Monday, December 29, 2008

National Geographic's Sacred Places of a Lifetime

Whether or not we enjoy travelling to the far corners of the world, very few of us can resist great travel books. A new National Geographic book, Sacred Places of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s most peaceful and powerful desinations, is the ultimate reference guide for cultural travelers, regardless of whether they are armchair travellers, virtual travellers, or actual travellers.

This book is filled with the wonderful quality photographs that we expect from National Geographic, but it has much more. Included with a description of the site are its history, and highlights. Also, for anyone wishing to travel to the site the brief notes include when to go and the planning involved such as visa requirements, safety concerns, weather considerations, and health warnings. The website of each site is also given.

The fly-leaf offers a description of the contents of this book and I quote:
“Join National Geographic on a spiritual and cultural odyssey across time and space, as we visit the most powerful, evocative and magical sites on the planet—the sacred places, ancient and modern, famous and unknown—where men and women have reached out across millennia to find their gods. As richly diverse as human faith in all its forms, these are sites that lift our spirits and open our eyes.”

The library has many great travel books, but I think this one will be special, and certainly one of my favourites.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Never sleep three in a bed

Never sleep three in a bed by Max Braithwaite

Growing up in Saskatchewan at the beginning of the century wasn’t easy, especially if you had 7 brothers and sisters and there weren’t enough beds for everyone. Max Braithwaite takes us back to those days with bitter-sweet humour as he describes what it was like to be the 6th sibling in a large family who seemed to always be one step ahead of the bill collectors.

This book took me through a whole spectrum of emotions – in places I laughed until I cried, in other spots I cried because it was sad, and in other spots it made me angry at the circumstances in the world at that time. By the end, I had a very good picture of the good and the bad of everyday life in the early days of growing up in western Canada.

If you read this book and find yourself wanting more - the saga continues in the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour winner, ”The Night we Stole the Mounties Car”, which takes us through the depression years. The story concludes in “Why Shoot the Teacher”. I read these books many years ago and I just finished rereading them. I think I enjoyed them more the second time around.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Heart and Soul by Maeve Binchy

The setting for all of Maeve Binchy’s books is Ireland and perhaps that is part of why I like her novels so much, having recently visited the Emerald Isle. Heart and Soul is about ordinary people dealing with ordinary problems.

Clara Casey is a hardworking single mom who is having difficulty understanding her grown up daughters. One is always fighting for or against something, the other is stumbling about with no direction in her life. Clara, a senior cardiologist, has just started a new job setting up an experimental clinic for heart patients. The hospital administrator doesn’t see the value of such a clinic and disagrees with Clara over just about everything, including the staff she hires.

As if all of this isn’t enough she becomes involved with the lives of her staff: There’s Dr. Declan who’s only there for 6 months; Father Brian Flynn, whose life is turned upside down when his reputation is threatened; cheerful nurse Fiona, who can’t leave her troubled past behind; and Ania, an immigrant from Poland, who is hoping to mend a broken heart with a fresh start in a new country.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Every so often a new book title pops up that is so unusual I just have to pick it up and check it out. When I came across the title, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, curiosity got the best of me.

The book is set in 1946 in Guernsey, a small island in the English channel. Guernsey was occupied by the Nazies during WWII. In the book, Juliet Ashton, a writer living in London, receives a letter from a Guernsey farmer. He has come across her name in an old book and is looking for books by Charles Lamb. He mentions in the letter that he particularly enjoyed Lamb's story about a roast pig, since the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society came into being because of a roast pig that they had to keep secret from the Germans. So begins a series of correspondence between Juliet and the members of the society. Juliet is captivated by their stories and eventually sets sail for Guernsey. Through their correspondence and friendships we come to understand the healing powers of love and community.

The story is fiction, but the writing is so honest and straightforward that it reads like nonfiction.

You may wonder: Why did a roast pig have to be kept secret? How could a roast pig cause someone to begin a literary society? And what is a potato peel pie?

Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out.