Below are a few books recommended by your colleagues. The reviews themselves are plucked directly from the employees’ emails – they’re in their own words and style. Enjoy!
“A Dirty Job: A Novel” by Christopher Moore
This is a re-read for me. I first read this book a few years ago, but I got tickets to hear Christopher Moore at the Arts and Letters Live series for Valentine’s Day from my husband, so I have been reviewing a few of his best. Now, if you want to read this novel, you need to suspend all, and I do mean ALL, your disbelief at the first page. Charlie Asher has just seen his first child born and his wife die. What he also sees is Death coming to claim his wife. Having seen Death, Asher automatically becomes Death and assumes all the duties related to this. The first problem is that Charlie doesn’t know this. Unfortunately, his copy of the “Great Big Book of Death” is misappropriated, so he doesn’t understand why people around him keep dying. Since Charlie is not doing his job as Death, there are greater evils released in the city of San Francisco. The rest of the characters that appear throughout “A Dirty Job” are strange and hilarious. In Asher’s junk shop, Lily, the teenage goth clerk, is looking for an opportunity to become Death too. Ray, the other clerk, shares far too much about his search for love on different dating sites. Reading this far into my plot summary, you may have decided that this novel is too dark and intense for your tastes, but let me assure you that while Christopher Moore works with darker topics, this story should make you laugh out loud. I haven’t begun to touch on the way that this tale gets weird, and it goes a good bit beyond weird to examine death, love and the end of the world, but there are also “squirrels “ cobbled together from road kill, dressed as pirates or in ball gowns, and reanimated to roam the city. With satire and a strong sense of humor, Moore explores many of the things that people privately feel but never publicly say about death, but he never disrespects his topic. The book plot is absurd, and for that reason it is certainly not for everyone. Some may find it offensive in that it does deal with a very personal and serious matter in a light-hearted way, but I appreciate the way that Moore can get the reader to really look at death and his or her beliefs about death. Because he uses humor, it can make this self-examination a little easier to face. Christopher Moore seems to be an author that people either or love or hate and there is not a lot of space in between. If you like silly satire with some smart-mouthed characters in stupendously random situations, I’d urge you to take a look.
Meridith Danforth, assistant director, Marking and Public Information
“The Help” by Kathryn Stockett
The Help by Kathryn Stockett is the book I am reading right now. This book is a story of three African American Maids working in the white American households in the early 1960s. The entire story is narrated in the first person perspective of three women named, Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. The plot summary goes like this. Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is the daughter of a prominent white family whose cotton farm employs many African-Americans in the fields, as well as in the household. After finish the college Skeeter comes home with dreams of becoming a writer. Skeeter’s mother dreams that she should get married soon. Skeeter frequently wonders about the sudden disappearance of Constantine, the maid who raised her. She had been writing to Skeeter while she was away at college and her last letter promised a surprise upon her homecoming. Skeeter's family tells her that Constantine abruptly quit, then went to live with relatives in Chicago. Skeeter does not believe that Constantine would just leave and continually pursues anyone she thinks has information about her to come forth, but no one will discuss the former maid. The life that Constantine led while being the help to the Phelan family leads Skeeter to the realization that her friends' maids are treated very differently from how the white employers are treated. She decides (with the assistance of a publisher) that she wants to reveal the truth about being a colored maid in Mississippi. Skeeter struggles to communicate with the maids and gain their trust. The dangers of undertaking writing a book about African-Americans speaking out in the South during the early '60s hover constantly over the three women. As an educated woman, Skeeter undertakes a risky job. Anyone who likes to read about the struggles that people go through and to open up the difficult situations that people go through will find this book very interesting.
John Mammen, adjunct faculty, Communications Division