Off the Shelf: Check out what everyone else is reading

Maureen Curry takes a look at a few books recommended by a colleague at the Vernon library

One of the best features of the Okanagan Regional Library’s enhanced catalogue is the ability to follow another user whose reading or viewing tastes are similar to yours. Who doesn’t welcome reading suggestions, or the opportunity to learn about a new author, series or genre? I follow a user, who happens to be one of my librarian colleagues, and who goes by the name okbookgirl. I find her choices in biographies particularly interesting, so I’ve listed some of her current favourites below, along with her comments:

Human Happiness by Brian Fawcett.  A courageous memoir by one of Canada’s boldest writers. Fawcett tells us the story of his parents, their marriage and his relationships with them (and other family members). But, he is really examining the nature of happiness within families — what is it? Has it changed from the post-war years to today? This is a funny, gutsy, thought-provoking, poignant book.

For All the Tea in China: How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History by Sarah Rose. This is a popular history about how tea was taken from China to benefit Great Britain, in what would now be called one of the largest thefts of intellectual property ever. The story of Robert Fortune, a scholarly and intrepid botanist, and how he ventures into closed parts of 19th-century China to find and smuggle tea plants is a surprisingly riveting read.

Half a Life by Darin Strauss. This is a thoughtful and courageous memoir about how one quite random moment can haunt the rest of your life. Strauss’ heart is wide-open here, and he also writes beautifully. Both sad and hopeful.

Chinaberry Sidewalks by Rodney Crowell. Crowell evokes his hardscrabble Texas childhood with humour and surprisingly warm remembrances of his parents. It was not a “Father Knows Best” kind of family, and many other people raised there would be bitter and sitting in psychologists’ offices forever. But Crowell is generous, kind and forgiving. I have never heard a Crowell song, but if his songwriting is half as good as this memoir,  I’ve been missing out.

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis. Dense but oh-so-interesting! Davis has researched this book for years and years, and — as always — his writing is clear and accessible. Some people call the First World War “one of the worst tragedies humankind brought upon ourselves.” Davis, though his focus is on Mallory, explores and finds threads connecting British imperialism, the First World Waqr and the history of mountaineering in Britain and in the Himalayas.

The Zen of Steve Jobs by Caleb Melby.  A good example of how a book in a graphic format can tell much more than a straightforward text. This is a brief look at the relationship between Jobs and Kobun, and how Zen Buddhism helped shape Jobs’ sense of the aesthetic and creative mind.

Maureen Curry has written book reviews for The Morning Star for many years. She is head librarian at the Vernon branch of the Okanagan Regional Library.