Clark Atkinson, Resource Teacher at Liberty Learning Center. On In These Hills, a compilation (editor unknown): This book is a history of the Livermore, Colorado area, a ranching area in Northern Colorado almost on the border between Colorado and Wyoming. I grew up there, so it's just interesting to me--from a personal point of view--to read about these ranchers I've known my whole life, from the point of view of someone who doesn't know them...to see the descriptions of these people and how they fit with what I know to be real. It's pretty much a historical account: when did Europeans get there, what did they find when they arrived, what was it about the land that attracted the ranchers initially, and what's happened over the years. Livermore used to be a stage stop on the way up a river canyon; but finally they blasted a hole and made a tunnel through the canyon so people didn't have to take that circuitous route anymore, making Livermore less important. Some of it seems accurate, but there's a glorification of some of the people that's amusing because I know a more human and sordid side of them. It's interesting to see how history does that to people: takes somebody who's made a lot of money and maybe has made a contribution to a worthy cause here and there, but in general was scuz. Turns out they're remembered for the good and not the bad.
David Hancocks, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum Executive Director. On Undaunted Courage, by Stephen E. Ambrose: As an immigrant, I've had to play catch-up on the history of the United States. British schools, for example, tell the story of the War of Independence quite differently. Unfortunately, the remarkable stories of America's history are told too often by either bores or braggarts. A rare exception is this book, which I have been sipping on slowly the past few weeks. It recounts the story of Lewis and Clark's exploration across the continent, and does it in a deceptively easy style, painting such clear pictures that the memories stay vivid. It tells an honest and unromantic version of the journey, the hardships, the motives, the frailties and strengths of the people involved, and the world of that era. I am particularly enjoying the parts dealing with the American Indians. For once, they seem like real human beings. Also notable is the realization that, yet again, America faced a critical stage in its history led by astonishingly unusual and stalwart people. It's filled with little tidbits of information; apparently they were each eating 12 pounds of meat a day, crossing the plains, and starving at that.
Greg Colburn, Chef at B&B Café. On The Diaries of Jane Somers, by Doris Lessing. There are actually two books, but both of them deal with a woman named Jane Somers, a woman in her late 40s in England. She's a magazine editor for a fashion magazine, like a fashion maven. The book deals with her awakening to an emotional life and relationships with people around her that she never had before. She meets a very old, decrepit woman in a shop, and she suddenly helps her out by buying her food and takes her home, which is an amazing mess. She can obviously barely take care of herself. So she becomes attached to this old woman, which horrifies her, but she also can't seem to refuse helping this woman out. She returns time after time. Doris Lessing is very good at pinning down and describing deterioration and evolution of emotional states--states of being, ways of being, people's consciousness--as they change, often radically. I think a lot of times we're not able to track these things as closely as she does to be able to put any understanding behind them. We just kind of go through things at times, and we don't have the opportunity or the awareness to observe what they're about. When you read someone who can write about this as well as Lessing, it helps you fine tune your own perceptions.
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