Reader's Link - November 2010 Staff Picks Archive


The Coalwood Way

The Coalwood Way

Title: The Coalwood Way
By: Homer Hickam

Homer Hickam, of Coalwood, West Virginia “Rocket Boy” fame, cuts to the bone and reveals the frustrations and joys of his senior high school days. This autobiography rivals any other in the library’s collection, due to Hickam’s extraordinary recount of intricate conversations, a format that would satisfy fiction aficionados. Unbelievable as nonfiction, but utterly entertaining. what happens to him, his family, and the townspeople is revealed with the deep humor, yearning, and reality that makes a small town and its people a family of neighbors.

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Posted by calln on Nov. 24, 2010 at 2:30 p.m.
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Surmountable

Summit Fever

Title: Summit Fever
By: Andrew Greig

Most mountaineering writers are mountaineers first. Poet and novelist Andrew Greig did it the opposite way: he joined an attempt on the “unclimbable” Mustagh Tower as expedition scribe, and emerged a mountaineer. His account of that expedition is an idiosyncratic classic. Greig may have driven his companions crazy with his often-naïve questions (“What’s this for? How come ye do it that way?”), but the result is a book that is fascinating to readers who only dream of climbing, as well as to the hard core. There’s a wild poetry here — frenetic, scatological, hilarious — that sets off the rare moments of repose. Read this book for the mountaineering lore or the love of a talented Scot’s English, and then pass it around. It deserves to be better known.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,biography,travel
Posted by curious on Nov. 18, 2010 at 12:46 p.m.
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Strength in What Remains

Strength in What Remains

Title: Strength in What Remains
By: Tracy Kidder

At once heartwarming and tearjerking, Kidder tells the story of Deo who arrives in New York City with $200 in his pocket after a harrowing escape from civil war and genocide in Burundi. This is a story of hope and survival in the face of man’s inhumanity to man. Deo’s journey would be inspiring without the horrific beginning. Luckily he meets generosity and love along the way. He graduates from Columbia, works in Boston, and finally finishes medical school. Then he returns to Burundi, partly to continue telling his story, but also to help family and friends who remained behind.
Kidder is a remarkable writer who often tells the stories of ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Try Strength in What Remains and you will want to read more of Kidder. Two of my favorites are Hometown and Mountains Beyond Mountains.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,biography
Posted by ogradyj on Nov. 11, 2010 at 7:57 a.m.
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How a special cat helps people at the end of their lives

Making rounds with Oscar

Title: Making rounds with Oscar
By: David Dosa

This is a remarkable book about a very ordinary, yet extraordinary cat. The story is set in the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, an Alzheimer’s nursing home facility in Providence, Rhode Island. The cast of characters include the nursing home staff, residents, and six cats. In this tale of people with late stage dementia and their families, enters Oscar, a black and white mixed breed kitten, who somehow knows when someone is at the end of their life. This animal is also able to comfort them far better than most of the staff at the nursing home. Yet, when residents are healthy, Oscar runs and plays with the other felines in the unit or lies in the sun and seems only somewhat interested in being scratched or petted by people.
The author, David Dosa, a respected, gerontologist tells how he doubted that a cat could signal the end of death for his patients. He knew that doctors, nurses, aids and Hospice staff could rarely predict, with much accuracy, whether a given person was going to die in a week, a few days or few hours. However, this ordinary feline would be the “bell weather” for the health status of someone with dementia in the facility.
Dr. Dosa, though skeptical of Oscar’s special aptitude, decides to research this unusual ability by interviewing several caregivers and relatives about their experiences with Oscar. While this may seem macabre, Dr. Dosa finds that both the staff and relatives said that having Oscar around to “tell” them when a someone is dying was helpful. For example, there was a time that Dr. Dosa thought a patient was dying. This man had a severe infection and other medical complications. The staff placed Oscar on the man’s bed to see how the cat would react. Oscar immediately jumped down and (and if cats can communicate disdain) turned to everyone present and looked at them as if they were slightly deranged.
However, just a few weeks later an elderly woman, who seemed reasonably healthy for someone in late stage Alzheimer’s, receives a visit from this same cat. Oscar stays almost continuously, by her side, for the next twenty-four hours until she dies. The daughters of the woman, having heard about Oscar’s reputation decided to stay with their mom that day even though the Hospice nurse suggests they take a break and go home. The nurse said her mother would have several more days to live, but in reality did not.
David relates many other stories of Oscar’s interactions with the dying and their families and friends in this short volume. I highly recommend this book to animal lovers and especially to anyone who is dealing with those who are terminally ill. As Dr. Dosa writes, “if I were to make a choice at the end of my life between being in an Intensive Care Unit or dying with a cat by my side, I would chose the cat.”

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction
Posted by downingp on Nov. 3, 2010 at 12:11 p.m.
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