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What We're Reading: October 2017

“The benefits of reading books include a longer life in which to read them.”  –A. Bashivi, M. D. Slade, B. R. Levy. (Social Science & Medicine. Vol 164. Sept, 2016)

 Jeremy Black offers a historian's interpretation from the perspective of the late 2010s, assessing James Bond in terms of the greatly changing world order of the Bond years--a lifetime that stretches from 1953, when the first novel appeared, to the present. Black argues that the Bond novels--the Fleming books as well as the often-neglected novels authored by others after Fleming died in 1964--and films drew on current fears in order to reduce the implausibility of the villains and their villainy.  Class, place, gender, violence, sex, race--all are themes that Black scrutinizes through the ongoing shifts in characterization and plot. His well-informed and well-argued analysis provides a fascinating history of the enduring and evolving appeal of James Bond.

Also available in: e-book

"In An Extraordinary Time, acclaimed economic historian Marc Levinson recounts the global collapse of the postwar economy in the 1970s. While economists struggle to return us to the high economic growth rates of the past, Levinson counterintuitively argues that the boom years of the 1950s and 1960s were an anomaly; slow economic growth is the norm-no matter what economists and politicians may say. Yet these atypical years left the public with unreasonable expectations of what government can achieve. When the economy failed to revive, suspicion of government and liberal institutions rose sharply, laying the groundwork for the political and economic polarization that we're still grappling with today. A sweeping reappraisal of the last sixty years of world history, An Extraordinary Time describes how the postwar economic boom dissipated, undermining faith in government, destabilizing the global financial system, and forcing us to come to terms with how tumultuous our economy really is"--.

Séance Infernale : a novel by Jonathan Skariton

"An extraordinary debut novel--dark, fast-paced, thrilling--set in contemporary and nineteenth-century Europe, the United States, and Scotland, involving the true inventor of moving pictures; his lost film, Séance Infernale, made in Edinburgh in 1888; and a shocking series of crimes terrorizing the city in present time. A riveting story of suspense; a compelling tale of adventure. The time: 2002. Alex Whitman, a movie memorabilia dealer who can find anything, is hired by an eccentric film collector to locate what could be the first film ever made, Séance Infernale. Its creator, Augustin Sekuler, is considered by those who know about movies to be the true inventor of motion pictures--not the Lumiere brothers; or Thomas Edison. In 1890, Sekular had boarded a train from Dijon, headed to Paris, days before he was to present to the world his greatest new invention, the first of its kind--a moving picture machine. Sekuler never arrived at Gare de Lyon station. He and his moving picture machine vanished, never to be heard from again. When Alex Whitman tracks down what might be fragments of Sekuler's famously lost film, questions are raised--about Sekuler, about what happened to him and to his invention, and about the film itself. And the stakes become ratcheted up as the film's riddles lead to a darker, far more dangerous mystery"--.

Based on a remarkable true story, an unforgettable Somali girl risks her life on the migrant journey to Europe to run in the Olympic Games. At eight years of age, Samia lives to run. She shares her dream with her best friend and neighbor, Ali, who appoints himself her "professional coach." Eight-year-old Ali trains her, times her, and pushes her to achieve her goals. For both children, Samia's running is the bright spot in their tumultuous life in Somalia. She is talented, brave, and determined to represent her country in the Olympic Games, just like her hero, the great Somali runner Mo Farah. For the next several years, Samia and Ali train at night in a deserted stadium as war rages and political tensions continue to escalate. Despite the lack of resources, despite the war, and despite all of the restrictions imposed on Somali women, Samia becomes a world-class runner. As a teenager, she is selected to represent her country at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. She finishes last in her heat at the Games, but the sight of the small, skinny woman in modest clothes running in the dust of athletes like Veronica Campbell-Brown brings the Olympic stadium to its feet. Samia sets her sights on the 2012 Games in London. Conditions in Somalia have worsened, and she must make the arduous migrant journey across Africa and the Mediterranean alone. Just like millions of refugees, Samia risks her life for the hope of a better future..

The death of kings by Rennie Airth

"In the fifth novel in the critically acclaimed John Madden series, the former Scotland Yard detective returns in a gripping post-World War II mystery that will delight fans of Philip Kerr On a hot summer day in 1938, a beautiful actress is murdered on the grand Kent estate of Sir Jack Jessup, close friend of the Prince of Wales. The arrest of an ex-convict and his subsequent confession swiftly bring the case to a close, but in 1949, the reappearance of a jade necklace raises questions about the murder. Was the man convicted and executed the decade before truly guilty? Though happily retired from the police force, John Madden is persuaded to investigate the case afresh. In a story of honor and justice that takes Madden through the idyllic English countryside, post-war streets of London, and into the criminal underworld of the Chinese Triads, The Death of Kings is an atmospheric and captivating police procedural"--.

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