and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

Barbara's Column
July #5

Books on birds, imperialism and travel for summer reading
by Barbara Anderson

The Eagle-Tribune
Thursday, July 30, 2008

By the time you read this, the Legislature will be preparing to depart the Statehouse until after the November election, giving those few with an opponent plenty of free time to campaign while their challengers have to work for a living. This seems unfair; but not being a candidate myself, I'm not complaining. I'm just glad they're gone, so I can spend more time in the hammock.

Right now, I am reading six books. They are different categories because if they were all fiction, I'd forget which character was in which plot as I skipped around.

At my age, it's hard enough to remember if I've already read the book. Chip and I book-shop together for his favorite category, crime or international thrillers, because it takes two of us to decide if the plot is familiar. We're like this with TV movies, too.

We've finished all the Nelson DeMille novels. They came recommended by Joyce, the phlebotomist from our medical group, and are, in our opinion, the best of the crime tales. And the best of DeMille is "The Gold Coast," whose protagonist is a Yankee lawyer who makes me think of Bill Weld. A mob leader, who reminds us of Tony Soprano, moves next door in their exclusive Long Island community and ...

Joyce also recommended Harlan Coben, especially the Myron Bolitar series; and in return, we took her the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child.

I just got her started on Nevada Barr. We're caught up with Dennis Lehane paperbacks, and by next week I'll be ready to begin the one Michael Connelly book we haven't yet read; got it in hardcover at the Salem News book sale this spring. Also found excellent reading for women by Maeve Binchy and Anne Rivers Siddons there, which Chip doesn't share.

I picked up this week's fiction at a yard sale Saturday; couldn't wait to read "Big Trouble" by Dave Barry. As when I am reading Carl Hiaasen, you may hear me laughing out loud. Or, I could be laughing at Ann Coulter's "How to Talk to a Liberal," which I also found at the Salem News sale. I'm looking forward to Brunonia Berry's "The Lace Reader," set in Salem, too.

A serious version of Coulter is "The Liberal Mind: The Psychological Causes of Political Madness" by Lyle H. Rossiter Jr., M.D., which activist friends gave me. Someone also gave me "Islamic Imperialism: A History" by Efraim Karsh that I am reading, because I don't know as much as I should about Middle East history. Just reading the Bible and "Exodus" in 1962, and seeing "Lawrence of Arabia" three times, doesn't provide enough information for today's world.

A neighbor lent me two books last week. One is a funny, delightful gift for birdwatchers: "Why Don't Woodpeckers Get Headaches and Other Bird Questions You Know You Want to Ask" by Cape Cod's Mike O'Connor. Ten years ago, I barely knew a mockingbird from a catbird, but then Chip Ford moved in next door. When he isn't fighting big government or sailing on his Catalina 22, he is filling his several bird feeders; our adjoining yards are like an aviary.

I've never read autobiographies but am enthralled by Beryl Markham's "West with the Night." One minute I am in my hammock listening to birdsong, and the next I am in East Africa, listening to the lion's roar, and then flying solo across the Atlantic. This was written the year before I was born, reprinted in 1983, but considering that Hemingway called it "a really bloody wonderful book," it might still be available.

In case you wonder how I find time for all this reading, I sprained my ankle last month and am still obeying my doctor's instructions to elevate it as much as possible. Unless he sends me a telegram saying, "Stop"; I intend to follow that prescription until Labor Day.

I work in between elevating, which at night is done while catching up with the first season of "Mad Men" in my recliner. Like "The Sopranos," this is a mind-altering series. Now I understand what the feminist and anti-smoking movements were all about. I guess I missed a lot while I had my nose in a book. No more nostalgia about the good old days for me!

Yes, I've been reading like this since I was a kid. My son Lance (named from "Tales of King Arthur") is a reader too. When I visited in June, he gave me "The Tortilla Curtain" by T. Coraghessan Boyle, sort of an illegal immigrant version of Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities." I then read "Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas" by Tom Robbins, who both Lance and I consider the greatest contemporary American author.

This summer, while my grandson rides his bike and reads the Spiderman comics I send, my granddaughter is reading novels. I've been mailing her the Bobbsey Twins and Nancy Drew books from my childhood; but, at age 7, she is finishing the sixth Harry Potter book instead.

I told her I enjoy a series more if I alternate it with different kinds of books; she said she is also reading something called Lemony Snicket. Hey, Maya, send it to me when you're done!

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.