Watching the (Flawed) Detectives

Some viewers like their television detectives to be close to infallible: Perhaps a dashing Sherlock Holmes, in all his variants, or a fastidious Hercule Poiroit who can stride into a room and suss out the killer by using only a few cigarette butts and a train timetable. I’ll admit that there is a definite fascination in watching a well-oiled intellect spring into action and I’ve enjoyed series with a super sleuth at the center, but in the end I find these characters a bit off-putting. Maybe I’m intimidated by their ability to figure things out so much better than me (admittedly not a major accomplishment). Ultimately, though, I think it is their ‘small details are everything’ attitude to fictional crime detection that tends to irk me. This approach suggests a world that is well-ordered and rational. Evidence points to the contrary I’m afraid.

Instead, I tend to prefer a television detective who views the world with a more jaundiced eye. In the world they inhabit, solutions are hard to find and justice can be elusive. Also a world-weary attitude and a tortured past are a plus. Luckily, there are plenty of shows with characters that share these attributes. Here are a few television series I’ve come across that just might be of interest if you also have a weakness for flawed detectives.

Broadchurch
broadchurchDetective Inspector Alec Hardy (played by David Tennant) has plenty of issues. Reassigned to the small town of Broadchurch, after a high-profile botched investigation for which he was blamed, he not only takes the job promised to Detective Sergeant Ellie Miller (played by Olivia Colman) but is also dealing with an illness that he has to keep hidden in order to maintain his position. Things go from bad to worse when a boy’s corpse is found on the beach and he has to find the killer in this tight-knit, and closed mouthed, community. This entire series revolves around the one investigation, which allows for a lot of complex character development of not just the inspector but all of those involved.

Vera
veraSet in the gorgeous, yet a tad desolate, North East of England this series centers around DCI Vera Stanhope (played by Brenda Blethyn). While Vera is in comfortable middle age, you would be making a grave mistake to consider her the motherly type. With a fondness for living alone, alcohol, and self-destructive behavior, she could most kindly be called a curmudgeon. She is a master at using others’ false perceptions of her age and status when it comes to interrogations however. Another nice twist in this series is having her second in command be a youthful family man, Joe Ashworth (played by David Leon), who tries to offer up some opposing viewpoints. Good luck with that.

Wallander
wallanderThere are several television adaptations that feature this famous Swedish detective, but in the BBC production Kenneth Branagh plays the role in a subdued and humane way. Each episode would not be out of place in an Ingmar Bergman film, with the silences and landscape shots adding to the sense of existential ennui. While Wallander does try to rise above it all, most of the time it feels like an exercise in seeing how much emotional damage a character can take and still remain standing. If you are up for it, it is great stuff. The relationship he has with his father, played by David Warner, a painter who is slowly succumbing to dementia is particularly strong.

Justified
JustifiedDue to some rather unorthodox ideas concerning the proper use of lethal force, U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens (played by Timothy Olyphant) finds himself transferred from Miami to rural Eastern Kentucky where he was raised. While Raylan at first resembles a classic American lawman, his character and those around him become more complex with the show evolving into a character study of the people in hardscrabble Harlan County, with story arcs lasting a season or more. Raylan himself has plenty of skeletons in his closet including his relationships with his estranged father, his  former ‘friend’ Boyd Crowder, and his ex-wife among many others. The writing is a standout as well with rapid fire banter and a fun sense of false civility.

So if you don’t mind your fictional crimes investigated by detectives that are a bit dysfunctional, definitely check out a series or two. Just don’t expect the perpetrator to be Professor Plum in the library with the candlestick.

The Facts of Summer

Just in case you haven’t noticed, the summer reading season is upon us. In addition to great programs at EPL encouraging people to read this summer, there are many summer reading lists from which to choose. Any list, however, has to grapple with an interesting conundrum: what exactly is a summer read? Some recommend escapist ‘light’ fiction while others promote the most popular titles that they claim everyone will be reading. While the idea that the season should dictate the type of book you read does seem a bit dubious, I have found that I tend to reach for non-fiction titles when the sun comes out.  Maybe it is just the extra hours of daylight that encourages me to delve into these often longer titles. In any case, here are two excellent non-fiction titles I’ve just read and a list of interesting ones that are on my ‘to read’ list.

