Fascinating Folks

Solomon Time: An Unlikely Quest in the South Pacific

By Will Randall

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"Who hasn't fantasized about dismantling his or her hassled, wired-up life for a simpler existence? Yet who among us has the will and opportunity to do it? The answer, of course, is very few. Will Randall, a young English schoolmaster, had such a chance -- and took it. He uprooted his conventional First World life and let himself be blown to one of the farthest and most beautiful corners of the earth, the Solomon Islands of the South Pacific. In the entertaining tradition of Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country, this is the story of Solomon Time.

"From the first, it's an improbable journey. In a chance encounter on a rugby field, Randall meets a doddering old man known as 'the Commander,'  who has retired to England after running a cocoa plantation in the South Pacific for thirty years. Six months later, the Commander dies and his will is read: he wants someone to travel to his beloved, long-missed island -- where his plantation has fallen into ruin -- and devise a way for the natives to support themselves. If successful, they might avoid poverty, build a new school, and even fend off the greedy developers circling their peaceful waters. It's a mission of noblesse oblige, yet possibly a fool's errand, too. Randall agrees to go. ... a moving and witty account of one man's accidental adventure in paradise ... ."

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The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to his White Mother

By James McBride

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"The son of a black minister and a woman who would not admit she was white, James McBride grew up in 'orchestrated chaos' with his eleven siblings in the poor, all-black projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. 'Mommy,' a fiercely protective woman with 'dark eyes full of pep and fire,' herded her brood to Manhattan's free cultural events, sent them off on buses to the best (and mainly Jewish) schools, demanded good grades and commanded respect. As a young man, McBride saw his mother as a source of embarrassment, worry, and confusion--and reached thirty before he began to discover the truth about her early life and long-buried pain."

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Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood

By Oliver Sacks

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"In an unforgettable portrait of an extraordinary mind, the distinguished neurologist who wrote Awakenings offers an account of his youth as fascinating as his celebrated case histories. Overflowing with humor, sadness, sensuous recollection, and the almost physical rapture of discovery, this bestseller re-creates the wonder of science as it is first experienced."

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Walking to Vermont: From Times Square into the Green Mountains--A Homeward Adventure

By Christopher S. Wren

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Newly-retired journalist encounters New England's gnarly nature as he treks far away from Times Square and into the Green Mountains.

From Chapter One:

It was not yet noon and hotter than a July bride in a feather bed when I trudged a half-dozen miles down the wooded northeastern flank of Mount Greylock, which is, at 3,491 feet, about as high as you can go in the state of Massachusetts. The descent, steep and muddy, made my footing precarious under the weight of a pack that felt stuffed with rocks. By the time I emerged from the spruce woods onto Phelps Avenue, a street of tidy wooden houses on the southern fringe of North Adams, I was hurting as hard as I was sweating.

Before I got bitten, I had planned to follow the white blazes marking the Appalachian Trail north across a green footbridge over some railroad tracks and the Hoosic River. Instead, I turned east on Main Street and caught a ride to the regional hospital on the other side of town.

Within minutes, I found myself stretched out on a white-sheeted bed in the hospital's emergency ward, feeling the soothing chill of saline solution dripping antibiotics into my vein through a long needle taped to the top of my hand.

It was not where I expected to be.

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