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What we’re reading (1/18/2008)

Want to learn more about the books library staff and faculty take home? Here’s what we’re reading these days:

Angus Robertson says: “I am an obsessive devotee to the history of the game of baseball and have been reading the ‘holy book of baseball conversation starters,’ otherwise known as The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract. This book examines how it would have felt to be a fan from decade to decade since 1870. It has a playful feel to it, so along with the big issues such as the evolution of the game and the giants of the record books, it also explores many historical footnotes such as: uniform changes over the ages; who was the considered the most handsome player each decade (and the ugliest!); who had the strangest batting stances; and who were the most admirable and least admirable stars of each era (Christy Matthewson was renowned as a totally virtuous gentleman in a time when many players tended to be rowdy and/or corrupted by drinking, gambling and organized crime, while at the other end of the spectrum there was Ty Cobb, who, despite being a tremendous athlete and one of the greatest players of all time, was also known for his utterly mean-spirited competitive drive and overt racism).”

Jeff Marshall says of Alistair Horne’s Seven Ages of Paris: “The distinguished British historian Alistair Horne has written an entertaining and erudite history of Paris from the Roman Empire to the end of the Twentieth Century. Each of Horne’s seven ages encompasses a significant series of events–and a mood. And what better way to describe Paris than to write about its changing moods? This is a great book to read if you’re planning a trip to Paris–or if you’ve already been, and want to understand better what you saw. “

Joanne Montayne says of The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification by Julian Montague: “Identification and classification of native species, their habitats, and patterns of the methods and locations of their demise. The quality and seriousness of the research and presentation make it doubly funny to folk who read this stuff for a living.”

Michael Breiner says of 2012: the War for Souls by Whitley Streiber: “Strieber’s new novel takes place between Nov. 21 and December 21, 2012 — the final days of the Mayan calendar — and it’s a pretty wacky month. Humanity is coming to its end at the hands (appendages?) of alien invaders in at least one of the novel’s parallel universes. This one’s got it all: it’s a thriller, a sci-fi adventure, a good old fashioned metafiction thanks to the existence of a character who is trying not to be the author of at least half of the book, and spiritual treatise (these aliens are sucking out our souls and turning us into zombies…or worse!!). With a little bit of Lucifer’s Hammer, a little bit of every version of War of the Worlds you can think of, and two of his own earlier apocalyptic novels (Warday (limited nuclear war) and Nature’s End (environmental exhaustion), Strieber’s giving us a great ride, if not a great novel.”

Sarah Paige says of The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn: “I originally picked this up because I’d seen the title elsewhere and it caught my attention. Ms.Flinn is a journalist who’s always wanted to attend Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, and this book is her story of doing so. She writes eloquently of life in Paris and of both the dejection and elation of being a student at Le Cordon Bleu. I love autobiographies in general, and books about cooking always interest me, so this was a happy winner for me.”

Jeff Marshall says of The Snoring Bird: My Family’s Journey through a Century of Biology by Bernd Heinrich: “UVM Biology Professor Emeritus Bernd Heinrich has written numerous books on his work with ravens and other creatures, often presenting his research as a personal narrative. The Snoring Bird is an autobiography, telling of Heinrich’s unusual childhood as a WWII refugee, his family’s eventual emigration to the U.S., and Heinrich’s training as a scientist. Most interesting is his relationship with his father, an eccentric, headstrong, old-school biologist whose life work was collecting and describing ichneumon wasps (and oh yeah, Papa Heinrich was a German flying ace in WWI). A fascinating account of two generations of biologists whose lives were shaped by the great world wars.”

Daniel DeSanto is reading: “Ravens in Winter, by UVM’s own Bernd Heinrich. A terrific account of Heinrich’s winters in Maine observing ravens. It reads like a mystery novel: the suspense builds as Heinrich tries to unravel raven behavior. A very good winter read; Heinrich’s persistence in the freezing dead of winter makes you value a blanket and book.”

Toni Fortini says: “I was given It’s All Right Now by Charles Chadwick for my birthday, and I’ve been enjoying it for 10 months. It’s the kind of book you can put down for a while and return to because the story leaps large gaps of time throughout the novel. The main character is a bored businessman who decides to write his autobiography during the dull parts of his work day. He has the best insults and comebacks for the people who cross him, but he’s too mild-mannered to actually deliver them– it’s very well-written and quite enjoyable to read.”

Fran Delwiche says of Dogs That Know When their Owners are Coming Home by Rupert Sheldrake: “Sheldrake is a pioneer in the area of animal behavior, telepathy, perception, and metaphysics.”

Selene Colburn says
of Miss Marjoribanks by Margaret Oliphant: “With its crackling prose, satirical wit, and profound, if subterranean, reflections on the lives of women, Miss Marjoribanks, written in 1866, easily holds its own alongside ‘greater’ Victorian novels. It’s Emma meets Middlemarch meets Doctor Thorne meets Queen Lucia meets Vanity Fair.”

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