Tracking down red books in the library
Read in Ned: March 1, 2018
By Cathy Grace
As a book seller and a library assistant, I’m often approached by a patron trying to find a book they saw “right here” (6 months ago); written by an author whose name starts with B (or was that P?); that was about France (or possibly Italy) during WWII (or maybe WWI); with a female protagonist (or was it?), and the book was blue (or yellow or black or green). It’s a challenge to track down those elusive books, but I thought it would be fun to start from the other end, and consider ….. RED BOOKS! I combed our Nederland Community Library shelves and found several old book friends — and one new title — that fit the bill.
Diane Mott Davidson, a prolific author who hails from our foothills neighbor Evergreen has created a delightful character in caterer/sleuth Goldy Schulz. Dark Torte is the red book in that fictional series and like all Davidson’s books, it’s fun and readable and includes a whole chapter of recipes for scrumptious foods which appear in the story.
Flowers for Algernon was first published in 1959 as a short story in The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy — author Daniel Keyes expanded it into the novel which came out in 1966.Two years later, the movie “Charly” (based on the book) was released. Charly Gordon is an intellectually-disabled adult who is selected to undergo a surgical procedure that triples his IQ as it did for Algernon, a laboratory mouse who underwent the same procedure. It’s exciting to see intelligence and functionality expand in man and mouse, and yet heartbreaking as well: will the effect last? Is it ethical? What makes for a fulfilling life, and who are we to say?
Another of my favorite red books brings us into the world of Don Tillman, a brilliant but socially-challenged professor. He decides he wants a wife, and in Graeme Simsion’s novel The Rosie Project, he focuses his prodigious logical faculties on creating an orderly, evidence-based procedure to find her. Not surprisingly, he discovers that logic doesn’t reign when it comes to human relationships.
Curtis Sittenfeld wrote Eligible as a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, and I laughed out loud upon becoming acquainted with the twenty-first century Bennets from Cincinnati. Liz is a magazine writer; Jane a yoga teacher; Kitty and Lydia obsess on CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets, and Mary is earning her third online master’s degree. Enter Chip Bingley, a reality dating show star, and Fitzwilliam Darcy, the neurosurgeon, and the story proceeds apace, both honoring and updating Jane Austen’s classic story.
In my red book hunt, I discovered The Shelf: Adventures in Extreme Reading, by Phyllis Rose, and I’m looking forward to diving into it. The author read her way through every one of the thirty-some books on the “Leo to Les” fiction shelf in her library. The jacket describes her book as “A joyous testament to the thrill of engagement with books high and low, [which] leaves us with the feeling that there are treasures to be found on every library or bookstore shelf.” I’ll second that: reading by serendipity or proximity — or color — can be a wonderful adventure!
Cathy Grace is a Library Assistant at the Nederland Community Library.