By Chris Wright
As we head into the new year, I thought I would share with you my two favorite books of 2014.
For fiction my favorite read was Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry. This book was selected by librarians across the country as their favorite too on www.libraryreads.org. I recommended it in a previous column, but as a standout of 2014, it bears repeating. A. J. Fikry is a bookseller living on a small island off the New England coast. An elitist snob and self-pitying widower, his life is transformed by the arrival of a mysterious package.
For nonfiction you must read Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Kroke. This is a stimulating, fascinating and beautiful read about a man and his relationship with elephants in both war and peace. Today Bill Williams, who was quite renowned in the British Commonwealth in the 1940s and ’50s, would be called “the Elephant Whisperer.” The story is masterfully told without getting into anthropomorphism and over the top sentimentality. It’s an adventure, animal, war story and memoir all rolled into one lovely package.
The Orange County Public Libraries’ annual literary festival, Literary Orange, will soon be here. Set for April 11, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Irvine Marriott, the day will include a selection of presentations covering a wide variety of topics such as memoirs, food writing, encouraging children to become readers, mysteries, writing and more.
One such program, “Hollywood, War and Violence,” is a panel discussion set for 10:30 a.m. to 11:10 a.m. which will feature two local authors who teach film and screen writing.
Frank McAdams of Dana Point teaches at USC and his book, The American War Film: History and Hollywood, provides extensive history and analysis on patriotism versus propaganda. McAdams’ memoir, Vietnam Rough Riders: A Convoy Commander’s Memoir, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Paul Seydor teaches at Chapman University and has a new book coming out by Northwestern University Press (due out Feb. 15) The Authentic Death and Contentious Afterlife of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid: The Untold Story of Peckinpah’s Last Western Film. Seydor has written previously about Sam Peckinpah and considers him a master of American cinema. Our moderator David Ward is a director and screenwriter as well as a professor at Chapman University. His credits include: The Sting, The Milagro Beanfield War, Flyboys, The Mask of Zoro, Major League and Sleepless in Seattle. It’s going to be difficult choosing which panel to attend as we have so many interesting authors and moderators scheduled. Good luck choosing.
Register for Literary Orange online at www.literaryorange.org or you may pick up a registration form at the library.
For more information about upcoming events across the Orange County Public Libraries system, visit the website at www.ocpl.org. The site also provides access to online databases, digital copies of popular magazines, pdf copies of historical sheet music, ebooks, audiobooks, jobseeker resources and more.
Chris Wright is not sure if he lives to read or if he reads to live. He has been a public librarian with the OC Public Libraries since 2006 and currently works at the Dana Point branch.