“There were two sets of double doors leading out of the antechamber, one marked STACKS and the other TOMES. Not knowing the difference between the two, I headed to the ones labeled STACKS. That was what I wanted. Stacks of books. Great heaps of books. Shelf after endless shelf of books.”
― Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind
I love stacks of books too. I’ve been reading since I was a kid. My Mom would take me to the branch library where we lived in Chicago and we would both get books to read. ( My sister, not so much). I probably got my love of reading from my mother who was always reading a book as far back as I can remember. But I don’t think I really fell in love till I visited the main Chicago Public Library at Adams and Lasalle in downtown Chicago (in the 60’s). There were beautiful mosaics on the walls and ceiling, reading rooms and a lot of books. It is now the Chicago Cultural Center and its replacement is the Harold Washington Library Center (built in 1991). The next library that I loved was the old Swen Parson library at Northern Illinois University where I did my graduate work. I recall there being narrow metal stairs that went up into some of the stacks. The aisles for the books were narrow and sort of dim. By today’s standards it would be old, creepy and the perfect place for a murder mystery. But I thought it was an adventure. You never met too many people in the stacks so you felt like the whole place was yours. I remember browsing in the sciences and finding great resources and images for my art work. So my March Madness is a book madness and I think my fellow book group people are similarly afflicted. We once again gathered on the second Thursday of the month and this is what we read.
1. The Undertow by Jo Baker (2011) 352 pages. Jo Baker was the subject of our author presentation this month probably because many of us have read her book Longbourn and enjoyed it. Undertow was her first published novel and it is a story of four generations of a family from WW I to the present.
2. Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand (2014) 256 pages. After not having great luck with holiday reading, Pete finally found a Christmas book he truly enjoyed. Winter Street is the name of the inn that Kelley Quinn owns with his 2nd wife Mitzi. Between them they have four grown children with problems of their own. Kelley is looking forward spending the holidays with them until he catches Mitzi kissing Santa Claus, and not under the mistletoe.
3. Behind the Scenes by Judi Dench (2014) 256 pages. The autobiography of British actress, Dame Judi Dench. A candid blend of reminiscences and photos.
4. The Pearl by John Steinbeck (1947) 87 pages. Our classic of the month. Really a novella, The Pearl is the re-telling of a Mexican folk tale. The story is of Kino, a poor pearl diver, who finds an enormous pearl. He sees it as the path to dignity for his family and an education for his son, but it brings tragedy instead. This was a pretty quick read so our reviewer also read Tortilla Flat by the same author. Tortilla Flat has more humor and is a nice contrast to The Pearl and before you judge the attitudes and the language, remember it was written in 1935.
5. The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward (2015) 270 pages. In this novel, Carla is a girl being raised by her grandmother in Honduras. After Carla’s grandmother dies she is left to care for herself and her younger brother. The area they are living in has become quite dangerous so Carla decides to leave Honduras and attempts to make the treacherous journey across the border. A very timely story and one that might give you a different view of immigration.
6. The Swimmer by Joakim Zander (2013) 432 pages. This debut novel by Swedish author Zander, is written in a similar style to Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo but the story is more on par with the spy novels of Ludlum and Follett. Fast-paced and filled with suspense and subterfuge, you might just read all night.
7. Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening: How I learned the Unexpected Joy of Green Thumb and an Open Heart by Carol Wall (2014) 294 pages. Probably the most unusual book in today’s mix. Not a gardening book, not a self-help book, but a memoir of an unusual friendship between two people who seemingly, on the surface, have nothing in common.
8. A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan (2014) 288 pages. You won’t remember Mr. Heming, he was your realtor, but Mr. Heming keeps a copy of the key to every house he has sold. He then “visits” when no one is home. Eating some food, looking through their things, their papers. Sometimes he hides in the crawl spaces and attics to listen and view them through the cracks. To him this is all normal because he is doing no harm. Definitely creepy.
And there you have the March books. As a bonus feature I have added pictures from the two libraries I spoke about earlier.