21, No. 3, Aug. 2, 2001
More Sizzlin' Summer Reading
by Bill Wiegand
associate director, News Bureau
I make lots of lists of things to do today, this week, and, of
course, books to read. The book list keeps growing, outpacing my time
for marking any off.
Heres one for fans of legal thrillers. After hearing NPRs
quirky "This American Life" spend an entire hour with New
York Times reporter Kurt Eichenwald, I couldnt wait to get my
hands on his book, "The Informant." Its the masterfully
written tale of the price-fixing fiasco of Decaturs Archer Daniels
For intrigue, it rivaled any fiction by John Grisham or Scott Turow.
The latter, I believe, beats Grisham hands down, but Im looking
forward to Grishams "A Painted House" a departure
from his previous work. Perhaps the change of genre will help him find
his way again.
NPR also turned me on to essayist/humorist David Sedaris, whose latest,
"Me Talk Pretty One Day," tells of his trials of living in
Paris without benefit of knowing much French. Hes a hoot.
Larry McMurrtys been on my list, and so while the weather was
sweltering in June, I hit the dusty trail with the first of his Texas
Rangers foursome (in chronological order, thats "Dead Mans
Walk," "Comanche Moon," "Lonesome Dove" and
"Streets of Laredo."). Ive enjoyed his other books,
but I was a little surprised how much I loved this one. I got so caught
up in it, I felt guilty sipping a lemonade while Gus and Call and the
boys were marched through the New Mexican desert.
Right now Im checking my list for paperbacks I own that I can
take backpacking next week. Im taking Ivan Doigs "English
Creek" (part one of a trilogy) that I picked up because of what
the late, great Wallace Stegner wrote about him. Stegners books
are on my list, too, and I savor each one.
by Bill Wiegand
Rare Book and Special Collections Library
For better or worse, a book related to libraries and the library profession
appeared on the New York Times recommended summer reading list. It is
Nicholson Bakers "Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault
on Paper." Baker is on the academic conference and
C-SPAN lecture circuit and raises some controversial ideas about how
to preserve texts in perpetuity while bringing important focus on issues
related to the preservation of culturally important artifacts. Baker
blames librarians for the demise of paper copies of old newspapers replaced
by microfilm. Many librarians including me have serious
objections and reservations about Bakers facts and argument.
The book has caused such a flap that I organized a "salon"
for librarians and faculty members of the Graduate School of Library
and Information Science to discuss the book.
Two possible candidates for future discussion are "Libraries in
the Ancient World," by Lionel Casson; and Andre Shiffrins
"The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took
Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read." In my opinion, Shiffrins
book is far more important than Bakers, and is of vital interest
to anybody, in or out of the academy, trying to get published.
My summer "leisure reading" often consists of unabridged tapes
for the car. I recommend the comprehensive holdings of Books on Tape
or Recorded Books (see their Web sites), both of which offer discounts
for multiple rentals. Their lists have serious and fun books alike,
and good readers for the most part.
In my recent drive to and from the College of William and Mary, I listened
to two of Janet Evanovichs mystery novels. Her detective, Stephanie
Plum, is a New Jersey native and the books are terribly funny, not at
all "noir." For "noir," I recommend Dennis LeHanes
"Mystic River"; and James Ellroys wrenching "My
Dark Places: An L.A. Crime Memoir."
I also listened to "Moo" by Jane Smiley, a novel about academic
life at a Midwestern public university. I highly recommend it; you will
undoubtedly have several moments of "recognition."
In addition, I have continuously re-read "Don Quixote" and
"Moby Dick" for the last decade. Those two books just get
better and better. In August, I will get a head start on a recently
translated 800-page novel for a September reading group: "Only
Yesterday," by Yehuda Amichai..