Staff Reviews

Tessa’s Nonfiction Recommendation: Pandemic by Sonia Shah

Even after reading lots of books on infectious disease, I’m still always interested in a new one. Shah’s newest book, Pandemic, covers new developments and old patterns clearly and factually—and it is, at times, ominous and chilling. The current status of contagions and public health which Shah exposes is riveting, with fascinating details and previously unknown conclusions (to me, at least).

Shah loops the book’s history with the current day by tracing cholera’s two-hundred-year global attack from the Sunderbans, Bay of Bengal, in 1817 to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. She traces the history of Manhattan from Native American fishing grounds to cholera-breeding slums to the creation of the Manhattan Water Company, which become today’s JP Morgan Chase & Co. Her own family’s battle with the nearly indestructible MRSA infection becomes another datum in the appalling recital, revealing more unsettling contemporary difficulties, mostly due to how little we know about this awful condition.

pandemic

The third chapter, Filth, is full of fantastic fecal facts. For instance, snuff was not always a tobacco product. Many in the 1700’s used powdered fecal matter in their noses, called poudrette. Martin Luther, in the 1500’s, took a spoonful of his own feces daily, for his health. (Before you get too critical, remember that some among us today think eating our baby’s placenta is healthy. And leeches are making their way back into medical practice, too, I hear.)

The chapter Crowds makes the case that the world has changed radically in the manner livestock are handled, contributing hugely to the current problems of contagion genes reasorting themselves into new mutated forms that can infect more species, more efficiently, more often. I was convinced.

Corruption examines the political influences and ramifications of disease outbreaks throughout history, and it is the most alarming factor of all. The current state of the UN’s World Health Organization as laid out here explains a lot about recent poor handling of outbreaks.

“Between 1980 and 2000, the number of deaths pathogens caused in the US alone rose nearly 60 percent…Excluding HIV, …by 22 percent.” I’m still reading this excellent book, but I strongly recommend that every single adult, all citizens, read the chapter on corruption. Our survival as a country, and as a species, may well depend on important changes in the handling of global disease. ~ Tessa May 2016 4 out of 5 stars

Tessa’s Book Recommendation: How to Be a Perfect Stranger: the essential religious etiquette handbook

PerfectStranger

Now in its 6th edition, How to be a perfect stranger is a unique and essential resource for the cross-cultural guest. Voted Best Reference of the Year, I highly recommend checking out this book as needed. Anyone who is invited to a wedding or other service of a religion other than their own will be completely assured of their dress and behavior after consulting this terrific introductory resource.

Each chapter answers the questions in the essential checklist: How should I be dressed? What will happen during the service? What will happen after the service? Should I bring a gift? Will I be expected to participate in any way? In addition, there is a very brief history with a few main beliefs, a short description of a basic service, a section on holy days and festivals, then a section covering life events including marriages and funerals and specifying when and what gifts are appropriate. A final section on home events is included, although it doesn’t apply in many instances. Certain sections vary in length due to the intricacy of a service or rite.

Many different Christian groups are covered in the book, including African-American Methodist, Roman Catholic, Mormon, Seventh-Day Adventist, Baptist, Pentecostal, and more than a dozen others. In addition, other religions included are Native American, Baha’i, Buddhist, Hindu, Islam, Jehovah Witnesses, Judaism, Sikh, and Unitarian Universalist. One humorous note–every group was asked if people could or would contribute, and almost all said that, while not necessary, a contribution of $1-$10 was appropriate. The Baha’i, Christian Science, Islam, and Native American groups were among the exceptions–Baha’i do not permit non-Baha’i to contribute. The others don’t take up contributions.

Two great features of the book are the contact information for a main organization and several resources to which one can go for more information. In addition, useful vocabulary and phrases are given along with descriptions of appropriate greetings in different circumstances.

5 out of 5 stars

Tessa’s Regency Romance Recommendation: Frederica by Georgette Heyer

Known as the creator of the historical romance and the Regency (England) Romance in particular, Georgette Heyer was a prolific writer her entire life, having 48 titles in print at the time of her death. Years ago, I wrote a review of one of her mysteries, Envious Casca. Now I want to you to try her Regency gem Frederica. It is a perfect delight. Be prepared for some vocabulary and phrase challenges, since Heyer uses authentic language. Some of them are evident from context, others, well, you just have to Google them. Or skip them.

Frederica

Heyer’s heroines are lively, irrepressible, and intelligent. In Frederica we find all those qualities, plus she has a noble lack of self-interest. She considers herself, at 24, past marriageable age and on the shelf. The whole purpose in Frederica’s moving her small, orphaned family to London is to give her lovely little sister her London season. To that goal, Frederica will attempt anything and approach any contact, no matter how distant, for help. She must bring her two half-grown brothers along to town, since she has rented out their home. And, of course, the big mangy dog. Enter hilarity and escapades with the scamps, and cutting quips to make you gasp from her distant connection, the Marquis, of course.

This book is such a treat, with lots of humor and lighthearted teasing. The unpleasant and grasping get what they deserve; the poor get rich—most everyone is pleased at the end of the book. It would make a wonderful movie! ~ Tessa April 2016 4.5 out of 5 stars

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