Thursday, March 6, 2008

Galveston County Reads Announces Short List for 2009

Community invited to vote.

Galveston County Reads announces the short list of candidates for the sixth year of the community wide book club. In the spirit of the electoral process, the voting will be open to the public this year. Copies of the books are available at local public libraries, including Rosenberg Library, and at area bookstores. The committee is a volunteer organization that invites your participation. To cast your vote or become a committee member, please email Karen Stanley at or call 409.763.8854 x119. Voting ends April 25, so start reading and join the discussion.

Following are the book nominations for the 2009 season:

The Glass Castle
By Jeannette Walls
In The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls takes us on a journey of her childhood that begins with setting herself on fire at the age of three while cooking hot dogs on the gas stove and ends with her struggle to create a sane, stable life for herself. Walls expertly develops the characters in the book, slowly revealing bits and parts of their personalities to help the reader understand what drives their bizarre actions. High praise for any novel, but The Glass Castle is a memoir and the characters are the members of the Walls family. As she chronicles the often terrifying events of her childhood, Walls shares intimate glimpses of the family. Fleeing town in the middle of the night so often that no place can ever become “home,” being taught to hold your nose in order to stomach eating rotten ham and barely surviving a ride in the back of a u-haul with the doors flapping open as the parents obliviously ride in the safety of the cab are just a few examples. Many of the images Walls shares are horrifying, yet they are balanced with humor, hope and a belief in the ability of individuals to rise above struggle, adversity and even deprivation to discover who they truly are. The Glass Castle takes the reader to a new understanding of mental illness and homelessness, but also illustrates the power of familial love even in the most dysfunctional setting. Book available in paperback, hardback, Large Type, CD and cassette.

Orxy and Crake
By Margaret Atwood
Reviewers have called Orxy and Crake a work of science fiction that is more like Jonathan Swift than Robert Heinlein because there are no flying cars in this book. Although it is set in the future there are already parallels that can be drawn between the events in the world of this novel and those in the real world today. The narrator, Jimmy, who calls himself Snowman, may be the last human alive. In flashbacks, he tells the reader of the events that lead up to his present circumstances. Margaret Atwood, a talented Canadian author, spins a great narrative that includes genetic engineering, an unknown apocalyptic event and an ending that allows for intriguing speculation. This book is a vast departure from other Galveston County Reads selections and from titles on the list this year. However, it is a masterfully written thriller that has lots of dark humor and endless possibilities for discussion. It is available in hardback, paperback, audio and download. May also have limited availability in Spanish.

Water for Elephants
By Sara Gruen
Water for Elephants is a novel told in flashback by Jacob Jankowski, now in his nineties and spending his days in a nursing home. Jacob takes readers back into the Depression when he was a young man preparing for veterinary exams at Cornell. Jacob receives the sad news of his parents’ demise and finds himself facing a mental breakdown. Jacob flees school and his old life to join the circus where he’s hired to care for the animals. Jacob learns the inner workings of circus life, falls in love, and begins to understand himself a little better in his new and strange surroundings. This is a beautiful and well-written historical novel that will likely touch the reader by the emotional honesty and depth of Jacob. Book available in paperback, hardback, Large Type, CD and Spanish, Aqua Para Elefantes

The Worst Hard Time: The untold story of those who survived the Great American Dust Bowl
By Timothy EganTimothy Egan, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, has brought to life the heartbreak and hardships endured by the families that attempted to eke out a living in the American Great Plains during the extensive drought of the 1930s. Through interviews with survivors and the use of newspaper accounts, journals, and letters written at the time, Egan provides moving portraits of several families struggling to exist while watching their farms blow away. Much of the action is centered around Dalhart, Texas, one of the hardest hit areas in the 400 million acre dust bowl. Egan examines government policies on homesteading, water, and wheat subsidies during the wars as well as farming practices of the times as contributing factors to the disaster, prompting the necessary discussion of water policies that will haunt our near future. Informative, moving, and highly readable, this book is available in hardcover, paperback, audio CD, audio download, MP3 CD, and Kindle book formats.