Holiday Reading

Here’s what the staff members of Doherty Library are reading over the Christmas Break.


Olga’s Story by Stephanie Williams  

Olga grew up in Russia and lived through two world wars and the Russian Revolution.  Her family looks well off, but I’m not sure if they are nobles.  She also lived in China and maybe even America.  She at least has close family in America and Canada.  I am also not sure if she is famous for anything.

The story is neater than [this description].  It is written by her granddaughter who only met her grandmother about 3-4 times within her life.  Olga’s family is from Russia and are part of the white army.  So when the revolution started Olga was in university and her family contacted her and told her to flee.  Olga went to China and never saw her biological family again.  Even as an old woman she didn’t want the granddaughter to try to find any of Olga’s family in fear that she would be tracked down and killed.  Olga lived in England for most of her life, and the granddaughter lived in Canada.  This plus other details was in the prologue which I finally read last night.

The thing that got me was….Olga’s brother was an officer in the Tsar’s army during WWI and was one of the men treated by the Empress who gave him a saint medal as a keepsake – too cool cause that is what I researched about the Empress and her Red Cross work.

Depending on how Olga goes….my back-up is Modern Middle East by David Sorenson.  I am very curious about the Middle East, and this author doesn’t seem boring and he covers the information in an interesting way (I only read p 123).

We shall see…..This could all change tomorrow.


Joe will be reading Haroun and the Sea of Stories, a book for young people by Salman Rushdie, and possibly its new companion piece, Luka and the Fire of Life. If he gets time, he will also start in on Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji, which is, in a way, his still-unopened birthday present.”


Recently on my way to and from work, I listened to Ken Follett’s new book Fall of Giants.  Titles I really enjoy on tape I often then read the text, and it is a different kind of experience.  Follett includes a Cast of Characters in the paper version that is most helpful because the book is a large historical novel and sometimes while listening to the reader I would lose track and say to myself,  “who is this character again?”

I always enjoy Follett’s work.  Even if at times I don’t like the setting or the subject matter of some of his books, I do enjoy the stories he tells.  I plan to read much of the book over the holidays.  We have a copy of this book in our library, in the Popular Book Collection, so check it out.


 Adonis: selected poems

Adonis spoke at the Rothko Chapel in October and I was fortunate to attend. I plan to read his “Selected Poems” during the holidays, a book of exquisite poetry.

Nominated 3 times for the Nobel Prize in literature, Adonis, now 80, was born in Syria and fled to Lebanon in 1956 after a year’s imprisonment for political activities.  He has lived in Paris since the 1980’s. His poetry is noted for its mystical imagery in an experimental style. 

Considered one of the Arab world’s greatest living poets, his influence on Arabic literature has been likened to that of T. S. Eliot’s on English verse.  I may also read someday his prose work “Sufism and Surrealism” which is, I suppose, the blending of the contradictory. After saying all this I must say that in meeting him I found him absolutely adorable.

Obata’s Yosemite  

Another exquisite book on my holiday list is a beautifully illustrated book of paintings, woodcuts, letters & journal entries of a Japanese artist traveling through Yosemite in the 1920’s. This book came to my attention when it was featured on Ken Burn’s PBS series on Yosemite. Obata recalled his visit to Yosemite as “the greatest harvest for my whole life and future in painting.”

Obata taught art at the University of California, Berkeley, but was interned at a Japanese detention center during WWII where he organized an art school for the camp residents. After his release he returned to the university and continued teaching until his death in 1975 at the age of 90.

The life of an artist is sometimes as fascinating as the art and this is true of both Adonis and Obata.



An Old Fashion Girl by Louisa May Alcott

I always read a children’s book during the holidays.  This year I have chosen one from our reference librarian Mary Kelleher’s reading list for her MLA class “The American Girl in Literature”.  A country girl visits the big city, 19th century style.  Will she be happy?

I expect to be very cozy reading it.


 I plan to read On Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier.  Some of this book appeared in the New Yorker with Frazier writing for the magazine as a “reporter at large”.   I am looking forward to experiencing Siberia without the mess and fuss of actually going there.  The New York Times calls it “an uproarious, sometimes dark yarn filled with dubious meals, broken-down vehicles, abandoned slave-labor camps and ubiquitous statues of Lenin — ‘On the Road’ meets ‘The Gulag Archipelago’.” You can read the complete review here at 

From our Popular fiction/nonfiction display, I plan to take out Four Fish: the future of the last wild food by Paul Greenberg.


I have not settled on what exactly I want to read yet.  I am busily stacking mental piles of books in my head.  If I tried to read them all, I wouldn’t come back to work until sometime in 2015. 

First I am eagerly watching the Popular Books Collection to see what is left when the holiday begins.  I have cast my eye particularly on Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop (15 specially commissioned mysteries by such authors as Mary Higgins Clark, Anne Perry and Lawrence Block), The Summer We Read Gatsby (Two very different sisters have to come to an agreement about what to do with their inherited Hamptons cottage), The Perfect Reader  (a daughter is named literary executor to her father’s secret love poems), The Cookbook Collector (combines corporate greed with the aesthetics of rare book collecting – which will triumph?).  I love books about books.  I am also fascinated by the Patrick McManus mystery The Huckleberry Murders, having read McManus’s belly-laugh funny “non-fiction” works such as The Night the Bear Ate the Goombaw and They Shoot Canoes, Don’t They?   Then there’s also and The Anthill by E.O. Wilson (a modern day Huck Finn is transformed by the study of ants – and who wouldn’t be?) and Scout, Atticus and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird (by the child star of the movie) and Last Dog on the Hill: The Extraordinary Life of Lou (I can’t resist a dog book or a dog movie) and . . . .  See what I mean?  Please come to the library and check out books from our popular collection and save me the agony of having to choose!

On the other hand, this has been a somewhat stressful semester, so I am inclined to indulge in some intellectual “cheetos” as well.  My favorite “cheetos” are regency novels, so I may gather together some of my favorite Georgette Heyer novels, make some hot chocolate or Earl Grey tea and snuggle under the comforter with the puppy and a couple of kittens and not stick my nose out the door until it’s time to come back to work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s