Staff Picks: Books
Teresa’s blog about A Streetcat named Bob got me yearning for stories about pets who help others heal. She did such a good job advertising Bob, that I couldn’t check it out quickly – too many holds! If you are eagerly awaiting your place in the cue for Bob, consider these titles in the meanwhile:
Homer’s Odyssey – A truly inspiring 3-lb. blind cat by the name of – you guessed it-- Homer, compelled his owner, Gwen Cooper, to develop a new career, in order to properly support her felines. He survived six moves with her and saved her from an intruder in her NYC apt. Homer has spunk, character, pizazz. I’d love to meet him! The chapters about living through 9-1-1 and its aftermath, one block away from the twin towers, were especially harrowing and moving. Somehow, Cooper’s account brought home to me the true terror pet owners experienced during the ordeal in a way I’d never envisioned before.
A Dog Named Boo - Coincidentally, author Lisa Edwards experienced 9-1-1 in New York with her pets, too. Edwards is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, who turned her sensitivity about her own abuse into wisdom when training her special-needs dog, Boo. She faced life challenges--like the early death of her beloved brother from Lou Gehrig’s disease-- and passed tests to become a professional dog trainer and behavioral consultant, in spite of her learning disability, figuring if Chuck could train to become a CPA after his diagnosis, she could manage difficult tests to obtain her career. Boo had a rare physical condition, which made training slow and arduous, but which gave him a unique patience and compassion for working as a therapy dog. His progress inspired Edwards to excel, despite physical limitations.
Edwards’ description of the healing encounters of therapy dogs with family members of deceased 9-1-1 victims and the emergency rescue workers are very moving.
Tired of reading about dogs and cats? Look instead for:
Alex and Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence – and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process, by Irene M. Pepperberg
Wesley the Owl: the Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and his Girl, by Stacey O’Brien. (Another co-worker, Rebecca, turned me on to this book. I blogged about it forever ago, and I still think it’s a remarkable story.)
A Dog Named Boo
The Oshtemo Book Group has had a wonderful year of discussions about a variety of books. We ended the 2009-10 season with a “Readers Choice” roundtable where everyone could share a book they particularly enjoyed.
Not surprisingly, each book mentioned was a top favorite of the reader, and we all added that title to our “must read” list.
We were surprised that so many of the titles fell under the “historical fiction” category, but not all. There were several nonfiction books and a Pulitzer Prize winner as well.
So if you are looking for a good summer read you might want to check out the following titles:
- Winter Garden, Kristin Hannah
- Day after Night, Anita Diamant
- Left to Tell, Immaculee Ilibagiza
- Night Fall and Wild Fire, Nelson DeMille
- Olive Kitteridge, Elizabeth Strout
- Dogs of Bedlam Farms, Jon Katz
- Enchantment, Orson Scott Card
- Heat: an amateur's adventures as kitchen slave, line cook, pasta maker, and apprentice to a Dante-quoting butcher in Tuscany, Bill Buford
- Pillars of the Earth, Ken Follett
- Madonnas of Leningrad, Debra Dean
- Stitches, David Small
- Nineteenth Wife, David Ebershoff
- Making Rounds with Oscar, David Dosa
- Little Bee, Chris Cleave
Oshtemo Book Group
The best book I read in 2009 was the last one I read: Notes from No Man’s Land by Eula Biss. This stunning compilation of thirteen essays that cover topics ranging from the history of telephone poles, an early 1900s mining town named Buxton, teaching in Harlem, and Hurricane Katrina all touch on race in America in a fresh, compelling way. It won the 2008 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize so if you didn’t catch it in 2008 or 2009, definitely put it on your list for 2010.
Other favorites I read in 2009:
Whatever it Takes by Paul Tough
Acedia & Me by Kathleen Norris
What Men Call Treasure by David Schweidel
Telex From Cuba by Rachel Kushner
Hot, Flat & Crowded by Thomas Friedman
Crazy for the Storm by Norman Ollestad
The Believers by Zoe Heller
Everett Ruess: a Vagabond for Beauty by W.L. Rusho
Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert by Terry Tempest Williams
Methland by Nick Reding
The Skating Rink by Roberto Bolano
Just Like Us by Helen Thorpe
Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Notes from No Man's Land
One of my “best of” books of 2009 is Richard Russo’s That Old Cape Magic. Interestingly enough, one of my favorites of 2008 was his previous book Bridge of Sighs. Obviously I like his storytelling and writing style.
His newest title begins and ends with a wedding and the year in between. For that year, Griffin has been driving around with his father’s ashes in the trunk. This driving around is akin to driving into his past – childhood vacations on Cape Cod, the relationship between his parents, his own honeymoon on Cape Cod and the life plans he and his wife set there.
This is a novel of introspection and family emotions centered on a middle aged man confronting his past, his troubled marriage, and his daughter’s life on the eve of her wedding. Although there are some moments of sadness, there are also some great comic scenes and an uplifting ending.
That Old Cape Magic