Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Nevermore: Lighthouse Families, The Searcher, The Physician, Atlas Obscura, The Scribe of Sienna, An Unquiet Mind

Reported by Garry

Lighthouse Families by Cheryl Roberts and Bruce Roberts was written by a husband and wife team who interviewed adults who, as children, grew up in lighthouses.  This book has recipes that the lighthouse families cooked, including divinity, clam chowder, and lobster bisque.  Despite the isolation and sometimes harsh conditions of living in a lighthouse, the grown children stated that they couldn’t imagine life any other way.  Many said that theirs was the best childhood ever, as they had a huge amount of freedom and were able to explore and experience the natural world around them at will.  While growing up in a lighthouse is a very different way of life, those that lived it highly recommend it. Our reader was particularly interested in the Fresnel lenses – huge glass lenses that amplify and focus the light from light house tower into the iconic sweeping beams that we all know.  Fresnel lenses were made in France in the 1800s and were used world-wide in lighthouses as they can amplify light better than conventional lenses at a much reduced weight of glass.  Any Fresnel lens that exists is very old, as most have been retired from service. 

The Searcher by Simon Toyne is a mystery thriller which opens with man running in desert, with a huge fire chasing him.   Our reader did not want to give too many details, as they all are clues as to what is happening, but she did reveal that there was a plane crash in the desert outside Redemption, Arizona.  The main plot revolves around finding out who the man is and why he is running.   Our reader pointed out a quote by Socrates at the beginning of the book “All I know is that I know nothing” and how central that is to the theme of this captivating mystery.

Next up was The Physician by Noah Gordon.  This historical novel is set in London in the year 1035, and follows the story of Rob Cole, an orphaned young man who decides to travel to Persia to learn medicine from Arabian doctors.  Our reader reports that this book is excellent, and the author has rightly won tons of awards for this novel, which debuted in 1986 and has been followed up with two other novels, The Shaman and Choices.  The Physician has been translated into many different languages

Our next reader loves Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders by Joshua Foer.  This encyclopedic volume of trivia and weirdness features its bite-sized chunks of combined whimsy and knowledge about places and cultures the world over.  Included in the book is an article about apartments above libraries where the children in the apartments had the run of the library after closing time.  Another entry is about a mummified man whose corpse was put on display in a local museum, only to have a visitor to the museum exclaim “This is my fianc√© who went missing 42 years ago!”  There is also an entry about the Creole spice fil√©, which is made from the ground up leaves of the sassafras tree.

The Scribe of Siena by Melody Winawer is another historical fiction book.   This 2017 novel centers on neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato, whose brother is a researcher Italian city of Siena.  When he dies, she travels to Siena to settle his estate, and mystery and time travel ensue.  Our reader says that this book tells a lot about Italy. 

Finally, An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison is an autobiographical book about living with mental illness which caused a bit of a sensation when it was first published in 1996.  Jamison is a psychiatrist and teacher, and also suffers from Bipolar Disorder.  This memoir is a very sympathetic yet honest look at living with mental illness.   Our Nevermore member stated that this book can be very funny at times, in that it explains how seductive the manic stages are when you feel that you can do anything. It also was helpful in understanding why some patients don’t want to take their medication during the manic phase of the disease. Our reader is of the opinion that this is a great book and very well written. 

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