What We’re Reading May/June 2018

What We're Reading


For this edition of What We’re Reading, we switched it up a bit and asked some of the Book Bank volunteers what they’ve read lately. These are true bibliophiles, who volunteer at least 2-3 and sometimes 6 hours a week to sort through the donations that come in, so they have some wide-ranging and fascinating book recommendations.

Angela: I just finished comedian Louie Anderson’s book, Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, but You Can Read Them Too.  Louie Anderson is a stand-up comedian known for being the host of Family Feud from the late 90’s to the early 2000’s.  Anderson writes different stories about the successes and challenges he went through, and continues to go through, to his mother who has passed away.  Although some of the stories he tells his mother have a solemn tone, Anderson is still able to insert his humorous voice into each story making the book a very enjoyable read.

Barbara: I have been reading an interesting book titled The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore.  This book is based on the accounts of women who worked in dial factories in the early 20th century. Working in these factories exposed the women to dangerous radioactive materials, especially radium. Everyday these women ingested the radium or absorbed it on their clothes, making them glow, literally.  In the beginning they were told that radium was completely safe, but then the workers started to experience severe, even deadly, symptoms, and the dial companies denied responsibility and refused to help.  The issue went through many court systems and eventually made it to the Supreme Court.  Even though I haven’t finished the book, I know it will end with the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a government agency that ensures the safety and health of employees in the workplace. Interestingly enough, there was a dial factory that dealt with the problems of radium use in Waterbury, CT. The story of the injustice against these women has been very eye-opening!

Jeffrey: As part of Women’s History Month,[1] I read The Triangle Fire by Leon Stein. This book is a non-fiction account of a horrific fire at a garment factory on March 25, 1911 in New York City that killed 142 workers; the majority of the workers that died were young Jewish and Italian immigrant women. They had been fighting for better pay and working conditions which led their boss to keep the factory doors locked in case they tried to go on strike. The fire became a rallying cry for the rights and protection of women, immigrants, and workers, as well as a call for improvements to building codes and firefighting strategies. March 8th was chosen as International Women’s Day to honor a strike led by these same women against the same conditions a year before the fire on March 8, 1909; eventually March became International Women’s History Month. The Triangle Fire is written by someone who knew and fought for these young women, and it is a powerful history with many lessons relevant to today.

Linda: I just finished reading Himself, a magical, poetic, often funny, horror story, by Jess Kidd.  This cold case murder story is about a young Irish man, a charming scofflaw, who is in search of a mother he never knew.  The story’s set in a small rural town in Ireland where an unholy and terrifying cast of living and dead are only visible to some.  Kidd inserts salty Irish lingo into the story which had me laughing.  The story was narrated so brilliantly (audiobook) that it creeped me out enough times to pause the story so I could slow down my heartbeat.  In truth, it was almost too creepy for me, but the voices and story were so wonderfully written, I stuck with it to the end.

Additionally, I recently began reading Christina Baker Kline’s A Piece of the World – a novel woven around Andrew Wyeth’s famous painting “Christina’s World.”  The painting is of a women in a pink dress laying in a field of tall grass near a stark house located in Maine. So far, the story is very good and engaging.  It tells many stories, moving and shifting in time to reveal where Christina and Andrew Wyeth come from and how they came together.

Mike: I love reading history and biographies, and the latest history book I read was donated to New Haven Reads: Bitter Victory by Carlo D’Este.  The book takes you through the Sicily campaign in World War II.  After I read the book I wanted to see if it was anything like the movie “Patton,” which was about the World War II phase of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.  The movie turned out to be a little more accurate than history movies usually are.

I also recently completed two books that were on my list of books to read someday: Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad, and The Last of the Mohicans, which came from New Haven Reads. It was better than I expected!

[1] Editor’s note: these volunteer contributions were collected over the course of several months.

Categories What We're Reading | Tags: | Posted on July 13, 2018

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