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert
sixthextinctionThe core topic of this book, the scientific evidence that the rise of the human species has coincided with a huge loss of flora and fauna on par with other mass extinctions, is admittedly a bit disturbing. The amazing thing is that Kolbert presents the topic in a fascinating and, dare I say, entertaining way. She goes out into the field with biologists, geologists and other scientists to examine the demise of present and past species and the resulting evolutionary fallout. Each chapter is a separate story complete with an intriguing cast of characters, both animal and human, adding another piece to the puzzle. This is scientific writing at its best. It also helps to give our rather ego-centric species a rare gift: perspective.

Five Days at Memorial by Sheri Fink
fivedaysatmemorialThis is the harrowing tale of life and death at New Orleans’ Memorial Medical Center in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. As the floodwaters continued to rise, the doctors, nurses and medical staff had to make desperate decisions concerning which of their patients would be evacuated and the even more troubling quandary of what to do with those left behind. Fink uses all her journalistic talents to present the events of those five days after the hurricane as well as the extensive legal battles and moral judgments that came afterwards. The central question of whether there is a separate standard of right and wrong during ‘extreme emergencies’ is wisely left for the reader to decide.

Next is a sampling from my long list of non-fiction titles that I have been meaning to read. While I can’t vouch for them yet, they seem intriguing and just might be worth your summer reading time as well.

carsickdevilscormorantanswertothriddlecubed

Carsick by John Waters
The concept alone, the infamous director hitchhiking across America and recording his encounters, is impossible to resist. The audiobook, which the author will narrate, should be a standout.

The Devil’s Cormorant: A Natural History by Richard King
I’ve always thought of cormorants as simply cool birds. Apparently there is a long history of mistrust and demonization when it comes to human/cormorant relations. Time to find out more.

The Answer to the Riddle is Me by David MacLean
A memoir of amnesia, induced by malaria medications no less, and the author’s attempt to rediscover not only his memories, but who he is. Sounds like a mind bender, but in a good way.

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval
Most of us spend a large amount of time in ‘designed workspaces’. How did that happen? Hopefully this book will have a few answers.

danceofthereptileslostartoffindingourwayhistoryofbourbonyesitshotinhere

Dance of the Reptiles by Carl Hiaasen
A new selection of the author’s articles from the Miami Herald. While Hiaasen’s fiction can sometimes be hit or miss, his exposés concerning the beauty and corruption of Florida have always been entertaining.

Lost Art of Finding Our Way by John Huth
A curious look at the ways we found our bearings before the recent advent of MapQuest and Google Earth. Maybe this will finally decide the dreaded car argument of whether to consult the smart phone or the map.

Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit by Dane Huckelbridge
A colorful history of bourbon sounds like just the ticket for warm summer nights. As a plus maybe I’ll finally be able to identify all those bottles they are pouring from in Justified.

Yes It’s Hot in Here by A.J. Mass
A cultural history of the team mascot by a former ‘Mr. Met’ that is just too weird a topic to pass up. It has got to be a surreal experience being inside the suit.

Clearly, you have many choices for summer non-fiction titles. So many in fact, that you just might want to extend your ‘summer reading’ well into fall and winter.

Your Perfect Match

For some, short story collections can be a hard sell. Some readers want a specific beginning, middle, and end (preferably with a twist) to their works of fiction. Others want the sense of accomplishment that comes from getting to page 300 and still having a ways to the end. A short story is, well, short and really can’t deliver in either of these areas. Don’t give up on the form though. As a matchmaker might say, maybe you just haven’t met the right kind of short story. Perhaps it is a matter of shared interests. In order to help you find the right collection, here are four new works coupled with personality traits. It’s time to take the plunge.

If you like: different perspectives, economic downturns, Sherwood Anderson, drinking Guinness

spinningheartThe Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan is for you. While dubbed a novel, this work is actually a collection of interconnected short stories that reflect the thoughts and experiences of several members of a small Irish village. Each story is from a different villager’s perspective, but they all reflect the recent impact of the financial crisis that began in 2008 and the social conditions it brought about. This is hardly a political work though and is much more concerned with individuals and how they survive. Since the reader is privy to the characters innermost thoughts, each external event has multiple meanings depending on perspective. If you are a fan of the book Winesburg, Ohio you will really like this one.

