Reader's Link - August 2009 Staff Picks Archive

Pathways to Santa Cruz County & Its People

Pathways to the Past: Adventures in Santa Cruz County History

Title: Pathways to the Past: Adventures in Santa Cruz County History
By: Alverda Orlando and 21 others

Pathways to the Past is not the first book on the history of Santa Cruz County. As a matter of fact, at the time of this writing, our library catalog alone shows 135 titles on its history from early ones like Illustrations of Santa Cruz County, California, with historical sketch (1879), to recent publications like Letters (1844-1891) of Coleman Purcell Younger and his son Charles Bruce Younger Sr. and their correspondents (2008). However, it is the first book to cover the founding histories of major areas in the county, such as the North Coast, Santa Cruz Mountains, and the cities of Santa Cruz, Capitola and Watsonville. Apart from its coverage of place origins, the book, through a rich well of primary sources, puts a great emphasis on the people, either forgotten or never known to us today, most notably Michael Lodge, the overlooked pioneer, John Howard Watson, the elusive judge, and Lillian A. Howard, the mysterious artist.

Pathways is characterized by its comprehensiveness in its subject coverage, from Steele Brothers' cheese to the Santa Cruz egg laying contest, 1918-1931, from the Auto Tree to Pogonip Polo Club, from early artists to photographers and architects, and from the introduction of spiritualism to government buildings (the Santa Cruz Post Office and its mural artist Henrietta Shore). Another notable characteristic is that all articles included are exhaustively researched by the authorities on the subjects, such as Alverda Orlando on The Defense of Davenport, Paul Tutwiler on Georgiana Bruce Kirby (and later, organized spiritualism in Santa Cruz), Stanley D. Stevens on pioneering photographers, and Carolyn Swift on Capitola chronology. Even though the book is a compilation of two-dozen articles written by 22 contributors, readers will hardly notice a difference in style and tone. This is largely due to expert and painstaking editing by Joan Gilbert Martin and two other editors. Each article was checked and edited at least three times.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,history,biography
Posted on Aug. 29, 2009 at 2 a.m.

Reflections from the Land of Fire and Ice

The Windows of Brimnes: An American in Iceland

Title: The Windows of Brimnes: An American in Iceland
By: Bill Holm

Perhaps because I have never been there, I have always had a strange fascination with Iceland: the medieval sagas, the stark yet beautiful landscape, those small horses.... So when I heard poet and essayist Bill Holm being interviewed on NPR about this book, I immediately added it to my list.

Brimnes, as it turns out, is a small, spartan fisherman's cottage on a fjord in northern Iceland. Through its windows, Holm sees not only an exotic, ever-changing landscape, but also himself, his own country, his past. The quiet and isolation give the author the time and perspective he needs to reflect on everything from his Icelandic heritage (old family photos stir memories) to the state of American politics (he despairs) to the inevitability of his own death (made all the more poignant by the fact that he died only weeks after the NPR interview). It is a reflection on society and religion, on language and life--all of it interwoven with interesting Icelandic facts, passages of poetry, and, yes, even an Icelandic joke or two.

View similarly tagged posts: non-fiction,poetry,travel
Posted on Aug. 17, 2009 at 1:37 a.m.

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