Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Whittling down my library list

Although my local public library has thankfully decided to reintroduce sanity to their circulation policies and allow 3-week checkout periods, until recently a book could only be checked out for 2 weeks. The book could be renewed two times, but this wouldn't work if there was a hold on the item (which there generally was, especially when I was in need of a renewal in the worst way).

That means, lazy reader that I sometimes am, that I had to bring home books from the library and (gasp) immediately start reading them, instead of leaving them in a stack by the bed to "ripen" for a while. Here are the recent materials I've rushed through:

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson. How many case histories can I keep up with? The answer, sadly, is not very many! This book concerns mainly "lost" girls -- girls who were murdered, abducted, given away, etc. The story mainly takes place in modern day Cambridge, but there were lots of flashbacks to other towns and events, as detective Jackson Brodie attempts to solve several of the mysteries and bring closure to grieving relatives. In the meantime, he reveals his own family tragedy. I listened to the audio version of this novel, and the shifting back and forth in time, along with numerous characters, at times made it difficult to follow (well, probably not if you were concentrating, but I apparently wasn't -- not all the time anyway). This was one of the few audio books that I really wished I'd had the book for, to flip back and review when I became confused. When the narrator said something like, "And then David said, . . ." I would think, "Who was David again?" This audio book definitely requires a lot of concentration to keep all the people and situations straight. I didn't think everything was sufficiently cleared up at the end, but then again, maybe I just wasn't paying close enough attention.

Me of Little Faith by Lewis Black. I adore Lewis Black. I was introduced to him on XM Satellite Radio's Comedy Channel. His sputtering indignation at the absurdities of modern life always left me in stitches. So what could go wrong with reading a book he'd written? Well, plenty. For some reason, his style of communication falls flat on the written page. What is screamingly hilarious to hear him say, provokes no laughter when read. It's just dull. This book was supposed to be about his encounters with religion, from his own experiences as a non-observant Jew to commentaries on other religions. There are some humorous parts, sure, but this is one that would absolutely benefit by having the audio book read by the author. I forced myself to finish it, although the last part of the book includes the text of a play that he co-wrote and starred in many years ago. I did not find it hilarious. I hope he sticks to the stand-up from now on.

Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert. Since I work in a library, I was very interested to read about another librarian's day to day life. After reading this book, I went to my library, fell to the ground, kissed the slightly grubby carpeting, and wept with joy that I don't work in a PUBLIC library. Mr. Borchert is a "Library Assistant" (we are reminded numerous times that he "doesn't have his degree") at a public library branch in Los Angeles. I was horrified to read about the trials and tribulations of the library staff: disgusting items left in the book drop, dozens of children dropped off for hours every day to take advantage of the "free day care" offered by the library, and calling the police an average of 3 times per day. Really, the people that work there deserve medals for going waaaaaaayyyy above and beyond the call of duty.


Final Verdict for Case Histories: Two Gherkins, for requiring more concentration than I was willing to give!
Final Verdict for Me of Little Faith: One Gherkin, for being an unfunny book by a comedian


Final Verdict for Free for All: Two Gherkins, for being a true account of the thankless job of working in an urban public library, but I have to subtract some Gherkins because the author has a bit of a potty-mouth (which I probably would too, working in that environment!)

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