Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

<b>The Library Book</b>The Library Book by Susan Orlean
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you're an occasional reader or you've ever thought about a library, you need to read The Library Book by Susan Orlean. However, if you are an ardent reader, a person passionate about fine writing, a person captivated by a writer's ability to take dry information and turn it into magical prose, then you also need to read The Library Book. The Library Book could have been a simple and straightforward nonfiction account of a fire, possibly arson, that severely damage the Los Angeles Central Library building, the Goodhue Building, but in the hands of Susan Orlean it becomes something special.

Orlean doesn't just lay out the facts of the fire, the people and processes of the investigation, and the years long ramifications that crippled the system's operations. She delves into the history of a library system as it built through fits and starts from a system supporting a small western city of 12,000 to one of the largest library systems supporting one of the country's largest cities. Orlean introduces readers to the leaders and many of the staff who, through a myriad of duties and hearts full of empathy, support everyone from Hollywood producers, to children, to the homeless community. Orlean informs readers about library science in general and we see how it has progressed over the decades.

If you've ever wondered how librarians keep busy and how valuable their duties are to readers and the broader community, after reading The Library Book you won't fail to give every librarian you encounter a smile and a thank you. They are special people and in Susan Orlean's hands, we see why.


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Sunday, February 03, 2019

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the EndBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Spoiler Alert: We’re all going to die.

For the majority of us that will come via the afflictions of old age or of some disease. How we, our families, our social framework, and the medical community deal with that inevitability is the basis of BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande.

Gawande is a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and a professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He is a director of Ariadne Labs, a joint center for health systems innovation, and chairman of LifeBox, a nonprofit organization making surgery safer globally.

Gawande walks his readers through the changing demographics influencing the landscape of care for the aged and the terminally ill. He covers the growth of secondary housing (nursing homes and assisted living centers) and the social aspects of who controls how residents interact with the world around them, how much autonomy residents have, and what is more important, safety or quality of life, for instance. He covers the development of advanced therapies for fighting cancers and how doctors must learn to decide when the best thing to do is nothing and how to communicate with families about those choices.

Gawande uses examples from the patients of other medical professionals, his own patients, and even his own father to illustrate the problems facing society today. How do you tell a patient that entering a nursing home is necessary for their safety when they are used to being independent? How do you encourage patients to consider end-of-life issues when they want to keep fighting a terminal disease in its later stages? Gawande is careful to relate that he struggles with these issues too, and the right solution is probably different for every patient and their family.

I lost my father to pancreatic cancer in 1988 and my wife to appendiceal cancer in 2015. Neither was a good experience, but the availability of hospice made having my wife at home in her last days of such value to her and our family. My wife’s passing was peaceful. My father spent the last three or more weeks of his life in a hospital bed and it was anything but peaceful.

BEING MORTAL is an important book that everyone should read. Gawande doesn’t purport to have all the answers, but he does lay out a pathway for each of us to follow in trying to do what’s right for ourselves or our family members. It is an essential tool for all of us.


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Monday, January 21, 2019

The Reluctant Tuscan by Phil Doran

The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner ItalianThe Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian by Phil Doran
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Part of my planning for a spring trip to Italy has me inhaling almost anything I can find to read related to Italy, especially Tuscany and Umbria. Fiction or nonfiction, I'm reading it all. Including travel guides, this is my tenth book on Italy and one of my favorites.

While much of the earlier parts revolve around the author's wife trying to convince him to give up the helter-skelter life of an L.A. TV writer, eventually he moves on to describing the Tuscan people, places and customs around the town of Cambione, and it is here where the book shines. Just from descriptions of the food I think I gained ten pounds.

The Italian life is a slower-paced one (as long as you're off the highways) than almost anywhere in America. Following the author's transition from a frantic writer straniero (foreigner) to a calm (unless he's driving), accepted resident of this wonderful slice of Italy was delightful.


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