Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Genetics, Prodigal Summer, Flavia, Birds, Ex Libris and The Hogfather

The November 22 Nevermore Book Club readers were enthusiastic about their selections, which were fairly evenly balanced between fiction and non-fiction.
Genetics for Dummies by Tara Rodden Robinson was the first book discussed.  Our reader was thoroughly enjoying it.  The author explains a complex subject in relatively simply fashion.  If you want to feel a bit less important, just note the number of genes in corn (maize) verses the number in a human being.  Along the way one learns about the history of corn, information about European royalty, gene therapy, gene splicing and how DNA is revolutionizing crime solving. 
Barbara Kingsolver’s Prodigal Summer was next up.  This novel weaves three storylines together as a female forest ranger, a young widow, and two elderly neighbors redefine the concepts of home and family.  One aspect that everyone enjoyed was the amount of information about the environment, ecology, culture and wildlife was woven into the story.  The setting is local, which made it all the more appealing. 
Ex Libris: Reflections of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman enchanted our next member.  The book is a collection of essays by a woman who is passionate about reading and books.  Witty and thoughtful, Fadiman covers language, books and the moment she finally felt married: when she and her husband merged book collections.
Eleven year old chemist and sleuth Flavia de Luce has acquired a devoted following since her debut in The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.  In I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, the delightful fourth entry in the series, Flavia’s father has rented out the family home during the Christmas holidays to a movie company in hopes of raising some badly needed cash to keep the family solvent.  Flavia had been quite involved in her latest project—capturing Father Christmas—but finds the newcomers to be a bit of an intriguing distraction.  Series fans will be glad to know that the sisters are as spiteful as ever and that Dogger has a good role.  You don’t have to read the series in order.
Another holiday title of sorts is The Hogfather by Terry Prachett.  In Discworld, presents are delivered by The Hogfather, a jolly man in a red suit who rides in a sled pulled by pigs.  Due to some unfortunate meddling, the Hogfather is not in a state to do his job in that he is. . . um, sort of dead. Since there must be a Hogfather, the role is assumed by another immortal of sorts, only this one usually carries a scythe.  Let’s just say that Death is not the life of the Christmas party, though his grasp of the concept of a commercial Christmas is one to celebrate. If you like satiric British humor and word play, by all means put The Hogfather  on your holiday reading list.
January 1st is not only New Year’s Day, it’s the kick-off date for an annual bird-watching competition. On that day, a number of bird-watching enthusiasts will decide to embark on a “Big Year” which when a birder spends an entire year trying to see as many bird species as he can throughout North America.  The Big Year:  A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik chronicles the year 1999 when three highly competitive men set out to beat the record.  Even non-birders will enjoy this entertaining and true story, and come away with a bit more interest in what goes on at the backyard feeder.

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