Read, Listen, Watch

Staff Picks and Suggestions


One of my favorite summer traditions has started up again with MYSTERY! on PBS.  This summer they seem to be featuring Inspector Lewis, Foyle’s War and the Inspector Lynley Mysteries.  And it looks like it will be the final season for both Foyle’s War and Inspector Lynley.  I’m not crazy about their credits redesign and Alan Cumming as host, but I always love a good British mystery.  I also find that most British productions feature the same rotating crew of about 80 actors, so there’s always a familiar face. The Inspector Lynley and Lewis mysteries are also based on literary detectives-Elizabeth George writes the popular Lynley mysteries and Inspector Lewis is a spin-off of Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse series.  You can pick up one of these at Snell Library today!


SaturdayContinuing my TBR 2008 Challenge, I read Saturday by Ian McEwan.  I loved McEwan’s Atonement, but was less crazy about McEwan’s Amsterdam and put down The Cement Garden after only a few pages.  My admittedly limited exposure to McEwan’s early works suggest that he takes a pretty dark view of human relations (and I think this shifts with Atonement, and Saturday, which follows it).  While I didn’t love Saturday with the same fervor as Atonement, I did find it interesting and well-written, and I’d recommend it to most readers. Saturday is the story of one London neurosurgeon’s Saturday-from his pre-dawn awakening, through his squash game, visiting his senile mother, his son’s jazz concert, to an evening family reunion, to a midnight surgery, to sleep.  In addition to this journey through one man’s life, the novel also looks at larger social issues.  Terrorism forms the backbone of the story, at both a macro and a micro level.  Henry Perowne is awakened by what he thinks is a plane crash caused by terrorists, and protestors against the Iraq War have gathered in the streets and parks of London on this February Saturday.  These protestors disrupt his day in multiple ways-forcing him to take alternate driving routes (and causing an accident with serious repercussions) and compeling him to grapple with his own thoughts and opinions on the British (and American) invasion.  Saturday also deals with other types of terrorism-the fear and raw tensions of city life-beatings and muggings, home invasion-dormant threats that are ever-present, and part of Henry’s bargain to live in the city.  The novel maintains a pretty constant state of high anxiety and it has what I would consider to be a nail-biting climax.  (I read it on the T and could feel my adrenaline surge).  I also think that it’s a fair and thoughtful novel, and it makes good use of Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach.’ Have any of you read Saturday?  What did you think?  And what do you think of Ian McEwan?

Reading for the International Traveler

In the last six months, I have traveled to nine different countries between Australia and Europe. I have fed a baby kangaroo, yelled “Probst!” in Munich, Germany, ate Bolognese sauce in Bologna, and ate Swiss chocolate while climbing the Alps. But no matter where I traveled to, I always had a book handy in case of an impromptu 14-hour train ride to Budapest. Here are the top five books I read while abroad that kept me from throwing myself onto the Eurorail tracks.    1.) Under The Tuscan Sun by Frances May – I bought this while waiting in the Rome train station, about to depart to Sienna, Tuscany. Having never seen the movie, I had heard that I was in store for beautifully described landscapes and explanations about Italian culture that couldn’t be found in any tour guide. It turns out that there is nothing compared to actually seeing Tuscany with it’s rolling fields and tangerine sunsets, but this book is the next best thing.   2.) Daughter of the East: An Autobiography by Benazir Bhutto – After the shocking news of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assasination last December, I decided to do my research and discover for myself why the first female Prime Minister of Pakistan’s death was such a blow to freedom fighters around the world. This book profoundly inspired me not only as a woman but as a human being, and changed the way I look at politics and international relations.   3.) Something Borrowed by Emily Giffin – No, it’s not just a chick book. Well, ok, maybe it is, but it’s a smart and well-written chick book, a rare breed in this day and age. With every chapter comes a new twist and most who pick up this book cannot put it back down again until it’s finished. I was in Fiji, one of the most beautiful places in the world, and read this whole book in one day while basking in a hammock. It’s that good, as is it’s sister book, Something Blue.   4.) Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – A true classic. I was browsing in the library at my school in Gold Coast, Australia when this book happened to fall out of place and onto my feet without reason, and I am very thankful it did. Arthur Golden has a unique way of writing, and his art of storytelling is unrivaled. Another book I couldn’t just couldn’t put down. 5.) Kingdom of Fear: Loathsome Secrets of a Star-Crossed Child in the Final Days of the American Century by Hunter S. Thompson – I am a well-known Thompson-junkie, but I can promise you that I have no bias about how great this book is. One of his last works before he committed suicide in 2005, Thompson shows in this book why he is known as the Father of Gonzo. Most of the book features incoherent ramblings about politics and detailed recollections about some of his wackiest adventures. The chapter about the time he threw an elk heart onto actor Jack Nicholson’s porch as a “joke” will have you in disbelief, not to mention in stitches.

It’s Not You, It’s Your Books

This NY Times Sunday Book Review essay was written several months ago-a good friend sent it to me at the time, and pointed out the tragic humor of the Isabel Archer/Gilbert Osmond example.  I found the essay to be a very humorous and interesting one, and I shared it with family members.  They however were not as pleased!  They thought it demonstrated caring far too much about insignificant details.  I recently met someone and the essay topic came up again, as he knows the essayist and had gotten into a disagreement with her about it when the essay came out.  It’s an essay that seems to be polarizing, and so I’m interested to hear what others-bookish or not-have to say! I must say, that I also cringe when I hear people claim to love Ayn Rand (often celebrity actors and Alan Greenspan).  But I did think it was a bit funny for this essay to call out Rand enthusiasts-as the Times had not that long before published an article on the success of Rand devotees in the financial world. 

Goodbye to a Boston native, Tasha Tudor

Book Jacket Tasha Tudor, born in Boston, died at age 92 a week ago last Thursday. Her lovely illustrations for children’s books seem like they are from the nineteenth century, so much so that I’m not sure I realized she was still living until I heard the news. I remember being transported by her pictures in a book of fairy tales (shown at left) when I was a little girl. Like Garth Williams and Beatrix Potter they are really grown-up art, art that shows a deep respect for children and their imaginations, art to transport children to some lofty, magical place, the opposite of everyday and mundane. Anyone else have any favorites?