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A writer writes about good books

by Merrie Leininger

I have always felt safe in libraries. It’s very comforting to be surrounded on all sides by tall shelves filled with so many books, I’d never be able to read them all.

My favorite thing to do on a Saturday is to pick out a few books and find a quiet corner to look through them. Book stores are good for that, too, but they expect you to pay at the end of your visit. When I was a kid, at that age where I was too old for a babysitter, but not old enough to be left alone, sometimes my mom would drop me off at the library.

When we lived in Huntsville, Ala., the library was huge – three floors. I spent time on every one.

Every time I move, I curse this infernal love of books. They are the heaviest things I own, and I have all these unwieldy bookshelves to store them on.

I don’t know if all that qualifies me or not, but I figure if Linda Hiller can consider herself the Bird Lady, I can consider myself the Book Lady for the purposes of this column and write about books today.

n “On Writing.” Many of you already know how I feel about the Harry Potter books, so I guess it’s time to move on to adult reading.

For anyone out there who likes to put a pen to paper, I suggest “On Writing” by Stephen King. Even if you’re not a writer, but are a fan of King’s, you should read this book, too. The subtitle of the book is “A memoir of the craft,” but it is also a memoir of his life. You learn he wrote his first story to impress his mom. Then he wrote to sell at school – and he made a killing until the principal made him give all the money back. There is also a recounting of the car accident that stopped him from writing, and how he started again. Very funny and very good advice about writing.

n “The Last Precinct.” Just for fun is the mystery series I’ve been reading for years; the Kay Scarpetta books by Patricia Cornwell. The latest is “The Last Precinct.” Scarpetta is the chief medical examiner of the state of Virginia and what originally hooked me is the amazing forensic work she uses to catch the bad guys.

This book is a direct continuance of “Black Notice.” In that book, we don’t get all the answers about her most recent investigation, so we have to read “The Last Precinct.” This book changes everything for Scarpetta. For those who haven’t read it yet, I won’t say more. But it’s good.

n Barbara Kingsolver. At the top of my list these days is anything by Barbara Kingsolver. I got her latest two books for Christmas. I just finished “The Poisonwood Bible” and haven’t got to “Prodigal Summer” yet.

Her first books, “The Bean Trees,” “Pigs in Heaven,” and “Animal Dreams” are wonderful stories about family lost and found, set in Arizona and Oklahoma. She writes about an unfamiliar landscape but I can see it so clearly.

“The Poisonwood Bible” is completely different. Set in the Congo, it spans 50 years and you see the main characters – four sisters brought to the jungle by their zealot Baptist preacher of a father. She writes from each point of view and it seems like four different people wrote the book. In the backdrop is a fascinating look at the politics of the nation, which is even more interesting in light of the recent assassination of that country’s president. It is pretty long, so settle in and turn off all distractions. It will be worth it.

Although I haven’t begun “Prodigal Summer,” yet, I feel secure in suggesting it to you.

It’s about a wildlife biologist and a hunter in the middle of a dispute about the coyotes who live on the same mountain in southern Appalachia.

. . . I just started reading it to pick out a short paragraph, but the next thing I know, I’m on page 15. Just read it for yourself. There’s no way I’m going to decide on just one paragraph.