Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom

I read this book for the second time lately as our Bonus Book Club was discussing it in June. I can repeat my favorable reactions after writing about it in this blog January of 2010. All who attended the discussion also enjoyed Albom's approach to issues of faith and religion. Don't confuse the two words... they do not mean the same thing!

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Dewey, the Small-town Cat who Touched the World– Vicki Myron
Some of my cat-loving friends have prodded me (and everyone else who works in libraries) to read this book ever since it was published in 2008. I resisted until two weeks ago when I finally decided to give in.
Am I happy that I did? Yes and no. Yes, because I am now able to say that I read it cover to cover and those who think all libraries should have a cat can stop reminding me to read this book. No, because although it had some insights about libraries and ways to encourage patrons and build good-will, it was way too long and filled with too much information about the author’s personal health. I have never owned a cat, but I have two grand-cats and would probably love to have a pet like Dewey Read-More-Books.
Would I recommend this book to others? Probably… to cat-loving bibliophiles!


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer

A long solitary road trip was made very enjoyable as I was accompanied by this audiobook of Artemis Fowl and the cast of Fairie characters drawn from the YA series by Irish author Eoin Colfer.
Again, the narrative is filled with loads of action and good-hearted characters who are fighting the bad guys and trying to stay alive via a raft-full of high tech devices invented by young teen Artemis and Foley, the centaur.
However, Artemis is not himself in this book. He is suffering from a rare mental illness most likely caused by guilt. He surfaces with an alternate personality who is smitten with the female Captain Holly Short of the LEP (Fairie Police Force). The whole story is riddled with funny episodes, and also features a sympathetic villain. This is a bit of a departure for the AF series, and has garnered some unfavorable reviews from some of the young readers who usually eat up the action-packed novels. I’m sure Eoin Colfer was ready for Artemis to show another side to his personality as the boy matures and comes-of-age. Remember, Harry Potter and his friends had some negative personality episodes as they grew up, too!

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The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

I couldn’t help thinking of how the three sisters in this book might be similar to my mother and her two sisters even though they are a couple of generations apart. Whenever there are three females in a household, however, there have to be some of these same sibling rivalries, comparisons and insecurities. The oldest is always the one who takes on the role of the bossypants (Roselyn in the book and my Aunt Margaret); the youngest wants to break free and do something that the older ones wouldn’t dream of (Cordelia in the book and my mother), and the middle girl has to be more beautiful or something to be noticed (Bianca in the book and my Aunt Lois). But in the end they love each other and depend on each other more than they would ever admit. This was a sweet book and I would recommend it for readers who enjoy a character-driven novel about family relationships. The Shakespeare references were fun, too.

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

The Dumbest Generation: how the digital age stupefies young Americans and jeopardies our future [or, don’t trust anyone under 30] by Mark Bauerlein

Mark Bauerlein is a professor of English at Emory University and has worked as Director of Research and Analysis for the National Endowment for the Arts.
This book provides page after page of argument that young adults (under 30) are not exercising their minds in ways that will provide our country with the intelligent leadership which is needed to meet the demands of the future. Here is a lengthy quote that sums up:
“The ramifications for the United States are grave. We need a steady stream of rising men and women to replenish the institutions, to become strong military leaders and wise political leaders, dedicated journalists and demanding teachers, judges and muckrakers, scholars and critics and artists. We have the best schools to train them, but social and private environments have eroded. Some of the kids study hard for class, but what else do they learn when they’re young? How do they spend the free hours of adolescence? They don’t talk with their friends about books, and they don’t read them when they’re alone. Teachers try to impart knowledge, but students today remember only that which suits their careers or advantages their social lives. For the preparation of powerful officials, wise intellectuals, and responsible citizens, formal schooling and workplace training are not enough. Social life and leisure time play essential roles in the maturing process, and if the knowledge principle disappears, if books, artworks, historical facts, and civic debates – in a word, an intellectual forensic – vacate the scene, then the knowledge young people acquire later on never penetrates to their hearts.
Democracy doesn’t prosper that way. If tradition survives only in the classroom, limping along in watered-down lessons, if knowledge doesn’t animate the young when they’re with each other and by themselves, it won’t inform their thought and behavior when they’re old. The latest social and leisure dispositions of the young are killing the culture, and when they turn 40 years old and realize what they failed to learn in their younger days, it will be too late” (pp 234-235).

I actually know a few young people who seem to be on a much more positive road than this author presents. Part of the reason is that these young people are attending very good school systems, but most of it is due to the character of their parents. They have been brought up to appreciate culture and history and are expected to interact with issues and people outside of their own social scene. I’m sure there are more great young people like them in this nation, but I agree with the author that the over-use of social networking sites (and video games) is certainly dumbing down our society. And they will be the ones who are running our governments, our banks and our nursing homes one day!
My solution – use your library, talk about these issues with others, and do everything you can to encourage young people to stretch their minds!