Tuesday, June 08, 2010


I'm picking the book for the book club this month. The members will each have to dedicate many hours to the selection and so careful thought must be given to the choice. 

Because I love Malcolm Gladwell, I'm tempted to nominate "The Outliers" as this months' selection. With Malcolm, the proposition is the thing. The writing is workman-like magazine writing but hardly literature. The appealing hook of his books is the provocative idea(s) he offers - he takes a decidedly different approach to many of the ordinary things in life, making you look at them in a new light.  

The book I'd really like to read personally is "Wolf Hall" by Hilary Mantel, an historical novel about Cromwell and his role in assisting with Henry VIII's beheading of his wives and establishing the Anglican church. It was a Man Booker prize winner for 2009 and a friend of mine, a retired English professor with discerning literary taste highly recommended it - as did another friend who is actually writing an historical novel. But it's long - over 500 pages and for most of us, it's really too much to read and digest in a month. Following are some of the reviews.

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best of the Month, October 2009: No character in the canon has been writ larger than Henry VIII, but that didn't stop Hilary Mantel. She strides through centuries, past acres of novels, histories, biographies, and plays--even past Henry himself--confident in the knowledge that to recast history's most mercurial sovereign, it's not the King she needs to see, but one of the King's most mysterious agents. Enter Thomas Cromwell, a self-made man and remarkable polymath who ascends to the King's right hand. Rigorously pragmatic and forward-thinking, Cromwell has little interest in what motivates his Majesty, and although he makes way for Henry's marriage to the infamous Anne Boleyn, it's the future of a free England that he honors above all else and hopes to secure. Mantel plots with a sleight of hand, making full use of her masterful grasp on the facts without weighing down her prose. The opening cast of characters and family trees may give initial pause to some readers, but persevere: the witty, whip-smart lines volleying the action forward may convince you a short stay in the Tower of London might not be so bad... provided you could bring a copy of Wolf Hall along. --Anne Bartholomew

From Publishers Weekly

Henry VIII's challenge to the church's power with his desire to divorce his queen and marry Anne Boleyn set off a tidal wave of religious, political and societal turmoil that reverberated throughout 16th-century Europe. Mantel boldly attempts to capture the sweeping internecine machinations of the times from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, the lowborn man who became one of Henry's closest advisers. Cromwell's actual beginnings are historically ambiguous, and Mantel admirably fills in the blanks, portraying Cromwell as an oft-beaten son who fled his father's home, fought for the French, studied law and was fluent in French, Latin and Italian. Mixing fiction with fact, Mantel captures the atmosphere of the times and brings to life the important players: Henry VIII; his wife, Katherine of Aragon; the bewitching Boleyn sisters; and the difficult Thomas More, who opposes the king. Unfortunately, Mantel also includes a distracting abundance of dizzying detail and Henry's all too voluminous political defeats and triumphs, which overshadows the more winning story of Cromwell and his influence on the events that led to the creation of the Church of England.(Oct.) 

And so I've settled on "Birdology" which gets good reviews from all six people who read it on Amazon:) While not widely read and not great literature, it's packed with interesting tidbits, fascinating for those of us who like trivia and particularly suitable for Fallbrook (lots of birds) and for summer. Each section can be read as a stand alone piece, so you can pick it up, read just one section and put it down. In summer, we spend so much more time outdoors and are likely to enjoy expanding our knowledge of crows and particularly the hummingbirds.

So that's it - a short easy fun book for summer time reading.

Reviews of the book follow:

rFrom Booklist

Montgomery gives herself over so wholeheartedly to animals, and other humans who share her passion for creatures both rare and ubiquitous, that her nature chronicles are uniquely radiant. Mammals, from tigers to dolphins, bears, and one very special pig, have been her specialty, but birds have always fascinated her, hence this gathering of stirring avian encounters. Montgomery assists a hummingbird rehabilitator in the delicate raising of two tiny orphans, and meets the “most dangerous bird on earth,” the enormous, razor-clawed cassowary in Australia, one bird whose dinosaur ancestry is blazingly apparent. She also writes from unexpected perspectives about falcons, crows, pigeons, chickens, and parrots, each intriguing tale illustrating one of the “seven essential truths about birds,” and all revealing fresh insights about birds, interspecies communications, and environmental concerns. Inspired equally by all that we share with birds—similarities in intelligence, emotion, language, and music—and all that is mysterious (birds “remain fundamentally wild”), Montgomery expresses profound appreciation for the living web of life in a book that both bird lovers and readers new to bird lore will find evocative, enlightening, and uplifting. --Donna Seaman


"Sy Montgomery does for birds what Jane Goodall did for apes. With an infectious sense of adventure, and a sense of awe and mystery, her stories change the way we look at even the most 'common' birds and instill in us a deep sense of gratitude that we are privileged to share this planet with such delightful creatures. Birdology is bound to become a classic."-- Stacey O'Brien, author of Wesley the Owl

"Spell-binding, absolutely compelling, and so beautifully expressed, Birdology tells stories that everyone should know. Nobody has ever gone so far into the minds of birds as Montgomery has. She completely conveys the life, the obsession, the fascination with birds in an intimate, personal, and engaging style. A magnificent achievement." -- Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of When Elephants Weep and Dogs Never Lie about Love


  1. Sounds good, Helen. A few weeks ago I took an injured bird to a friend who is a pigeon fancier. It wasn't a pigeon but she's a bird lover so she said she'd try to save it. Unfortunately it died on the way in my pet ambulance. A few days before I had taken Kathy's dog to the vet after it got bitten by a rattlesnake.
    She recovered and is doing fine. Both times I was racing up Alvarado only to be stopped at the road construction. I wished I had had a siren.

  2. I didn't see this comment earlier. Wow...you are the animal rescuer. I'm going to send you something about a swan on the lake up in De Luz. Yes, you need a siren.