Monday, July 02, 2007

From The Bookshelf Of...

I usually have about a dozen library books piled on my dresser, most of which never get read because I just don't have that much time. This last week, however, I was on holidays and you'd think that would be the perfect time to lose myself in a few books. But no. I had one library book out. One. And I just couldn't get into it.
Now this doesn't necessarily mean I didn't have anything to read. I have many books on my shelves at home that are unread. The problem being, I thought, that they are by and large non-fiction, which just doesn't captivate (usually) as well as fiction.
The first book I picked up was one I had started awhile back and had only read a couple pages.
It was fantastic.
It was sweet and delicious and real, with an unexpected heartbreak at the end that squeezes you just so until you can't breathe and have to put it down before finishing.
The book was "A Thousand Days in Tuscany" by Marlena De Blasi. A book about the life and people of rural Tuscany and the food that brings them together. At the end of each chapter was a recipe from within the stories Marlena had just told. It is about love and simplicity; about a way of life that seems foreign and exotic and rich all at once.
It is a book I would recommend to anyone, but particularly those that like to live their books - to smell and feel and care about what's going on.

My second pick was from the rathy skimpy fiction shelf. A long time ago I'd bought and started to read "Velocity" by Dean Koontz. I'm not a Koontz fan, but the premise of this book intrigued me. A man gets a note under the windshield of his car one night...
"If you don't take this note to the police...I will kill a lovely blond schoolteacher...If you do...I will instead kill an elderly woman active in charity work. You have six hours to decide. The choice is yours."
I thought it would be an interesting book about moral choices, but instead it was filled with macabre deaths and no sunlight. It was one of my least favorite books in a long time.

Today I picked out another non-fiction work which is turning out to be a real gem. It is "Banvard's Folly" by Paul Collins. It is about thirteen people who didn't change the world. Famous and some infamous in their time, they are nevertheless people that you've probably never heard about before. John Banvard leads off the selection as the richest artist in the world in his time. He spent 2 years in the mid 1800's sailing down the Mississippi River, sketching it as he went. Upon his return home he painted a fantastic 3 mile long panorama of it, which he then presented at shows (the first style of "moving picture") in the United States and Europe. He eventually lost his great fortune when he attempted to compete with P.T. Barnum in the museum business.
I am on the fourth story in the book and am greatly entertained and enthralled by these fantastic stories that I've never heard before.
It's one thing to read a biography about someone you're somewhat familiar with, and quite another to read about the amazing things done by someone completely unknown to you.
I would recommend this book to anyone with a curious mind.

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