship.  These five friends love each other, and that love has informed their entire lives.

Butler is a beautiful writer – he captures small town America in a heartbreaking, exquisite way.  There is one particular scene that I will probably always remember – Leland, in his early days as a performer, does a set in a small town on Lake Superior.  He opens for a bluegrass band.  He describes their music as “a giant bucket of water poured over a great tree, fully leaved, the notes dividing and dispersing themselves down, gradually growing smaller and smaller, joyously running, bouncing, flowing down, down, down from leaf to leaf, as if racing one another.  And everyone started dancing…and the whole town embraced me – literally embraced me – swung me into their square dances.  And I have to say, that was the first time I ever understood what America was, or could be.  America, I think, is about poor people playing music and poor people sharing food and poor people dancing, even when everything else in their lives is so desperate, and so dismal that it doesn’t seem there should be any room for any music, any extra food, or any extra energy for dancing.”

I hope there’s more from this author.  I hope he continues to remind us what makes America, America.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

A Good Time

If you missed our anniversary on Saturday, you missed out on a good time! Our various performers were wonderful, and we had lots of yummy cake! Check out the pics below.

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Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

 
 
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