British libraries in crisis

According to a recent article in The Independent, a British new magazine, libraries in Britain are in crisis due to cuts in funding and declining attendance. Since 2011, 324 libraries have been closed and the decline will continue unless urgent action is taken, says William Sieghart, author of the Independent Library Report for England, which was commissioned by the Government. He recommends a complete overhaul of the library system, with every library being fitted for wi-fi. Apparently only a third of Britain’s libraries do not have wi-fi. Compare that statistic with wi-fi in our public libraries, where 91% offer free wi-fi, according to the 2014 Pew Report. Sieghart’s report also calls for the appointment of a National Task Force, led by councils but supported by groups such as the BBC, Arts Council England and the British Library – to improve national standards.

“The Boston Girl”

9781439199350_p0_v2_s114x166Anita Diamant’s newest book “The Boston Girl” is the story of a Jewish immigrant family living in Boston during the first quarter of the twentieth century.  Addie Baum is the youngest daughter born into a poor Jewish family.  She is the only surviving child of the Baums who is born in the United States.

Addie’s parents, like most immigrants, adhere to the traditional ways of their faith and background.  Addie, to their dismay, wants more out of life.  She has to leave school after eighth grade, but continues for the rest of her life to seek more education.  She joins the “Saturday Club” and meets other immigrant girls.  At the Club they form lasting friendships and become “American.”

Diamant’s has written an interesting story, but not an in-depth one.  Addie could have been Italian or Irish or a member of any of the other groups that came to Boston during the early twentieth century.  This is a fast read but not a page turner.  No new ground is explored in her novel.  Diamant’s “The Red Tent” is a far better book about the struggle of women during Biblical times.

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande


This NY Times bestseller is about how to make decisions at the end of one’s life. Dr. Gawande recounts the decisions he faced with his father as well as the stories of a few of his patients. After many years as a practicing physician he is still not comfortable with the conversations doctors, patients and family members should have but all too often gloss over. The stakes couldn’t be higher.

The questions that seem simple can often give the family a clear idea of what should be done when the patient can no longer speak for themselves. One woman discussed with her father whether or not he should have a surgery that came with risks. His answer was, “Will I still be able to eat chocolate ice cream and watch football?” So they decided to proceed. In the middle of the surgery there were complications and the surgeon asked the daughter if they should stop or continue. After determining that the outcome would allow her father to eat ice cream and watch football, they proceeded. After the surgery he was a quadriplegic but could enjoy the two things he desired for a good life.

I found it very interesting that people who opt for Hospice care instead of a continuous round of procedures actually live longer and have a higher quality of life in their last days.

“The Fourteenth Goldfish”

The Fourteenth Goldfish   by Jennifer Holm is a contemporary novel starring 11 year-old Ellie and her teenage grandfather. Her scientist grandfather seems to have discovered the secret to eternal youth and has reversed his age and is now a teenager. Living with her single mother, a high school drama teacher, Ellie is slow to adjust to change. When her grandfather appears as a young boy, her life is turned upside-down and they each teach  each other a few lessons about life.

“A Nantucket Christmas”

A Nantucket Christmasby Nancy Thayer. A somewhat sappy, ‘Lifetime movie-like’ novel that I kept saying I was going to put down and stop reading, but somehow enjoyed just the same. Newlyweds Nicole and Sebastian live on the island and are about to celebrate their first Christmas together. Sebastian has a grown daughter from his first marriage, Kennedy,  who is about to give birth to her second child. Kennedy is spoiled and rude and wants her parents to get back together. A winter storm, an unexpected early delivery, a stray dog, and other devices meant to tug at your heartstrings are used to draw the reader in. Although I did not care about the characters at all, it was easy. mindless fluff for a few hours of reading when you want something shallow and not intense.