Welcome to another Ideas & Society eNewsletter and another highlight filled trip through our catalogue. As the temperature drops, where better to be than inside, reading about the fruits and mysteries of human civilisation?
When I was a student nurse many moons ago and being instructed on the feeding of patients incapable of carrying out this task for themselves, the dietician recommended “interesting mixed fork fulls”. The idea was that you did not work your way through the potato, veggies, meat and gravy individually but mixed them up so the patient received a variety of tastes and textures with each mouthful of food. This phrase has stuck with me and seems apposite for many other experiences in life — travel, reading, friendship. theatre and movie-going among them.
This month’s literature picks would qualify for this description. The books selected are very different but together make for a most interesting mélange!
Faulks on fiction : great British characters and the secret life of the novel / Sebastian Faulks.
“Ever since Robinson Crusoe in 1719, the novel has introduced British readers to truly unforgettable characters – people in whom we can find deeper understanding of our own lives. In this engaging and personal book, Sebastian Faulks examines and celebrates the most famous and best-loved of these dazzling fictional creations and their wider impact on British culture as a whole. From Sherlock Holmes and Mr Darcy to Emma Woodhouse and James Bond – this is the story of the heroes, lovers, snobs and villains in all of us.” (Summary from globalbooksinprint.com)
Holidays in heck / P.J. O’Rourke.
“Two decades after Holidays in Hell (1988), the travelogue of a former war correspondent in search of fun in some of the world’s most desperate areas, O’Rourke follows up with the travel adventures of a writer, husband, and father, which are thrilling and humbling in their own way. To venues ranging from China to Kyrgyzstan to Disneyland, O’Rourke offers the fresh perspective of a neophyte civilian and family traveler along with his own acerbic wit about politics, recreation, economics, and family life. There’s skiing in relatively flat Ohio, which exposes the id of winter sports, and there’s reading the European Union Constitution on a beach in Guadeloupe in 2005 while pondering French and Caribbean politics and economics. Political humorist O’Rourke discusses animal-cruelty issues and the class tensions underlying stag hunting in Exmoor in England and the love of birds and bird hunting in the Galapagos Islands with a bunch of Republicans, and in Brays Island Plantation, South Carolina, with his newly rifle-educated wife. The essays are as humorous and charmingly meandering as his travels.” (Summary adapted from Booklist)
Haiku for the single girl / Beth Griffenhagen ; illustrations by Cynthia Vehslage Meyers.
“A celebration of the single girl’s life told in uproarious and uplifting haiku and illustrations guaranteed to make any woman of any age, single or otherwise, laugh out loud and forget her troubles. Unsolicited relationship advice from relatives, disastrous dates, men who wear thumb rings, and the moments of deep satisfaction when you realise that you can do whatever you want with your time – it’s all here in a collection of incisive haiku and deliciously cheeky drawings that superbly and charmingly capture the life and times of being a single woman.” (Summary from www.globalbooksinprint.com).
As always there are plenty of in-depth examinations on wide-ranging subjects to pique a wide range of interests.
High society : mind-altering drugs in history and culture / Mike Jay.
“High Society explores the spectrum of mind-altering sunstances across the globe and throughout history. Acclaimed cultural historian Mike Jay… traces the understanding of intoxicants from the botanicals of the classical world through the mind-bending self-experiments of early scientists to the present ‘war on drugs’…” – (adapted from Book jacket summary)
The red market : on the trail of the world’s organ brokers, bone thieves, blood farmers, and child traffickers / Scott Carney.
“Journey through the macabre underworld of the global body bazaar, with contributing “Wired” editor and award-winning journalist Carney, where organs, bones, and live people are bought and sold on the red market.” – (adapted from Syndetics summary)
The bully society : school shootings and the crisis of bullying in America’s schools / Jessie Klein.
“In this thorough examination of the connection between bullying and three decades of school shootings in America, Adelphi University professor Klein pre-sents a compelling case that the strict gender rules by which American children and teenagers are unfairly forced to live are the driving factors in school violence. As Klein writes: “Although the forms of school violence may differ, the same patterns emerge. Boys (and, increasingly, girls) lash out to prove that they can fulfill their narrow gender prescriptions.” – (adpted from Publisher Weekly summary)
Religion & Beliefs
Insights into sacred texts, poetry and writings are a key focus of recent religion arrivals. Don’t forget about Oxford Reference which includes their dictionaries of the Bible, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, the Jewish Religion as well as the Concise Dictionary of World Religions. Login with your library card to read these anytime for free.
From Buddha to Jesus, by Steve Cioccolanti.
Explains the Buddhist mind-set and worldview, and makes useful points of comparisons between Buddhism and Christianity, revealing both the important differences, and the similarities. The reader’s attention is drawn to rarely translated parables and prophecies of Buddhism that point to Buddha’s original message and real-life stories of Buddhists. Recommended.
The message and the book : sacred texts of the world’s religions, by John Bowker.
“Explore the key texts of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Buddhist, Parsi, Confucian, Daoist, and Shinto traditions. The author discusses some 400 books, among them such well-known sacred texts as the Bible and the Quran, but also spiritual writings by theologians, philosophers, poets, and others. Bowker provides clear and illuminating commentary on each text, describing the content and core tenets of the work and quoting pertinent passages.” – (adapted from Publisher’s description)
The fire of the Word : meeting God on holy ground, by Chris Webb ; foreword by Richard J. Foster.
“Webb, an Anglican priest and head of the Christian ministry Renovare, applies thought processes that once guided him as a devout student of Buddhism to encourage the reader to find God in the way he did: through reading the Bible in a different way. He suggests approaching the Bible like a puzzle on which to meditate or as a mystery novel scrutinized with prior knowledge of who “did it.” Webb explores tough questions about the validity of the Bible, whether prayers are answered, the nature of God, and how and why God relates with humans…” – (adapted from Publisher’s Weekly)
We have some great new history books this month including a look at one man’s jouney through the New Zealand Wars; a history of Jewish lives in New Zealand; and the story of how a struggle between queens and kings, churchmen and explorers made the world’s oceans a battleground. Enjoy!
For gallant service rendered : the life & times of Samuel Austin, NZ Cross, 1831-1903 / Barbara Mabbett.
“Samuel Austin’s military career began with the British army and ended with the Wanganui Native Contingent in their campaign to capture Te Kooti in 1870. Drawn extensively from Austin’s own diary, this is the story of his adventurous life as a soldier, settler, and family man. From his childhood in Ireland and service with the 65th Regiment, it vividly details the extensive action he took part in during the turbulent years of the New Zealand Wars, and his later life as a colonist in the growing town of Wanganui.” (Global Books In Print)
Jewish lives in New Zealand : a history / Leonard Bell and Diana Morrow, editors.
“The census tells us that 8000 New Zealanders actively identify as Jewish and it is estimated that the broader population is probably around 25,000. There has never been an authoritative history of this country’s Jewish population and yet people of Jewish descent (both secular and religious) have played vital roles in all aspects of our society throughout its history. Auckland alone has had five Jewish mayors. Jews have been prominent in New Zealand’s business, cultural, intellectual, political, medical, intellectual life and more since the 1840s, and successive waves of immigration have added to the tapestry of New Zealand Jewry. This significant book covers key sectors of activity with specialist writers assigned to each. Richly illustrated, it slots another important piece into the jigsaw of our history.” (Global Books In Print)