Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Nevermore: The Irish Game, Being Mortal, Shattered Genius, Good Advice, and Assorted Cats

There are only two privately held paintings by Vermeer in the world.  The Queen of England owns one.  The other is held by a family in Ireland.  In The Irish Game, Matthew Hart tells the true story of how the Irish painting was stolen, recovered, and then stolen again.  The book won rave reviews from our Nevermore reader who found it a fascinating tale and one well told.  The author brings together a number of subjects which had a bearing on the case: security systems, art history, Irish politics, international crime, art restoration, gangs, and even illegal drugs. The book comes highly recommended.

Also highly recommended was Being Mortal:  Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande.  Gawande believes that modern medicine and culture focus more on sustaining life at the end than in making the last years or months comfortable and pleasant.  He explores what makes life enjoyable for an elderly person and how nursing homes, hospice, assisted living, and family caregivers fail or succeed. He asserts the need for quality of life and for the elderly to still be allowed to make their own decisions.  Our reviewer found it both thought-provoking and enlightening, and readers agree: 87% of readers gave it five stars and another 11 % gave it four.

On a similar theme, an older book by Dr. David Dosa also asks some of these same questions.  Making Rounds with Oscar is ostensibly about Oscar, a nursing home cat who seemed to know when someone was in his last hours.  Dr. Dosa wrote a paper about Oscar which drew international attention, encouraging him to look further.  He does, but much of the book examines how the elderly are treated by both institutional personnel and by families.  I found it to be a thoughtful book, one which made me not only think about how elderly relatives had been treated but also how I would like to be treated myself one day.  It’s a low-key, non-threatening book, which makes it ideal to start a conversation.

Shattered Genius by David Storm examines the German General Staff which began when the area was still Prussia.  It was a group of officers who were selected on merit and who studied all aspects of warfare, and which proved extremely effective throughout the nineteenth century.  World War I was their first great defeat and, in accordance with the Treaty of Versailles, they were disbanded.  However, there was a core group who remained active in a different guise and was ready to be utilized.  Much of the book is devoted to the World War II General Staff and their relationship with Hitler.  Our reviewer enjoyed the book and proposed a longer review later.

In a lighter vein, Zac Bissonnette has been good enough to compile a collection of Good Advice from Bad People:  Selected Wisdom from Murderers, Stock Swindlers, and Lance Armstrong.  Bissonnette has a brief quotation from a person, and then follows it with a short biography of the person which demonstrates that he or she does the opposite. Our reviewer thought it was a lot of fun, and a good, quick read.

She also recommended Careers for Your Cat by Ann Dziemianowics which details how you can determine what profession would best suit your cat.  She even provides a Meowers-Briggs Personality test to help you determine if your cat is living up to his or her potential. Our reviewer said that while she only laughed out loud a couple of times, it did make her smile a lot, and she recommends it as a fun book.  Note:  both the books listed above were downloaded from the library’s READs program!

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