If you like: complicated women, the desire to escape, family (kind of), oppressive Florida sunshine

isleofyouthThe Isle of Youth: Stories by Laura Van den Berg could be the one. Though the settings can be exotic (Patagonia, Antarctica, Paris, several in the hazy heat of Florida) the characters in these stories are all dealing with a sense of detachment from the ‘norm’. A failing relationship, be it with family, a partner, or societal expectations, serves as the catalyst for an attempt at self-examination. The author also adds a great neo-noir feel, especially in the stories set in Florida, which adds to the atmosphere. The story titled Opa-locka, with a sister detective team working for a former Opera singer who suspects her husband of infidelity, is a real stand out and was recently chosen as one of the O. Henry Prize short story winners.

If you like: violent modern fables, an extremely dark sense of humor, unreliable narrators, explosions

corpseexhibitionThe Corpse Exhibition and Other Stories of Iraq by Hasan Balasim might just be the ticket. The grim, brutal, and often darkly funny stories in this collection are all products of wartime Iraq. Don’t expect to find a political or historical angle, however. Instead you get a series of fantastical and surreal tales ranging from a middle manager at a terrorist guild using artistic merit as the bar for success (The Corpse Exhibition) to a radio game show with traumatized contestants competing to tell the most horrific tale (The Song of the Goats). What comes through in all of these stories is the intense desire to tell a tale. It might be true, it might not, but the ability to tell it to another is of the utmost importance.

If you like: brevity, a straightforward style, disturbing undertones, Havarti cheese

karatechopKarate Chop: Stories by Dorthe Nors is your kind of book. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly mundane tone and setting. Underneath the surface of these very brief stories, lies some really intriguing yet disturbing stuff. The author can take an everyday activity (a walk in the park, searching the Internet) and expose the complex thoughts and emotions involved simply by examining the event closely. The author’s combination of economical prose and the short length of the stories themselves leads to a streamlined and ultimately pleasing effect. This is the first book translated into English by this Danish author and hopefully not the last.

Hopefully you have found a collection or two that has piqued your interest. No need for a long-term commitment. These are short stories after all.

 

Welcome to the Jungle

There is no doubt about it. Spring is here. So, is the glass half empty or half full? If full, you might see this time as a period of wonderful regeneration with the earth awakening from its slumber and bursting into life. If empty, you might cast your gaze at all that bursting life and see a tide of noxious weeds attempting to drown all that is desirable. Whichever position you take, a certain fact remains: weeds exist and must be dealt with. Luckily, the library has a wide variety of materials to help you in your dealings with these undesirables.

gardeningPerhaps it isn’t surprising, but books whose sole topic is the art of weeding are few and far between. Don’t despair, however. Contained within the many books we have on gardening, are myriad chapters on weeding. Interestingly, they tend to shy away from the term ‘weeding’ and instead go for the more broad ‘garden maintenance.’ A good example is Gardening: The Complete Guide by Miranda Smith where you will find weeding information in the chapter titled ‘Maintaining Your Garden.’ There is a lot of good, practical information in this chapter and, as a library worker, I especially appreciate the author’s knowledge is power approach to weeding:

You’ve no doubt heard the cliché about weeds being nothing more than plants ‘out of place.’ But no matter what your relationship to the weeds in your garden, you’ll be able to control and, believe it or not, use them better if you understand them.

weedingwithoutchemicalsIn addition to the more general gardening books, we have an excellent weed-specific title that should be of service. Weeding Without Chemicals by Bob Flowerdew is a handy little tome that points out the many ways you can keep weeds at bay without resorting to harsh chemicals. Don’t think this is a weak-willed approach to weeding however. Some of the techniques, my favorite being open flame, are pretty hardcore. The author is also an advocate of what he terms ‘weed exclusion’ but which I’ve always thought of as ‘find a dog who’ll eat a dog.’ Heather, which is so dense that it essentially smothers anything underneath it, is an ideal candidate. In fact, my yard could easily become all heather one day.

