Monday, January 7, 2013

More Books for Grown-ups

Sunrise today was at 7:57, sunrise was at 4:33.

View of Smith Tower from Yesler (Bail Bond Lane)
One of the things I see on my walk to the ferry is Smith Tower.  The beacon atop this historic building is something I aim for every morning; it makes me happy to see it, it's kind of comforting.  I can see it from our kitchen window, and it only blinks out of sight when I am behind a very few buildings along Rainier and when heading east up the start of the Yesler Street hill.

Smith Tower (for those of you who don't live in Seattle) was one of the first skyscrapers (at 42 stories), one of the tallest buildings in the world outside of New York City.  Granted, this was 1914 and a lot has changed since then.  It's a beautiful white terra cotta building with bronze window sashes and the best views of the city in the city.  Above the office building itself, there is a pyramid-shaped 4 story apartment, and above that is an immense globe with a light bulb.  It's a lot like a lighthouse:  a relatively small bulb reflecting in a glass globe to magnify its light.

Mostly it's white, sometimes it's purple (Go Dawgs), and for a good long time it's green.  I always look forward to the green season, the advent of the Christmas and winter holidays.  Usually, on the day after Thanksgiving, the big white star on the building atop Beacon Hill's Veteran's building is lit up and the light on the top of the Smith Tower becomes green.  I love that.

This year, I noticed on the Monday after Thanksgiving, that the light hadn't yet been lit, the bulb was dark.  I figured they must have been changing the bulb and looked forward to the later lighting of the globe.  Tuesday morning, still no lit light.  So, I ran into a man mopping the front entryway to the building and told him the light was out.  He looked at me as if I was a little crazy but said, "Okay.  I'll look into it."  Imagine what he'd have to go through to change the bulb!

The next day it was still dark, but that night, on the ferry going home, there it was!  All alight and green, floating above the skyline, slightly to the right of the rest of the city.  Finally! Yes, I am totally sure that I am the reason we had a green light for the holiday season.  

It's still up there, all green and beautiful, and I've never really noticed when it goes back to its "regular" color.  Maybe on the 12th day of Christmas?  Epiphany?  I'll notice this year!  It'll be the first thing I see standing in the dark windows, drinking my coffee.

A few more favorite books for grown-ups - again, they are listed in order of when read, not by how much I loved them.  To repeat something I wrote a very long time ago:  I don't write about books I wouldn't buy for my family.  I don't have the time (or the desire) to read something that doesn't captivate me immediately.  That's why it seems like I love (almost) everything I read; I just don't read the others! 

Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter, is a wonderful story of love and loss, landscape and beauty.  A young Italian innkeeper falls in love with a dying movie star taking refuge in his tiny town.  Years later, an elderly Italian man appears in a movie lot looking for the producer of the movie the starlet was in.  What happens between these two moments makes for a lovely and sweet story of lives lived, loved, lost and found. HarperCollins.  $25.99.  Available now.

Little Century, by Anna Keesey, is the story of Esther Chambers, a recent orphan in search of her single remaining relative, a cow-man living on the eastern Oregon frontier.  When Esther arrives, her cousin Ferris already has plans for her inclusion in claiming lands that hold a local watering hole, one that the local sheep ranchers use.  Esther is a woman with a strong sense of right and wrong and she very well could be the hinge of a range war between the cattle- and sheep-men.  Again, great landscape writing, really wonderful history, and great characters.  Farrar Straus and Giroux.  $26.00.  Available now.

Brain on Fire, by Susannah Cahalan.  Wow!  Talk about brain mysteries!  Susannah, a 24 year-old New York journalist, finds a couple of bites on her arm and begins to obsess over bedbugs and other insects in her apartment.  She starts putting things in bags, clearing her house, not making sense to her co-workers, insisting that people are all against her.  When she is taken to the doctor, she's diagnosed with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, both diseases that can appear in young adults of that age.  But, Susannah's problems just get worse.  She eventually has seizures that make her appear like a zombie and is hospitalized.  No one knows what's wrong with her and it isn't until an Indian doctor is brought onto the scene that her diagnoses are refuted and she is finally able to get healthy.  Brain on Fire is a great true mystery surrounding the most mysterious part of the body, the brain.  Lots of brain information, lots of history, too, and it was absolutely compelling.  Free Press.  $25.00.  Available now.

Maya's Notebook, by Isabel Allende.  I loved this book!  It would be a good cross-over novel for older teens, too.  Maya is a young woman who makes some not-so-great decisions and crosses the Las Vegas drug and money bosses and is sent into hiding.  This book is the chronicle of how she came to be living on the butt-end of a bunch of teensy islands hanging off the end of Chile.  Maya was a very loved child living with her grandparents.  When her beloved grandfather dies, she goes off the deep end drinking and drugging, eventually ending up in Las Vegas where she becomes involved with really bad people.  Eventually, her grandmother finds her and sends her to hide with her friends from the past, people who were involved in the Chilean civil wars.  More history!  More landscape!  More beautiful writing!  HarperCollins.  $28.99.  Available in May, 2013.

Okay, that's it for now.  There's been no recompense for these reviews. 

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