Reading List: November-December 2002

Compiled by Patrick Adams


We asked a few librarians which books they're planning to check out for the holidays.

Eric Smith, an associate librarian in Perkins, has been waiting for the paperback version of David McCullough's John Adams. The biography is heavy reading and heavy to carry, and, according to Smith, it is in heavy demand. "I decided to buy my own rather than compete for the library's copies." The other 500-plus-page tome that Smith's spending the holidays with is a first novel, At Swim, Two Boys, which took Irish writer Jamie O'Neill just ten years to wrap up. He was working as a hospital porter in London when the manuscript sold for six figures. The story, says Smith, "explores the complex relationship between two young men set during the Easter Uprising in Ireland of 1916."

Ken Berger, also in Perkins, is giving himself the holidays to re-engage with John Toland's The Last 100 Days, "a well-researched and readable popular history about the end of World War II in Europe." This one isn't going to lift anyone out of depression. But if you read history, and Berger says he reads a lot of it, you'll like Toland's style, with its shades of Cornelius Ryan and Barbara Tuchman. On the lighter side, he's planning to spend some of the break in The Charm School, a Nelson DeMille spy novel about those rascally KGB agents.

Over in Lilly Library, art librarian Lee Sorensen was perplexed at the request. "I've got so many titles, you could fill your magazine!" We were going to do that and toss all the features, but then Sorensen came through with a short list. First, he's taking on two heavily illustrated art books: Odd Nerdrum by Richard Vine on the Dutch artist, and Oslo by Gyldendal Fakta on the American John Currin. "Both have adopted styles of Northern Renaissance or Baroque, but with disturbing modern themes." He says the art community is out on whether this is kitsch or the vanguard of new figuratism, "so I want to take some leisurely time and come to a conclusion on my own."

On to literature: Harold Brodkey's Stories in an Almost Classical Mode made Sorensen's list for the second time. " I always choose a work to reread." Brodkey's are "short, finely crafted stories of beauty and sadness rooted in childlike imagination." He is also rereading Rainer Maria Rilke; he wants a challenge, so it's Das Studenbuch (The Book of Hours) in German. His German shepherd recommended the read along with How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend. "I'm forty-seven, but I can still learn a few tricks."

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