waroftheworldsLet’s face it, once you are suited up and ready to weed, the act itself isn’t the most exciting of activities. Sure there is a certain primal satisfaction when you yank out the final tendril, you hope, of horsetail, but the thrill tends to fade with time. I find distraction is necessary and turn to audiobooks to help me. We have a large selection of audiobooks in both CD and downloadable format from which to choose. Recently, I’ve found that radio programs provide the perfect balance between distraction and the limited concentration necessary to yank out the weeds. The library has great collections of radio programs to try out, including classics like Dragnet and the Orson Welles broadcast of War of the Worlds, as well as programs produced by the BBC and NPR.

feastofweedsFinally your weeding shift is over and you have a large pile of the creatures at your feet. You could compost them, but a new trend is emerging that offers a surprising alternative: dining on their interloping bodies. If you choose this option, The Front Yard Forager: Identifying, Collecting and Cooking the 30 Most Common Urban Weeds by Melany Vorass Herrera will show you how. In addition to having many recipes this book is a concise and detailed field guide that helps you select your victims appropriately. If you need some more ideas, definitely check out A Feast of Weeds by Lugi Ballerini which gives a definite Italian and literary slant to the concept with recipes for Nettle Risotto and Spaghetti with Prickly Pear and Yogurt.

In the grand scheme of things, it is probably true that the weeds, and nature herself, will win out in the end. Armed with information from the library, however, we can go down swinging.

You Really Like Me

Popularity can bring many things: sitting with the cool kids during lunch, strangers recognizing you on the street, a crushing sense of hollowness when you realize how little you have actually accomplished that is worthwhile (o.k. that last one is just bitter wish fulfilment on my part). In the world of audiobooks, where sales and the number of titles have been doubling recently, popularity has produced an interesting phenomenon: an increase in the number of celebrity readers. Whether this is a fad or a new trend is hard to know, but there is no reason listeners can’t take advantage of the situation. Here are a few recent narrators and titles that just might be of interest.

Colin Firth reads The End of the Affair by Graham Greene

endoftheaffair

This classic novel depicts a tempestuous love triangle that plays out amid the backdrop of a war-ravaged London. It is considered to be one of Greene’s finest works and has twice been adapted as a film. In addition, it cannot be denied that narrator Colin Firth has an authentic English accent.  Also, many listeners may get a kick out of having Mr. Darcy, by way of Pride and Prejudice or Bridget Jones’s Diary, read to them for a time.

Claire Danes reads The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

HandmaidsTale1Can’t get enough of Homeland? Are you still bummed about the tragic cancellation of My So-Called Life? If so you might want to listen to Claire Danes narrate Margret Atwood’s tale of a theocratic dystopia in the not too distant future. The Handmaid’s Tale is the story of Offred, the Handmaid of the title, who must cope with, and eventually rebel against, a society that is determined to subordinate every aspect of women’s lives to a strict faith-based hierarchy.

Diane Keaton reads Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion

slouching-towards-bethlehemIf you aren’t familiar with this superb collection of essays, now is the time to do so. Most of the works are deft and searing exposés of Didion’s experiences in counter-culture California during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Each one captures a sense of the dreamy idealism and inevitable decay that the era produced. And who better than the star of Manhattan, to read ‘Goodbye to All That’ a brilliant, insightful and bittersweet essay that perfectly captures the feeling of those who have turned their back on ‘The City’.

Meryl Streep reads The Testament of Mary by Colm Toibin

testamentofmaryThis controversial and popular novel is the story of Mary, yes that Mary, after the crucifixion of Jesus. If you are going to have someone narrate for this theological figure, you better have star power. This audiobook does not disappoint. It hardly needs to be said, but Meryl Streep has been nominated for a gazillion Oscars, o.k. eighteen, and is more than up to the task.

David Morrissey reads Autobiography by Morrissey

morrisseyNow is your chance to hear from the horse’s mouth just how ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’, ‘Meat is Murder’ and of course ‘Vicar in a Tutu’ came to grace the music scene. To emphasize the, no doubt, humble and self-deprecating tone of this work, who better to narrate than actor David Morrissey who recently portrayed the brutal and megalomaniacal Governor in seasons three and four of The Walking Dead.

