Books — May 14, 2011 5:29 am

Good Reads: Staff Picks


Expand your horizons with our latest picks from the bookshelf.

<–New Release
Even Silence Has an End: My Six Years of Captivity in the Colombian Jungle by Ingrid Betancourt (2010)
In 2002, Ingrid Betancourt, a prominent politician and presidential candidate in Columbia, was kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia, a guerrilla organization known for its brutality and terrorism. This narrative chronicles the next six years of Betancourt’s life, which she spent as a hostage in the inhospitable jungles of Columbia with 13 other captives. She nearly escaped several times before her eventual rescue in 2008, and her powerful account of how she survived the six-year ordeal is a riveting read. Although she was chained up during most of captivity, her mind was free to absorb all of what she felt and saw, lending vivid details to the narrative she would eventually write. Various media accounts have reported that Betancourt’s fellow hostages alleged that she demanded and received preferential treatment, possibly because of her political status, but this controversy was not addressed in her book.


Traditional Fave
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (1855)
Elizabeth Gaskell’s tale of the social upheavals and monetary disparities between the North and the South of England during the Victorian era is filled with the gloom of labor unions striking and an unexpected romance. The novel chronicles the tortured and tenuous relationship between John Thorton, a temperamental and passionate Northerner, and Margret Hale, a young and untainted Southern beauty. Thorton, a handsome self-made man of industry, is the proprietor of Marlborough Mills, and has no tolerance for ignorance. A man of integrity and morality, he has an unassuming tenderness; he longs to be loved and to love another. Hale, the witty, elegant daughter of a vicar who has parted with the church, is forced to submit to a life in the North surrounded by dust, disease and incivility. A crusader for social justice, she instantly catches Thorton’s eye, much to her own dismay. Both are rational creatures in unreasonable conditions; they must follow the dictates of their parents and hope for eventual happiness in chaotic times in this saga about personal survival.

Alternative Prose
It All Changed In An Instant”: More Six-Word Memoirs By Writers Famous & Obscure compiled by SMITH Magazine (2010)
This collection of mini-memoirs comprises 250 pages of superb wittiness with a tinge of everything from the inappropriate to the unimaginable. For the editors at SMITH Magazine, a website devoted to storytelling, the six-word memoir phenomenon was inspired by these thriftily famous words of Ernest Hemingway: “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” The quote sparked the writers at SMITH to begin a quest for the most meaningful stories that could chronicle—in a mere six words—the momentous events in a person’s life, loves and dreams.  Contributors submit their six-word memoirs online and the editors publish the best of the best in volumes (this is the fifth compilation). The contributing authors range from unknown novices to acclaimed author Elizabeth Gilbert (“Eat, Pray, Love”) to such celebrities as Bob Barker.  From the mundane to the miraculous, this book keeps readers entranced and is bound to have book-lovers everywhere thinking in only six words.


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