The Silk Road, that myriad of trade routes crisscrossing Asia in the middle ages, has always held a certain fascination for me. The imagery alone is spellbinding: trackless deserts, vast mountain ranges and endless steppe and in this massive space, caravans of camels and yaks carrying the luxury goods across centuries. That’s what first drew me to Stewart Gordon’s When Asia Was the World: Traveling Merchants, Scholars, Warriors and Monks who Created the “Riches of the East.” But what fascinated me even more when I got the book was how a scholar writes a book about an area that covers hundreds of thousands of miles and a thousand years of history and gets it into a book that’s less than 200 pages.
What is unique about When Asia was the World is its format. Rather than try to encompass the whole of the history of Asia in the middle ages Gordon focuses on vignettes that illustrate the major themes of the time. Each of these vignettes focuses on a particular time period, a particular person and illustrates a particular point. For example the book opens with the story of a Buddhist monk from the 7th century traveling from China to India in search of knowledge to demonstrate the movement of ideas across huge distances that was common in this time. Or the story of Muslim spice trader of the coast of India in 11th century fretting over the loss of a consignment of cardamom to show the complexities of trade in the Asian world. These stories are derived mostly from travel narratives and business records although he also utilizes archeological sources. These beautifully written stories taken together reveal a region knitted together by a vast network of ideas and merchandise almost like a physical internet.
The individuals this book would most obviously appeal to would be those interested in Asian history, Medieval history and Middle Eastern history. However there is a literary quality to the book that might even appeal to readers of historic fiction. Listen to some interviews with Stewart Gordon talking about his work
About the book:
“Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat diner in Plainview, Indiana is home away from home for Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean. Dubbed “The Supremes” by high school pals in the tumultuous 1960s, they’ve weathered life’s storms for over four decades and counseled one another through marriage and children, happiness and the blues.
Now, however, they’re about to face their most challenging year yet. Proud, talented Clarice is struggling to keep up appearances as she deals with her husband’s humiliating infidelities; beautiful Barbara Jean is rocked by the tragic reverberations of a youthful love affair; and fearless Odette is about to embark on the most terrifying battle of her life. With wit, style and sublime talent, Edward Kelsey Moore brings together three devoted allies in a warmhearted novel that celebrates female friendship and second chances.”
Our staff member said: “It’s a heartwarming, humorous, and well-told story.”
About the book:
It’s been a decade since the Delongpre family vanished near Bayou Rabineaux, and still no one can explain the events of that dark and sweltering night. No one except Niquette Delongpre, the survivor who ran away from the mangled stretch of guardrail on Highway 22 where the impossible occurred…and kept on running. Who left behind her best friends, Ben and Anthem, to save them from her newfound capacity for destruction…and who alone knows the source of her very bizarre—and very deadly—abilities: an isolated strip of swampland called Elysium.
An accomplished surgeon, Niquette’s father dreamed of transforming the dense acreage surrounded by murky waters into a palatial compound befitting the name his beloved wife gave to it, Elysium: “the final resting place for the heroic and virtuous.” Then, ten years ago, construction workers dug into a long-hidden well, one that snaked down into the deep, black waters of the Louisiana swamp and stirred something that had been there for centuries—a microscopic parasite that perverts the mind and corrupts the body.
Niquette is living proof that things done can’t be undone. Nothing will put her family back together again. And nothing can save her. But as Niquette, Ben, and Anthem uncover the truth of a devastating parasite that has the potential to alter the future of humankind, Niquette grasps the most chilling truths of all: someone else has been infected too. And unlike her, this man is not content to live in the shadows. He is intent to use his newfound powers for one reason only: revenge.
Our patron thought this was a “beautiful coming of age story.”
Check the catalog for availability.
About the book:
When James and Bob meet, they forge a never-to-be-forgotten friendship that has been charming readers from Thailand to Turkey.
A Street Cat Named Bob is an international sensation, landing on the bestseller list in England for 52 consecutive weeks and selling in 26 countries around the world. Now, James and Bob are ready to share their true story with the U.S. in this tale unlike any you’ve ever read of a cat who possesses some kind of magic.
When street musician James Bowen found an injured cat curled up in the hallway of his apartment building, he had no idea how much his life was about to change. James was living hand to mouth on the streets of London, barely making enough money to feed himself, and the last thing he needed was a pet. Yet James couldn’t resist helping the strikingly intelligent but very sick animal, whom he named Bob. He slowly nursed Bob back to health and then sent the cat on his way, imagining that he would never see him again. But Bob had other ideas.