Wil Wheaton reads Redshirts by John Scalzi

redshirtsTalk about a perfect convergence of text and reader. Wil Wheaton, who counts among his many accomplishments a four season tour on Star Trek: The Next Generation, narrates this story of Andrew Dahl who starts to notice that low ranking officers on away missions from his starship are dropping like flies. Strangely the ship’s captain and chief science officer always come back unscathed. Coincidence? I think not.

So does popularity breed contempt? Perhaps… but it most certainly produces a lot of great audiobooks for us to listen to.

Let’s Go to Antarctica

life on the iceOf the many surprises I discovered while chuckling my way through this year’s Everett Reads selection, Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple, the one that stood out the most was the fact that Antarctica is now considered a tourist destination. As Bee repeatedly points out to Bernadette, this isn’t travel to the frigid South Pole that we are talking about, but a visit to the Antarctic Archipelago that reaches out to the tip of South America. Still I’ve always thought of travel to Antarctica as being limited to brave, perhaps foolhardy, explorers, penguins and the occasional shape shifting creature from another planet. Clearly I needed to do a little library research.

ridingthehulahulaWhile there aren’t any Frommer‘s or Fodor’s guides to the frozen continent as of yet, which makes sense since hotels with any star rating are nonexistent, Antarctic cruises are mentioned in a number of travel guides. These tend to be the ones that extol the virtues of ‘extreme or adventure’ tourism.  A cruise to the Antarctic Archipelago merits an entry in the rather ominously titled Unforgettable Journeys to Take Before You Die as well as 1000 Places to See Before You Die. The less morbidly titled Riding the Hulahula to the Arctic Ocean: A Guide to Fifty Extraordinary Adventures for the Seasoned Traveler details a trip to Antarctica that would actually get you on the continent itself, after a very bumpy ride in a cargo plane. Whichever option you choose, be sure to bring a healthy bank account and lots of Dramamine.

slicing the silenceIf you have dreams of an extended stay, however, you are beyond the realm of tour guides. You might be able to get a hint or two, however, from some of the autobiographies of the modern-day scientists and adventurers who have managed to gain access. Slicing the Silence: Voyaging to Antarctica details the author’s trip with the Australian Antarctic Division to deliver a new team of winterers to Casey station. The author of Life on the Ice: No One Goes to Antarctica Alone got a commission from National Geographic to visit many of the bases in Antarctica and report back. His account is an intriguing look at the living conditions and the motivations of people who are drawn to the white continent. For an account of pure adventure and survival in the harshest of conditions, definitely check out No Horizon Is So Far: Two Women and Their Extraordinary Journey Across Antarctica which describes the journey of Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen as they became the first women to cross the continent on foot.

antarcticwildlifeIf like most of the world population you don’t have the money or connections to get to Antarctica, you can still view the landscape and wildlife vicariously. An excellent tool for doing this is Antarctic Wildlife: A Visitors Guide. Flip through the pages and imagine you are having trouble distinguishing the Leopard Seal from the Weddell Seal and the Gentoo Penguin from the Adelie Penguin. It certainly won’t be as cold a trip and icebergs should not be a problem. A final set of resources for armchair travel to Antarctica are the many webcams that have been set up at the various research bases that dot the continent. McMurdo Station, the South Pole Station and several from the Australian Antarctic Division are good ways to get your voyeuristic travel thrills. Just don’t expect to see much during the many months of darkness during the southern winter.

Command and Control

commandandcontrolIs it possible to be nostalgic about the threat of global thermonuclear war? I found myself asking that rather odd question recently as I read Command and Control by Eric Schlosser. From the cover art to the alphabet soup of cold war acronyms (NORAD, SIOP, SAC, and who could forget MAD) I found Schlosser’s tome triggering memories that were an odd mix of fondness coupled with dread: classmates and adults freaking out over the TV movie The Day After, Sting’s concern about the Russians fondness for their children, basking in the electronic glow of irradiated cities while playing Missile Command at the video arcade.

