Is there anything more delightful than an unexpectedly good book? Excellent Women by Barbara Pym is a treasure tucked away in an unassuming cover in the fiction stacks at MPL. The main character, Mildred Lathbury, is an unmarried British woman in her 30′s, helping out her church and neighbors and asking for little in return. When a new couple moves into the flat downstairs from her, we come to see that Mildred is much more than what she seems.
Lately, I have been reading a book by Jared Diamond entitled “Collapse“, which seeks to illuminate why societies throughout history have failed to achieve sustainability and therefore collapsed. The book “Disappearing Destinations” by Kimberly Lisagor and Heather Hansen, could be considered a updated companion piece to Diamond’s book.
The authors take us on a tour of 37 endangered destinations and what is being done to retain and restore these locales to a more sustainable condition.
Two of my favorite dream vacation spots are listed in this book: Glacier National Park and Venice, Italy. It should come as no surprise that the future of both of these places is in jeopardy, due largely to increasing temperatures in North America and rising sea levels around the world.
Can you imagine a Glacier National Park without glaciers? Or Venice, Italy under so much water that it no longer becomes feasible to live and/or visit there?
So when you go out on the road this summer to your favorite vacation spot, think about what is being done to keep that spot sustainable and enjoyable for the generations that come after us.
Love Walked In by Marisa de Los Santos is the story of Clare and Cornelia. Clare is an eleven year old girl watching her single mother slowly falling apart. Her father is a distant and little-known presence so she copes by learning to take care of herself and by hiding what is happening in her home. Cornelia is a cafe manager who meets her dream man in the form of a Cary Grant look-alike, only to find out that good looks and charm aren’t all they are cracked up to be.
Slaughterhouse Five was a touchstone work for a generation scarred by the Vietnam conflict. Now that the U.S. is again embroiled in a long cultural war, it’s fitting to hear one last time from Kurt Vonnegut.
Armageddon In Retrospect, revisits the major themes of Vonnegut’s work–war and peace, good and evil. The short stories, speeches, and letters suit Vonnegut’s talents perfectly. As he aged, Vonnegut’s vision became at once more cynical and more compassionate.
In the introduction, Mark Vonnegut sums up his late father’s work with:
“If you can’t learn about reading and writing from Kurt, maybe you should be doing something else. His last words in the last speech he wrote are as good a way as any for him to say good-bye. ‘And I thank you for your attention, and I’m out of here.’”
Martha Lessen is awkward and shy but also very determined and firm in her love for horses. She is the main character in “The Hearts of Horses,” by Molly Gloss. Martha rides into Elwha County in 1917 looking for “some work breaking horses.” Apparently this wasn’t an unusual situation at the time. Women took over much of the work on farms and ranches because so many young men had gone off to fight in WWI. Martha is dressed like a cowboy out of a Wild West show when she meets George and Louise Bliss. George is amused by her odd appearance and serious demeanor. He hires her to break two horses and introduces her to other ranchers in the area who are in need of a trainer.
Louise is concerned about Martha’s comfort and social life. Martha prefers to sleep in the tack room of the barn where she can read “Black Beauty” by lantern light. But Louise knows how to draw Martha into conversation, sharing their interest in reading and she encourages Martha to socialize at church and other events that often required young people to ride for miles to a dance or party. Martha works seven days a week, going to seven ranches, riding a circle, breaking horses, in her skilled and gentle way. She never has to “buck them out.” She uses light saddles, tin cans, feathers, and a soft voice. She develops a community of friends and we learn more about the lives of the people that live in the county, including their personal struggles with alcoholism, disease, prejudice, and loneliness. Over the winter Martha becomes a dear and indispensible neighbor, treating animals and humans with great kindness. Most of the story takes place over the season that Martha first comes to the county, but the short wrap-up at the end provides a warm and satisfactory ending to reassure us that Martha lived the happy life she wanted and deserved.