Monday, June 30, 2014

Community Picks

The Community Picks bookshelf is a popular place to find out what other folks in Tucson like to read. It's time to share a few more titles to add to your reserve list!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Book Review: The Death of Bees

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell is not about bees, but it is about death. After Marnie (15) and Nelly (12) discover their parents have died, they say good riddance to the drug-addled negligent mother and abusive father who made their lives miserable. The girls bury them in the backyard and hope the social workers will leave them alone. If they can keep their secret until Marnie turns 16, she’ll be old enough to take custody of her sister and they’ll be free.

Interspersed with bits of humor, this dark coming of age story takes place in Glasgow as Marnie and Nelly connect with their gay neighbor Lennie, who is grieving the loss of his partner. The saga unfolds in alternating chapters from each of their perspectives. Lennie assumes the girls’ parents have run off again, as was their tendency, but he starts to get suspicious as time goes on. Their maternal grandfather turns up, as well, and threatens to destroy what little sense of peace the three have finally found.

Marnie starts off as a tough spitfire who grows to accept her own vulnerability, while Nelly—a bit autistic with a Queen’s vernacular—discovers that she needs to step up and be the caregiver sometimes. You can’t help but root for each of them, clever and fierce in their own ways, as they try to forge a path against the cyclical traps of poverty and abuse. 


Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Swerve

"Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness." The Constitution carries these words, in part, because Thomas Jefferson was influenced by his reading of an ancient Roman classic, "On the Nature of Things." Jefferson owned multiple editions and translations, to which he referred in his correspondence. Before and after him, De Rerum Natura (the original title) influenced powerful thinkers from Galileo to Freud, Darwin to Einstein to Sir Thomas More. Many of the concepts are remarkably modern, and some seem dangerously radical even today.

The Swerve tells two stories. The first is an Indiana Jones-like epic of Poggio Bracciolini, papal secretary and book hunter, who discovered a very old manuscript in a secluded monastery in 1417. He recognized it as De Rerum Natura, one of the great lost classics written by Titus Lucretius Carus around 50 BCE. Poggio Bracciolini's discovery rescued the manuscript, and the newly-invented printing press saw it widely disseminated among the learned. In the end, it changed the world.

This is the second story found inside the covers of The Swerve, "How the World Became Modern." The poem gave voice to the cultural swerve of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. Many of its thought-experiments have since been validated by modern science (the existence of atoms) and philosophy.

The book celebrates a universe unfolding with infinite splendor, in the absence of harmful illusions, destructive fantasies and cruel distortions. Reading The Swerve is eye-opening and challenges one's comfortable assumptions."The Nature of Things" carried society through that troubled era when we stepped out of the Dark Ages and into the Age of Reason. Arguably, that conflict continues to this day. The library also carries the very readable Penguin edition of "The Nature of Things" for those interested in further exploration.


Sunday, June 8, 2014

The New Essential New York Times Grilling Cookbook summer temperatures fuel your appetite for outdoor cuisine, The Essential New York Times Grilling Cookbook will soon be your go-to source for inspired grilling and barbecue. This volume collects more than 200 recipes from the archives of the New York Times. Included are recipes of notable food writers including Mark Bittman, Craig Claiborne and Florence Fabricant as well as recipes from famous chefs such as Jacques Pepin, Alfred Portale and Susan Spicer. Recipes run the gamut for all food courses beginning with starters, moving on to burgers, pork, lamb and poultry, fresh vegetables, breads and desserts. Wondering if something can be grilled? Chances are, Mark Bittman has it covered (or uncovered) in "101 Fast Recipes for Grilling." Following deserts is a chapter devoted to the essence of great barbecue - marinades, rubs and sauces and a concluding chapter with 20 complete menus.