As I kept reading, however, my feelings of nostalgia soon gave way to an amazement at how little I knew about the most destructive weapons ever created and the protocols, or lack thereof, in place to ensure that they only go off when they are supposed to. While Command and Control definitely contains a lot of fascinating Cold War history and strategy, its main focus is on how the U.S. government has attempted to safely maintain the many nuclear weapons on our soil and throughout the world since their creation in 1945. When you consider that just one ‘accident’ could wipe out a city, it gives you pause. Let’s just say that the facts are not conducive to worry-free days and restful sleep.

To increase the tension, Schlosser intertwines his general history of the safety of nuclear weapons with the story of a specific incident: the ominous sounding ‘Damascus Accident.’  On September 18th, 1980, during a routine maintenance check of a Titan II missile silo in rural Arkansas, a seemingly mundane thing happened: a socket from a socket wrench came loose. Unfortunately this socket careened off the missile and created a hole that began spewing out rocket fuel. The thought of the unfortunate maintenance worker who dropped the socket says it all: ‘Oh man, this is not good.’ The author then provides a minute by minute tension-filled account of events that is layered throughout the book. It is a clever writing device that not only keeps you reading, but puts a human face to the policy makers’ use of terms such as ‘acceptable risk.’

100sunsAnother hallmark of this work is the author’s balanced approach to the topic. It would have been easy, given the subject matter, to depict many of the historical characters as two-dimensional heroes or villains. Instead the author presents fully fleshed out individuals with complex motivations. Good examples of this are the many scientists and administrators who developed the atomic bomb during World War II.  As a scientific achievement, the creation of the atom bomb was truly amazing and Schlosser doesn’t shy away from that fact. You begin to see the project through the scientists’ eyes as they puzzle and experiment to bring a seemingly impossible thing, the splitting of the atom, to life. Conversely, you also share their horror when they realize the sheer destructive power of their achievement and what it means for the world.

Ultimately, this book is an exploration of a series of questions that should be easy to answer: What is the strategic purpose of possessing nuclear weapons? Are the ones we posses safe? Where are they located? Who actually controls them and what are their targets? Before reading this fascinating work, I would have assumed it was my ignorance and default generational apathy that led me to be clueless. Now I find it hard to disagree with the conclusion of the author that:

Secrecy is essential to the command and control of nuclear weapons. Their technology is the opposite of open-source software. The latest warhead designs can’t be freely shared on the Internet, improved through anonymous collaboration, and productively used without legal constraints. In the years since Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act of 1946, the design specifications of American nuclear weapons have been “born secret.” They are not classified by government officials; they’re classified as soon as they exist. And intense secrecy has long surrounded the proposed uses and deployments of nuclear weapons. It is intended to keep valuable information away from America’s enemies. But an absence of public scrutiny has often made nuclear weapons more dangerous and more likely to cause a disaster.

Pleasant dreams.

The Time Between

The brief interregnum between the mega holidays of Christmas and New Year’s has always seemed like a strange in-between time. What is to be done with this brief moment after the opening of presents and before the counting down of the old year? Some may scour the stores for end of the year deals, others might clean out the house and work on their list of New Year’s resolutions. During this short respite why not take a moment to learn about a few titles that came out in 2013 which may have slipped under your radar. These three titles are a bit quirky and hard to categorize, as befits this time of year, but they are well worth your time and attention.

The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell
theothertypistMeet Rose Baker, a seemingly prim and proper typist who is trying to make her way in 1920s New York. Rose is tasked with typing up transcripts of interrogations at the decrepit Lower East Side police station where she works. Her life is shaken up with the appearance of a new employee, Odalie, who is everything Rose is not: outgoing, sophisticated, well-heeled, daring and prone to visiting speakeasies with shady characters. Rose knows something nefarious is going on, but what? The story and setting are intriguing but what makes this novel stand out is Rose’s unreliable narration. Everything is told from her point of view, but you are never quite sure what is real and what is a figment of her imagination. The ending with a twist will have you scratching your head for days, but in a good way.

On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz
onlookingEarly on in this excellent series of essays, the author points out that our inattentiveness to detail is actually a survival mechanism. So much is going on around us, that our mind simply cannot process it all. To get around this lack of attention, Horowitz goes on a series of walks with those who can see what we often miss: the geological history of the stonework of buildings, the subconscious walking patterns of those navigating the city streets, the myriad typefaces found in signage and their meaning, and even the different ways a toddler and a dog see the same streets we traverse every day. This book is best listened to rather than read, so you can slowly absorb each chapter at a leisurely pace to get the full impact. Luckily the author, who also narrates the audiobook, is as skilled a reader as she is a writer.

