I patronize one of two local libraries every week, one of which is near my bank, the other near my preferred grocery store. Located in aging residential neighborhoods both sport a 1960’s architectural design with arrow-shaped roof lines and Sputnik-like accents. The browning grass and parched flower beds provide a background for rusting bike racks and empty candy bar wrappers.

Like most municipal services in these economic times, the libraries have substantially cut back on their days and hours, and many formerly paid positions are now filled by volunteers. Surprisingly (?) the library is always busy. There is always a line of people waiting before the doors open and during the day there are old people reading the newspapers and magazines, young ones using the computers and little ones in the meeting rooms having stories read to them.

The selection of books is adequate although I am always astonished when I look for the classics – Dickens, Tolstoy, Marcus Aurelius, Henry James – and often come up empty. Anyway, enough of this carping, they are doing their best and I am grateful to have access to free books, movies, cd’s and tapes.

Since I read so much I thought it might be fun to start a sort of book review column once a week. I don’t mean that I’m actually going to provide any kind of scholarly précis; it is more likely to be some gratuitous observations and a few opinionated, and, if I am really jealous of their literary expertise, mean-spirited remarks.

And then I thought why keep all the fun to myself. This should be an audience participation sport. So here’s the deal. Every Friday I will include a list of the books I check out of the library and plan to read the coming week. I invite you to pick one to read along with me – if you so choose – and thereby have the opportunity the following Friday of also making half-cocked and sarcastic comments and thereby tap into a small but select international readership.

You don’t have to really read any of the books – there’s always Wikipedia for those short of time or opinions.  Or, if you’ve read another book by one of the authors, chime in with that.  And I don’t promise to read all of the books in any given week – if a work doesn’t grab me by the first chapter I’m outta’ there. Life is short and books are too long.

So here’s this week’s selection: (A warning: I enjoy reading mysteries for entertainment and often have a disproportionate number in my stack.)

The Cloud Pavilion by Laura Joh Rowland: a medieval Samurai mystery

Reunion at Mossy Creek by numerous writers: a look at small town living

The Book of Sand by Luis Borges: short stories by award-winning South American author

The Book of Spies edited by Alan Furst: espionage short stories by famous writers

One of Ours by Willa Cather: winner of 1922 Pulitzer Prize

Killing the Emperors by Ruth Dudley Edwards: frivolous mystery book

The End of Summer by Rosamund Pilcher: slice of life short novel

Beasts by Joyce Carol Oates: suspense tale by award winning writer

The Ravi Lancers by John Masters: a tale of India

A Plain Death by Amanda Flower: a silly mystery

So enough talking. I’ve got a lot of reading to do. J



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