Monday, December 17, 2007

Gift Ideas - People and Places

The holidays are all about visiting people and places and if you can't do that in person, here are some more reading (or gift) ideas - our Dewey picks for some great biographies/memoirs and travel books.


For the lover of biographies/memoirs:
Spymistress: The Secret Life of Vera Atkins by William Stevenson
A fascinating biography of Vera Atkins, a woman born to privilege, who risked much to become a spy for Great Britain during the height of World War II.
Here if You Need Me by Kate Braestrup
After the tragic death of her husband, a Maine state trooper, Kate Braestrup decided to continue her husband’s dream of becoming a minister. This is her memoir of her journey from grief to happiness, of finding her faith and her calling working as the chaplain for the Maine State Warden Service and their search and rescue missions. There are tear-jerking passages as Kate comforts family waiting to hear of the fate of loved ones, thoughtful meditations on faith, and a great deal of humour.
Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, And Gangstas in the Public Library by Don Borchert Mild-mannered assistant librarian tells all in a shocking new book! Free For All is a lively and uncensored look at what it’s like to work in a public library, from hiring policies to the collection of often humorous, often intelligent, and sometimes kooky people who work there. And then there are the patrons… A book that will amuse and entertain librarians and library patrons everywhere!

And for the traveller:
Down the Nile: Alone in a Fisherman’s Skiff by Rosemary Mahoney
Intrepid solo adventurer Rosemary Mahoney decides to row down the Nile in a skiff. Written in a highly readable, conversational style, the reader receives a lesson in history, culture and literature (Mahoney includes the writings of Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert, who made the same trip in Edwardian times).

For the lover of biographies:
Evergreen Country: A Memoir of Vietnam by Thuong Vuong-Riddick
A Chinese family's struggle to overcome difficulties during the rise of the Viet Cong in Northern Vietnam and their eventual journey to Southern Vietnam where war would soon follow them.
High Hat, Trumpet, and Rhythm: The Life and Music of Valaida Snow, by Mark Miller
Singer, trumpeter, and dancer. Child star, jazz pioneer, and world traveller. Legend and myth. If Valaida Snow's life wasn't already sensational enough, she sensationalized it further, freely evading and embellishing the truth.
A Long Labour: A Dutch Mother's Holocaust Memoir, by Rhodea Shandler
After giving birth while in hiding, Rhodea Shandler has the difficult task of caring for a child in the midst of continuing Gestapo raids.
and for the traveller:
Paddling South: Winnipeg to New Orleans by Canoe, by Rick Ranson
Ranson writes about ducking bullets in St. Louis, avoiding a whirlpool, working on a Mississippi towboat, and spending a few nights in a Fargo City jail, all while meeting an eclectic array of
unforgettable characters.
Forgotten Highways: Wilderness Journeys Down the Historical Trails of the Canadian Rockies by Nicky L. Brink and Stephen R. Brown
A personal account of the authors' travels, mingled with the tales of the historic pathfinders who preceded them.

Some fascinating biographies:
Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke
I love her photography and greatly admire her work as a war journalist during WWII. The life is no less interesting; Paris and New York in 1920s and 30s, fabulous parties and love affairs and then covering the Blitz in London and the death camps at Dachau.
Too Close to the Sun: The Audacious Life and Times of Denys Finch Hatton by Sara Wheeler
We've all seen the movie, Out of Africa. Now Wheeler has brought us Denys' story - his love affair with Africa as well as Karen Blixen and Beryl Markham. One also gets a very interesting glimpse of how WWI was fought on this continent with rhinos and lions replacing mud and trenches.
This has received such glowing reviews and I love this period of art, so I'll definately be dipping into this over the holidays.

and for the traveller:
Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski
In his last book, famed journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski writes about his early travels around the world, accompanied by his volume of Herodotus who he calls the father of globalization.
Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Greatest Trips by National Geographic. A big, luscious book to dream and plan with.
International Fiction: Want a great gift idea for a friend planning a trip in 2008? Buy them a couple of novels from the foreign country they are visiting - there's no better way to get a cultural head-start.


For the Biography Lover:
A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
Abigail’s husband suffered severe brain trauma after chasing his dog into the street in New York and being hit by a car. As a result of this accident, life as Abigail and Rich knew it, was changed forever. This is an honest account of life after a tragedy and comfort taken in the form of three furry friends. It’s a beautiful memoir.
Jane Boleyn: The True Story of the Infamous Lady Rochford by Julie Fox
Jane Boleyn was a lady-in-waiting to not just one, but five of Henry’s wives. As Henry’s wives rose and then fell, taking so many down with them, Jane stayed on. Jane was married to George Boleyn, Anne’s brother. This book reads very much like a piece of well-written historical fiction. As a student of the Tudors, Julia Fox adds all the important details that give the reader insight into the glamour and violence that was the court of the notorious Henry VIII. I snuck this book into this list although it will not be available until January, 2008. I like it so much I just couldn’t wait.

Saffron's picks:
Red Princess by Sofka Zinovieff
The Africa Book from Lonely Planet

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