Days in the History of Silence by Merethe Lindstrom
daysinthehistoryofsilenceSome might consider this novel, which won the Nordic Council Literature Prize, to be a tad bleak. And in truth, it does have the feel of Bergman film. But if you can entertain the possibility that the universe might be indifferent, this work will reward you in many ways. Eva and Simon have spent most of their lives together, raised three grown daughters and live in a nice quiet suburb. But a few years after they both retire, Simon inexplicably stops speaking. It could be the onset of some form of dementia or it could also be by choice. Oddly the silence started with the abrupt dismissal of their beloved housekeeper. The novel is told entirely from Eva’s point of view in sparse but very affecting prose as she tries to grapple with Simon’s “condition.” In the end, this novel is an intense examination of what we keep hidden from ourselves and others and whether our silence is necessary or simply a destructive force.

So there you have it, a few titles for a very brief season. Revel in your time.

Physician Heal Thyself

DR.I’m not sure exactly when the shift happened, but doctors, in the real world at least, are no longer considered infallible gods. This is great when it comes to getting second opinions and not being railroaded into unnecessary treatments. There is, however, a downside:  the perils of self-diagnosis. You see, without an authority figure (I tend to imagine Spock or Tuvok) to say “the chances of you being inflicted with such a disorder are infinitesimal” my fevered brain tends to see a deadly and rare disorder in the slightest cough or rash. Luckily, perhaps, the library has many tomes to guide me on my journey of disease self-discovery.

It is always best to start with the classics. The two heavy hitters are Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment (CMDT) and The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Such scintillating titles no? Both are geared toward the medical professional and provide rational, current and highly technical information on almost every disease and its symptoms, that you could possibly think of. Just don’t expect much sugar coating. Also avoid looking at the diagnostic images at all cost.

If ice cold logic doesn’t put your mind at rest, perhaps it is time to admit that the problem lies in the fear of disease itself or as the professionals like to say, hypochondria. Luckily, you are not alone. There are many tomes dedicated to individuals who struggle with the fear of disease. Best of all, they tend to use liberal doses of humor to describe their plight. Here are a few examples:

wellenoughalone

Well Enough Alone: A Cultural History of My Hypochondria by Jennifer Traig
Convinced she was having a heart attack at 18 (the college nurse’s reply: It’s a gorgeous day and you’re not dying) the author realized that she just might have a problem. This book is a witty, and often hilarious, self-examination of all the foibles of a woman convinced she has every disease known to man. Each chapter not only highlights her own “issues” but also puts her hypochondria in a historical perspective with amusing anecdotes from the past.

Hyper-Chondriac: One Man’s Quest to Hurry Up and Calm Down by Brian Frazer
hyperchondriacFrazer definitely suffers from hypochondria, as a child he came down with a new disease every month, but this book is also a far ranging quest to find relaxation and, for lack of a better term, inner peace.  He tries reiki, yoga, Zoloft, Craniosacral therapy, Ayurveda, dog walking, and even, gasp, knitting. Sadly none of them seem to fully rid him of his demons, but the hilarious journey is well worth it. For the reader in any case.

The Hypochondriacs: Nice Tormented Lives by Brian Dillon
hypochondriacsnineAnother subtitle for this book could be: misery loves company. After reading about these nine famous suffers and their quirks, you probably won’t feel so bad about any fears of disease that you might have. While each sufferer’s oddities are definitely amusing, this work also highlights the interesting connection between each malady and the individual’s creativity. In several cases, such as Charlotte Bronte, the illnesses, both real and imagined, provided a means of escape as well as inspiration.

hypochondriacsguidetolife

The Hypochondriacs Guide to Life and Death by Gene Weingarten
While there is a smattering of actual medical information throughout this work, this is pure satire and all the better for it. The author introduces you to his own neuroses, and then tries to convince you that you should have them as well. The chapter titles (such as ‘How Your Doctor Can Kill You’ and ‘Pregnant? That’s Wonderful! Don’t Read This!’) tell you all you need to know about the contents of this book. There are even helpful quizzes to confirm your paranoia.

