Your Library Card, Your Ticket To The World: Alaska

Our library theme for 2020 is Your Library Card, Your Ticket to the World–because with the library, you truly can travel around the world without ever leaving the comfort of your own home. Every month in 2020, we’ll be landing at a new place on the globe, but we’re starting off in Alaska.

The rugged beauty of Alaska has long inspired writers (and readers!), so it is not surprising how many books set in Alaska are in our system. And there’s a little something for every reader, regardless of preferred genre.

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Jojo Moyes’s The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars

Alice seems to have jumped from the proverbial frying pan into the fire. In her native England during the Great Depression, she is bored and unhappy, and when she meets a handsome American man named Bennett, she quickly marries him to escape. When they relocate to his home state of Kentucky, she expects a well-to-do urban life, centered perhaps in Lexington. Instead, she finds herself in remote Eastern Kentucky, in impoverished coal country, trapped in an unhappy marriage. When the local pack horse library needs volunteers, Alice signs up, mainly as an excuse to get out of her house and away from her husband and father-in-law. At first, Alice is horrified by the rough people she encounters on her route, but she soon falls in love with her work, the people, and the mountains. Still, the solace she finds in work does nothing to ease her troubles at home. Complications ensue. . . .

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Mary Doria Russell’s Doc (2011)

Doc

Doc Holliday probably needs no introduction. He’s one of the more mythic figures of the American West–the well-educated, consumptive, Georgia-born dandy, dentist, and gambler/gunfighter who tag-teamed with the Earp Brothers for the Gunfight at the OK Corral in the Arizona boomtown of Tombstone.

Most pop culture depictions of Holliday offer the legend called Doc. Though Mary Doria Russell chose that nickname as the title for her book, her focus is much more on the John Henry Holliday lurking underneath the legend.

This book was suggested to me by Leslie, one of my undergraduate English professors. Last year, she recommended The Hunting Accident to me, and recently, she asked me if I was familiar with Russell’s work. I quickly remedied that oversight, and I am so glad I did. Thanks for the wonderful recommendation, Leslie!

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Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

At the Berryville Library this summer, we’re all busy reading the books on the Great American Read list and pondering which ones we’ll vote for in the Great Berryville Read. When I mentioned the Great American Read to my friend and one of my former English professors Elise Bishop, she mentioned really enjoying A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Well, that was one I hadn’t read, so I was determined to make it one of my selections. I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed it! (Thanks again for the great suggestion, Mrs. B!)

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Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove

lonesome-dove

We’ve been chatting a lot about our “first favorites” for the Great American Read and Great Berryville Read. Those are the first books on the list of 100 books that jump out at you as automatic favorites.

I had 3 instant picks, and the one I have been leaning toward the most is Larry McMurtry’s modern classic Western Lonesome Dove. I’ve discussed my love of Westerns before, but I really don’t think you can get much better than this one. (As far as Westerns go, the only thing that I think ties with it is possibly Ron Hansen’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, another personal favorite. But it didn’t make the list!)

Trying to summarize the plot doesn’t do this novel, which is rich in characters and themes, justice. But at its heart, it’s the story of two former Texas Rangers, bored and burnt out with retired life, setting off on a cattle drive from South Texas to Montana. Along the way, they encounter psychopathic killers, stampedes, storms, snakes, sorrow, and more.

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Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours

Growing up in the Great Depression in a houseboat on the Mississippi River isn’t easy, but Rill Foss and her siblings know no other life. And despite the hardships, the life they do have with their parents and each other is exciting, loving, and even magical, at least to hear her father’s stories. That life comes to a grinding halt when the siblings are abruptly separated from their parents and sent to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society in Memphis. At the time, the orphanage was seen as a place for wealthy, prominent couples to acquire orphans from “good” backgrounds. But it’s now well-known as a nightmarish place that kidnapped poor children and adopted them out.

Interwoven with the story of the Foss family is that of Avery Stafford, a contemporary woman from a prominent South Carolina political family. Despite her ostensibly happy life as a successful prosecutor with a promising political future, she is troubled by the poor health of her beloved father and grandmother and her own uncertainty about her future. A chance meeting at a photo op in a nursing home unnerves her, piques her curiosity, and leads her onto a collision course with the Foss family’s tale. . . .

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From Page to Screen: The Man Who Would Be King

 

We’ve been focusing on schools this month, but not everything worth knowing is learned in school. Sometimes the school of hard knocks delivers more memorable lessons. . . .

Daniel Dravot and Peachy Carnahan have decided that the 1880s British Empire does not appreciate their talents. And the two former British army sergeants do have a point. They feel like they’ve contributed more to building the Empire than administrators and British authorities, who are less than appreciative of their military exploits or how they have occupied themselves once they were discharged. Specifically, the powers that be are not pleased with Danny and Peachy leaving a trail of blackmail, fraud, and smuggling, among other things, in their wake.

They know that going home to England would mean menial work, which doesn’t seem very enticing given their adventures in India. But they also realize that further prospects in India are now limited, as well.

The two friends, thus, decide that they will go away to the remote, mysterious kingdom of Kafiristan. Once there, they will use their martial skills to serve as mercenaries and ingratiate themselves with a local chief as a stepping stone for them staging a coup, setting themselves up as rulers, and robbing the locals of their wealth. It’s not a retirement plan endorsed by most financial planners, but Danny and Peachy are pretty sure it will work out marvelously for them. What’s the worst that could happen?

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