Our patron said she loved this book, and couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
by Jake Adelstein
One of the many things I like about being a librarian is the serendipitous way reading material falls into your hands. This is a good thing for me since, left to my own devices, I will go to the history section and not leave. One day a few months ago I was working at the circulation desk when someone returned Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein. It caught my eye because I had just finished reading Haruki Murakami’s After Dark and was fascinated by the often seamy underbelly of Tokyo it presented. I was interested in finding something like that (incidentally if you are interested in reading Murakami and are intimidated by 1Q84, After Dark is a good place to start). Then, just as fast as Tokyo Vice appeared, it vanished. The desk was busy and it went on a cart and I forgot it. A couple weeks ago, I was up in the HV section hunting for a misshelved book. I couldn’t find the book but while kneeling there on the floor staring at the shelf I saw Tokyo Vice. This time I didn’t let it get away.
On its surface Tokyo Vice is a memoir of Jake Adelstein’s decade of working as the only American police reporter for the Yomiuri Shinbun newspaper in Tokyo. The book however would appeal to a lot of different readers. It works as a “true crime” book with lots of edge-of-your-seat stories of murders, extortion, sexual crime and interactions with the Yakuza (the Japanese mob). The book actually opens with Adelstein being threatened by a Yakuza enforcer. The book is also an examination of Japanese culture from the perspective of a person who is both an outsider and an insider. Adelstein immersed himself in Japanese culture for the years he worked on the newspaper. At one point he finds himself stumbling over his native tongue when he has to interact with English speakers. Yet he still is very conscious of the fact that he is a foreigner and spends a great deal of time with the fascinating minutia of Japanese culture. He devotes a whole chapter to the Japanese love of how-to manuals and how that affected his work. The book is also an indictment of human trafficking in Japan. He is now the public relations director of the Polaris Project Japan which fights human trafficking and you see in his book how he came to that role.
The book itself is written in a relaxed off the cuff often humorous style. This takes some of the edge of what is a very gritty subject. Adelstein is very forth coming about what he did as a reporter from giving gifts to cops to his close encounters with Japan’s adult entertainment industry. If you want to hear more about this book here is an interview with Jake Adelstein on NPR’s Fresh Air.
The creators of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are at it again. This time they’re taking on Austen’s Emma. Watch the first episode of Emma Approved below.
Thursday, November 14th – 7:00 pm
Ann Leary’s latest book is the New York Times and national bestselling novel The Good House. She is also the author of the memoir An Innocent, A Broad and the novel Outtakes From a Marriage. She has written fiction and nonfiction for various magazines and is a co-host of the NPR weekly radio show Hash Hags.
If you plan to attend this event, please register by calling the library at 978-774-0554 or online.
The Good House is soon to be a major motion picture starring Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro. About the book:
“The Good House tells the story of Hildy Good, who lives in a small town on Boston’s North Shore. Hildy is a successful real-estate broker, good neighbor, mother, and grandmother. She’s also a raging alcoholic. Hildy’s family held an intervention for her about a year before this story takes place–”if they invite you over for dinner, and it’s not a major holiday,” she advises “run for your life”–and now she feels lonely and unjustly persecuted. She has also fooled herself into thinking that moderation is the key to her drinking problem. As if battling her demons wasn’t enough to keep her busy, Hildy soon finds herself embroiled in the underbelly of her New England town, a craggy little place that harbors secrets.”
Reviewed by Jim
I had actually been waiting for this book to be translated into English for some time. It was written by a Italian writers collective Wu Ming (aka Luther Blisett). Altai is a loose sequel to their book Q published in 1999. Because it is a translation the tone of the writing can be jarring. What was probably written of an older prose style in the Italian was translated into modern English. The story itself opens with the main character Emmanuele De Zante agent for the Venetian secret service investigating a fire in the state run armory in 1569. However the reader doesn’t stay in Venice for long. A long kept secret forces De Zante to flee across the Mediterranean where he falls in with the very people he used to hunt.
The real strength of this book is the scenery. The authors write beautiful descriptions of 16th century Venice, Thessalonica, Istanbul. A person who loves armchair travel would enjoy the sense of place the authors impart the reader. Although I didn’t always find the main character believable (De Zante goes from being a loyal servant of Venice to one of its enemies a little too quickly to be believed) the secondary characters are very compelling. I think this is partly because the secondary characters are mostly carry overs from Q and are much better developed.
It was announced on Mr. Leonard’s website today that, “Elmore passed away this morning at 7:15 AM at home surrounded by his loving family. More to follow.”
The New York Times profiled Leonard who wrote 45 books including “Get Shorty” and his latest, “Raylan.”