So you now have all the tools you need to calm your irrational fear of disease. I’m sure you will be fine. Well, maybe not.

Delayed (Audio) Gratification

For better or worse, I tend to rely on anticipation as a coping mechanism. Setting dates (what a surprise for a librarian) and looking forward to an event helps to distract me from the occasional drudgery of daily existence. I’m not sure why this is so, but I tend to chalk it up to an early exposure to a certain Heinz ketchup commercial that has forever put a Carly Simon song in my head. And definitely not in a good way.

If you are a fellow devotee of delayed gratification, and enjoy listening to audiobooks, you might want to check out a few of the library’s recent on-order audiobook titles. On-order simply means we have ordered the title, but are waiting for it to be published and sent to us for processing. While the audiobook won’t be on the shelf right now, you can place a hold and look forward to getting the title in the not too distant future.

We have definitely ordered some of the more anticipated audio blockbusters for you to enjoy (by the likes of John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Helen Fielding, Elizabeth George, and Danielle Steel) but I’m going to list a few of the titles that might not be on your radar but that are definitely worth anticipating.

The Abominable by Dan Simmons
abominableIf you were a fan of his novel The Terror, this one looks like a return to form for Dan Simmons. Expect blinding snow storms, lots of history and something wicked lurking just outside the meager warmth of the campfire. This time around, the doomed attempt to find the Northwest Passage is replaced by an attempt to climb Mt. Everest in the 1920s. Simmons’ books are heavy on historical detail but that is what makes them so intriguing. He is also great at building tension and a master of the slow reveal. With this audiobook clocking in at 1770 minutes and 24 discs it should keep you entertained for the longest of road trips. Just go somewhere warm.

ender's game alive 1Ender’s Game Alive by Orson Scott Card
Timed to coincide with the film release of Ender’s Game, this audiobook is a dramatization written by Orson Scott Card and based on his bestselling novel. Being totally new to the Ender’s Game universe I thought this would be a good introduction. The cast is made up of many audiobook narration veterans so it should be a good listen. If you want to delve deeper and listen to various authors, including Orson Scott Card, discuss the Enders universe, you might want to check out Ender’s World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF classic Ender’s Game.

doctor who a historyDoctor Who: A History by Alan Kistler
Are you confused when you try to place each Doctor along the space-time continuum? Having trouble figuring out where the Daleks and Cybermen originated? If you are like me and have just dabbled in the expansive world of Dr. Who, this guide should be a boon. Starting with the first episode in 1963 and continuing all the way to the selection of Peter Capaldi as the twelfth Doctor this work explains everything Dr. Who related. As a side benefit, if you listen to this title it should help with the correct pronunciations of adversaries of the Doctor such as the Ogrons, Autons, Ood, Judoon, Sontarans and Mawdryn.

Hollywood Said No! by Bob Odenkirk & David Cross
hollywood said noThis title has already arrived, but you will have to wait a bit to get it so anticipation is involved. Plus it sounds freaking awesome. Comprised of rejected scripts, sketches, and ideas that were created by Bob Odenkirk & David Cross (the stars of Mr. Show among many other things) but turned down by Hollywood, this is a gem of an audiobook. You could read the book, but why not listen to both authors read the material along with other guest stars as they fully flesh out the material. David Cross has proven himself to be an excellent audiobook narrator, as evidenced on his recording of I Drink for a Reason, so expect great things.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
jekyll and hyde audioDon’t let the “classic” status of this tale scare you away. The original material, before all the films and other permutations, still has the ability to shock and disturb. The real draw here though, is that this audiobook is narrated by Michael Kitchen. You may know him as the star of Foyle’s War among other things, but he has a voice made for narration. His tonal switch from the rational, and smugly confident, Dr. Jekyll to the sinister and bestial Mr. Hyde is quite convincing. It also doesn’t hurt to have an authentic English accent when delivering Victorian prose.

If you want to take a look at all the audiobooks that are on-order and make you own selections do so by all means. Enjoy the anticipation.