Books: Clara and Mr. Tiffany

December 21, 2014

Trying to decide what to check out next from the library, I read the back of the audiobook Clara and Mr. Tiffany and saw “Clara must decide what makes her happiest—the professional world of her hands or the personal world of her heart.” As I was not particularly interested in either Tiffany or romance, I looked for something else to listen to during my commute.

But the next time I was back looking for another audiobook (a typical audiobook takes me about two weeks), I decided to give Clara and Mr. Tiffany a try. I’ve been finding most of the historical fiction I’ve been reading (or listening to) quite interesting, including people and period I hadn’t thought I cared about.

So it was with Tiffany lamps and the little-known woman who designed them. Clara Driscoll finds great fulfillment in her work turning Tiffany’s designs into beautiful leaded glass windows. She would also like to find fulfillment in marriage, but Mr. Tiffany has a strict policy against employing married women. So Clara has to choose between love and art.

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Books: The Children of Men

December 20, 2014

I had not heard of The Children of Men until reading about it in an article about P.D. James after her death a few weeks ago. I was somewhat surprised to see it listed as one of her best known novels. Browsing in the library a few days later, I came across the book and promptly checked it out.

It is quite a change from the crime novels for which she is so well-known. The Children of Men presents the chilling picture of a dystopian future in which humankind has mysteriously become infertile. No child has been born for twenty-six years. An aging population, bereft of the joy of children in their midst, tries to find pleasure in the birth of pet animals, and in old video and sound recordings that are now the only place to see and hear children.

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Books: The 19th Wife

December 12, 2014

Following my recent penchant for historical fiction, my latest audiobook selection from the library was David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife. I was initially somewhat hesitant to read a book about the Mormons and polygamy – I just could find nothing very appealing in those topics. But it was somewhat intriguing that the novel combines the historical fiction, following the life of Ann Eliza Young, with a modern murder mystery.

I’m not sure just how well the combination works. On the whole I enjoyed the chapters of narrated by Ann Eliza Young more than those narrated by Jordan Scott, a young man whose mother is in jail for allegedly killing his father. But I realize that Ebershoff wants to tell not only the story of one woman who fought to have polygamy outlawed in this country, but also how polygamy continues to affect people today.

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Books: Gutenberg’s Apprentice

November 28, 2014

I have enjoyed several works of historical fiction lately, so when I was looking for a book recently at the library, and had no author or series in mind, I decided to just look for historical fiction. It’s easy to find books belonging to other genres, such as science fiction and mystery, because the spines of the books are marked with little stickers showing a spaceship or a question mark. (In the same manner, it’s easy to skip over the books marked with hearts or cowboy boots because I’m not interested in romances or westerns.)

But there’s no sticker for historical fiction. (What would one look like, anyway?) So I just walked along, running my eye over book titles, waiting for something to catch my eye. And what caught my eye was Gutenberg’s Apprentice. Now there’s a piece of history I knew little about. We learned in history class about the significance of Gutenberg’s development of movable type, and in Junior Achievement classes I have helped students get an idea of the huge gains in productivity that resulted. But I knew next to nothing about how the invention of the printing press actually came about.

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Books: Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good

November 16, 2014

I think the title of Jan Karon’s newest Mitford novel, Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good, encapsulates what I appreciate about the series. For me, being immersed in one of Karon’s books is being somewhere safe. It’s not that bad things don’t happen to people in her books – in this book one character deals with the death of a mother, and a couple deals with a difficult pregnancy, in addition to a variety of other personal struggles large and small. But it is all seen through the lens of Christian faith, in the context of God’s love and grace and sovereign providence.

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Books: A Simpler Way

November 15, 2014

I read this book because it was recommended in a class I took in September on “The Role of the Supervisor.” Most of my reading lately has been fiction, and it had been a very long time (probably not since I finished my MBA studies in 1996) that I had read a book on organizational behavior. And I was intrigued by the instructor’s brief description of the authors’ viewpoints about organizations as organisms.

I won’t try to sum up the book’s points, because this review does that better than I probably could. If I had enjoyed reading the book, perhaps I would enjoy waxing eloquent about the ideas expressed in it. But frankly, I really struggled to finish the book before I had to return it to the library.

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Books: Caleb’s Crossing

November 10, 2014

Having enjoyed Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book so much, I decided to listen to the audiobook version of Caleb’s Crossing. It has a lot of features that appeal to me – it’s historical fiction, and it deals with themes related to cross-cultural communication, religious faith, and education.

I was fascinated by the depiction of life in the 1660’s, told by a minister’s daughter named Bethia. The language uses a variety of words unfamiliar to the modern reader, but never difficult to understand in context. This archaic phrasing helps reinforce the sense of the story being solidly set in the past, in a cultural context very different from ours.

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